I rise to speak in opposition to the motion before us today.
I wish to refer to and place on the record some of the programs
and projects this government has been working on in regional Victoria,
particularly over the last three and a half years since my election to this
house. During that time the Brumby Labor government has been clearly committed
to working with local communities. I am familiar with many projects and programs
that address local issues throughout the electorate of Western Victoria. Many of
them tackle problems in that region. We are a government that does not look at
problems or issues with rose-coloured glasses. We understand we have pockets and
areas of disadvantage that are systemic and intergenerational. As a result of
that we have a deep and thorough community development program.
Part of that community development comes from the neighbourhood
renewal programs. There are a number of them in the Western Victoria Region. I
know Mr Koch, Mr Vogels, Ms Pulford and Mr Kavanagh are aware of them.
Members on the other side might not want to talk that much
about the programs for those specific communities, but they are there, and they
are doing amazing things in those communities, whether it be in terms of
engaging disengaged youth; organising, stripping and then redistributing
second-hand computers; teaching people how to use computers; running language
courses; teaching community development skills; encouraging community
empowerment; or conducting community leadership programs. You name it; this
government is well and truly there in ensuring that those
communities are supported and facilitated. They are breakthrough developments in
respect of community development.
We also have the regional managers forum, which is
cross-departmental. It is along the lines of the departmental boundaries — for
example, in South Barwon we have a regional managers forum that has identified
three key communities which require cross-departmental support in that area,
which extends almost to the South Australian border. One is west Portland, the
second is Colac and the third is Corio-Norlane.
In respect of Colac, the major initiative is the merger of the
schools and bringing about a shift in the educational-cultural paradigm in that
township. As we know, and as everyone in Colac knows, there are a number of
issues in Colac. It has low literacy rates, high teenage pregnancy rates and low
school retention rates.
Knowing that, the government has been working across all
departments to put in place an education system that will support a major shift
and will provide future leadership in the township of Colac, significantly
improving opportunities for teenagers.
Many people could talk for a long time about the breakthroughs
occurring in Corio and Norlane. That is not to say that it is easy. It is
difficult, and it will take time, but we are now seeing communities take on
their own problems and work out the best solutions, with the government
providing facilitation for them.
In terms of West Portland, the beginning of that discussion is
taking place. The parliamentary Rural and Regional Committee sat in Portland
last week, and a number of people who appeared before the committee advised it
of the work that is being done in that area.
I wanted to start my contribution by saying the government
notices and recognises the issues and is working with communities to ensure that
in those communities that are finding it tough — they have found it tough for
generations — there are opportunities for engagement, which will see
significant changes in their future directions.
Coupled with this we have also seen major investment in our
schools. Whether it is new schools or significant upgrades, all of us can
narrate good stories about how there has been significant investment in
Victoria’s education system. All of that will assist in providing much better
opportunities for Victorian young people.
The government has also included early childhood in the
education department. That is because we understand that early intervention is
the best possible way to put young people on a good footing.
We have seen a major investment in children’s hubs and
children’s centres throughout Victoria. Even in the last four weeks I attended
the opening of the redeveloped and extended Warrnambool children’s hub and
walked through the soon-to-be-completed — I think it will be completed next
month — $2.5 million state-of-the-art children’s hub in Portland. All these
things are being put in place. It is not just a matter of bricks and mortar,
although that is important, but also about making sure interventions occur at an
early stage. This is not only because we know that is the way to get the most
bang for our buck but also because this is an opportunity to build genuine links
and engage with families early in their children’s development.
In terms of schools, children’s hubs, preschools and dealing
with the disadvantaged in our community, the government has already demonstrated
that it works very closely with individuals, families, communities and of course
institutions such as schools.
We are about making sure that we foster vibrant communities. We
do not expect teachers and schools to be the only people or institutions to take
responsibility for the behaviour of individuals on school premises. It is a
partnership between all levels of government, individuals, families and the
organisations with which people engage. It is also the responsibility of the
media to play a positive and active role in ensuring that people get the right
message about what is acceptable and not acceptable.
I commend, not for the first time, the Geelong Advertiser on
the role it has played in the Just Think campaign, making sure that people get
the message about the antisocial drinking problem that Geelong has had. The
Warrnambool Standard also played a significant role in the FebFast campaign last
month. It is not just a matter of government; it is a matter of all of us
understanding that wherever we are and whatever role we play in society, we have
a part to play in engaging with our communities and taking them forward.
