May 8, 2014  |  Second Reading

Appropriation (2014-2015) Bill 2014

Mr HOWARD  (Ballarat East)— I  am pleased  to  add my  comments about  this budget, which was brought down by the government earlier this week. Residents of the  Ballarat East electorate,  and indeed the  new  Buninyong electorate, could rightly be very disappointed by this budget. This budget  was  heralded  by  the government as an infrastructure budget, so it is incredibly disappointing to see that only one capital project has been funded in my electorate.

It is extremely concerning to me as a member representing regional Victoria that of the total spend of  $27 billion  on infrastructure  in this budget, just $1.2 billion  has been allocated  to infrastructure in regional  Victoria. Just 4 per cent of the total infrastructure spend for the entire state has  been  allocated to regional Victoria in this government’s budget.

This  budget  takes  us  back  to  before  1999,  when  under the last coalition government  regional  Victoria had  become  the toenails  of  Victoria.  We  all remember that. The previous coalition government said that if it concentrated on Melbourne,  eventually the  blood  would  flow  and  somehow  or other  regional Victoria would  benefit. With  only 4  per cent  of the capital spend going into regional  Victoria in this budget,  you would wonder  what regional Victoria has become under this coalition. We cannot even  be the toenails any longer; we must be the toenail clippings. Regional Victoria can rightly be very disappointed.

I will turn to deal with my  electorate. In the new electorate  of Buninyong, as has been the case in the electorate of Ballarat East, no school has received any capital spending  in this budget. What is the total of spending on schools in my electorate  over  four  years by the government? Zero. There has been no capital spending at all, yet  my  residents  will clearly remember that under the former government every year  there was  at least  one school  funded, if  not two  and sometimes  three.  Of the  40 schools  in my  electorate, only  3 missed  out on capital upgrades funding in the 11 years of the Labor government, yet there  was still more that needed to be done.

Clearly in my electorate, or in the new electorate  of  Buninyong,  Phoenix P-12 Community College was looking forward to the  next stage of its  reconstruction. The college was very pleased that Labor said that if re-elected, it would commit $11.5  million for the next stage of the Phoenix P-12 development, but  what has this government said about Phoenix P-12’s next stage? It has said nothing.

The  community of Sebastapol, and  more broadly the area associated with Phoenix P-12, would rightly be very disappointed with this government.

I note that in  the present Ballarat East seat funding of a  bit over $3 million has been promised to Kyneton Primary School. The  government  has  said  to  the school, ‘You can do with it whatever you want; we know you want to move to a new site’. Although Labor has promised over $10 million for Kyneton Primary School to  move to a new site, this government has said, ‘You can have $3.2 million’ — I think the figure  is — ‘and you can  decide  whether you want to spend  it on your existing site or  on  a  new site’. But what will the  school  get for $3.2 million?  Poor  old  Kyneton Primary School is thinking, ‘It is nice  that  this government eventually remembered that we exist’, but it cannot  do anything with the money because it wants  to  move.  Naturally  enough the school community is hoping  Labor will be elected to  government and enable it to  have the full $11 million to move  to  the  new site as  part  of  the Kyneton K-12  school  plan. Education has significantly missed out in this budget.

Looking at other items in the budget,  I notice that one capital  project in the Buninyong  electorate has been funded, and that is the Rowsley  rail  loop.  The Rowsley rail loop that has been included  in the  budget by this government will be finished over a two-year period to 2016, but this is actually the replacement of a promise the coalition made in 2010 when it was in opposition.

In opposition the coalition said,  ‘We are going to duplicate the rail at Ballan train  station. We  will  put in  a new  second platform  and that  will provide greater flexibility and it will  solve Ballan’s problems’. Four  years later, we ask: has  the  government done anything about that promise to the Ballan people? No, it has done nothing, but now it says, ‘We made a mistake when we proposed to put in a passing  loop  at the Ballan rail station; instead  we  will  put it at Rowsley, and while we are going to give you some money for parking where we have demolished a house beside the railway station, that will  be  your  promise  for Ballan, but you will not get a second platform’.

The coalition government — the Minister for Public Transport is at the table — made  that  promise to the Ballan  people  in 2010. In 2014  the minister sent a member for Western Victoria Region in the other place, Simon Ramsay, to make the announcement. Mr Ramsay had to  say, ‘Sorry, even though we made that promise in 2010, now in 2014 we are not going to honour that promise.

Instead we will  do  something  down the rail  track,  so you ought to  be  very pleased,  and  that will come  in  2016.  We made the  promise  in  2010, we are dishonouring it in 2014, but in  2016 there  will be  another rail  passing loop further down  the  track’.  The  people  of  Ballan  would  rightly  be a little disappointed about that.

