Budget papers 2017-18

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I rise to speak on the motion to take note of the budget papers. I am very, very pleased that this budget really delivers on the Andrews government’s commitments in focusing on the things that matter to all Victorians: better schools for our kids, better health and hospital outcomes and more trains to get us home sooner. We are getting rid of those dangerous level crossings that not only clog up our streets but also put lives at risk. We are building better roads, and our commitment to the West Gate tunnel as a second river crossing is a much-needed asset to those in the west and in the Geelong region. We are giving police the resources and the power they need to keep Victorians safe.

One of the proudest elements of this budget for me has been the unprecedented commitment of $1.9 billion to tackle family violence and to end the scourge of family violence across this state. There is the investment in 17 safety hubs and the rollout of new technology and new systems to ensure the safety in particular of women and children across our state so we are able to protect them and ensure that police are working together with agencies to support those victims to get out of those situations. I know for a fact that that has been very much welcomed by many residents in my electorate of Sydenham.

In this budget we are also slashing payroll tax for Victorian businesses and we are making it easier for people to buy their first homes. We have kickstarted the Metro Tunnel after the former Liberal government abandoned it. We are fixing our TAFE system after it was gutted by those opposite. We are getting Victorians back to work. We have created more than 100 000 new jobs in the last year alone, more than the rest of the country combined. That is why we are focused on getting on with the job. In my electorate of Sydenham in particular I want to acknowledge some commitments that were made in the budget that will change the face of my electorate and really deliver for the huge unprecedented growth that we are experiencing across both local government areas of Brimbank and Melton.

We saw a commitment in the budget for some further upgrades to the Calder Freeway between the M80 and Diggers Rest, and some planning money around that. There is some additional planning money to improve the Calder Park Drive–Calder Freeway interchange, a blackspot in our community about which residents have been in contact with me. In fact the Calder Action Group have done a power of work in this area, and I know that they welcome the planning money to look at how we fix this blackspot in our community and make it a safer place to be using to get to and from work.

I also commend the commitment to the M80 ring-road upgrade, something that I spoke in detail about yesterday in the house, and of course the amazing new commitment of $23 million for the Taylors Hill Secondary College — that is its interim name — a college I know was lobbied hard for and won by our local community. At a time when more and more children are moving into or being born in the area without a secondary school to go to within their local area, this funding will provide much-needed resources to local families. I look forward to that school opening its doors in the new year, 2018, to welcome year 7s and year 10s. Already we have many parents contacting my electorate office indicating their interest in having their kids attend that school.

I also acknowledge funding of $5.4 million over the next four years for a crisis centre in the Melton region, one that is going to be run by Hope Street Youth and Family Services. It is a service for homeless young people. Unfortunately when I drive through Melton on a regular basis, particularly at night to visit my mum, who lives there, I see a lot of homeless young people sleeping at bus stops. There is a real need out there to have some sort of youth crisis accommodation, and the Andrews government is getting on with delivering that facility.

Of course there is the ongoing investment in the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. We know that in time that investment will deliver an increased capacity on the Sunbury line of up to 70 per cent. It will also give us the capacity to have new high-capacity Metro trains to be used on the Sunbury–Pakenham line once the tunnel is completed. When talking to some residents just last week in my electorate to explain the Metro Tunnel, they referred to it as the Tunnel of Love, because they love it so much — love it, love the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, the Love Tunnel — because they know that it is going to deliver more train services to our local area.

We have also committed $50 million to plan the new Footscray Hospital development and service the growing population in Melbourne’s inner west and the urgent need that is there. There are plenty of people in the outer west too that rely on the services at that hospital. So that is also welcome. We also welcome the $319 million invested in the health portfolio to reduce waiting lists for elective surgery and to deliver 600 new elective surgery procedures in 2017–18, a major step forward.

There is $1.3 billion to meet hospital demands for an additional 41 000 admissions. Much of that money will go into servicing emergency treatment and giving the backup that is much needed to our emergency departments. I acknowledge the great work done by Sunshine Hospital emergency department, which treats so many of our families in the west on a daily basis. I am extremely excited to have the cranes in the sky and construction underway on the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital at Sunshine. I know our community is waiting with bated breath for that facility to open.

In terms of my portfolio responsibilities, I also want to acknowledge and welcome the whole-of-government commitment to Aboriginal affairs in this budget. The 2017–18 budget reflects the government’s commitment to Aboriginal Victorians and self-determination. Overall, $140 million has been allocated through the state budget to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. Within my own portfolio of Aboriginal affairs a total of $68.2 million has been allocated with a focus on a number of areas: on improving self-determination for Aboriginal Victorians and supporting the process of treaty; and looking at ways within government we can embed self-determination for decision-making and access for Aboriginal Victorians.

