APPROPRIATION (2012/2013) BILL 2012 – Wednesday, 6 Jun 2012

Posted on 15. Jun, 2012 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to express my complete and utter frustration and disappointment with this year’s state budget. We all know that voters at the best of times maintain a sceptical view of politicians, but our constituents in general are quite willing to offer us a fair go, especially a first term government, which should be full of steam and up and running with fresh ideas.

If voters were embarrassed by the 2011 Liberal-Nationals budget, they are outraged by this one. The free credits handed out with the 2010 election victory are now long gone. Even the daily papers, including the Herald Sun, which is traditionally pro-conservative, have started to refer to this government as only a one-term government.

The Clayton electorate is doing it tough. It is a diverse, multicultural electorate which includes manufacturing and science hubs. Clayton community members just want to get on with their lives, working and raising their families. Many elderly residents assist with the child care of their grandchildren, which is reflective of the migrant tradition. University students who attend Monash, Deakin, RMIT or Melbourne universities just want to focus on their studies. They dream of securing a job, buying their own home and raising a family.

What they all expect from their state government is that it keep the economy ticking along in all areas, ensuring that no group gets left behind. They demand a hands-on and proactive approach, one which creates the right climate for job creation and which steps in and takes control when outside factors cause problems.

‘Disappointing’ and ‘inept’ are words Clayton electors offer to me when they analyse this Liberal-Nationals coalition government’s decision making. This state budget is appalling beyond belief. The former Labor government endured the global financial crisis, which is acknowledged as having been one of the worst calamities this state has ever faced — and that was on top of the state’s worst ever bushfires, floods and droughts — and we took action. Labor created jobs and invested in the job-creating infrastructure that was required around the state. The final two years of the former Labor government saw nearly 200 000 new jobs created, and might I add, Labor handed over a AAA credit rating to this government.

This Liberal-Nationals government just does not get it. The Victorian economy revolves around jobs and job creation. The only job creation I see now is in the conducting of reviews into the past that are of no value. I am not in the habit of providing advice to members on the other side of the house, but I suggest to them that rather than conducting reviews it might be best to just listen more to the recommendations of the public service. Governments change as per the will of the people, but the public service continues on. There is no need to start from scratch. This is purely time wasting and an abdication of responsibility.

My local community is bewildered about the state budget, but one thing is clear: behind the scenes the Liberal Party is in turmoil. It is obvious that some ministers are favoured over others, and I am going to go through this. The budget item to stop the funding of the whooping cough vaccine for family members of newborns is disgraceful and a new low, especially given that the Liberal-Nationals government in Western Australia is extending this program. Urgent projects promised by the coalition before it was elected are partly funded in the budget — for example, Monash Children’s hospital in Clayton, which is vital infrastructure to provide adequate care for our youngest citizens. This project has 400 ready-to-commence construction jobs attached to it, yet the final stage of the Dingley bypass appears to those opposite to be much more important. This is obscene decision making, to say the least.

Liberal members of the Assembly from electorates further south of the Clayton electorate, from Mordialloc and Carrum, and Liberal members in the other place representing South Eastern Metropolitan Region have highlighted in their budget speeches funding for the final stage of the Dingley bypass but have been silent about the lack of full funding for Monash Children’s hospital. Obviously these local members and the Minister for Health cannot cut it with the Treasurer. These members forgot to mention that their promise was to complete the Monash Children’s hospital and the final stage of the Dingley bypass project by 2014. Lack of funding in this year’s budget will push the completion of the Monash Children’s hospital to an unknown date and the final stage of the Dingley bypass project out to 2016.

The Minister for Public Transport’s promise to complete 10 rail crossing upgrades in the first term of government has been found to be a hollow one, except of course for the crossings at New Street, Brighton, and in Kerang, which were nos 223 and 394 respectively on the Department of Transport’s priority list. I have made reference to this in the chamber before, and some ministers were very unhappy and tried to stop me mentioning it.

My fellow local residents are appreciative of the planning moneys allocated towards the elimination of the Springvale rail crossing. This crossing, I remind the house, was no. 1 on the Department of Transport’s priority list, but the department remains sceptical about whether it will actually be eliminated before November 2014, as promised. My understanding of the budget papers is that the Springvale rail crossing elimination project was included as one of three such crossings, the other two being in Mitcham. The money allocated towards the three crossings is, in round figures, $53 million for the next financial year, with $294 million required in future years.

