APPROPRIATION (2010/2011) BILL – Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Posted on 18. Jun, 2010 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am delighted to be joining other members in singing praises about this budget brought down by our illustrious Treasurer. Tonight I am going to pay homage. I know that a member in another place will take me to task about using the word ‘homage’, but this is a truly incredible budget.

I will start with a subject that is very close to my heart — that is, multicultural affairs. I note that the member for Bulleen is sitting at the table in his capacity as the shadow minister for multicultural affairs and citizenship. I have a lot to say in that area, not just because I am the member of Parliament representing the most multicultural electorate of the 88 seats in this chamber but because we tend to forget that something like 26 per cent of the people in this state are of ethnic backgrounds or related to such. In my electorate 56 per cent of the people are from non‑Anglo backgrounds. Therefore it is appropriate and only fitting that I spend a bit of time on this subject.

The other area which is also very close to my heart is tourism, trade and investment from overseas and here. My list goes on. But in the short time I have, let me start with multicultural affairs. I cannot help but notice that just about every year, every time we have a budget debate, the member for Bulleen cannot help himself. He tries to talk down, criticise, blame or condemn the multicultural affairs budget of this government. I remind him while he is sitting at the table that during the first term of the Kennett government there was zero — nil, nothing — funding in that area. The Kennett government scrapped the multicultural commission, and 80 staff there were just gone and were without jobs. They were front‑line people who were servicing the ethnic community. Not a cent was disbursed or given to the ethnic communities. It took that government until the end of its seven‑year term to reach the $700 000 a year mark.

This government picked it up from there. With the last budget we reached $4 million plus, and with this budget we are going to $6 million. This is more than a 1000 per cent increase, if you want to talk about percentage points. Has any other budget anywhere in the world increased by more than 1000 per cent? No. But the Bracks and Brumby Labor governments have been caring, concerned and very focused on the sharing and engaging with communities of people from other cultural backgrounds.

It is not just that. A couple of times the member for Bulleen has raised the cultural precincts and the so‑called funding. The last budget allocated something like $3 million to upgrade and beautify the Chinese precinct in Chinatown, the Greek precinct next door and also the Italian precinct in Carlton. This budget takes the amount to $12 million. That is a 400 per cent increase for just one area — the cultural precincts. No other government in Australia has done that, but this Brumby government has done it. It knows that people from different cultural backgrounds have a lot to share and to be proud of and that it is only appropriate that the government take action to highlight, foster, develop and increase cultural sharing by people of what they have to offer other communities.

It is not just that. It also means jobs, because by beautifying those ethnic precincts naturally tourism is also increased. Let me take my electorate as an example, particularly the Springvale area in the south‑east corner of my electorate. I am talking about more than 151 languages being spoken and more than 200 nationalities mixing vibrantly on a day‑to‑day basis. We have a mosque, two Buddhist temples — Mahayana and Hinayana — different sects of Christianity, and the list goes on and on. If you took a trip in the area just visiting all those religious places, it would almost be like a cultural and religious trip that would enhance your awareness of what a multicultural society in Victoria is all about. Therefore you are creating interest, tolerance, understanding and a feeling of sharing and togetherness. This is very important, and the government knows that this is a very important element in a community like Victoria. That is why former US President Clinton always regarded Australia, and particularly Victoria, as a shining example of how we can live together as a community.

In relation to funding in the ethnic affairs and multicultural affairs areas, we have diversified the different grants to the community. One has to admit that the Victorian Multicultural Commission has done a fantastic job in terms of meeting the needs or the aspirations of these communities. It has gone from being a simple organisation with support funding — so‑called, going back to the Kennett years — to seven, eight or nine different varieties of funding, which has helped the elderly ethnic groups. There are a lot of them now, especially when you are talking about the post‑Second World War communities like the Italian, Polish and Greek communities. They are now ageing and they have their different needs. They have their own clubs, they need to upgrade their cooking facilities and their kitchens, and funding that especially targets that area has been so well received. I cannot stop thinking about how they are smiling. The number is so many, but the funding meets their needs and helps to pay off those upgrades; it really makes a difference to their lives and to their retirement years.

