Appropriation (2015-2016) Bill 2015 (State Budget response)
07 May 2015
May 07, 2015
MS RYAN (Euroa) — I rise to make a contribution on the Appropriation (2015–2016) Bill 2015. This is a nasty and deeply unfair budget. I do not like to reinforce a divide between rural and regional areas and the city. That does not benefit anyone and only serves to disadvantage both city and country people, but when you look at this budget, that is exactly what it does — it draws a deep divide between city and country. Labor has absolutely abandoned the country with this budget. It has sent a very clear message to regional Victoria that if you live beyond the tram tracks, you do not matter.
By almost every financial and economic indicator, Victoria is now in a worse position under this government. You just have to look at the headline numbers. State taxes are up $1.1 billion, more than $4 billion has been lost from the surplus in just six months and the surplus is now being propped up by federal government grants. This government has taken a healthy budget position, which was the legacy of its two former Treasurers, and it has turned it into a structural deficit, all within the space of six months.
Not only that, this government does not even have a commitment or a plan to reduce net debt. Infrastructure spending across the state has fallen by $1.6 billion since Labor came to office. You have to wonder what the government has been doing. As to the east–west link contract cancellation, Labor does not even know its full cost. We know it will cost at least $640 million, but what do the budget papers say? They say 'unquantifiable at this time'. The government does not even know how much ripping up the east–west link contract is going to cost this state. You would have to think, given the reaction from business groups in the state, that it will be years before we know the real cost to the state and the damage to our international reputation.
The budget also predicts high unemployment for a longer time, and that is a very serious concern for young people and families across my electorate. Yesterday a man from my electorate contacted me with concerns about the welfare of his two sons. They are both aged in their 20s and are well educated and well qualified. One is an engineer and the other is a town planner. Despite applying for hundreds of jobs in the last few months, they have been unemployed for seven months. The man said that as a parent he worried about the mindset of kids not being able to get settled into their first job. This budget offers no hope to those young men. In fact, major cuts to local government infrastructure and local government funding in this budget means that local government will contract. It will be pulling in projects, not starting new infrastructure projects, and that has destroyed a lot of employment opportunities at a local level, particularly for these two young men.
For regional and rural Victoria the budget is a terrible story. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) summed up the situation very well when it said:
Rural Victoria has not got its fair share for this year's state budget …
As you work through the budget it becomes clear metropolitan Melbourne has gained more than 90 per cent of the infrastructure spend …
Further, Peter Tuohey, the VFF president, is reported in today's Stock and Land as saying:
This week's state budget was overwhelmingly disappointing for farmers and regional Victorians.
Labor has cut funding streams put in place by the coalition government that were crucial to regional Victoria — for example, the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund. Labor claimed in the house this week that its Regional Infrastructure Development Fund is its equal, but it is not even a pale imitation. For the benefit of members in the house, particularly the member for Melton, I will go through some of the projects funded by the Regional Growth Fund in my electorate.
In the shire of Strathbogie we have the Australian National Show and Shine — Euroa, which was funded to the tune of $15 000. Other funding was as follows: the Avenel Recreation Reserve, stage 1 redevelopment, $300 000; the Euroa Community Conference and Function Centre, $90 000; the Euroa Travellers and RV Comfort Stop, $300 000; Euroa Memorial Park redevelopment, $150 000; and the Black Caviar statue in Nagambie, which has become an attraction for travellers across the state, $50 000.
In Benalla there was $150 000 to attract businesses to the Enterprise Park development; Ryan & McNulty Sawmillers, that excellent timber firm in Benalla, received $100 000 to expand their business and employ new people; there was $237 000 to refurbish the Benalla Performing Arts Centre; and there was $300 000 for the Winton Motor Raceway infrastructure development. The Girgarre Development Group received $22 000, and there was $390 000 to build community facilities in Rushworth. In the shire of Mitchell, $243 000 was made available for the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour; $100 000 was provided for the expansion of the Valley Park Farm in Seymour; and there was $140 000 for the Kilmore town centre revitalisation project. They are but some of the projects funded across the Euroa electorate by the Regional Growth Fund.
That funding stream was additional to core government expenditure. What has this government done? It has taken money that was left in the Regional Growth Fund and used it as a substitute for core government funding. It is trying to deceive people in rural and regional Victoria. In addition the government has cut the $160 million country roads and bridges program, the local government infrastructure program. The regional living expo, which was welcomed by councils in my area, and I am told had 11 000 people go through it last week, was a program that was beginning to make a real difference to country communities, and yet in budget paper 5 we see that that program has now been cut. I am told that in fact there were no Labor members there other than the minister who opened the expo on the weekend. I am very pleased that there was strong representation from coalition members.
The country football netball program was a great program. Many communities across my electorate benefited from that program, and their members would like to be able to still access that program. At Broadford, for example, they need new lights. The Seymour Football Netball Club is a fantastic club, but its facilities are desperately in need of an upgrade.
