It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the Appropriation (2015–2016) Bill 2015 and the associated budget papers. This budget does something rare for modern politics: it actually delivers on election promises. As a matter of fact, 96 per cent of our election commitments are honoured in this bill. This has not been the norm over recent years, and the breathtakingly cavalier attitude to election commitments exhibited by the federal government is just one example of this.
Prior to last year’s election, Labor decided that there was a better way of doing things. Daniel Andrews and Labor thought that the people of Victoria deserved better. We thought that Victoria deserved to be presented with a costed plan that went towards improving their lives. Most importantly, we thought Victorians deserved to have implemented a plan that they endorsed. We presented a plan to Victorians for living in a safe, functional place with access to decent services in which to raise a family. We are ensuring that their kids are better educated than they are. We are ensuring that if they are unwell, they can get into a hospital. This is a plan for secure, well-paid jobs for Victorians that provide the dignity of being able to look after their families. If things go wrong, it is a plan for a government to lend a helping hand.
Labor’s Financial Statement 2014 contained 82 output initiatives and $4.4 billion worth of capital investments targeted at jobs, health and education, and we received a mandate from the people of Victoria to implement these policy proposals. Victorians trusted Labor, and we are now repaying that trust with this bill. This budget delivers on all those output initiatives, worth $3.2 billion, and fully or partially funds 75 per cent of capital commitments, allowing work to proceed immediately. The remaining capital commitments are priorities for future budgets, and funding has been provisioned for them.
This budget is about keeping families safe, keeping them healthy, keeping them employed, and making it easier to educate their kids. A family cannot be safe if it is exposed to violence. Family violence is a scourge in our society, and the damage it does is generational. The leading cause of death, injury and disability for women between the ages of 15 and 44 is family violence. That is embarrassing. There was a 70 per cent increase in family violence incidents reported to police between 2010 and 2014, which amounts to 68 000 incidents over that period. This is putting huge strains on services.
This budget commits $71 million in new funding towards family violence, including $57 million for a family violence package to alleviate those strains. Some of this money is being expended in regional Victoria, and there will be extra staff at the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault as a result. This budget is an interim step until the royal commission brings down its recommendations.
It is a vital first step towards keeping Victorian families safe.
This terrible dilemma faces so many families. In rural and regional Victoria we have seen the grip that ice now has on our communities. Before the election Labor promised Victorians that it would take action in relation to this issue. The Ice Action Plan has been funded. Importantly, it is a more sophisticated response than the failed ‘hang ’em high’ law and order responses that became the norm under the previous government, which kept spending more money on prisons than on hospitals. I will highlight only one thing in a comprehensive package. There is ongoing funding of over $4 million a year to expand drug rehabilitation in rural areas. More people will be able to get treatment earlier. Families in rural Victoria need that access and that help. That is why we believed it was so important to have the telephone call service. Labor has listened and Labor has delivered.
The Liberal-Nationals government cut the whooping cough vaccine program. It had more important priorities like funding the construction code compliance unit to police the stickers that building workers were wearing on their hats, while whooping cough rates soared. In 2014 the rates increased by 57.6 per cent, and by April this year they had doubled again. Victorian families are more concerned about the health of their children than what construction workers put on their hard hats. The budget abolishes the construction code compliance unit and uses the savings to fund the whooping cough vaccination program.
There will also be $38 million a year saved by abolishing taxpayer-funded political advertising. People want access to services, not spin ads. That is why the budget provides $50 million for the interface fund for 10 interface councils on the edge of Melbourne in the local government areas expected to grow the fastest in coming years. It is a first; it will provide community centres, multipurpose facilities, playgrounds and other spaces. This is what people in places like the cities of Melton and Wyndham deserve. They deserve services. not spin.
That is why the budget contains the Community Sports Infrastructure Fund. Playing sport keeps people fit and it is good for our community. The fund has $23 million for 29 projects, ranging from $60 000 for resurfacing and a facilities upgrade for the Barwon Heads Football & Netball Club through to $350 000 for the Ararat pool and $3.5 million for the Leopold football club pavilion. And while people are at the footy, at the swimming pool or at netball, if something does go wrong, the budget has funding to roll out 1000 defibrillators to sporting clubs.
On top of that, the Ballarat Base Hospital is getting $10 million for a new cath lab for urgent heart treatment and care. Werribee Mercy Hospital, just outside my electorate but used by many of my constituents, is undergoing an $85 million expansion. These are the services Victorian families expect from their government. These are the services Labor promised, and these are the services that Labor is delivering in this budget.
