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Budget Papers 2019- 2020
Victorian Parliament - June 19, 2019 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) (12:55:02): It is a fortunate privilege to be able to respond to the state budget this year, but it is unfortunate that my response is more about the lack of what is in the budget for my electorate of Lowan and my part of the state—in fact all of country Victoria—as opposed to celebrating what this budget delivers for my region. Unfortunately, even though we hear the rhetoric time and time again that this is a government that delivers for all Victorians, it appears that in the perception of the Premier, Victoria’s boundaries, its borders, finish just beyond Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and include Melbourne. I say that because when it comes to investing in our schools, our roads, rail in our region, health services, police services, mental health or regional development, it simply is not occurring. The evidence speaks for itself when you look over the budget papers. A comment that I have heard regularly when I have been listening to other responses to the take‑note motion around the budget is that this is a government that keeps its promises and is delivering on those promises. But the unfortunate thing is that when it came to the state election in 2018 Labor did not form any commitments in the Lowan electorate. Therefore it is incumbent upon the Premier of Victoria—which is the Victoria which goes all the way to the South Australian border and the New South Wales border—to listen to what local people voted for. The local people voted for a vast array of really important infrastructure projects that would make an enormous difference to the lives of the people who live in the Lowan electorate, and who choose to do so. These are not people who would prefer to be somewhere else; they actually really enjoy living there. They love the country lifestyle. There are vibrant businesses, not just in agriculture but also many, many small businesses, where we are doing things differently. We are looking at investment in research. I think Horsham has one of the major research centres when it comes to grains, oilseeds and legumes. When you look at Hamilton, there is a red meat innovation centre. These are all fantastic things that are happening in our electorate, but we have been neglected by a city-centric government. I would like to go through some of the key priorities that my people voted for and that I would wholly encourage the government to endorse and support and make sure that they are included in next year’s budget, because this budget has failed my people. In fact there is no funding for any infrastructure in the Lowan electorate in this year’s budget. So it is completely misleading and untrue when the Premier says, 'We’re delivering for all Victorians’, because this government simply is not delivering for the people who live in country Victoria and particularly the electorate of Lowan. The biggest issue and an area of neglect that I simply cannot understand has been imposed on our electorate by the Minister for Education is the terrible situation which has occurred in Warracknabeal as part of the Warracknabeal education precinct. Before the 2014 election The Nationals took to the election an upgrade of the Warracknabeal education precinct, making sure that we would keep that project going. Much‑needed works are required to desperately fix some of the issues around that school. There is currently a primary school which needs some works urgently. There is a separate secondary college which has got enormous structural issues within the school. There are cracks in the walls that you can fit a fist in. There is possum urine dripping down the ceiling. It really is not fit for purpose and it has not had any money spent on it for about 30 or 40 years. It is not up to scratch. There is no way that we are supporting the students who attend that secondary college, nor supporting their educators to deliver the quality education these kids deserve. They are Victorian kids, they are not living in a Third World country. We live in the country; we do not live in a Third World country. It is very, very important that this is delivered. We also have the special development school in Warracknabeal which could not attract any state or federal funding, or they could not spend anything because they were on private land. So while there was some funding provided to the SDS as part of the Building the Education Revolution, that funding went to improve buildings and build new buildings at the primary school site. We fought and we fought, and finally we got delivery of a small package of money, a little bit for the SDS and a little bit for the secondary college, to build the Warracknabeal education precinct and get it underway. But it simply was not enough, and the government have never, ever explained why they thought it was good enough for the Warracknabeal community to build half a secondary college and a third of the special development school. What we now have is a situation where this government will not even commit to finishing this project, and I get very emotional about this situation. Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.01 p.m. Ms KEALY: As I was saying before the lunch break, I am very, very emotional about what has been happening with the Warracknabeal education precinct because they were given insufficient funds, which has meant that we have got half-a-brand-new secondary college with the newest science laboratory, fully fitted out with beautiful fume cupboards, Bunsen burners and proper lab benches set up, and it cannot be used at this point in time. We have got a third of the SDS, the special development school, who have had to cut their educational programs towards the students that go to that school because they were told that this school funding would come through and they would be able to finish the project starting this financial year. But unfortunately what we have seen from Labor is that they have not delivered on that. I know there was a very, very cute ministers statement earlier this week from the Minister for Education, who spoke about how people across Victoria—and all students—would now be able to read in the budget papers all the great things they are doing in the state of Victoria. Well, I am sorry, Minister, you are not delivering for the students of western Victoria. While you let the Warracknabeal education precinct sit and rot, while you have the ridiculous situation of secondary school students sitting in a school that is falling apart and which has not had any money spent on it for about 30 or 40 years, while you have got a brand-new science lab sitting empty and not being used and while you have got special development kids who cannot access the full range of programs that they should be able to access and could access only the year beforehand when they were at their old site, you are really doing things wrong. I want the minister to step back and review what he is doing because he is letting these kids down and it is an absolute disgrace. Please immediately find some funding. I know it was not in the budget papers but you have got a surplus. You can deliver to make sure you finish the project you started. I have commended the group Finish What You Started, a fantastic community group built around people who are desperately interested to see the Warracknabeal education precinct funded. They have been great in their advocacy, and I urge them to continue to hold this Labor government to account when they say they will deliver for all Victorians, because what this government says and what this government does are two entirely different things. It is not just Warracknabeal that has missed out in terms of education; Baimbridge College has missed out on funding even though Labor promised that funding for their desperately needed upgrade before the last election. This