The motion before the house today, moved by the opposition, contains charges of
the government having squandered its opportunities; of having failed to
capitalise on historic opportunities; of having failed to deliver in key
services which Victorians deserve and expect; and further, of having failed to
provide critical infrastructure, thereby failing to provide Victoria with a
strong economy and greater job security.
In response so far the government has had two speakers on the
debate: Ms Pulford outlined the way the government has approached investment and
budgets in the past as well as touching on yesterday’s budget. She also gave
various examples in the Western Victoria Region electorate I share with her,
primarily in Ballarat and areas bordering the Western Highway.
I will attempt to cover specific practical elements of the
electorate of Western Victoria Region as well and try not to cover the areas
that Ms Pulford has already spoken of. We have also heard from Ms Huppert, who
provided a very comprehensive analysis of all sectoral investment the Bracks and
Brumby governments have made in this great state.
I remember what Victoria looked like in 1999.
Every time I drive through Western Victoria or from Western
Victoria to Geelong, Geelong to Melbourne, Melbourne to Ballarat on those major
arterial routes, or indeed when I take public transport, I am constantly
reminded about the radical transformation that has taken place in this state
over the last 10 years. I am constantly reminded of a government that is really
interested, very involved and totally committed to regional Victoria. In recent
times we all, in our collective memories, can touch and feel the
Melbourne-Geelong road and the improvements that have been made there. We have
seen the improvements and the construction of significant parts of the Geelong
Ring Road. It was only two months ago that would saw the opening of the Geelong
Ring Road to the Hamilton Highway, and next year we will see the opening through
to Waurn Ponds — just magnificent infrastructure that regional Victoria totally
We have also seen major upgrades to a significant number of
regional hospitals, including the Geelong Hospital.
We have seen a commitment to the rebuilding of the Warrnambool
hospital, and I will touch on that more specifically a little later. We have
seen significant growth, and there will be further expansion, at Avalon Airport
— again, a true testament to the confidence that everyone has in Victoria and
the infrastructure that is required to bring about greater growth and
prosperity. We have also seen things like the transfer of the Transport Accident
Commission (TAC) from Melbourne to Geelong. We have seen fast rail take off.
We have seen the construction of new railway
stations and massive funds directed into schools. In the 2008-09 budget there
were seven major school projects in Western Victoria and, looking at yesterday’s
budget, I am very happy to see that there are 47 major projects in schools in
We have also during this time seen a huge number of new police
stations built. Ambulance stations have also been built and ambulance service
upgrades have been a consistent element of budgets current and past. We have
also in recent times seen a massive injection into funding for dental health and
also a significant investment not just in terms of infrastructure but in our
social and financial infrastructure. An example of that is the national farmers
centre that was in last year’s budget. It deals with families who are having
difficulties coping with the drought and what they need to do as families to be
more agriculture-ready in their lives. We have also seen the investment in an
emergency helicopter in the south-west.
I go also to the last budget, because it was significant. There
was $70.1 million towards the Warrnambool hospital redevelopment project, and
that was on top of the $16 million that we had in the previous budget. Again
yesterday a significant amount of money was committed that finalises that
redevelopment and fulfils the election commitment that this government took to
the last state election.
We also saw the refurbishment of ambulance stations at Timboon,
Anglesea, Avoca, Ballarat, Hamilton, Apollo Bay and Colac. I have mentioned the
projects for seven schools that were contained in the last budget. They are
Horsham West, Bacchus Marsh, Anglesea, Colac, Woady Yallock and Koroit primary
schools and Lara Secondary College. We also had capital upgrades of the
ambulance services at Hamilton and Avoca. There was funding for additional
paramedics at Apollo Bay, Timboon and Anglesea and additional day crews at
Kyneton and Woodend.
Also $8 million was provided to the Hepburn Health Service for
the redevelopment of 15 high-care residential aged-care beds and primary-care
services. We also saw $5.5 million for Ballarat Health Services to improve
access and client amenity and refurbishment of a community mental health
We also saw a $110 million investment in the duplication of the
Princes Highway West to Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea and $40 million for the
Western Highway realignment at Anthonys Cutting, and also our share of the
$254.5 million maintenance program for all regional rail lines under the country
passenger rail initiative.
In respect of water, we have also invested an enormous amount
in Western Victoria. There was $10 million for the 53-kilometre
Hamilton-Grampians pipeline, $99 million to fast-track the Wimmera-Mallee
pipeline and $20 million for the Geelong-Melbourne pipeline.
Hardly a charge that we have not invested in critical
infrastructure can stand.
We have also seen $24.5 million for improvements at the Geelong
railway station precinct and a new pedestrian link between the station and the
new TAC building, and a number of others things, like the opening of the Office
of Public Prosecutions branch in Geelong and also a 24-hour sexual assault
service that services Western Victoria alongside a facility that has just
celebrated its first anniversary of operating in Warrnambool.
