Appropriation (2015-2016) Bill 2015

SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is with great sadness that I rise to speak about an appalling budget delivered by the current government. It has absolutely failed at every post. We heard that there was going to be a big jobs plan for the future delivered by this government. That was correct; the government has delivered on jobs. In fact there is a 7 per cent increase in the public sector. But you cannot rely on jobs in the public sector to deliver an economic outcome for this state. Ultimately we need business growth and business investment and to ensure that people have a job they can be proud of and get up for each day.

We have seen at every post an absolute shellacking by this government. Infrastructure investment is down by $6.4 billion over four years. We have spoken a lot in this Parliament about shovel-ready projects, and there is nothing shovel-ready when it comes to this government. We heard from the shadow Treasurer that Darwin has more shovel-ready projects than we have in Victoria, which is an absolute disgrace. When you talk to members of the business community, they do not know where to turn when it comes to the vision and direction of this government. There was an east–west link project all ready to go that was going to provide jobs and infrastructure, and over $640 million was ripped out and handed back with not a dollar to be seen in value from it. This is where the business community has lost and will continue to lose confidence in this government. We need to do what we can to ensure that this state is ultimately protected from complete closure by this government.

The decision to declare the two public holidays that have already been announced is incomprehensible, particularly given that we would have a grand final public holiday with there having been no consultation with the AFL. You would think that if you were going to create a public holiday for the AFL, you would speak to the AFL and make sure it was on board. In fact, you have the AFL running around trying to find another place to hold the parade because the city is going to be closed for business. Unfortunately that is the vision we are seeing from this government.

As we have said, we are happy to be having a road, rail and port discussion. However, it is just a discussion from the government’s pint of view, particularly when you consider the metrolink proposal and the concerns around where that may be sited. Firstly, there is the lack of funding. Secondly, if the government does get around to building the metrolink, what will that do to Swanston Street? I have had conversations with a number of businesses and real estate agents in Swanston Street. It is fair to say that a number of those retailers are already finding it tough, but if you close the city for three or four years and expect those businesses to hang around until there is an upswing in business, then you are absolutely dreaming. It means that we are holding those businesses in contempt and shows no regard for them businesses.

Looking specifically at my electorate, I mentioned earlier today that the only secondary school in my electorate, Glen Eira College, was promised $9.5 million in the budget — and this has been talked about. In fact the college was one of the first schools the Labor Party put forward before the election. It had plans already drawn up and ready to go. It showed the plans to the media, and the Caulfield Glen Eira Leader published an exclusive story on it. It was on the front page. We have seen delivery of only 10 per cent of the promised amount, $950 000, with the rest being in contingencies — that is, it is on a basis of maybe, possibly or if everything goes all right down the track.

The government has been talking a lot about side letters, and today an interesting side letter was written from the government to Glen Eira College. Because the government could not guarantee the funding in its budget, a member for Southern Metropolitan Region in the upper house, Mr Dalidakis, wrote a side letter to the school and said, ‘Don’t worry. Trust me. It’ll be coming’. Seriously, Acting Speaker, let us consider all the schools that have been promised funding and all those Labor-held seats that have now been promised funding. In the Bentleigh electorate, funding for McKinnon Secondary College and Bentleigh Secondary College was announced after Glen Eira College. Those schools are benefiting substantially from the budget, and so they should, as they are great schools.

However, Glen Eira College is falling down and is in desperate need of maintenance works. Both parties stood up and said it needed the money, and Labor has failed on this front. Let me tell you that I will be holding the government to account. I will be out every day at that school, and I will make sure that the balance of the money that is not in this budget will be delivered. It will be delivered. I am sure that Sheereen Kindler, the principal of Glen Eira College, along with the president of the council, the parents and the rest of the community will be waiting for the money.

There are a number of other items that I wanted to mention, one of which is the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre. This is a great place. The former government made a commitment of $500 000 to fund the extension of that facility. That funding has not been forthcoming in the current budget, and I would urge the government to consider this matter. It has $25 million allowed for a social cohesion fund; I cannot think of a better way to educate people than to take them through the Holocaust centre. I say this in a truly bipartisan manner: if I can work with the government to ensure that the Holocaust centre receives that funding, then I think we will all be in a better place for it. I also wanted to commend the fact that the government has provided $500 000 for Beth Weizmann for the wall. It is a very important security measure, and I congratulate the government on doing that.