On that sort of issue — and we have just heard from the Minister for Police and Emergency  Services  —  we  know  that  in  2010 the then opposition,  now  the coalition government, said to the people of Sebastopol,  ‘We  will  build  a new police station for you  when  we come to office’.  Now,  three and a half  years later, it  says,  ‘Sorry, we  made a  mistake again.  Even though  we made  that promise in 2010, in 2014 we find we have made a mistake and we are not going  to build  a new police station  in Sebastopol. Instead we are  going to build a new police station in the western growth zone and that might be finished by 2015’.

The people of Sebastopol could  rightly feel very disappointed because they were promised a police station, but four years later, after the coalition has been in government for  three  and  a half years,  it  says  it is  not  going  to  give Sebastopol a police  station, it  will put  one out  in the Ballarat West growth zone  and that will  happen in  another two  years. They  can rightly  feel very disappointed.

As I  said, the education community in my electorate can also rightly feel  very disappointed that  this  government does not  seem  to care  about  building new schools. It has really let people down in that area. In terms of education, TAFE is an area where this government has not only let people down, as  we heard from the member for Eltham  earlier on, but TAFE  as  we know it has  been completely gutted by this government. Maybe after three and a half years as this government is  approaching  an  election  it might  finally  realise  that  people  in  our communities are distressed by that.

People see TAFE as being important  because it  provides a link for young people — and not  necessarily  young  people  but  all  people  who  are  looking  for retraining and options  to lead them on a path to a job — but what we have seen under this government is the absolute decimation of TAFE.

As an example in Ballarat, what was formerly  the School of Mines Ballarat (SMB) campus of the University of Ballarat, now Federation University Australia, which is a great  institution providing great  opportunities  for so many  younger and older people looking for retraining opportunities, has  cut over 47 courses as a result of funding  cuts. You only need to go to  the  SMB site at Lydiard Street and  have  a look around to see the contrast.  Three years ago it was a thriving site with  lots  of  young people about, attending their courses and mixing with each other  between classes.  It was an active hub of young  people gaining  new skills and feeling confident about their future.

If you go there now  you could just about fire a  gun through the campus —  not that I  am advising that that should happen of course — but nobody would be hit because it is dead.

It  is really  sad  to  see what is  happening  to  that SMB campus.  I  commend Federation University for looking at that site and deciding to do something with all  those empty  rooms —  it has moved what it called the  Ballarat Technology Park Central into part of that site, which I hope does have benefits for growing businesses. The site  was designed and  purpose  built, especially the  new brewery complex,  to house TAFE educational facilities, but now there are no  students  there and the university is having to find alternative uses for it. It is very sad to see what this government has done at the TAFE end of the spectrum.

Now let us look to kindergartens, which are at the other end of the spectrum. It is  really  important that young people have the opportunity to learn,  to  gain skills and to go on to a good start at school, but  what  do we see at page 8 of budget  paper  3?  Under the  heading  ‘Early  childhood  development’  for  the children’s  facilities capital program  in  2013-14 there was  an amount of  $15 million, which was good because kindergartens knew they could  get capital works for upgrades.  However,  looking  at the  figures  for 2014-15, there  is  zero. Actually there is not a zero  in  the budget papers; there is just a  couple  of little dots, which means ‘zilch’.

When one looks  across  the  table at the four-year ongoing program from 2015-16 and  on  to 2017-18,  one sees  that there  are still  those little  double dots showing there are no more capital works programs in the early childhood area. It is very sad.  What  we have also seen as part  of  the federal agreement is that kindergarten hours will be cut, so parents will be paying more for their kids to go to  kindergartens  for fewer hours.  Kindergartens will be funded  to provide only 10  hours  of care for children  rather than 15 hours as  had been proposed initially, which is a serious cut. We should rightly be very sad.

While the Minister for Roads is in the chamber, I will comment on  the fact that this  budget,  as  I  said  earlier,  is  all  about  Melbourne  road  and  rail infrastructure and  all about projects that are not well planned and are not the ones that people want, even in Melbourne.

In  addition, they will not be completed until  after 2020, so we have to wait a long time even  to  get  to  those  projects and as far  out  as  2026  for  the unfortunate replacement of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. What my constituents really wanted  to see  in terms  of road  infrastructure was money spent on  the crumbling  roads  around  the electorate. When  I  try  to  drive  down  to  the minister’s  electorate, towards Colac  on the Ballarat-Colac  road,  there is  a proliferation of  signage  — not  works  done,  but signage  —  saying  ‘Rough surface. Drive slowly’.

  Mr Mulder interjected.

  Mr HOWARD— There has been a bit of work done because I have been down there, as has  the Leader  of the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Roads, drawing the media’s attention to this proliferation of signage rather than works done to improve the rough surfaces and many potholes, but all we see are more signs.

That is just one example. There are roads right  across my  electorate that  are falling  apart, where  people  could rightly  have  expected some capital  works funding but it is  all  going to that tunnel in Melbourne and  to  the rail link that is an abomination. We have heard commentary  on  radio  and elsewhere about it.  It  is a farce because it  was  not  planned. It is something there in  the budget to try and catch people out. A thought bubble.