Just in terms of investment in Western Victoria, a significant
amount of energy and money has been committed to the area. At this time last
year, the stats were that there were 92 000 more people in regional Victoria —
people who called regional Victoria home — compared to what there were in 1999.
Since 1999, 134 000 new jobs had been created in regional Victoria. Building
approvals had doubled to $4.47 billion.
The state Labor government had directly contributed nearly $400
million through the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund to 172
infrastructure projects, resulting in more than $1.19 billion in new
Alongside these successes, the government also provided
assistance to 458 regional projects, resulting in new investment in provincial
Victoria valued at $8.92 million. If you go to just the one area of the regional
rail passenger service, there has been a significant improvement on what the
Bracks and Brumby governments inherited from the previous Liberal government. To
touch on just a few initiatives, we have reopened the train lines to Ararat and
Bairnsdale, which were closed by the coalition in the 1990s. We have also
expanded the network by building new stations at Marshall and Sherwood Park. We
have also returned rail services to Nhill after negotiations with Great Southern
Rail. The last coalition government shut down services on 6 passenger train
lines and to 26 stations.
Since 1999 we have had a steady program of making sure those
lines and stations are reopened.
In respect of some initiatives that were announced yesterday,
as I said I am very pleased with the announcement that 47 schools in Western
Victoria are part of a rebuilding program. There are a number of schools in this
package, and there seems to be
misinformation or an ability not to want to
understand exactly the way the state government has approached investing in and
developing education — namely, we are working shoulder to shoulder with the
federal government. We are sitting down with the federal government and working
out the needs of each school.
In some schools there is a predominant amount of federal
government money, and in others there is a predominant amount of state
government money. For the top-up, some of it is state government money, and some
of it is topped up by federal government money. That is not too hard to get your
head around. It is not a matter of blaming; it is a matter of working together
and making sure that we deliver the best for children in Western Victoria.
A huge amount of money — $30 million — has been committed for
an extra 24-bed surgical ward at Geelong Hospital.
Warrnambool Hospital, with its final stage 1c, will attract
$26.2 million, and we have also ensured that new technology will be put in place
for breast screening for women in regional Victoria. I am pleased that there
will be significant upgrades at Wimmera base hospital, Portland and District
Hospital, and the St John of God Hospital in Warrnambool.
I was extremely pleased with the Treasurer’s announcement on
police stations. New police stations will be built at Mortlake, Balmoral and
Lara, at a cost of $2.5 million.
As a result of the transport plan a substantial amount of money
in the budget will go towards the bus network in Geelong and the Bellarine area.
I will be looking forward to the consultations on the timetables and the routes
in respect of that.
We have also seen substantial investment in the Ballarat,
Stawell and Warrnambool airports, which is very important in terms of the
businesses that are associated with and connected to shifting product from where
it is made or grown to the port or market.
What I have raised here today are elements that affect and
impact Western Victoria in respect of investment. I certainly have not gone
through all of it because as I understand it, this debate started at 2.50 p.m.,
and from the speaking list, it looks as if we will be going well and truly into
the night. I have attempted just to touch on some of the indicative investments
that this government has made in regional Victoria, particularly in Western
Victoria, and my contribution has not contained grandiose assertions or
unsubstantiated claims, simply because I do not think it would take this debate
any further than where we started this afternoon.
This motion is entrenched with popularist, throwaway lines that
are not directed at encouraging popular debate but are merely a poorly thought
out attempt to provide certain people with a platform to search for relevance.
The motion, I would argue, lacks substance and any semblance of reality. The
motion is just another time-waster for this Parliament and its members.
But the motion is coming the very day after the historic
2009-10 budget was handed down. The government looks the opposition straight in
the eye and demands a list of schools, hospitals, health initiatives, road, rail
and transport infrastructure that the opposition, if in government, would
dismantle or take off yesterday’s budget list. I put it to the house that the
opposition would run a mile if it were asked to do that.
Part of the reason we are in a better situation in Victoria
than elsewhere is that we have spent on critical infrastructure as well as
It was and is the proper management of the Bracks and Brumby
governments that now enables us to utilise those reserves during the tough
global economic times and at the same time stimulate the economy by creating and
stabilising job opportunities.
What has the opposition got to offer? It has got only its own
confusion — confusion over whether the government spends too much, confusion
over whether the government does not spend enough, confusion over what AAA
means, confusion over what stimulus initiatives are, and confusion for most
things that deal with the economy of this state.
But I am not confused that the Liberal Party has a lack of
policy and a lack of ideas to protect Victorians during this international
economic crisis, as it has a lack of ability or simple laziness to deal with
Wednesdays in this house as an opportunity to engage in proper debate.
The Labor government stands on its record of sound management
and delivering for all Victorians. I urge all members of this house to reject
this ridiculous motion.