was a funding program which had bipartisan support. The Nationals made a commitment to upgrade Baimbridge, as did Labor. The difference is when Labor have had the opportunity to deliver they have let our country communities down yet again, and I urge the government to prioritise funding for that important school. We look at other aspects. Particularly around connectivity, it is so important for our rural and regional communities that we have good connectivity with other centres. For our part of the state we are completely underdeveloped when it comes to that. The Nationals made a fully funded commitment to return passenger rail to western Victoria, to return rail to Horsham and return it to Hamilton. This is something that had been costed by Treasury after the election and found to be fully funded and supported, and we will continue to commit to that because I know what a difference it will make to our communities if we can have connections by rail, not just into Ballarat but also through to Melbourne. We need to make sure that we have European-style fast rail where we possibly can. But do you know what? I would do anything to bring back a train anytime soon. We would be happy with a shuttle service. We would be happy to see that. It would be fantastic to see that, but unfortunately when we look at the budget papers— Members interjecting. Ms KEALY: It is interesting that we hear the member for Yan Yean and the member for Wendouree, who seems to be very, very loud, but unfortunately she is not advocating for connecting these country communities to support her own region as well. When you read in the budget papers about the Western Rail Plan, it actually ignores everything beyond Ballarat and Geelong. So when it comes to Labor, again, they say one thing—'We’re delivering for all Victorians’—but when it comes down to the crunch of what they actually do rather than what they say, we find that they never ever deliver and they never ever go beyond Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. Time and time again we have got this restricted vision of where Victoria’s border is, and we see it. It is just a complete disaster, and unfortunately our people are sick of it and they want to see funding delivered to our region because we deserve it. We deserve our fair share, and I will continue to hold this government to account to make sure we get our fair share. And I will call out the Premier when he does not deliver that and when he says things that simply are not true and he will not deliver for our people. We also look at roads. We look at the roads in our region, and I note the Minister for Roads made this announcement today that she is going to install these fancy new flashing lights to reduce speed limits on the Cavendish to Dunkeld road. I have been on this road many times, and it is perhaps the worst road in western Victoria. This road needs to be widened and to have the potholes fixed, and there are significant drop-offs of 20 or 30 centimetres throughout that road—and we are not seeing that road being fixed. Reduced speed limit signs, whether they are lit up or not, are not going to make a difference. It is a significant roadway. It involves heavy loads of trucks—logging trucks and stock trucks—going through that area. It is also used by school buses, by people going to work or going to footy and netball training, and it is an essential route. We do not need signs. We need money to fix our roads. But this week we have heard that the government is not spending their road maintenance money on fixing our roads and saving country lives. What they are spending it on is fixing the wire rope barriers which are on straight stretches of road. They are not even on any of the major bends that we have. I would think that in my electorate, if you were going to install any wire rope barriers, you would make sure it was around the Grampians, where there is huge drop-off on the side of the road. There are often accidents, and you would lose your life if you fell off the side of the road round some of those bends. But we have not seen that; we have not seen that at all. In fact we are seeing just more and more cuts to our road budget. When it comes to supporting our local police, who do an absolutely fantastic job in our rural communities—I cannot speak highly enough of them—we are not seeing the investment in infrastructure that these people desperately need to make sure we can fill our vacancies. There was no commitment to match The Nationals’ commitment of a new police station in Coleraine with a new house, or to look at the master plan for the police precinct in Hamilton. The police and courthouse precinct is well and truly aged. It is past its use-by date. It does not meet occupational health and safety requirements, and it needs to be upgraded. But again, it is an opportunity that went begging because Labor did not provide any commitments in infrastructure in the lead-up to the last election in the Lowan electorate. We were completely neglected, yet again, by Labor. We can talk about health. The Nationals made a commitment to upgrade the Willaura campus of East Grampians Health Service—a fantastic hospital and a very, very important health service for that Willaura region. Again, Labor did not fund it. We need to see that funding flow sooner rather than later. Bush nursing centres—there is no ongoing funding for bush nursing centres. There is a huge question mark over what the future is now for bush nursing centres. We know that in our region we have got four bush nursing centres. They do an absolutely amazing job. They are providing healthcare services in regions where people are a long way from a hospital and where there are not any GP services, and if it was not for these BNCs I know that these communities would probably just lose their population. I do not think the government quite understands what the issue is around bush nursing centres. In fact when I asked this question before of the previous Minister for Health she confused them with bush nursing hospitals. She did not even know what bush nursing centres were. We need to make sure that even though it is a country model of health care the government understands it and properly funds it, or we are going to have enormous gaps in our health system in Victoria. We also look at overall regional development. What did Labor do when it came to regional development in Victoria? They cut the funding. They did not just cut it a little bit, they cut it by 21 per cent, which means we have got fewer staff in our offices who are able to process any grants. But maybe that is because there are not really any grants to be able to fund; there is nothing to process. In fact Labor have axed the Regional Growth Fund, and the Regional Growth Fund had delivered so much for rural and regional communities. This is something that The Nationals were keen to develop and to deliver for our rural communities and our country centres. I know that in my electorate of Lowan this is something that has delivered so many supporting pieces of infrastructure, whether it was expanding Luv-a-Duck or whether it was supporting councils for important infrastructure or supporting our local sporting clubs and organisations. It was an essential fund and Labor have cut it. It is an absolute disgrace, and so whenever you hear the Premier or any of other Labor ministers or Labor MPs standing up and saying, 'We’re delivering for all Victorians’, have a look at the evidence. When you look at the evidence and you look through the budget papers it is not what we talk about in the budget papers, it is not what we see for our electorates, it is the absence of any key investment in our electorates. We know that if country Victoria is strong all of Victoria is strong, but under the Premier and under the Labor government we see an underinvestment in country Victoria, and it is a failure of this government for doing so.
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