Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– I am pleased to rise in support of Mr Tee’s motion before the house this afternoon. I thank him for putting this on the notice paper today because it provides members of the chamber with the opportunity to do a checklist of the election promises made by the current government in 2010 and where those promises sit today. It is particularly pleasing to talk about this motion today, because it is a timely reminder of what needs to occur when we walk back into this house in the next parliamentary sitting week, which is budget week. I would like to go through some of the election promises made to constituents in my electorate that have not been achieved. As a result I hope these promises will be met and money will be allocated for them in next month’s state budget.
I will go through a number of other items — general commitments this government gave to the people of Victoria in 2010 — that impact not only on my electorate but across the entire state of Victoria.
I will give some reasons for the failure with respect to the election promises that go to the heart of the way the public service is now organised in this state, this government’s attitude towards regional development and its lack of an infrastructure plan or jobs plan.
I will start with some of the election promises that have been broken so far in the electorate of Western Victoria Region. I will go alphabetically and start with Apollo Bay. Apollo Bay P-12 College was promised an initial commitment of $7 million, and then the local member, the now Minister for Public Transport, upped that to $10 million to match Labor’s commitment to build a new Apollo Bay P-12 school. The time line outlined by Minister Mulder at the time was that the school would be completed in the government’s first term in office. Not one sod has been turned at that site. A little bit of money has been allocated for planning, but if any school has had planning, that community has planned itself almost to death in respect of that school.
It needs that shovel, not all the red tape that seems to be going on in relation to what is a straightforward need for those children and the Apollo Bay community.
With respect to Avalon Airport, there was a $250 million commitment for a rail link from Lara to Avalon Airport, and again no sod has been turned whatsoever. Whilst there might be talk, that seems to be the only thing that is going on.
The same can be said about to the natural gas project, a $100 million promise that was to be rolled out over the four years from 2010 to 2014. The townships of Avoca, Bannockburn, Terang and Winchelsea have not seen those connections happen. Those communities are getting quite tired of waiting because they have been waiting for a considerable time. The natural gas project was a specific promise made to those communities leading into the last state election.
They honestly believed what they were told by the coalition and that it would be delivered. It has not happened, and with less than 18 months to go before all those towns connected to natural gas, I daresay that is something that is not going to happen.
We also had the promise that the community of Cressy would receive a police station and a full-time police officer. That simply has not happened. The Geelong Advertiser front page pushed for and supported then Premier Ted Baillieu’s promise for the staging of a Red Bull Air Race at Geelong, and that fell through as well. There has been absolutely no push in relation to that matter, and I understand it will not be going ahead.
In relation to public transport, a new $25 million train station at Grovedale was promised.
That was also supposed to be completed in the first term of this government, but the government has failed to initiate any community consultation in relation to that station. The project was supposed to start in March 2012, but documents obtained under FOI reveal uncertainty around the timing and the commitment to deliver that project at all. With respect to a commitment of $14.5 million for the duplication of Pioneer Road in Grovedale, anyone who traverses that road will see that it basically finishes at the shopping centre. All that has happened is that the bottleneck that existed in that vicinity has been moved further up into the housing area. The government’s commitment that the duplication would be fully delivered within its first term has not occurred.
A promise for the Maryborough ambulance station to be upgraded and to operate with full-time staff has not happened either. We are also concerned that many of the recommendations from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission have in many respects not been fulfilled.
As I mentioned in my members statement yesterday, we have seen significant cuts in funding to the Country Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, which has made our communities feel incredibly unsettled. They thought they had some ironclad recommendations, many of which have bipartisan support, and yet in respect of firefighting this government has gone out of its way to cut what are considered to be basic safety measures in our rural and regional communities.
Commitments were also made for 800 new hospital beds, and I understand that the Minister for Health, Mr Davis, claimed that 100 beds had already been opened in the 2011-12 period. However, the new Premier, Dr Napthine, has refused to endorse these figures. So far he has not committed that even one bed has been opened.
I will also mention the promised $85 million second hospital for Geelong, which certainly has not been implemented. In fact I have had to undertake an exercise through freedom of information on that issue. Although there have been three compulsory conferences rescheduled, hopefully we will get some answers sometime this month. It is clear that the government will not be going ahead with what it promised — that is, a 32-bed second public hospital for Geelong. It was proposed that the hospital would be well situated near the major growth developments that the Minister for Planning promoted during question time today.
This government also promised $344 million for 1600 front-line police officers, but it has not fulfilled that election commitment.
In terms of my electorate, the government has floundered somewhat. From an answer to a question on notice about police numbers that I received today, it is clear that although the government is close to two-thirds of the way through its term, it has not even met 50 per cent of the election commitment it made to increase the number of police officers in the South Barwon region, and there is a shortage in the Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast areas as well.
This government also committed to a radiotherapy service in Warrnambool. It promised $10 million verbally, but as yet no money has appeared in any budget. It is disappointing that the government has tried to play politics with the federal government on this issue when government members themselves were the ones who made the explicit commitment to the community of western Victoria that they would do the right thing. Clearly government members have decided that playing politics with this important issue is more important than delivering to families who require immediate help with the dilemmas they face.
I turn to the famous election commitment this government made that teachers in this state would be the highest paid in the country under a Liberal-Nationals coalition. As we know, that has not happened. Whilst it seems to be the case that a conclusion to the teachers’ enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations is imminent, the fact remains that those negotiations have been going on for some two and a half years. I believe any negotiation that takes that long is just up-front mismanagement of a set of negotiations that should not have been complicated as this government has made them out to be.
