Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I will also make a contribution in relation to taking note of the 2012-13 budget papers. In preparation for my budget response today, I revisited my response to last year’s midyear financial report and the economic and social environment that the state was in at that time. It is true to say that the editorials of the major newspapers and commentary from key business leaders and other political commentators were making calls in the public domain for this state government to take action, particularly in the area of infrastructure. Twelve months on and another budget brought down, and what do we have? We still do not have any action.
Social commentators, economists and community leaders warned that without this government taking a leadership role in this area, the business community was hardly going to be inspired to play its critical role in facilitating and providing investment. The Treasurer, Kim Wells, and the Premier, Ted Baillieu, have ignored this advice.
I remember also stating that as jobs continued to slide through our fingers, this government was engaged in conversations with its bellybutton — because no-one else seemed to be involved in any of the conversations that are required to ensure that jobs stay in this state. The government continues to refuse to even discuss a jobs plan for the state. I remember stating that shaking frustration had gripped business communities and families. They were either living in fear that there might not be a job to go to the next day or they had already lost their job and were desperate for a future. Today nothing has changed; in fact it has actually got worse for Victorian families.
The government remains silent on the issue.
If we fast-forward to May this year when the Baillieu government handed down its budget with the eyes of all Victorians on it, it had to face up to its responsibility, when it, for fixing the downward spiral that it has put this state into and the state of investing in this state to create jobs for Victorians and to stimulate the economy. What we saw — —
Mr Ramsay — On a point of order, Acting President, I cannot hear Ms Tierney, and if I cannot hear her, I cannot interject. I wonder if you could ask her to speak up.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Ms Crozier) — Order! Is your microphone on, Ms Tierney?
Ms TIERNEY — It is now. I look forward to Mr Ramsay’s interjections.
What we saw with the budget that was handed down in May this year was a list of excuses and reasons for this government doing nothing in making sure that families are secure, that there is job security in this state and that there is infrastructure spending.
While this state continues to leak jobs, one of the most devastating things contained in this budget was the $290 million that has been earmarked to be cut from the TAFE sector. As we know, that will result in over 2000 staff being sacked, courses being cut all over the place and diminished opportunities for students and retrenched workers. At a time when Victoria is seeing jobs fall through its fingers, this government has determined that its response will be to ensure that retrenched workers will not get the opportunities to be retrained and move into alternative employment, because the very training providers that deliver that sort of training will not be able to do so.
It is widely written in the media and it is the belief held by the overwhelming majority of Victorians that the Baillieu government has made a very grave mistake with respect to that decision. It also feeds into the view of many Victorians that this government is essentially lazy and it lacks vision. Here is a government with a leader who gives every indication that he does not essentially want to be the Premier of this great state. The government simply does not know how to run the state.
In the area of jobs, 600 workers are worrying about their jobs at Alcoa and 113 workers at Avalon have already been told they will lose their jobs, and unfortunately there is more to come. We have also seen 300 workers lose their jobs at Toyota.
We have an environment in which jobs are being slashed at our TAFEs and in the public sector with the closing of regional offices of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI). There is a failure to invest in infrastructure to stimulate jobs growth in this state, and the government refuses to even have a conversation about how we can move forward and create jobs in Victoria.
As I said, when families are doing it tough out there and worrying about their jobs and the cuts to the education maintenance allowance, the government’s response has been to scrap the school bonus as well as the education maintenance allowance. Those pools of money have been critical, particularly for struggling families. There was also the $19 500 which was ripped out of the first home owners grant. Whilst families with newborn babies are struggling under cost of living pressures, the Baillieu government’s response has been to deny them and their newborn child access to free whooping cough vaccinations to protect newborns against the current whooping cough epidemic.
I have received a number of emails from people who say they have never contacted members of Parliament before. They are genuinely concerned about the whooping cough epidemic and what this government has decided to do in terms of cutting access to that vaccination. It is not just an epidemic that might be in the minds of some. It is real, and unfortunately it has also spread to New Zealand. Members of our parliamentary Education and Training Committee were in New Zealand recently as part of an inquiry into agricultural studies, and they came across a number of front page newspaper articles about the epidemic that is grabbing that country as well.
This government needs to understand the impact of its TAFE cuts, particularly with respect to TAFEs in western Victoria. I have mentioned those cuts in adjournment matters and various other contributions, whether it be members statements, opposition business in the last parliamentary sitting, or my contribution to the debate on statements on reports and papers yesterday. It is an enormous issue in the electorate, and if this government has not understood the impact that it is going to have on rural and regional Victoria, then it is completely out of touch.
On several occasions now I have also raised in this Parliament the funding cut to the National Centre for Farmer Health, which is an internationally regarded organisation doing enormous grassroots work with farmers as well as research work. It is appalling that this government has been so opportunistic as to cut its funding.
While we are on health, I might also mention that in the budget we did not see any mention of, let alone a cent directed at, the promised second hospital for Geelong. It was supposed to be in the Waurn Ponds area. I ask that the Minister for Health come clean on that issue as soon as possible and tell the voters in Geelong that this government is going to break that promise to Geelong and its outlying and surrounding communities. It is going to break that promise, and we will not see a second hospital in Geelong from this government.
The budget will also shut down a number of DPI offices in rural and regional Victoria. Apart from that being a dramatic reduction in much-needed services for local farmers, it will mean the shedding of important jobs that add great value to local communities.
In the area of education, the Apollo Bay P-12 school has been waiting two years for a redevelopment which was promised by the member for Polwarth in the Assembly, Terry Mulder. The Baillieu government in this budget has yet again ignored that school. The Portarlington and Birregurra schools and the Geelong High School are in desperate need of upgrades, but the Baillieu government has ignored them. During my adjournment speech last night, I raised the issue of the Bannockburn K-12, and of course this government has ignored the Bannockburn community. Even when parents are searching for kinder vacancies for a child and kinders are doing everything they can to provide the required 15 hours of 4-year-old kinder by 2013, the Baillieu government does not invest one measly dollar in kinder infrastructure.
In the area of transport we see 20 000 commuters using Pioneer Road in Grovedale, waiting for four cycles of red and green traffic lights before they can make it through, yet the Baillieu government fails to deliver on its election promise of the much-needed upgrade. Further to this, after constantly talking about roads in the south-west whilst in opposition, the member for South-West Coast in the Assembly and the Minister for Roads are now missing in action in the south-west. This budget does nothing for that community, which was promised road upgrades by the coalition prior to the 2010 election.
When the people of Victoria look to the Premier and ask him what his vision is for Victoria he simply cracks a joke. What still escapes those sitting opposite is the fact that when you are elected to govern a state or a country it is your responsibility to lead the people within it, provide opportunities, retrain the worker who has lost his or her job, create jobs, build new infrastructure and take the state forward.
But each and every day this government squanders that opportunity, just like it did with this budget. Victorians are paying the price, and that will not be forgotten.
Mr Barber — Acting President, I draw your attention to the state of the house.