Budget papers 2015-16
Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I rise to speak on the motion to take note of the budget papers. This Labor budget gets back to basics, and I am very proud of it. It delivers jobs, schools, hospitals, roads and real initiatives in transport. The Treasurer said in his budget speech that the budget provided:
The things that families need to live a good and healthy life.
That is exactly what this budget does. This is certainly a budget that delivers for the western suburbs and for the seat of Sydenham. I will go to five key areas in which there are specific commitments to improving the livability of my electorate and the health of those living there.
Firstly, up to $6 billion has been set aside for the removal of the state’s 50 most dangerous level crossings over the next eight years. This list includes the Melton Highway level crossing, which causes a huge amount of congestion and concern for safety in my electorate. Funded for removal this year are the Main Road and Furlong Road level crossings. The Main Road level crossing in St Albans has seen way too many deaths and injured far too many travellers.
Another key delivery of this budget for those in the west is a $6.1 million commitment to fix the infamous Taylors Road and Kings Roads roundabout in Delahey, which links the suburbs of Delahey, Sydenham, Taylors Lakes, Deer Park, Kings Park, Taylors Hill, Burnside and Caroline Springs. A huge volume of traffic uses that intersection, and those roads lead to some of the biggest growth areas in Melbourne’s west. This funding means traffic lights can be installed, safety can be improved and congestion can be tackled.
Key commitment 3 is the securing of funding to purchase land for the Taylors Hill senior school. The Andrews government has secured $40 million in the budget for the acquisition of land for four schools in high growth areas, and Taylors Hill is one of these them. I have been very proud to work with many dedicated parents who have campaigned for this new school in Taylors Hill. They have explained to me time and again the uncertainty their children face in not having a senior campus and having to look well outside the local area for public schooling for years 10, 11 and 12.
The previous Liberal government failed to deliver for the Sydenham electorate. It failed to deliver the schools that those parents and children desperately needed and also for young people and families who did not know where to go next due to population growth and a lack of resourcing for the outer suburbs, particularly in the Melton and Caroline Springs region. It proves that only Labor will deliver on education.
Another commitment which has delivered on livability and health for the outer suburbs, certainly in my area, is the establishment of the Interface Councils Infrastructure Fund, the first of its kind. It will support the suburbs within the 10 interface council areas, which will host the highest population growth in Victoria over the coming decades. The interface fund, secured in the budget, fulfils the Andrews Labor government’s promise to establish a dedicated fund to invest in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Residents in the Taylors Hill, Hillside, Plumpton and Caroline Springs suburbs of my electorate will directly benefit from the fund. It will have the capacity to deliver multipurpose facilities, community centres, playgrounds and other spaces desperately needed by the community — those that were not delivered on time as new estates opened up.
The fifth initiative I would like to talk about today is the $200 million for the Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Sunshine. It is a fantastic initiative. The Andrews Labor government has committed $200 million to deliver 237 beds, 39 special care nursery cots, 4 theatres and additional clinics, catering for the needs of the fastest growing area in Victoria at the moment. I remind the house that by 2026 the number of births at Sunshine Hospital is expected to exceed 7000 per year, and it is vital that Melbourne’s west is able to cope with this future increased demand for health care.
Last year I had the pleasure of going on a tour of the hospital with the now Premier, the federal Leader of the Opposition, a massive contingency of media and many of my fellow MPs from the west, who are here today. We toured the hospital to look at all the special care nursery sites and maternity sites. Many in the entourage complained about the fact they had to go to five different locations around the hospital, going up and down the stairs and on lifts that were not able to take a capacity of 20 or more people moving through at one time. At the end of this tour the announcement was made to commit to that initiative and to take it to the election, and this government is getting on with delivering that.
Many people on the tour were whinging, saying, ‘Gee, why did we have to go through all that?’. The absolute reason they went on the tour was for them to see just how hard it is for the doctors, nurses, patients and everybody visiting the hospital to maintain a sense of organisation and connection. With the $200 million commitment we will be looking at not only an entire new building but also an absolute increase in the capacity of care. That care will cover not only maternity and children’s services but also, with an additional $29 million to the hospital, an extension to offer the full range of critical care services. This is on top of the $60 million the Andrews Labor government has injected into cutting elective surgery waiting lists and delivering an extra 11 700 elective surgeries. In the western suburbs that is a big achievement. Over the last four years so many constituents have raised issues with me about being on waiting lists for way too long.