We are also funding festivals, and Victoria holds a whole range of festivals from around the world. In my electorate the City of Kingston has come up with these fantastic ideas through its Greek‑born councillor Cr Arthur Athanasopoulos, who dubbed the annual summer event the Globe to Globe Festival. This is a whole range of festivals of dance, music and you‑name‑it events which come into the local park and people have a real ball. It is fantastic.

Just across the road in Monash the so‑called Clayton Festival has brought out a whole different community, parading and playing music and song in the Clayton shopping strips. Every year in February it coincides with the Chinese New Year celebrations. In the Springvale shopping centre the Chinese New Year lunar celebration, now in its 18th year, is also being funded by this government through the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Each one of these has deep and profound effects on the lives of the people, because it means a lot to them. It means the government recognises their past, their roots, their contribution, their sharing of this culture, this diversity through the whole community, making them proud and making this state proud. It is very significant in terms of that funding. The list goes on and on.

I am aware of the short time I have left. Many other members have quoted figures about Victoria’s AAA credit rating and about jobs. It is an understatement to say that this budget is about jobs, jobs and jobs; it is about unemployment. To talk about employment is also to talk about unemployment. Victorians can walk proud and tall when it comes to unemployment figures.

I had the opportunity to be part of a parliamentary delegation to Europe three months ago. We visited Germany, France, Belgium and England. It is common knowledge now, as we have heard, that Spain has unemployment of more than 20 per cent. At the time we were in Europe the rate of unemployment in France was 12 per cent while Italy’s rate was 16 per cent. People in those countries are so envious of us.

Australia has come through this so‑called global financial crisis with flying colours, and people overseas know Victoria leads the pack. This has not happened overnight, this did not just happen because we were lucky; it is because we have people like the Premier and the Treasurer. That is why I say I pay homage: both are very special; they care, they are very focused and this is a Labor government. We are leading the pack in Australia. Nobody can compare to us; they do not even come near, so we should be very proud and recognise where credit is due.

I could go on and on. I have statistics about our exports, particularly to China, which is now our top trading partner. I notice that the Minister for Industry and Trade is at the table. She, more than anybody else who has inherited this portfolio, should be very proud of our great effort in selling Victoria to the rest of the world and particularly to northern Asia. In my capacity as special adviser to the Premier on Victoria‑Asia business relations I am very proud of everything we have achieved in that field. We are second to none. In fact our 13 overseas posts are forging ahead, selling Victoria non‑stop so that we can bring the bacon home here. We have got product to show the world; other states cannot compete.

Members should not forget that we are not a resource‑rich state like Western Australia or Queensland. We have only our brains, our efforts and our concentration that we sell to the world, especially to the Chinese. We have our services. We have a whole range of products that the Chinese want to learn from us. We know that China competes very quickly, but we still have to stay ahead of them so that we can continue to sell and make money.

Of course we can talk about education export and we can go on talking about tourism. I have many times sung the praises of the Minister for Tourism and Major Events for doing the right thing for Victoria and beating the other states. We do not have iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and we do not have the iconic beaches of the Gold Coast or the north‑western part of Western Australia, which are all iconic, yet we are ahead because we do the right thing. The minister and the Premier have mentioned during question time how successful Victoria has been in attracting tourism from overseas and interstate through the various iconic events.

We are well known; we were voted the event capital of the world, let alone the whole range of other titles won. It has been on the Labor government’s watch under the Premier and the Treasurer that we have achieved all this. Therefore I pay homage to them. I think it is only appropriate we recognise that this government has done the right thing by Victoria.

I do not have a chance to talk about my electorate, but let me point to one thing in the short time I have left. That upgrade to Westall station cost $153 million. I do not want to mention the whole range of funding for hospitals and schools — the people at every school in my electorate have not stopped smiling when they walk into the schools and into all those other places, including the hospital. The Minister for Health has been visiting the local hospital, the Monash Medical Centre at Clayton, more often than I have, every time to announce more funding, more money to give us the best health care system in the world.

I think it is only appropriate that we recognise that this is the budget that cares. I have not even talked about it being a budget for a fairer Victoria, but we should all recognise its importance.

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