I am, however, extremely concerned about the member for Mordialloc’s mention of these crossings in her speech in this place on 22 May 2012, when she said:

Then there is $349 million to replace with bridges the Springvale rail crossing and two other rail crossings in Melbourne.

I stress the word ‘bridges’. I think local shopkeepers and residents would be alarmed to find out that the Springvale crossing is going to be replaced with the second-rate option of a bridge. It is obvious that the member for Mordialloc and the Liberal Party are completely out of touch with reality.

Meanwhile, crossing no. 8 on the Department of Transport’s priority list, at Clayton, is still in never-never land. At this juncture it is only appropriate that I should mention a the member for South Eastern Metropolitan in the other place, Inga Peulich, when in opposition, was jumping up and down about every second week about the Clayton crossing. One has to wonder why she now keeps so quiet. Is it because she now has a bigger, better pay packet as a parliamentary secretary and the people of Clayton are of no concern to her any more, especially in regard to the crossing?

The question is: why has an application for federal funding assistance not been completed for the whole of the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines, especially with these lines almost at capacity and with freight numbers expected to increase out of Western Port in coming years? I can only assume that this is just due to laziness and ineptitude. The budget allocation for disability access to our public transport system is now only $5 million per year, representing a reduction since 2010 of over 80 per cent. What can we assume from this? There is certainly a lack of compassion towards people with a disability on the part of this government.

I note that the Huntingdale–Rowville study appears to have reached a dead end too, but I am grateful that the Minister for Public Transport has seen the light and extended the Huntingdale station–Monash University shuttle bus service first proposed and campaigned for by Labor.

The lack of schools funding in this budget is appalling. Clayton South Primary School had plans approved and ready for tender prior to the 2010 state election, but since the election there has been no funding and no action. Funds had already been spent on detailed plans — a sheer waste of taxpayer’s money. Clayton Primary School closed at the end of 2010 due to a lack of enrolments, yet there have been no positive initiatives such as converting the site into an English language school or a community-based centre, as has been proposed by community groups.

The Clayton electorate is in the upper house electoral region of the Parliamentary Secretary for Education, to whom I referred earlier, yet she appears oblivious to the area. She also appears to be on the outer with the powerbrokers in the Liberal Party. The budget cut to the education maintenance allowance for families that are really struggling beggars belief. It seems that the Treasurer’s view is that these people do not vote for the Liberal Party so the government can just cut them off from the community.

Following last year’s funding cuts to secondary schools for the Victorian certificate of applied learning, this year we have vicious TAFE cutbacks. This is destructive policy that will come back to haunt this government. These cuts will reduce funding to 80 per cent of TAFE courses, and I am fearful that Victoria will become the laughing stock of Australia. The implications of these savage cuts will affect us well into the future and will see fewer apprenticeships being taken up.

The list goes on. There is no capital funding to expand kindergartens that are bursting at the seams, and there has been a raft of cuts to early intervention programs designed to assist vulnerable families. Hospital waiting lists are soaring. There are funding cuts to Victoria’s road safety action plan and a reduction in road incident response units, whilst vehicle registration fees and fines have been increased. There is no new funding towards the VicRoads bicycle program, and $46 million from gambling revenue that had been earmarked for sport and recreation programs has been allocated to general revenue.

Perhaps the biggest disgrace is the lack of funding in this budget for social housing. The budget papers show that next financial year there will be no new funding to build any new public housing, and the Opening Doors program to improve services for the homeless has had its funding slashed from $7 million to $1.7 million a year. The public housing waiting list for our most vulnerable Victorians, many in the Clayton electorate, is just getting longer.

I seem to be very negative about this year’s budget, but in keeping with the tradition of giving credit where credit is due, particularly in the area of multicultural affairs, I salute and commend the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship for taking up the initiative of the previous Labor government and continuing — in fact bringing it back, because last year he was not successful in bringing this program back into being — the Cultural Precincts and Community Infrastructure Fund. This is very important because Labor had increased funding for the program from $9 million to $12 million just before the election. We missed out last year, but this year the minister has seen fit to bring it back and give to the community. I think it was a wise move to take that cue from the Labor Party. The minister should be complimented for working so hard in his portfolio to try to at least uphold the tradition of Labor supporting the myriad ethnic communities in Victoria. Full credit should be given to him.


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