The Energy for the Regions program, which funded the extension of natural gas to Heathcote, was a fantastic program. Many other communities across my electorate need to be able to access that program — for example, the communities of Nagambie and Avenel are two that would desperately like to see the extension of natural gas.
We have discovered that the fire services levy is also being increased. What another slap in the face for regional communities. Labor opposed the coalition's efforts to reform the fire services levy. Coalition members had to drag Labor members there kicking and screaming. Now that all the hard work has been done and finally there is fairness again in rural and regional areas, with people no longer paying that levy through their insurance premiums, Labor is just jacking up the costs for rural and regional Victoria. Worse than that, last week we had Labor MPs going around northern Victoria reannouncing fire station projects that had already been announced by the coalition — because there was nothing in this week's budget for them to actually announce and to own. So those opposite are jacking up the fire services levy, and at the same time they are finding coalition projects to reannounce because they have nothing else to talk about.
This is a terrible budget for the Euroa electorate. Over the past four weeks I have been around my electorate holding listening posts and round table talks. I have had many conversations, both formal and informal, with my constituents to find out what their priorities were for the state budget. They gave me a very clear list of priorities, which I sent to the Premier and the Treasurer. I am very disappointed to say that none of those items are reflected in this week's budget.
As I have mentioned, country roads were one of the greatest concerns of people in the conversations I had with them. Labor's decision to axe the country roads and bridges program will have a terrible impact on regional communities, and it will hit small councils very hard, particularly councils such as Strathbogie, which has 507 bridges and culverts that it has to maintain. That burden will fall back onto rural and regional ratepayers. It will also stop agricultural exports getting to port, and it will have very serious consequences in the event of an emergency. There are now concerns that fire trucks in rural and regional Victoria will not be able to cross some bridges because they will have load limits applied to them. We have also discovered that the government has slashed the road maintenance budget by 10 per cent. Can the government insult rural and regional Victoria anymore?
Both Benalla and Seymour colleges have real occupational health and safety issues, and neither of them received any funding in the budget. Last week the member for Ferntree Gully, in his capacity as shadow Minister for Education, visited those schools with me. I again extend an invitation to the minister to visit those schools. When he comes — if he comes — he will meet passionate teaching staff and parents at both those schools, but he will also see a classroom at Benalla P–12 College which is absolutely riddled with mould.
Mr Nardella interjected.
Ms RYAN — Despite the best endeavours of the school to clean it, the classroom has now been sealed off completely. The member for Melton will be very interested to hear that the school has built a tunnel covered in black plastic that goes through the classroom so that the students can access the school's darkroom. The coalition committed $15 million to those two schools, and they have received zero from Labor.
Some of the other projects include the Rushworth hospital, which is at serious bushfire risk. The coalition committed $7 million for that, and there is not a cent from Labor. There is not a cent for health or education projects across my electorate. There are no new trains for the north-eastern and Shepparton rail lines. There were 21 new V/Locity carriages announced with great fanfare, and all of them are going to Geelong. There is no funding for the Nagambie ambulance.
Ms Allan interjected.
Ms RYAN — The member for Bendigo West is saying they are not going to Geelong, so the budget papers are clearly wrong.
Ms Edwards interjected.
Ms Allan interjected.
Ms RYAN — In the time I have remaining, I would like to touch quickly on my shadow portfolios. In my role as the shadow minister for young Victorians and the shadow minister for training, skills and apprenticeships, I would like to outline how the budget will impact upon students and young people. The Minister for Training and Skills would have people believe he is a white knight riding in to rescue TAFE and the training system, which Labor would have people believe is crumbling. Yet the budget papers quite clearly show that Labor does not intend to train one more student — not one more student.
In the outputs in budget paper 3 members can see that the government is intending to train 443 687 students, which quite surprisingly is exactly the same figure as in the 2014 training market report, a report absolutely decried as a failure of the training system just two months ago when the minister released it. Now, despite putting $320 million into TAFE, he does not intend to train one more student — not one.
Not only that, but the minister intends to cut government-subsidised places for young people by almost 80 000. The participation rate for people aged between 15 and 24 is clearly shown as 22.5 per cent. That is absolutely astounding. It is all a sham. Labor plans to cut places for young people. It is so uncertain about its own plan for the training system that it will not even back itself and it will not set a higher target. That target, for the information of the house, is actually 100 000 more places than there were when Labor was last in office.
In conclusion, this is a terrible budget. It is a terrible budget not just for young people but for regional Victoria. I grieve for country communities. It is going to be a very, very long road for them over the next four years. The budget bears all the hallmarks of the Brumby government.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member's time has expired.
Debate adjourned on motion of Ms ALLAN (Minister for Public Transport).
Debate adjourned until later this day.