State Budget Reply 2014/15
I rise to speak on the Appropriation (2014-2015) Bill 2014. Our hospitals are in crisis, our TAFES are in pieces, kids cannot get or afford a decent education, our schools are falling apart and our ambulances are taking too long to get to people’s homes when they are in times of need.
Yet all this government has done is to put money into big flawed projects without proper business plans, without proper consultation and without accountability and openness in its proposals — not only in its time frames but in the genuine costs of some of these projects and whether or not they will in fact be delivered. They are big promises being made this side of an election, but I am not sure that many people from my electorate will be fooled into thinking that many of the big-ticket items and infrastructure projects that have been flagged in this budget will ever see the light of day.
I would like to particularly focus on the proposals around the Melbourne rail link. Let us start with the revised hotchpotch plan that the government has released in this budget. It had a once in a million year chance to get a world-class public transport system in place by investing in key infrastructure. Instead it has blown it. Instead of doubling the size of the city loop, it has disconnected it from the southern suburbs. Under this plan public transport will be paralysed for years. Unfortunately with the plan that the government has put forward there are four stations that were proposed in previous planning that have now been chopped out of the equation. These include a proposed station at Melbourne University and the hospital precinct around it, which 150 000 people live in, work in and travel in and out of every day, including students, patients and parents visiting their sick children at the new Royal Children’s Hospital.
It is certainly not a budget for public transport users and it is not a budget with a long-term view for what is best for Melbourne.
In addition to this, we have seen further slashing and cutting of some of the most important roads that support our freight network and support our outer suburbs. In particular in my area we have seen $550 million ripped out of the further upgrading of the M80 Western Ring Road — the section between Sunshine Avenue and Laverton — that at the behest of this government has been ripped out by the federal government and refunnelled into the eastern side of the flawed east-west tunnel link that the government announced in recent months.
There is no new money to extend local bus networks, no commitment to fund the Melton Highway level crossing and no funding to duplicate the very dangerous length of road that runs from Hillside in the western suburbs through to Melton, which is a single-lane, poorly lit road with a gravel siding and which has unfortunately been a stretch of road that has seen far too many deaths on it and far too many serious accidents and near misses. Again this highway has been ignored in this budget.
There are no funds to improve car parks at local train stations. We have an almost daily crisis situation for commuters in my electorate around the station of Watergardens, where commuters are constantly parked in and cannot get their cars out at the end of the day. Lo and behold, in the lobbying in the lead-up to this budget many residents put forward the proposal of having this car park restructured — having it sealed and gated properly so that it would become a functioning car park for commuters. The response I got from the Minister for Roads was a big fat zero in the budget. The lobbying commuters also received correspondence only last week from the Minister for Public Transport advising that the shopping centre that owns the car park will no longer be extending its lease. This means the car park will be closed and we will have hundreds of commuters without anywhere to park, let alone an improved car park.
There will be no improvements or connections to the local train stations with local buses, and there are no funds in this budget to deal with the transport needs of the outer west, where our population is growing rapidly, particularly within the confines of the city of Melton. In addition, this budget has gone a long way in hurting residents and affecting their cost of living, and with the $25 increase in car registration fees there will be many people in my electorate who will struggle. We have seen almost $4.1 billion collected from vehicle registration fees, which is $797 million more than when this government came to office.
There is also a massive increase in the amount of revenue the government will reap from fines, again an increase of $225 million, but we are not seeing that put back into improving local roads, local bus networks or local car parks around train stations. Of course this will be further compounded by the federal Liberal government’s decisions.
About 80 per cent of commuters in my area who travel to and from work will end up using their cars, and they are going to face huge hikes in the cost of petrol with the increase in the fuel excise.
Moving on, of course there is not much in this budget that puts in place opportunities for permanent employment or investment in long-term sustainable industries, and in fact since this government came to power we have seen 51 000 more Victorians unemployed. The budget papers show that the unemployment rate is projected to increase. We have already seen that happen in the last three years, but it is projected to further increase to 6.25 per cent. We can rattle on about percentages and numbers of unemployed, but the truth is there are real families behind every single one of these jobs.