There have been similar problems with other negotiations, including the nurses dispute and a number of other public sector negotiations. It is hardly surprising that people in the public service are seriously concerned about the way in which basic government programs are being managed. They know that due to massive cuts to the public sector many people in our community are not receiving the basic services they need.
Also under this government offices of the former Department of Primary Industries have closed in many regional centres of Victoria, and some $300 million has been cut from the TAFE sector. Whilst the new Premier has said that another $200 million will be made available to the TAFE sector, the fact that that funding is spread over a four-year period and is for project funding does not appear in newspaper reports. Applicants for that funding will have to go through a whole lot of the red tape and rigmarole to put a project together which will then go to a panel for approval. That funding has nothing to do with capital funding or recurrent funding; it is about projects that government members consider to be within the realm of what their interests are in that sector.
Honourable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT — Order!
I am sorry to interrupt Ms Tierney, but with the combination of interjections and three conversations occurring in the chamber, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hear her contribution. I ask members, particularly those having conversations, to at least lower the volume. Of course interjections are disorderly, but I ask members to give Ms Tierney a hearing, which I note the previous speaker was given without interruption.
Ms TIERNEY– When Victorian voters went to the polls in November 2010 they were not told that this government was going to take $50 million from the Victorian certificate of advanced learning program. They were not told that mothers were going to find it tougher in rural and regional Victoria and that there would be less training for midwives. They were not told that $450 million was to be scrapped from the education budget, and particularly that the School Start program was to be abolished.
The government has also abandoned industry training bodies and, as I understand it, some 80 jobs were abolished as a result of that exercise.
Then there was the issue of the abolition of whooping cough vaccinations, which I know has caused a lot of concern in the electorate. The Take A Break occasional child-care funding also was abolished, and the meanness of the Foodbank Victoria reductions was unbelievable. Under this government the Home Wise hardship grant program has also been axed, and whilst the incidence of family and domestic violence has absolutely gone through the roof, there have been cuts in funding to family violence programs.
There has been a reduction in home and community care programs while waiting lists have continued to grow. A whole range of transport connection bus routes throughout regional Victoria have been absolutely slashed and burnt, which has meant that lots of people who do not have access to cars, such as the elderly and students, do not have the ability to connect with other transport and conduct their affairs.
Then there are the cuts to legal aid and the stripping of powers from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Funding for assistance plans to Neighbourhood Watch groups in our community has also been cut. Members of the coalition government even tried to scrap the eligibility for school bus subsidies. They had to do a backflip on that due to community outrage in the same way they had to perform a backflip on the massive cuts they announced they were going to make in terms of libraries. The Minister for Local Government, Jeanette Powell, had to get on the phone to every single mayor in this state to try to explain why the initial decision had been made and why she needed to perform that backflip.
Under changes introduced by this government, workers have not received penalty rates for working on Easter Sunday, which I think is absolutely appalling, and I said so at the time those changes were made.
This government has also failed to support the renewable energy sector, which is of particular importance for south-west Victoria. Indeed I think this failure is part and parcel of the way that government members do not talk to each other in terms of regional development. One would have thought a whole-of-government approach to the issue of community development and regional development would have gone hand in hand if this state was governed properly.
We have also seen this government shut down the 24-hour mental health advice line that was heavily utilised by rural and regional Victorians. It was one of the very few things that people had access to at the end of a telephone line. As we know, there have been increases not only in mental health statistics but also in relation to farmer health and the number of suicides occurring on farms.
We have also seen an increase in motor vehicle registration fees by more than $35 and an increase in speeding fines.
I do not think this government promised to make those changes at the time of the election. I am sure that Victorian voters had no idea that the government was going to make them. The government has also ripped $471.5 million in dividends from the Victorian WorkCover Authority, meaning higher premiums for businesses and reduced benefits for workers. The government has done things like abolish support for FReeZA, which has been really important, particularly in regional communities, where kids connect with and are engaged by music projects and workshops, and it has abolished support for a whole range of other youth programs we have in our regions to try to get our youth engaged.
I urge those on the other side, particularly those who represent Western Victoria Region, to lobby their respective ministers to ensure that all the election commitments that were made are fulfilled and allowances are made in the May budget for funding them.
I also urge those members to have a very serious talk to those who are involved in regional development in particular, because this government has taken its eye off the ball. The fact that we do not have dedicated people looking at and searching for investors and business opportunities that can be brought to regional Victoria has been an absolute disaster, and that is demonstrated time and again.
It has got to a point where there is a political and community campaign in Portland, which the Glenelg Shire Council has got on board with and endorsed. The council will also be holding a round table of political parties and government agencies to try to work through this to get a strategy, or a series of strategies, to elevate the position of Portland and to have a plan that provides for a sustainable, long-term local economy that is not reliant on one or two industries and that is certainly not reliant on an industry that is seasonal and not necessarily systemic in the community.
In finishing my contribution I urge those opposite to do their very best to ensure that every single commitment that they made to the Victorian community is addressed in the budget next month. I look forward to members opposite proving that they can do so. I really am holding out hope. I do not think that hope will be fulfilled, because in terms of the time lines that they set themselves for delivering certain projects to the community, time has quite frankly already run out.
What concerns me even more is that whilst there is a list of election commitments that have not been fulfilled or have been broken, we still have a public service in disarray because of the decisions taken by this government, we still have no plan for any serious infrastructure projects throughout the entire state and we still have a government that is yet to spell out its plan for jobs and growth or a vision for the state that has a practical application that involves and includes all Victorians.