I rise to speak in favour of both matters: the appropriation bill itself and the
acceptance of the budget papers. As a member of Parliament representing a
predominantly regional electorate, it has been and continues to be an absolute
pleasure to relay the fantastic news that has come out of this 2008-09 budget to
individuals as well as organisations across western Victoria.
Services such as health, education, police, emergency services,
roads, rail, justice, community funding and water resources have all been
addressed in what is undoubtedly a huge win for regional Victoria. I am
particularly happy with the outcomes for Western Victoria Region.
Some of the key initiatives in the budget for health include
$702.9 million for Victorian hospitals, which will treat an extra 16 000
elective surgery patients, 33 500 outpatient appointments, and an extra 60 000
patients in emergency departments. In addition to this we have $233.3 million
for preventive health measures and cancer prevention and treatment and also
$185.7 million to boost ambulance services, including two rescue helicopters,
station upgrades and extra services.
To specifically address issues in western Victoria, this budget
will provide $70.1 million for stage B of the Warrnambool hospital redevelopment
on top of the $16 million that was included in the previous budget for stage 1A
of the redevelopment. Recently a letter signed by Dr Napthine, the member for
South-West Coast in another place, and Mr Koch and Mr Vogels was addressed and
distributed to Warrnambool and district residents. This letter, authorised by Dr
Napthine, included the following:
- During the 2006 state election campaign the Labor Party promised to fully
fund stage 1 of the much-needed redevelopment of the Warrnambool hospital.
- In the recent state budget the Brumby Labor government has failed to deliver
on its pre-election promise to the Warrnambool and district community.
Mr Koch — True.
Ms TIERNEY — This is an absolute outrage and is totally
misleading. The Labor government made a 2006 election commitment of $90 million
to the Warrnambool hospital redevelopment. In the two budgets brought down in
this government’s four-year term it has allocated and delivered $86.1 million to
that redevelopment — and that is with two more budgets to go in the current
term. How could it be said the government has failed to deliver on an election
promise? That reasoning is beyond my understanding. I suggest to the members who
signed that letter that they actually read not just this year’s but last year’s
budget papers before they make false statements which not only mislead the good
residents of Warrnambool and outlying areas but seriously damage their own
On top of the $70.1 million for the Warrnambool hospital, the
south-west will also share part of the record $185 million boost to Victorian
ambulance services, with the south-west Victorian helicopter to be located at
Warrnambool. This caused another lapse of eloquence, I would argue, from
conservative members of Parliament from the south-west, prompting them to make
the claim — which I have just heard again in the last couple of minutes — that
the south-west helicopter money was being taken out of the Warrnambool hospital
Mr Koch — Exactly.
Ms TIERNEY — Let me assure members — how many times to
do they need to be told this?
— that the record $185 million boost to Victorian ambulance
services is all new money. No money is being taken out of the election promise
of $90 million for the Warrnambool hospital redevelopment to be allocated to the
helicopter service. It is absolutely misleading and mischievous of the
opposition to claim that.
It is important that we also acknowledge the editorial of the
Warrnambool Standard of 10 May 2008, which I think sums it up quite well:
- The Brumby government has delivered and deserves credit for recognising the
needs in the region.
- Even our conservative politicians would have to agree the ALP has become
harder to criticise on regional issues.
I think it has become so hard for Mr Koch, Mr Vogels and Dr
Napthine that they now have to actually make up their criticisms. All I can say
is that the claims they are making are absolutely not connected with any form of
reality. We are demonstrating that we are making sure we have resources and
money for the people in the south-west. I am also delighted to say that, as well
as the air ambulance of the south-west and Western Victoria Region, the area
will also see funding to rebuild a number of ambulance stations and refurbish a
number of others. These include Timboon, Anglesea, Avoca, Ballarat and Hamilton.
Services will also be upgraded to a number of areas. They
include Anglesea, Apollo Bay, Colac and Timboon.
It was announced just prior to the budget that the national
farmer health centre will be established in Hamilton at a cost of $2.4 million.
