MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education): 2020 has been an astonishing and challenging year, with events that none of us could have foreseen, and Western Victoria has experienced it all, from bushfires last summer through to the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and even floods in the far south-west in spring.
I can say that the people in my electorate have managed this year with resilience, persistence and a faith that things will get better.
We came into 2020 from a position of economic strength, which stood us in good stead:
• We led the nation in job growth.
• In the six years from November 2014, when the Andrews Labor government was elected, 500 000 Victorians found work.
• Our economy had grown by 18 per cent.
• We contributed nearly one-third of Australia’s economic growth from 2015.
• All of this was on the back of sound economic management.
But COVID-19 has been a huge economic hit, and we must work together to turn around what we expect to be a 4 per cent decline in Victoria’s gross state product in 2020–21.
My electorate of Western Victoria, at nearly 80 000 square kilometres, is bigger than Tasmania by 10 000 square kilometres and includes a very broad diversity of economic activity. It’s long been the mainstay of Victoria’s food and fibre production, and that has continued through the pandemic, but traditionally it includes all of the industries associated with tourism too.
We could not be where we are right now without the assistance of all Victorians and the contribution of regional Victorians who were asked to make huge sacrifices in order to make our state safe.
Western Victoria shared in the strict health measures that were needed to protect public health—essential, but coming with a measurable economic cost. Like the rest of our state, the disruption to normal economic activity has been extreme.
It’s been a privilege to represent this area since 2006, and I look forward to working on the road to recovery with its people.
This budget looks forward, not back—not just to recovery, but to a better, fairer future.
It embodies values that go to the very heart of what the Andrews Labor government is about:
• concern and support for community and the things that are important in strong community life
• addressing inequality by putting in place strategies and mechanisms that will give opportunity and better life chances to our kids through education from kinder onwards
• creating a better quality of life for everyone through good health care and above all through employment that delivers an economic future and dignity.
Our government’s jobs plan is central to Victoria’s recovery. We know we have an ambitious goal, but it’s achievable—400 000 jobs by 2025, and half of those by 2022.
Our priority is to start projects quickly, to create jobs and to deliver improvements to Victorians’ lives.
This budget adds a $9 billion investment in health on top of the biggest investment in health in Victoria’s history from 2014–20—$109 billion.
We can see clearly how this will impact in my electorate.
In 2009 the Brumby Labor government committed $115 million for a rebuild of Warrnambool hospital, and I was very pleased to be with the then health minister, Daniel Andrews, to announce the government’s commitment to improving health services close to where people live.
Now, in the 2020–21 state budget, we have the biggest single government investment in Warrnambool ever—$384 million that will fund a new emergency department, operating theatres and acute inpatient beds in the next stage that will deliver quality health care to this region for decades. It’s just fantastic to see the excitement of people in the south-west.
I thank the member for South-West Coast for acknowledging that this is ‘reason for the region to celebrate’ and the Andrews Labor government’s recognition that ‘the healthcare needs of our community matter’.
It makes one thing absolutely clear: only Labor governments fund hospitals in the south-west.
Elsewhere in Western Victoria the focus is clear—on services provided for regional Victorians where they need it:
• $120 million across regional Victoria to upgrade healthcare facilities under the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund
• Melton: $75 million to acquire land and lay the groundwork on the first stage of a new Melton hospital
• Maryborough: $5.2 million to expand Maryborough hospital
• Torquay: land to be acquired for a new community hospital
• Geelong: $3.6 million to plan and design a new women’s and children’s hospital in the growing Barwon region
• $5 million to build a new Anam Cara private respite service for those with end-of-life needs at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus
• delivering residential places in Geelong for those recovering from drug and alcohol dependency.
Education is the cornerstone of opportunity in life.
I am so proud of this government’s record at every level of education, starting with kinder and through primary and secondary schooling to post-secondary education at TAFE and to apprenticeships and initiatives that help Victorians to obtain real jobs.
Across this state we are rolling out three-year-old kinder, but at the same time this budget is delivering upgrades to kinders that improve the learning environment in early learning centres. Kinder will be free for eligible families next year too.
There is an extraordinary investment in specialist schools, with two hardworking school communities in the south-west celebrating fantastic new opportunities for their kids:
• Hampden Specialist School in Terang, where almost $12 million will move its P–4 campus, in conjunction with Terang College P–4, to brand-new buildings on a new site shared with the college’s years 5 to 12 students in an exciting example of inclusive education
• Colac Specialist School, which will use over $15 million to build a brand-new school on a new site.
In all, if we include funding of new builds and upgrades at specialist schools in Horsham, Hamilton, Melton, Geelong and Ballarat, that’s nearly $90 million to help students with disability shine in education in Western Victoria.
The massive upgrade and new builds of regional primary and secondary schools is boosting regional education and communities in Lorne, Birregurra, Skipton, Merrivale in Warrnambool, Stawell, Rainbow, the Geelong region and more—over $123 million.
So many schools have told me that these projects will make all the difference to optimism and spirit in their towns.
All of these projects will deliver local jobs and help to build regional economies.
The Andrews Labor government is also working hard to make sure that students at risk of disengaging from school, especially at transition points, are helped over this hurdle.
