Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Appropriation (2011/2012) Bill 2011, the first budget bill of this coalition government. I would like to start by offering my sincere congratulations to the Treasurer on handing down such a responsible and caring budget and making the hard decisions that were so often lacking under the previous Labor government. He is a fine Treasurer who went to a great university and who knows how manage money, unlike many of those on the opposition side. In fact, when you think about it, all of us on this side know how to manage money and what it is like to actually earn money, and we know how important it is to manage it, again unlike our colleagues in the opposition.
The Treasurer delivered to the house a budget that delivers on our key election promises, including our core promises to fix the problems and build the future. This budget delivers on our election commitment of having a $100 million surplus each and every year and keeping us in the black, again something that we on this side would be familiar with and those on the other side are not. The budget will achieve an additional $600 million in efficiency savings from government departments, with total savings of $2.2 billion over five years. At the election we had a commitment to deliver a $1.6 billion saving, meaning we are overdelivering on our promises, again unlike Labor, which overpromised and underdelivered.
I would like to focus my comments today on the issues of easing the cost of living pressures for Victorian families, making our streets safe and fixing the many problems in our public transport system. I will also remark on the budget commitments in the areas of health and education.
The simple fact is that we on this side know how to manage money and those in opposition know how to spend it. Over the 11 years of the previous government we witnessed a number of cost blow-outs and we are now experiencing the big black holes. The mismanagement includes, as we have heard on numerous occasions, the desalination plant, which blew out by $2.6 billion; smart meters, which blew out by $1.45 billion; myki, which continues to rollout and which blew out by $857 million; and the regional rail project, which has blown out by $300 million, and the list goes on. What you see are a whole lot of what some would say are good ideas but which have no substance and no planning.
In fact you could call those opposite the Kerrigans, but unfortunately, just as it was with the jousting sticks, they were dreaming when it came to buying anything or handling any form of money.
Look at the Royal Children’s Hospital, for example. The new hospital is a great idea, but unfortunately under the previous government it had no budget for an IT system. The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre did not have a fit-out budget. The regional rail network had no signals, crossings or even trains provided for. All these great ideas from the Labor Party were there, but they had no substance. It is like building a car without installing an engine and then pushing it down the road to each media conference, wearing a hard hat. We can all have those visions because we had to put up with that for 11 years. It was 11 years of having members of the Labor Party wheel out their ideas while wearing their hard hats, but unfortunately with no substance and no credibility.
The economic path that Labor was leading us down was unsustainable. Expenditure growth has outstripped revenue growth over the past decade: we have had an average of 8 per cent expenditure growth versus 7.3 per cent revenue. Anybody who has run a business — and I think there are more over this side than there are on the other side — would know that you are on the fast track to economic loss if you spend more than you make.
The Labor Party relied on a number of one-off commonwealth grants to prop up its budgets and to create an operating surplus. However, you just cannot rely on handouts to keep the ship ticking over. You need to ensure that your promises are sustainable and that you have a vision and a plan for the future. While the coalition government will measure its success by its ability to deliver to Victoria on time and on budget, Labor appears to measure success by delays and the amount of taxpayers money that has been wasted.
You only have to mention four names — Cain, Kirner, Bracks and Brumby — and you have four indisputable arguments to prove Labor cannot manage money. Across Australia Labor governments have become bywords for waste and mismanagement, and this is true here in Victoria.
Getting back to our budget, and putting it in the context of what we have been left with, this budget delivers a vision for Victoria. It delivers a future and a plan — words that unfortunately were never properly recognised or understood by those opposite. Cost of living is something that every Victorian is concerned about and lives with every single day. Caulfield has a number of young people who are looking to purchase their first homes. I am pleased that the Treasurer has announced a $1.2 billion package of measures designed to ease the cost of living. This includes more than $500 million in stamp duty cuts for first home buyers. Stamp duty will be progressively reduced by 50 per cent for first home buyers purchasing principal places of residence valued up to $600 000.
This is very important for somebody who wants to get into the market.
All Victorians will benefit from a 50 per cent reduction in ambulance membership fees, which will make ambulance services a great deal more affordable. The government is also providing $445 million for eligible households to benefit from all-year-round electricity concessions and to enable water and sewerage concessions to keep pace with increasing costs. This will benefit an estimated 815 000 Victorians. When you talk about the cost of living and homes, being able to get into the market with your first home, to access essential services like ambulances and to afford electricity bills are three very important, key areas that we have delivered on with this budget.