This will position Victoria as a national leader of farmer health and our
commitment to coming to terms with the wellbeing and health issues that surround
farmers and their families. We will be a significant leader on the national
agenda in respect to those issues. It is not hard to understand why the major
regional newspapers in western Victoria agree that the Brumby Labor government
is delivering and deserves credit for recognising the needs of the region.
If we move from health to education, there are at least 10
schools in the Western Victoria Region that will be either totally replaced or
modernised, continuing on the state Labor government’s 10-year commitment to
rebuild, renovate or extend every government school in every community in
Amongst the schools that will benefit from this budget’s
announcement are Horsham West — that is, the Haven primary campus — the
Bacchus Marsh Primary School, the Anglesea Primary School, which will be
completely relocated and built on a new parcel of land. We will also see stage 2
funded out of this budget for the Colac College and Colac High School
amalgamation. Woady Yaloak, the Snake Valley campus, will also be included, and
Koroit primary school stage 1, which has been long awaited, has got the tick and
will also benefit. Lara Secondary College is also part of that suite of schools.
It is also interesting to note that the Age journalist David
Rood, when he commented on the budget funding for education, wrote:
- With more than $590 million to be spent on rebuilding or renovating schools
around the state, the Australian Education Union described the budget as solid,
praising targeted intervention for children with disabilities.
The health and education areas continue to be top priorities of
the Labor government. This budget succeeds in addressing those needs in regional
While I am on health and education, I recall reading in the
Hamilton Spectator a quote from the Leader of The Nationals in the other place,
Peter Ryan, on 10 May. He said:
- It is disappointing to see the government has concentrated its expenditure
on health, transport and education services in metropolitan areas this year.
Perhaps Mr Ryan has mixed up regional and metropolitan, because
there is record funding for ambulance services, for example, in Victoria. There
are capital upgrades in Hamilton and Avoca; there is an additional allocation of
paramedics in Apollo Bay, Timboon and Anglesea.
There are additional day crews in Kyneton and Woodend and, as I
have already mentioned, there is the extra $70.1 million for the redevelopment
of the Warrnambool hospital. There is also $8 million to the Hepburn Health Service
for the redevelopment of 15 high-care residential aged-care and primary care
services. I have already mentioned the national farmers health centre in
Hamilton. There is $11.4 million to improve dental health in rural and regional
Victoria, and $5.5 million for the Ballarat Health Service to improve access and
client amenity and to refurbish a community mental health facility. We also have
$6 million for regional food kitchens to help seniors across the state to access
affordable, high-quality and nutritious meals, and the emergency helicopter for
the south-west. These provisions do not reflect the misleading comments that the
Leader of The Nationals, Peter Ryan, has been making in the press in relation to
It is important that we look at the statement of the Treasurer,
John Lenders, in the Geelong Advertiser on 7 May, because he is much more
accurate than the Leader of The Nationals. Mr Lenders says:
- The Brumby government is taking action for working families in regional
Victoria providing the best possible health services to help bridge the gap
between city and country health.
This is only on the health front. Couple this with the 10
western Victorian schools which will be either modernised or replaced, the $110
million investment in the duplication of the Princes Highway west from Waurn
Ponds to Winchelsea, and that is a significant boost. We also have $40 million
for the Western Highway realignment of Anthonys Cutting — again, a very
significant allocation. The budget provides $254.5 million towards the
maintenance program for all regional rail lines under the country passenger rail
initiative. It is hard to see how Mr Ryan conjured up the statement that was
published in the Hamilton Spectator.
The content of this budget shows that the Brumby government is
continuing to take action and to deliver a water plan that will ensure secure
water supplies for communities across Victoria, for our farmers and for our
rivers. It is heartening not only for regional Victoria but for all Victorians
to see the government facing the challenges, taking responsibility, laying out a
plan to secure Victoria’s water supply, rather than watching the Liberal and
National parties trying to hijack community groups, revert back to the old us
versus them, city versus country style of politics to score cheap political
In this budget western Victoria will receive $10 million for 53
kilometres of the Hamilton-Grampians pipeline, which will transfer up to 2
billion litres of water savings from the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline to the Hamilton
system. We also will see $99 million to fast-track the completion of the
Wimmera-Mallee pipeline which will save more than 1 billion litres of water, and
$20 million for the Geelong-Melbourne pipeline.
