Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to make a statement this afternoon on the midyear financial report for 2011-12. The statement was issued by the Treasurer, Kim Wells, last month, and I wish to make two key points with respect to the report. It is a fact that the government is not spending sufficient money on infrastructure and that this will be the first state government in many years that will have a significant deficit. I think page 6 of the report indicates that it will be $341 million for the six-month period ending December 2011 in the general government sector, with the state of Victoria recording an $801 million deficit for the same period.
In recent months we have seen editorials and major news articles about the state of the Victorian economy. We have seen business leaders come out and make comments, as well as other political commentators, calling on the state government to take action.
Essentially, without this government taking leadership in this area, the business community is hardly going to be imbued in playing its critical role in facilitating and providing the much-needed investment that this state needs. As we have seen in recent months and also quite clearly in the last 48 hours, we have jobs that just continue to slide through our fingers. This government seems to be engaged in a conversation with itself, because I just cannot point my finger at any other conversation it might be having, whether it be with the business sector or in the wider community.
It is this prolonged do-nothingness that is particularly worrying, and I am picking up an absolute sheer frustration, particularly in the business community, about what is going on. Members of families are particularly concerned about whether they will have a job to go to, whether they will be next or what they can do as a family to plan for their future.
I have to say that I agree with the comments that were made by the state political editor of the Age, Josh Gordon, in an article of 15 March this year titled ‘State faces crunch time’. In that article he says that whilst there are some things that are completely out of the control of any state government, this government just does not seem to want to know the role it can play in alleviating pressure and facilitating measures that can interest investors, protect jobs and support industry.
It raises the question of what it is that the government does not understand, because the state is grinding to a halt. You can see that in a figurative sense but also in a physical sense, because essentially we are living in a gridlock. The forthcoming state budget provides this government with an opportunity to seize the day, albeit two years too late, if it chooses to do so.
I am more than happy for the government to start with the electorate of Western Victoria Region, because there are lots of projects and issues that need attention, many of which were election promises that were made by the coalition prior to the 2010 election. There are things like the Apollo Bay secondary school development; it needs to have proper funding. The Warrnambool cancer centre was an election promise, and nothing has happened. There is the 32-bed second hospital for Geelong at Waurn Ponds, about which nothing has happened.
In relation to Avalon Airport, yes, there is a study, but there needs to be the money for it. There needs to be proper and full funding for Pioneer Road at Waurn Ponds, and a trickle has just been announced. The rebuilding of Portarlington Primary School has to happen, as does Geelong High School, a new P-12 school at Bannockburn and the Horsham secondary college, not to mention the Waurn Ponds police and emergency services complex. In the area of transport, we have seen major cuts to the Transport Connections program.
We need road funding as well as public transport right across the electorate, and this would be a good place to start to try to get some jobs and investment and infrastructure flowing into the electorate of Western Victoria Region.