At this point it is appropriate to mention the national approach that is currently underway, including the conversations that have been had at a national level around constitutional recognition — there was a conference at Uluru only a few weeks ago — but here in Victoria we are leading the way, and we are proud to be supporting those moves on a national level.

To ensure Aboriginal Victorians continue to be at the centre of our family violence reforms we have also committed $33.6 million over the next four years to be allocated to address family violence against Aboriginal Victorians, who are way overrepresented in the statistics of family violence. This has been allocated to support social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, education and to target our early years as well.

Within my portfolio we are allocating $28.5 million towards supporting self-determination and treaty, including interim governance and representative arrangements and initiatives to embed self-determination and to look at ways to give more autonomy to community infrastructure and community organisations within the Aboriginal community by establishing the Community Infrastructure Fund not only to invest in a strategic approach with community infrastructure investment in Aboriginal communities but to also run the removal of first mortgages initiative, which is to allow and support Aboriginal organisations into the future to have repairs and maintenance done so they can have the mortgages removed from their properties. That fund also provides funds for legal fees in preparation for that and to make sure that Aboriginal organisations are ready to move into that phase. This is really a true initiative of self-determination. There are currently 53 properties owned by 25 Aboriginal organisations which will be eligible to benefit from this removal of first mortgages initiative.

Within the budget of Aboriginal affairs $17.9 million has been allocated to invest in leadership, governance and strong culture. Two particular organisations that demonstrate great integrity, strength and ability to deliver and connect Aboriginal communities are being invested in. They are the Koorie Youth Council, which is at the forefront of delivering governance skills and policy advice in the area of Koori youth, and also the Local Aboriginal Networks, the lands groups. Those lands groups that operate across Victoria provide an inclusive structure for Aboriginal people and their partners to work together on a local level. That has been a really successful model. There are 17 Aboriginal community brokers that support those land networks, and I am really proud to say that the local Aboriginal networks are the largest government-enabled network of Aboriginal people across Australia. Here in Victoria we have over 2200 Aboriginal Victorians participating in the 39 lands that exist across this state, and we will continue to support them through our budget initiatives and the support of Aboriginal Victoria.

In addition to that, this budget again puts the needs of local growing communities first and again supports rural and regional communities through our commitments made in the local government area.

There is ongoing funding for the Growing Suburbs Fund, which supports interface councils on Melbourne’s urban fringes that are experiencing massive population growth, as outlined by the planning minister earlier. This is about making sure that we have got infrastructure in place, in time and ready to support those communities as new communities develop.

Since this fund was established in the 2015–16 budget, we have been able to commit $150 million in total to this program. To date it has enabled the delivery of 76 projects, representing a total infrastructure investment of over $235 million, and in the process this has created 2700 local jobs in the building process and the upgrading process of these facilities. Long term, once these facilities are finalised, it will deliver around 200 ongoing jobs. It is absolutely unquestionable that the fund has made a huge difference to the lives of local people on Melbourne’s fringes, and I am pleased that this budget continues to deliver on that.

In terms of our commitment to rural and regional councils, the Andrews government is making sure our regional cities and towns and rural communities have the infrastructure and services that they need to thrive. This current budget provides $1 million to collaboratively develop a rural and regional council sustainability program. In particular, the funding will be used to look at options to assist rural and regional councils with the many challenges they face in maintaining large infrastructure bases, smaller populations and sometimes multiple town centres and the challenges of agricultural structures that are constantly changing. The budget also delivers $5.4 million over the next two years to continue the roadside weeds and pests program, one that I know is welcomed by many councils across the state. And of course this budget builds upon our ongoing support for libraries, in particular rural libraries, by us continuing to have the Living Libraries Infrastructure Program rolled out.

In addition to this, through the 2017–18 budget the government has also invested a total of $29 million for priority projects in our regional communities. Regional communities have told us what is important to them through the structures of the regional partnerships, which have been a huge success. As part of that regional partnerships process, $200 000 has been allocated to the development of a business case for the Munarra Centre of Regional Excellence in Shepparton, which is something that I fully support. I know that this sort of centre, once it is purpose built, will into the future deliver an education, sporting, cultural and community centre for the region’s Aboriginal community.

This budget has delivered so much for working Victorians, not only in jobs investment but also in standing up for workers rights across the state. I am very pleased that we have been able to support the establishment of an Equal Workplaces Advisory Council to look at, oversee and support gender equity in our workplaces in Victoria. I very much commend the bill to the house.