The Minister for Water in the other place, Tim Holding, is
quoted as saying:
- This is a record investment in major water projects and will provide water
security for Victoria for the next 50 years.
I again put the question to the opposition: where is its water
plan? It does not have one and certainly does not show any indication of
interest in formulating one for our population here in Victoria.
I move from health and education to tourism. One of the points
in the budget that has been overlooked is the allocation of $13.3 million to
rural and regional tourism. This is by far the largest dedicated contribution to
this activity that this state has ever seen.
Being part of the parliamentary Rural and Regional Committee,
together with my colleagues I have been participating in an inquiry into
tourism, and I am particularly pleased with this budget allocation because it
will provide a whole range of activities that collectively we would love to see
in this area. That is because this government understands that tourism is
important to regional Victoria, assists in creating more jobs and injects a
whole lot of dollars from outside of local communities into those regional
The recent figures from Tourism Australia’s international
visitors survey completed in March 2008 show a 30.4 per cent increase in
international overnight visitation to regional Victoria between 2000 and 2008.
That included a 25.9 per cent increase in visitors to Daylesford and the Macedon
Ranges and a 30.8 per cent increase in visitors to the Great Ocean Road. The
economic benefits of those increases are enormous, so we have also allocated a
further $8 million over the next four years to promote Victoria in key
This demonstrates that Victoria, and regional Victoria in
particular, is a great place to visit.
I have touched on the establishment of the National Centre for
Farmer Health which is to be established in Hamilton as part of an overall
package that was mentioned in a statement delivered by the Minister for
Agriculture and the Premier prior to the handing down of the budget. I refer to
a document called Future Farming — Productive, Competitive and Sustainable. The
Future Farming strategy, which has been allocated funding of $204.6 million,
will bring farmers and farming communities to a position where they are better
suited and more able to meet the challenges they are facing at the moment and
into the future. Part of this package — the strategy and the statement —
$103 million to boost productivity through
new technology and changes to farming practices; $42.7 million to upgrade
sections of Victoria’s rail freight network; and $12 million to support farmers
and rural communities in securing their future and adjusting to change,
including the National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton, which is being
funded in conjunction with the medical school at Deakin University that I
mentioned earlier today, and the Western District Health Service. There is also
funding of $24 million to manage weeds and pests, including new action to assist
farming businesses to strengthen land and water management.
To ensure the success of the strategy, the state government has
assembled an advisory panel made up of a broad cross-section of respected
industry professionals who will help drive the $205 million strategy.
I believe the Minister for Agriculture needs to be
congratulated, not only for coming up with the concept but also for being able
to bring together a lot of people and stakeholders who are not traditionally or
naturally a cohesive group. This is a significant step in making sure that we
are starting to operate as a cohesive group, given the problems that people face
in regional Victoria, particularly in Western Victoria Region.
The panel comprises Lyn Coulston, a plant nursery owner who
would obviously have firsthand experience of how drought is impacting upon
plants in regional areas; Gaethan Cutri, a stone fruit farmer; Christine
Forster, a wool producer; Ian McClelland, the chairman of the Birchip Cropping
Group; Stephen Mills, the chair of Goulburn-Murray Water and a dairy farmer;
Jenny O’Sullivan, a primary producer; and Simon Ramsay, who — as we all know —
is the president of the Victorian Farmers Federation. At the time the advisory
panel was announced, the minister stated in a press release:
- The panel will work closely with the Brumby government to ensure
agricultural industries continue to be involved in the delivery of key areas of
It is pleasing to see that there are people at the coalface in
regional Victoria who are involved in a whole range of activities and who will
assist in the implementation of that package.
In the areas of community safety and justice, this budget again
provides a record amount of funding. It has committed $1.75 billion to the
Victoria Police budget and $657 million for community protection initiatives.