COVID-19 has added to the challenges, and the Geelong Project is a unique early intervention project—we’re funding it for the next three years.
We’re also supporting Skilling the Bay, helping students to prepare for the world of work in a rapidly changing environment.
In TAFE and training, the budget provisions apply across Victoria, not just in my electorate, but I want to congratulate South West TAFE and Federation University on their outstanding work.
Our focus in this budget is on helping Victorians obtain new skills and find real jobs at the end of that training by continuing and growing free TAFE and subsidised training places, especially in the key priority areas that are essential to Victoria’s recovery. This budget commits $631 million to this program.
We also want to make sure that those who were especially badly affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic—young people, women, retrenched workers—can access government-funded training next year, including those who may wish to retrain in new skill areas to help address skill shortages.
The budget also supports apprentices with $33 million to expand opportunities through a Big Build training pathway.
Victoria’s Big Housing Build will invest $5 billion in the largest single funding of social and affordable housing by any government in Australia’s history. We’re committed to looking after our most vulnerable people and to making sure they have access to a safe and secure place to live.
Twenty-five per cent of the total program will be in regional Victoria, and I know that Warrnambool and Ballarat communities are especially appreciative that there will be a guaranteed minimum local investment of $25 million for Warrnambool and $80 million for Ballarat.
At least $200 million is guaranteed for Geelong and the Surf Coast.
The Big Housing Build will create jobs for Victorians—up to 10 000 across the state every year for four years.
Tourism, and all of the businesses that depend on it, has taken an enormous hit in 2020. Hospitality and accommodation enterprises have been devastated, nowhere more so than the Great Ocean Road region.
In the absence of international tourists, this government is working to bring domestic tourists to the extraordinary attractions of the south-west.
The Great Ocean Road, the Otways and the Shipwreck Coast will be helped by stimulus in several forms, all of which will help local economies:
The Great Ocean Road Action Plan has established the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority to coordinate the management of the Great Ocean Road area and its landscapes.
There is $47.5 million to build better infrastructure along the Great Ocean Road that will heighten the visitor experience, including a fantastic $23.8 million coastal walking trail between Fairhaven and Skenes Creek—more than 60 kilometres—with five swing suspension bridges that will give the very best view.
We forget that the Great Ocean Road is more than a tourist icon—it’s a link between communities and part of a transport network for food and fibre. The road itself will get a $255 million renewal over five years, creating jobs in construction and development.
Regional tourism boards play a key role in attracting visitors not only to the Great Ocean Road but also to the goldfields around Ballarat and Bendigo and to the Grampians. The funding of each—$13.2 million—will help to stimulate these regions.
Brambuk Cultural Centre in the Grampians, or Gariwerd, is Victoria’s flagship Aboriginal cultural tourist attraction—$5.8 million will help in revitalisation, complementing recent investment in Budj Bim and Tower Hill.
Small business is the typical model in Western Victoria, especially in regional townships, though there are large enterprises too.
As everywhere, many have struggled, especially in hospitality and accommodation and ventures like retail, allied health and swim schools.
During this year, this government has provided tax and fees relief and tax deferrals, and this budget continues those measures, including raising the threshold for paying payroll tax.
Our new jobs tax credit will encourage businesses to take on more staff when they reopen and rebuild.
We want businesses to open, relocate or expand in our regions—a 50 per cent stamp duty concession will help do that, two years earlier than planned.
The Barwon South West Dairy Supply Chain is the network of roads in the hinterland of the Great Ocean Road that provides the crucial links between farmer and processing factory, and factory and market for the produce of the south-west, especially milk and timber.
This government will spend $17.4 million rebuilding, resurfacing and widening these priority roads and strengthening bridges so that they can cope with heavy vehicles of the sort that the roads were never designed for.
There are important rail projects, too:
• The upgrade of the Warrnambool line has already begun but now will include track upgrades so that VLocity trains can operate on the line, giving residents better and more reliable train services, along with extra services.
• The Geelong fast rail will be the result of state and commonwealth co-funding, a massive $2 billion funding package that will end with more frequent and more reliable services to and from Melbourne for our second-largest city, and will also benefit the growing satellite communities along the line.
There is so much more than I can’t mention in this time frame today:
• measures to support our First Peoples at Framinglam and beyond to address Aboriginal inequality and to provide secure housing
• incentives to build a clean energy future
• assistance to farmers and food producers to upgrade their infrastructure and buy new technology and upgrades to regional agricultural colleges
• projects to revitalise local creative arts
• provision for new and upgraded emergency services.
This is the time to stimulate the economy, not to deliver a surplus budget.
In framing this budget, we have heeded the advice of the governor of the Reserve Bank: increase your borrowings. He said, ‘It is a change that is entirely manageable … and it is the right thing to do’.
This government will always be a government of initiative—not of reaction, like those opposite.
Unlike the previous state government, this government continues to invest in regional Victoria. Including this budget, we will have invested over $26 billion since 2014—more than three times that of the Baillieu-Napthine government.
Our investment in the future of this state is based not on recovery alone but on promoting a fairer future.
The projects funded in this budget will deliver better health, better housing, better schools and better outcomes right across my electorate and across Victoria—a positive future that will deliver economic progress.
I commend this budget to the house.