I will return now to some of the portfolio areas that I am responsible for. I will start with innovation. The Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Adem Somyurek, is responsible for innovation. I started looking at the budget to see what elements of innovation the minister would be responsible for. I wanted to discover what things he will now have to look after. Unfortunately there have not been many changes in this area, because a lot of the portfolio responsibilities have been taken away from him. Things like ICT, which was a very important area under our government, as well as research, which is also a very important area, have been taken away and added to the health portfolio. ICT now falls under the Department of Premier and Cabinet. A lot of the areas of film and gaming — important areas in the innovation space — have been taken away and given to the Minister for Creative Industries. So what we have seen is that in a lot of these important innovation areas the responsibility has not been given to the innovation minister.

I am not sure what the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade will be doing for the next four years; I look forward to seeing what he will be doing. Hopefully with the next budget the government might give him a few dollars and a bit of responsibility to do something. There is something called the Future Industries Fund, which has a $200 million allocation. I am not sure whether the minister is responsible for this or not, but it does smell quite like the Victorian Economic Development Corporation of the past, where the government will be sitting on a panel and determining what is a winner, what is not a winner, what should be funded and what should not be funded. I hope that Joan Kirner fund of the past is hopefully not a current one — —

Mr McGuire — You are factually wrong!

Mr SOUTHWICK — The member for Broadmeadows, who is interjecting and carrying on, would not know what was going on, even if someone actually stood up and told him so.

Let us hope that we are actually trying to grow jobs and grow innovation in this state. We should be ensuring that we are getting business investment. We should not have the government picking winners or having the bureaucrats picking winners in terms of the great innovation opportunities in our state.

I will turn now to energy and resources. Labor has reduced spending in the area of energy and resources in the 2015–16 budget by $700 000, from $154.8 million to $154.1 million. With things growing, the population increasing and there being people in desperate need of energy supply we have seen a decrease in funding from the government. What we have seen in this budget is a discussion about renewables. The opposition is certainly prepared to talk about renewables to ensure that we have a good discussion about renewable energy in our state. What the government has done is give a great grand plan around renewables of a $20 million fund.

Let me remind the newbies among the government members that when we were in government we delivered one solar project of $45 million. It was also funded by another $45 million from the federal government. It cost $90 million for one project. I do not know what $20 million is going to get the government, but it is not going to get the government a lot of renewables, let me tell you. There will not be a lot of renewable energy coming from the government. There will be a lot of talk and probably a lot of pork-barrelling for certain areas and little projects that might be spun off in Labor-held seats, but it is not a fair dinkum go at renewable energy. I am sure that even the Greens would agree with me that Labor Party members are not fair dinkum when they talk about renewables. It is all a bit of lip-service; $20 million will not go very far if you are serious about renewables. This money will not go far at all in the area of renewables.

I also wish to draw attention to the Victorian energy efficiency target (VEET) while we are on the topic of renewables and energy. The government has put together $1.9 million for a second review into the Victorian energy efficiency target. It has already been reviewed, and the review said that all the low-hanging fruit that was there had been taken up; people had taken up what they could in terms of lighting and all the other schemes that were in place. The report said that nothing further would really be available out there and that the money should be sent somewhere else. The big ticket items would be coming from federal money, but the state should get involved in something else. But guess what? We are having another review. We are paying for another review on the taxpayer, brought to you by the Labor Party. So we have another inquiry, another ‘look into it’, another talkfest, brought to you by the Labor Party.

If we are serious about this, we should be looking at all consumers. We should be looking at those who have been hard done by in terms of energy bills. We should be looking at those people who experience hardship in paying their energy bills. Those people cannot take up some of these VEET schemes or afford them with a 50 per cent subsidy. They cannot afford a $2000 investment to get their lighting and their panels on board; they just cannot afford that. The people who actually need the energy subsidies at the moment are not being looked after by the Labor Party. If you think the Labor Party is a party that looks after workers, you will find that it is not doing it in this area at all.

I wish to finish on a particular area that relates to my electorate — level crossings. Level crossings were one of the big ticket items of Labor. It claimed it would remove 50 level crossings, which is a $5 billion to $6 billion project. This is a big commitment, and I know many people in my electorate were very keen to see it happen. What we see here is a $3 million investment from the government, which will not even buy them one level crossing removal, and no other funding beyond the 2015–16 period.

What we have seen is Blackburn, Burke Road, Glen Iris, St Albans and Ormond — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ward) — Order! The time set down for consideration of items on the government business program has expired, and I am required to interrupt business.

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