Emergency Services Health Roads Education Speeches Police Public Transport | May 10, 2018
Appropriation (2018–2019) Bill 2018 Second Reading
Victorian Parliament - 10 May 2018 - Ms KEALY — This is my fourth opportunity to respond to the budget for the electorate of Lowan. Unfortunately yet again it is a scenario where there is very, very little in it when it comes to the people of Lowan and other people who live in regional Victoria. On a number of occasions throughout today and in earlier responses I have heard that a budget defines the intentions of the government, that it demonstrates the priority of the government of the day. I think that we can clearly see then that when we have a Labor government in Victoria we see investments only in Melbourne projects, we see enormous waste and we certainly do not see any investment in the rural and regional communities and towns where we actually create the economic prosperity for the state.
It is exceptionally disappointing to see barely any investment in capital in the electorate of Lowan. Lowan is the largest electorate in the state. It is an area of approximately one‑sixth of Victoria — about 40 000 square kilometres. I would argue that I have the largest number of public infrastructure buildings of any electorate — certainly any other Legislative Assembly electorate.
We have got 28 police stations. We know there is a law and order crisis in Victoria because Labor simply do not know how to manage what is going on. They are too keen to make it easier for people to be out on bail and to make sure that people out in the community are given a second, third, fourth or fifth chance, while people in their homes are terrified. They are absolutely scared. I have been told about people in my own electorate of Lowan who are terrified enough to be keeping a baseball bat in their bedroom. This is not a scenario that we want to see. We need to invest in our police services. We need to have more police on the beat rather than fewer police on the beat. We have fewer police out on the beat in the Lowan electorate because we now have the two‑up rule, which has not been properly funded to ensure we have still got the same police presence in country Victoria.
We have 28 police stations. How many police stations did we get in this year’s budget? Zero, none, not one. We have 28 police stations in an area that is one‑sixth of the state of Victoria, but we did not get one new police station — not one new police house. This will not give any assistance at all to help recruit and retain police officers in our part of the state. Do you know what? It is just as important that we have investment in good strong police services in regional Victoria as it is in Melbourne. I commend our local coppers. They do an absolutely fantastic job, but they are struggling. They are really worried about how they can deal with the calls that come through.
We have had ridiculous situations in my electorate. I have been told that somebody who lives in Horsham — the largest city in my electorate — called up because they actually had somebody who was actively breaking into their home, and they were told, ‘No, sorry; there are no police available in Horsham’. There had been an accident in Nhill, so there were no police on duty. I think there might have been a couple who had to look after somebody who was in remand so they could not leave the station. This poor elderly woman was terrified because she had to wait an hour and a half for a police officer to come. She had someone actively trying to break into her home — a home invasion — and there were no police.
The fact that we have got no police in a town the size of Horsham is a reflection on this poor management of law and order issues in the state of Victoria and the absolute nonsense you get from Labor — ‘We are doing more; we have got more police then ever’. Look at the people on the ground. They are not happy. They are terrified in their own homes. That is your responsibility, being in government. If Labor will not focus on that and address the issues and only talk about them, maybe we need to have a change of government. That is certainly what we will be working towards for the election on 24 November.
I know that in my community even card‑carrying Labor members have absolutely had enough of this city‑centric government. They have had enough of not getting a fair share of investment out in rural and regional areas. They are looking for an alternative, and they are happy with what they see being provided by the National Party. This is obviously a big shift for many people. If someone has been willing to be a paid‑up member of the Labor Party and then they come across to the National Party, which they have often been brainwashed against their whole lives, this absolutely shows the state of affairs when it comes to the Premier and his dirty old Labor government.
Let us talk about the Country Fire Authority (CFA). I have got 110 CFA stations in my electorate — 110. This is an enormous number. These are hardworking volunteers. I have not got one career firefighter in my electorate. They are all volunteers. They are absolutely aghast at what has happened over the payback to the United Firefighters Union (UFU) over some dirty backdoor deals that we do not know about. But we know there might be a TAFE now — Peter Marshall has let the cat out of the bag on that one.
Obviously the payback was to hand over the largest volunteer organisation in Victoria to the UFU — to a city‑based union. That is an absolute disgrace, and it is certainly something that our CFA volunteers will be holding this Labor government to account for on 24 November, when they can actively help to make sure that the Labor government is out and make sure that they get a fair deal when it comes to presumptive cancer legislation and investment in our CFA stations.
They will make sure, for example, that we actually get an ultralight for the Gazette fire brigade. They do a fantastic job at Gazette. They were recently hit by the fires. The whole area surrounding the CFA shed was burnt out. They desperately need an ultralight to make sure they can get over some of the stony country and through the bluegum plantations in that area. We did not see any vehicles announced in this year’s budget. It is an absolute disgrace.
How about we turn our eyes to health then? Perhaps Labor did better in health — but no. There are 17 hospital campuses in my electorate and three bush nursing centres, but there was not one dollar for any of those services to support the great work that they do. Labor simply do not care about the enormous gaps we have in health outcomes for country Victorians. We have the highest rates of heart disease, the highest rates of diabetes, the highest rates of obesity and the highest rates of five‑year cancer mortality, and yet we see not one dollar invested into these services. You are creating an enormous gap between the haves and have‑nots, who are the people who live in Melbourne and the people who live in country Victoria. This simply cannot be sustained.