The opposition talks a lot about the bush and farming, but we know, and I know, that it is all hot air. The Liberal-Nationals coalition refused to fund the National Centre for Farmer Health because it needed to build more prisons. Labor has funded the centre for the next four years to the tune of $1 million a year — something that the opposition in government walked away from. I look forward to discussing this with the people of Hamilton when I meet with them again, as I always do, at Sheepvention.
One of the most dangerous places for rural and regional Victorians is on the roads. In 2012 road resurfacing targets were cut by over 60 per cent. The country roads and bridges program was not funded beyond 2015. This budget rectifies these failures by the opposition. The Andrews Labor government has committed $1 billion to upgrade and repair unsafe regional roads and bridges. Indeed the Colac-Ballarat Road, which has been an issue for some time, will receive a $2.4 million upgrade. It is why the RACV has called this ‘a strong transport budget’.
Keeping your family safe is not just about being safe on the roads. The budget funds more police and more police on the Bellarine Peninsula. It keeps police stations open longer. We will also build a new fire station at Buninyong. These are things that governments can do to keep families safe.
People want more economic security so they can pursue a better life, and that comes from education. I made the point earlier that we all want our kids to be better educated than us. In this budget Labor has put policies in place, and the money behind them, to make this a reality for Victorian families. There is a minimum of $67 million allocated to refurbish, rebuild, expand and enhance schools all over my electorate, from Beaufort to Warrnambool and in between. This money is for everything from toilet blocks to science labs. At Warrnambool the relocation of the Warrnambool Special Developmental School will receive $5 million. We will build a new secondary school at Bannockburn, and there will be tech schools built in Ballarat and Geelong.
The budget sets about fixing the gutting of TAFE. There is $8 million a year for the next four years for regional local learning and employment networks. This is an education budget. I have spoken in this place about the damage done to our vocational education system by the Liberal-Nationals coalition government. It was happy to build prisons to put our kids in rather than build schools to train them in. Labor will train them. We have a jobs plan, and when our kids graduate from school, TAFE or university they need jobs. That is why the budget funds the $50 million Stronger Regional Communities Fund and allocates $1.5 million to support the regional strategic planning initiative. Labor knows that local communities know what is best for them; that is why this fund is in place. Regional communities can develop strategies to tackle their challenges and find new opportunities, and we have money put aside to help them meet these challenges and create opportunities.
There is $200 million for the Regional Jobs Fund and $250 million for the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund. The jobs fund has money for a particle physics lab in Stawell and a manufacturing hub in Geelong. It more than doubles the funding for the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund. Labor understands that the jobs of the future will be high tech. They will be science based and they will be in manufacturing.
In one of its last acts the Napthine government cut Alstom from the bidders list for the X’trapolis trains. As usual, no open tender was conducted, but scores of jobs in regional Victoria were to be trashed. Labor has fixed this. The X’trapolis contract, worth $90 million, is in the budget and it has been awarded to Alstom in Ballarat. It shows that if there is a will, it can be done. You can have high-skilled manufacturing jobs in regional Victoria.
Labor’s commitment to dignity in work is real, and I congratulate the government on launching an inquiry into 457 visas and 417 backpacker visas. We believe in real jobs with real pay so people and their families can function in their communities. We are prepared to back communities to back their children to create the modern economy.
The Regional Infrastructure Development Fund recognises that rural and regional Victoria needs the facilities to make it a livable place. Rural and regional Victoria is home to 25 per cent of Victorians and yet it only receives 4 per cent of the funding. We are fixing that. The budget will deliver $450 million in election promises to my electorate over the next four years. It will fund the Grampians Peaks Trail and the redevelopment of Eureka Stadium. It will make the Wedderburn streetscape safer, and it will build the Leopold hub, just to name a few things. There is also $12 million for the Portarlington safe harbour project, recognising that the Bellarine Peninsula is one of Victoria’s fastest growing areas.
In conclusion, this budget is about services, not spin. It is about police, not prisons. It is about hospitals and health care. It is about livable, safe communities. It is about jobs. That is why the G21 Geelong Regional Alliance thinks there are solid benefits in this budget for the region — decent, high-skilled, high-wage jobs that allow people to live with dignity. Most of all, this budget is about promises — promises for which a mandate was sought and a mandate was given. This is a bill that is delivering on that mandate. It is repaying the trust of the people of Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.