All that is ample demonstration that the government is keen to
be amongst it and to be heavily involved in what is going on not only in
regional Victoria but also in metropolitan Melbourne.
When the opposition was in power community development either
did not occur at all or it was seen as a fluffy pink add-on without much
substance. I have to say, from my discussions with most members of the
opposition in my three and a half years here, I do not think the opposition has
advanced all that much. Whether it be at meetings of the parliamentary committee
on which I sit or elsewhere, I have not seen any evidence from members on the
other side of the chamber that they are serious about Victorian communities,
that they understand community development or that they understand that
government has a role to play in intervening and ensuring that people’s voices
are heard and that they can change the situation they are in. We do not hear
anything like that from the other side.
The government is also about making sure that people get the
right message in a number of other areas. A number of statements have been made
about the carrying of knives, and I think there has been a fairly consistent
message out there about hoon driving. We also have ensured that our
community-building youth initiatives are taking up the challenge of antisocial
behaviours by youth and placing importance on leadership in adolescent and
The government is absolutely committed to community building,
so much so that the community-building initiatives (CBI) program is targeted at
those areas in the state that have low socioeconomic pockets.
I know that in Portarlington alone several programs cover
ageing, youth, transport, health and a number of other areas. There are
community building initiatives in Terang and all over my electorate, and every
single one of those CBIs can tell a really good story about what they consider
to be their priorities, how they are getting them met and how they have brought
the community with them, to take responsibility and forge links among themselves
to get a lot of work done.
In regional Victoria some areas have boomed. The population of
Warrnambool has increased significantly, and in the south-west generally it is
going to increase, particularly given the work that regional development is
doing with local government in terms of the alternative energy hub that we are
pulling together. We are working across departments and across local government
areas to ensure that we do have industry development, regional development and
jobs in south-west Victoria.
In doing that we are also ensuring that those opportunities are
realised for their communities so that those who could potentially fall through
the gaps realise what those opportunities will bring to them.
We have also invested heavily in health. The Labor government
went to the last election saying that it would rebuild the Warrnambool hospital,
and Mr Vogels always says to me, ‘It is forward estimates, Ms Tierney!’.
Mr Vogels interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Bricks and mortar, so many storeys high, and
nearly ready to be opened, Mr Vogels, is not forward estimates. We are very
excited about that fantastic facility in Warrnambool, and we also have made
substantial improvements in terms of investment in the Geelong Hospital and a
number of smaller hospitals.
The government has provided equipment in a whole range of
We are ensuring that the infrastructure is being built in
regional centres, but there is also a realisation that smaller communities are
declining in population. We do not shirk from that fact, but how do we deal with
it? As a government we cannot and should not legislate to force people to live
in certain areas. No government can do that, but we can have a government that
is responsive, that listens and implements programs to ensure that the
livelihood of the people in those areas is supported. The Small Town Development
Fund is a perfect example of that. Members who bag that fund do not understand
it, and have their eyes and ears closed to it.
We have transport connections to ensure that those vulnerable
communities — —
Mr Vogels — It’s fantastic!
Ms TIERNEY — It is fantastic. Thank you, Mr Vogels. It is
a fantastic program because it ensures that those in smaller communities, where
it does not necessarily make sense to have a huge bus, have the use of smaller
minibuses. The older people in the community who do not have cars or driving
licences get around on these minibuses, not just in their own towns but in the
connecting communities as well. In a real way this government is in there, doing
a whole range of things in a number of areas.
In the area of regional development Ms Pulford touched on all
of the services, but I will highlight how we have invested in regional airports.
I have mentioned alternative energy hubs; we are working with
local government in terms of regional planning; we have set up regional advisory
committees; we are there in regional Victoria, listening to and working with
communities, and it is very unfortunate that we have another Wednesday debate
where the two sides are in two parallel universes when it comes to looking at
the benefits of the Labor government.
There is not even a list of agreed facts — perhaps numbered 1,
2 or 3 — where we could have a decent debate because the opposition is in
absolute denial. I urge members to vote against this motion, and I call on
government members to keep up the good work and let us get in there for regional