While I talk about the last four years of neglect and the $1 billion in cuts to health by the former Liberal government, I acknowledge that Victorians have been waiting too long for health treatment, and this government is getting on with it. It is getting on with fixing the crisis in our emergency departments and ensuring that our ambulance paramedics are fully supported.
The Andrews government has also delivered the biggest education budget in Victoria’s history, with $2.9 billion for schools, $350 million for TAFE and $59 million for early childhood education, of which $50 million is directly invested in kinder facilities and $9 million is to assist children with special needs before they start school so they have the best long-term learning outcomes possible. This was a significant issue for us in the west.
Only a couple of years ago there was a threat to cap the number of assessments at Sunshine Hospital of young children — three-year-olds and four-year-olds — with potential special needs that had been undiagnosed. That resulted in a lot of uproar from parents across the west, and I am really proud that the Andrews government is getting on with restoring those facilities and extending those programs and assessments that are needed for children with special needs, given the detailed attention they require at three and four years of age.
For the first time, this Labor budget sees Victoria fully deliver on its obligations under the Gonski agreement for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 school years. Under Labor, Victoria will be the education state.
Commitments specifically related to my electorate that will deliver fantastic outcomes to livability for the residents of the west go to upgrading the M80 ring-road and finishing the work that should have been finished two years ago. Unfortunately the previous state and federal governments pulled funding from that project, but this government has recommitted to it and has delivered $150 million. That will ease the massive congestion on the M80 ring-road and, most importantly, upgrade the E. J. Whitten Bridge to create more lanes and make it a safer place. Over the years there have been too many accidents on that bridge and also, unfortunately, suicides. The commitment for the installation of safety barriers will be welcomed by the local community. We look forward to seeing the removal of the bottlenecks, particularly around Sunshine Avenue, where the traffic merges and goes from four lanes down to two. That problem will be overcome once the project is well underway.
In addition, the Andrews Labor government is getting on with the projects the people of our state expected it to deliver on — the commitments it took to the election. Over $600 million in projects will ease congestion, cut travel times and improve road safety across the state, and a $1.3 billion project will widen the CityLink and Tullamarine freeways from the Burnley Tunnel to the Melbourne Airport. They are extremely important initiatives for those who live in my area.
In my portfolios of Aboriginal affairs, local government and industrial relations, I am very proud of the announcements of commitments in the budget, in particular the commitment for Aboriginal cultural heritage and to supporting a strategy going forward. An amount of $29 million has been committed to strengthen Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural heritage management. That goes hand in hand with ensuring the registered Aboriginal parties, which are a vital part of Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural heritage management system, are properly resourced and are treated with respect.
In addition, there is a commitment for a Victorian Aboriginal economic strategy of $4.5 million over the next four years to establish a Victorian Aboriginal Economic Board to drive strategy and drive employment for Aboriginal people, and to also focus on leverage partners to ensure that job and business opportunities reach all Aboriginal Victorians. In addition to that there will be $3.5 million over four years to enhance the governance of Aboriginal organisations through Aboriginal leadership and self-determination programs. There is also our commitment to reducing Aboriginal family violence. There is $1.3 million in additional funding to immediately respond to high-risk communities. Unfortunately reported family violence in Aboriginal communities is still on the rise.
In the area of local government there are some significant commitments. There will be $5.2 million over two years to assist the roadside weeds and pests management program. We are supporting Victoria’s public libraries with a record spend of $40.5 million in recurrent library funding. We have also made commitments to emergency services capacity funding, and, most importantly, from my discussions with local councils, $1 million to review the Local Government Act 1989 removing outdated provisions, improving compliance and modernising the relationship between the government and councils, making sure that we have a vitally workable piece of legislation going forward..
We will work in partnership with our public sector to ensure that Victoria gets back on track and delivers the great services we have committed to the Victorian people to deliver. I look forward to the establishment of the central bargaining unit within the industrial relations area of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, which will set strategic negotiating roles within the public sector across enterprise bargaining agreements and improve communication between agencies, employees and unions to deliver a more effective enterprise bargaining process.
This is a budget I am extremely proud of. It delivers for families in the electorate of Sydenham, it delivers for families across the west, and it delivers for families in Victoria. We are getting on with it, and we are putting people first.