One of the things that we went to the election with, and it is a very important area, was a campaign to make our streets safer.
As a strong campaigner on safety and crime prevention during the election campaign, I am happy that the government’s commitment to improve safety has been delivered on in this budget. The budget provides $602 million to fund an additional 1600 front-line police and 100 transit safety police. We have also heard that we will be extending the training facility to ensure that we can get these additional police through the system and out onto the streets. Across my region, the southern metropolitan region, we have an additional 107 police officers being deployed by the government. In my electorate, 21 new front-line police will be allocated across the cities of Glen Eira and Port Phillip by 30 June. These are essential services but prior to our coming into government we had police in vans being understaffed. We were always a divvy van short in Caulfield. We can now fix that problem and get the police on the streets where it matters most to ensure that we are well and truly covered.
Jail has to mean jail. The abolition of suspended sentences, which were part of the previous government’s weak laws and made a mockery of the criminal justice system, has finally been effected under this government. The government’s $29 million community crime prevention program will empower local communities by providing grants of up to $10 000 to councils and other groups to tackle local crime problems.
I am pleased that Neighbourhood Watch access to street-by-street local crime statistics is being reinstated. These great volunteers who give up their time to do this terrific work on the streets will finally be able to do it again by accessing these vital statistics to ensure that their good work is carried out. It is a vital service, and I am glad the coalition is going to continue to ensure that it is continued and extended.
Within this crime prevention fund there is an additional commitment of $4 million to work with local councils to adopt a zero tolerance approach to graffiti. Graffiti is the bugbear of all of us in any electorate; it does not matter where you are. We all experience graffiti in one way or another, and we have got to do something to ensure that we get a zero tolerance approach to this. This budget goes well and truly along the way towards doing it. That is because the government is working with local communities.
It is taking the fight into these local communities, out on the ground, and making them responsible for these sorts of issues. The Public Infrastructure Safety Fund will empower these local communities to implement their own safety features.
Another commitment that we went to the election with, which we are now executing, is in relation to public transport. After 11 years of neglect, broken promises and mismanagement our public transport system is finally getting the real boost that it deserves. The Treasurer announced $484 million for new public transport and rail freight infrastructure. As a local member I am also pleased that we were able to commit $11.9 million to upgrade the Balaclava railway station to premium status.
Mr Foley interjected.
Mr SOUTHWICK — I hear the member for Albert Park calling out. He also went to the election with a commitment to the Balaclava station upgrade, but unfortunately his plan, like most of the other poorly executed plans of the Labor Party, did not include ramps. Again, we see complete neglect of an important part of our community. Labor has neglected to enable access for all parts of the community. Again, great ideas were poorly executed.
Another election commitment that I am very happy to mention is the elimination of a number of level crossings across Melbourne. Funding has been set aside to start planning for the removal of level crossings at the Ormond railway station. Again, this is something that is well overdue. I know that when I was campaigning and talking to a number of people in that area they welcomed this election commitment and they are now welcoming this budget commitment.
Health is an important area that was chronically mismanaged by the Leader of the Opposition in his previous job as health minister. Finally, it is getting a significant boost from the government. Labor’s hidden waiting list will thankfully be a thing of the past, and we will get the transparency which members of the public are so eager for and which they certainly deserve. We are acting to slash hospital wait times with a $90 million waiting list and emergency department reform package. Along with that, the Health Innovation and Reform Council will send a clear signal that this government is serious about fixing the problems.
I now turn to education. In Caulfield we take great pride in the diverse educational opportunities available due to the many independent and public schools in my electorate. The budget allocates $240 million to support funding in the independent school sector, and that will greatly help Caulfield families.
It will provide $208 million to renovate existing government schools, build new ones and acquire more land. This includes $92 million worth of election commitments honouring the policies that brought us into government. A critical part of this election commitment policy is providing educational opportunities and support for students with special needs. We are providing $156 million for the program for students with disabilities and for the upgrading of 10 existing special and autistic schools.
This budget is not simply about delivering on our election commitments. The coalition has been left with the massive task of repairing our state’s economy after 11 long, dark years of Labor’s incompetence. The people of Victoria simply deserve more. We now need to repair this damage. We need a long-term vision. We need a plan. This is not a sprint but a marathon. We need to ensure that over the term of this government we have a plan that can be properly executed, a plan that can take the people of Victoria with us and a plan that will ensure that we have got something for the future. I support this terrific bill introduced by the Treasurer and I look forward to its implementation over the course of this term.