My electorate has been very hard hit with the demise of the car manufacturing industry and with the many thousands of jobs that have been outsourced from the finance sector and from call centres and have left Victoria for other states or have been offshored and gone overseas. It is a real disappointment that there are no solutions in this budget around how we can work as a state to try to secure these jobs and create real jobs. As recently as yesterday we saw that 200 to 300 jobs in the Qantas call centre are leaving Victoria to be outsourced to Tasmania.
I was surprised to see in today’s Australian comments by the Victorian planning minister claiming that the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, assisted in taking those hundreds of jobs out of Victoria to be relocated to Tasmania, but, like the Premier, the minister has done nothing but crow from the sidelines. The government has done nothing to secure those jobs or get to the table in time to save those jobs. It has done nothing over the last two years to save any of the thousands of Victorian jobs that have been shipped overseas or to other states.
One area that has had a real impact on many of the residents in my electorate is the closure of Qantas maintenance base operations at Tullamarine airport. Many residents in my electorate were involved in aeroplane maintenance. Now those people are unemployed and facing dubious employment security. They are either unemployed or are doing bits and pieces of insecure work. It is not good enough.
This government should have used this budget to look at investing in industries to keep permanent jobs in this state and to continue to grow this state. Our state export plan should not be a focus on the export of jobs; it should be about growing our industries.
Certainly Labor members always stand up for the people of this state and their jobs, unlike this government. We do not just bleat from the sidelines when jobs are going offshore or when the federal government is doing its best to cut back the federal public sector and to cut thousands of more jobs out of the state. It is clear that this government is weak and ineffective when it comes to taking up the fight with the Liberal Party in Canberra and making sure that not only are jobs secured in Victoria but also that we get our fair share of funding. This is certainly not a budget for working families in my electorate or for the retired community, who deserve to be supported more than they have been by this state government.
I turn now to the young people in my electorate, to those who are suffering at the hands of the cutbacks to TAFE. In particular I acknowledge those who missed out earlier this year on the transition from TAFE to university. Victoria University has indicated to me that prior to the cuts to TAFE funding it transferred almost 1000 students across all campuses from TAFE to university within Victoria University. Those numbers are predicted to drop from 1000 to as low as 300 because of the damage that has been done to the TAFE system by this government, because of the cuts that have happened to TAFE and because of the demise of its authority, leaving many campuses facing closure and being forced to consolidate, cut courses and put up their fees. With youth unemployment skyrocketing, particularly in the west, and jobs leaving our state every day, you would think that the TAFE system would be more important than ever.
It is certainly not a budget for pathways to employment, and it is not a budget for young people.
In particular the lack of spending on education in this budget is a major concern. Melbourne’s western growth corridor, where I live and which I represent, has grown at a rate of knots, and we are looking to further expand our suburbs with an additional 12 000 new homes to be built in the next five to six years. Yet there is still not a single piece of land that has been purchased, not only in this budget but in previous budgets, for a single new primary or secondary school, which are desperately needed.
In Caroline Springs there are three primary schools that feed into the one secondary school — a years 10, 11 and 12 senior campus. That campus has closed its books and cut off taking kids from those three schools. It can only accommodate numbers from two of those three schools. That leaves the third school, Springside K-9 College, which falls in my electorate. It has had to turn away students on a regular basis and has not been able to lead its existing students into the senior school for year 10.
There are no commitments to new schools in this budget in my area and no funding for Gonski education reforms, despite the $5.4 billion promised to Victoria over the next six years.
The Premier has only spent an average of $278 million a year on school capital works. When we were in government that figure was up at $467 million a year. You can see over the last three years just how many of the schools have deteriorated. On top of all of this we have seen cuts by the state and federal governments which threaten the hours that four-year-olds can attend kinder. The hours look set to drop from 15 to 10 per week, which will have a huge effect on all families in my area that have little children. This is not a budget for education, and it is not a budget for Victorian children.
In terms of health, this government is spending more on prison beds than it is on hospital beds.
You only have to look at the budget to see that in black and white. We are seeing longer response times for ambulances, and obviously we will see increases in costs for those who need to attend a doctor, get blood tests or get an X-ray. The Victorian ambulance crisis is getting worse. This is a budget for the rich. It is a budget that ignores education and health. It attacks working families, and it increases the cost of living. It will leave the disadvantaged with less access to education and health care and the opportunity to retrain for jobs.