We need to have a decent decentralisation policy that ensures that people who live in rural and regional areas are supported through their local services, but we also need to ensure that we can have some sort of way to get people to move out of the city and into the country. Sticking all your money, Labor, into the city is not going to benefit that. You are completely ignoring the needs of people within my own electorate of Lowan and the people within every single rural and regional electorate across this state. We are also seeing Melbourne grow at a rate that simply is not sustainable. You cannot get across Melbourne quickly, whether it is by public transport or whether it is on the roads. We simply cannot continue this way.
Labor have not recognised that we have a population crisis in Victoria. Only the Liberals and The Nationals have a plan to get balanced population growth across the state. We need to invest in country Victoria, and we need to make sure that we do it in a way that is fair and responsible to each and every single Victorian, no matter where they live.
We did not see any announcements at all around improvements to public transport connections and particularly around bringing back passenger rail for western Victoria. If we go back and look at history, it was Keating’s great idea. He had the fantastic ‘One Nation policy’ — a name that certainly would not get a run these days. Keating’s idea of having a One Nation project was to standardise rail across the whole of the nation. Unfortunately it was not properly funded, so in our area we have standardised rail to Ararat and then broad‑gauge rail from Ararat through to Ballarat, which caused the end of passenger rail services in my region. We need to get this project back up and running. We need to get rail services servicing the far west of Victoria. It is simply unacceptable if you look at a map of where the passenger rail services go, that there are no services to the west. It just does not make any sense.
I actually caught a train and a coach on Monday to come up to Parliament for the week. This journey is a 300‑kilometre trip from Horsham to Melbourne. It took over 5 hours. It included a 50‑minute wait for a so‑called connecting service in Ballarat. The train was well and truly late. I had to cancel my next meeting. It was just an absolute shock to see how poor our services are when it comes to western Victoria. I have caught that train and that bus a number of times. This is not something that is foreign to me. Talking to the people who were on that service, they were in the same situation. We have got no choice; we have got terrible roads in country Victoria because Labor have neglected them for the past four years. We have got terrible public transport services because Labor have neglected that over the past four years. In fact if they have made any difference at all to roads or to our passenger services, it has been to our own detriment.
We have had cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars from the road asset management budget. We have seen slashing and scrapping of the country roads and bridges program, a fantastic program that we were strongly committed to, and The Nationals have committed to continuing it if we are fortunate enough to form government come 25 November. We see a dud deal on roads when it comes to this year’s budget. There has been lots of bragging about having a billion‑dollar roads package — well, let us just break it down for a second. This includes a nearly 1.4 per cent increase to the road asset management budget on last year’s budget — 1.4 per cent will not cover CPI. It will not cover the increase in salaries and wages for those road crews. It will not cover the increased cost of materials. It is basically like having a funding cut when you say you are only going to increase something by 1.4 per cent. This is not good enough.
It is not good enough for my people, who have to drive on absolutely substandard roads. It is not fair to have huge patches of bitumen ripped up off roads and not fixed. I have written to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety about a road. It was two years ago. He said he was going to fix it and talked about all this money he was putting into it — it was very similar to the rhetoric we have heard from the Labor government today about how great the budget is — and yet two years later there was nearly a serious accident with a school bus that had to run off the road because a B‑double log truck was coming in the other direction. There could have been horrific loss of life. I put up a post on my social media pages and it went viral; it resonated with the people of country Victoria, because they know they have had a dud deal on country roads under this city‑centric Labor government. They have seen it. They have experienced it. They have put their lives at risk when they travel through a pothole and when they drive over the crumbling edges.
They are frustrated by this extensive wire rope barrier program. They are being built on straight sections of road where there are no trees on the side, and yet you go through the winding areas of the beautiful Grampians National Park — areas where people have driven off the sides of the road and rolled down the hill; it is absolutely dangerous — and the government is not putting wire rope barriers there, in a place where they actually would improve safety for drivers. You look at this other new program, which is absolutely ridiculous, of putting rumble strips up the middle of the road on roads which are far too narrow and where the edges are crumbling. The Borung Highway between Dimboola and Warracknabeal is a true example of that. Trucks are now driving up the middle of the road because they either have to drive off the edge and onto the crumbling edges, further destroying the road and risking rolling, or they have to drive on the rumble strip, which absolutely sends anybody who has to stay on them insane. It is not good enough. Labor continues to fail country Victorians when it comes to true investment in roads.
I also want to mention the lack of investment in schools and education in western Victoria. We have got 60 schools in my electorate. We did, fortunately, get a little bit of money for five of our schools, which was great, but I rang up the principals on that day and there were more principals than not who had no idea that they even had a project that was up for consideration. They wanted to know. Their first question was, ‘Well, Emma, what’s the money actually for?’. They did not know. These are ideas that have come out of the blue. They have not been driven locally. They have not been going through the corrective action program, which is supposed to prioritise the schools most in need.
The biggest disappointment was that there was no funding for Baimbridge College in Hamilton, a school that had been promised by the department in a public meeting late last year it was going to get funding for its redevelopment. So when it came to the lead‑up to budget week, they were supposed to have an architect come on site and get through their final design phase. That was cancelled with one day’s notice. We then get to the budget and of course there is no mention of Baimbridge at all. They are yet to understand why, when they have been promised this money, it has not been delivered to this very important community and the only public high school in Hamilton.
There is a similarly ridiculous situation in Warracknabeal, where Labor have only funded half a school, so half of the special development school can relocate and half of the secondary college can relocate. It is ridiculous. We are going to have empty school buildings because Labor have not properly funded the school redevelopment program. When it comes to schools, when it comes to police, when it comes to any structural services, country Victorians continue to get a raw deal under this city‑centric Labor government.
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