Mr Koch interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — A significant sexual violence prosecution
unit has been established in Geelong. I thank Mr Koch for bringing that subject
up now. This record funding is a huge coup for Western Victoria Region, with
$2.6 million for the VICSES (Victorian State Emergency Service) critical asset
replacement initiative going towards new heavy rescue trucks for Edenhope,
Terang and Lorne. There is also funding for road accident rescue kits for
Edenhope, Kaniva, Camperdown, Port Campbell and Maryborough, and funding for
four-wheel drive trailer trucks for Balmoral and a flood rescue boat that will
soon be delivered to Warrnambool as part of the $19.3 million initiative to
boost the ports of Portland and Geelong under the maritime security program.
There is also funding for a new corrections centre at the existing Ararat site,
which will include a new 350-bed unit, as part of the $591 million Building
Confidence in Corrections initiative.
I turn to initiatives in the Geelong region.
As we all know, Geelong is a vibrant and growing city. It
continues to thrive and expand, and this budget has invested in proportion to
the age and growth of that great city. The new tax cuts — including a $422
million cut to stamp duty, a $490 million cut to land tax and the first home
buyers grant — will significantly enhance Geelong’s ability to continue to
grow, particularly with the Armstrong Creek development coming on stream.
A Geelong Advertiser editorial had a few things to say about
this on 7 May. It states:
- The region will benefit also from a boost to residential plans for Armstrong
Creek in the form of grants of up to $12 000 for first home buyers setting up in
the region and a 10 per cent cut in stamp duty thresholds. Payroll tax cuts of 5
per cent, lifting the land tax threshold by 10 per cent and cutting WorkCover
premiums yet again … should also encourage investment and jobs.
Obviously all of this provides a healthy injection of funds not
just for Geelong but for regional Victoria.
On top of this the budget will provide nearly $8 million for
the cultural precinct stage 1 of the Geelong future city master plan. If members
are interested in this, I urge them very strongly to go and see the plans and
talk to the people involved, including those at the library, the city hall, the
Geelong Performing Arts Centre and a number of other institutions in that strip,
because it is a very exciting plan that I think will revitalise that section of
the central business district of Geelong.
The budget also allocates $6 million to the Geelong innovation
and investment fund and provides for a new mobile intensive care ambulance.
There is also funding for improvements to the Geelong railway station.
Finally we have the money to be able to
undertake that activity that many people have been talking about and working on
for some time. The redevelopment will include a walkway that will assist TAC
workers in moving from the station.
I have already mentioned the allocation of $8 million for a
specialist sexual assault prosecution unit. Also, the Geelong Hospital will be
part of the $26.3 million hospital energy supply project to ensure the
continuity of critical health care services to six of Victoria’s major public
All of this is on top of the $110 million committed to the
Princes Highway from Waurn Ponds to Winchelsea as the first stage in the
duplication of the Princes Highway. When speaking to the Geelong Advertiser on 7
May, Cr Bruce Harwood said there was plenty of good news for the region in the
state budget. The article states:
- Overall, Cr Harwood said while he could always argue for more money, Geelong
had done well in the budget.
As I stated at the beginning of my contribution, this budget
delivers for regional Victoria. It is a delight to relay the outcome of the
budget to all the people I meet in Western Victoria Region. However, it is not
an unusual budget in relation to regional Victoria. Regional Victoria is growing
and growing as each Labor government budget is brought down. Let us compare the
situation to 1999. Now there are 92 000 more people who call regional Victoria
home. We now have more than 134 000 new jobs. Building approvals have doubled to
$4.47 billion. We have a state government that has directly contributed $400
million through the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund to 172
infrastructure projects resulting in over $1.198 billion worth of new
This is a budget that is not just about dollars and cents, as
Mr Atkinson raised last night. It is a budget that also delivers in community
building. Let us not forget the Small Towns Development Fund, let us not forget
Transport Connections, let us not forget community building initiatives, let us
not forget all those things that are being put in place to engage our youth in
healthy activities, including the Premier’s Active Families Challenge and a
number of other initiatives. This is a good budget for regional Victoria. It
provides infrastructure, it provides resources for health and education and, at
the very heart and soul of it, it cares about the people in regional Victoria
and Western Victoria Region.