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.