May 28, 2015  |  Second reading

Appropriation (2015-2016) Bill 2015

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — I am very pleased to rise to speak on the Appropriation (2015–16) Bill 2015. It is always interesting to speak after an opposition member, in this case the member for Mornington. In some ways I thought I would like to have a copy of his speech to share around my electorate. Although they would mostly be bored by it, it would assure the people of my electorate that they did the right thing in voting Labor at the last election.

We heard from the member for Mornington how dreadful it is that this government has been popularly elected by the people of Victoria and has come back into office is spending more money. I make no apology for an Andrews Labor government budget that spends more money, because that is why we came to office. For the last four years, the sad Liberal-Nationals coalition government simply cut, cut and cut, and it seemed to be the only thing it knew how to do. Those opposite had no vision for the future. They just cut away and provided nothing for the people of Victoria by way of funding many of the projects that are important for the life of our community.

I am in fact delighted to be part of an Andrews Labor government that is increasing spending. But at the same time as doing that — and I emphasise this — Labor is still running a surplus budget, as Labor did in its previous 11 years of government that I was involved in. There is no threat to a AAA credit rating from the budget that Labor is running. It is a very sound financial budget that will deliver for the people of Victoria the things they were missing out on for the last four years.

I am very proud to stand here as the Labor member for Buninyong as part of a Andrews Labor government that has delivered so much. The first budget of this government is something that I am very proud to speak on. It contrasts with the budget that was delivered a week later in Canberra by the Abbott federal government, which was probably one that the member for Mornington would be very proud of, because it managed to spend less. It was a mean budget that will result in families who need support in our communities missing out. By contrast the Andrews budget recognises that we have a responsibility to support people who need support in our community, and we have delivered so much in that area.

I was pleased last week to be out in my electorate in the rural towns of Smythesdale, Ballan and Meredith, and also in Ballarat, talking to community members about the budget and other issues that are important to them. I was overwhelmed by a positive response from them about the way this government went about the preparation and delivery of its budget. The reason was that they saw we were delivering to and supporting communities across regional Victoria and across Victoria generally. They were impressed by what we did in contrast to the last four years, when they felt they were being neglected by the former government. The coalition government clearly had no sense of vision or concept of how to progress the important issues that needed to be progressed in this state. So this budget invests in our local schools, our health services and our roads across the electorate of Buninyong.

It is also very clear that we need to invest in creating jobs and support local manufacturing. An example in the budget is Labor investing in new trains and Country Fire Authority (CFA) tankers, some of which will be built locally in Ballarat. This recognises the proud local manufacturing history we have in Ballarat at what were the railway workshops but are now the Alstom railway production sheds, where they are producing great X’trapolis trains. Alstom has been given a commitment to have those trains built at its workshops in Ballarat, and CFA tankers will be produced at SEM Fire and Rescue in Ballarat. There will be more jobs for people in Ballarat and we will be supporting local manufacturing as a result of this decision in the budget. So not only is the government supporting jobs but it is investing in better infrastructure for our public transport facilities and better infrastructure for our emergency services by providing the state-of-the-art fire tankers that SEM are producing. I am certainly delighted to think that we are acting in a way that continues to support employment in my area.

When we look at the essence of what a good budget does, we need to look at the future. We know that when we consider people across our community — I look at the young people in particular as they are the ones who are going to be the future — we need to support them in getting a good job so that they can help build our community. To do that you obviously need a good education. As a former teacher, I am clearly passionate about the need to support our education facilities and our schools across the spectrum of education to ensure that young people get the opportunities they need to support them towards a good future, and therefore put our whole community on a good track for the future.

Let me start by looking at the early childhood education area, where we are building the foundations of lifelong learning. In particular in the budget I am pleased to see an early years centre in Sebastopol being funded. This is going to be a new one-stop shop for families with young children in the Sebastopol and broader area. It is going to house a kindergarten and maternal and child health service and have room for playgrounds. Clearly we are supporting that area.

I am delighted to see that several schools across my electorate are getting the funding they need to build the infrastructure they need. I was pleased to have the Minister for Education in my electorate only last week or the week before when we visited Phoenix P–12 Community College and announced a further $10 million for new classrooms and food technology and visual arts facilities to be rebuilt and modernised. We also went to Ballarat Secondary College, which is going to receive $6 million to upgrade its campuses at both Ballarat East and Wendouree.

I am also pleased to note that $5 million has been committed to building a new year 9 centre in Bacchus Marsh. I cannot help noting as the former member for Ballarat East that one of the schools that I fought so hard for in the last term, Daylesford Secondary College, which was neglected under the last government, will now get the $10 million that it has been looking forward to in order to go to the next stage of development of its school. Kyneton Primary School will get $8 million to help it relocate, and Kyneton Secondary College will get $5 million. I am delighted to see that those schools, which are in the new electorate of Macedon, will be supported under a Labor government. They were hoping to get something in the last four years, but they got nothing.

Under the heading of Gonski funding a great move forward in education was proposed by the federal Labor government some years back. Sadly during the term of the former state coalition government the Gonski funding was not forthcoming as schools expected it would be. In this budget Labor commits to the full Gonski funding, and I look forward to seeing that roll out into schools across my electorate and across the state. Additional funding will be provided to support low-income families so that students can go to camps, purchase the items they need and not feel that because their family is struggling financially they cannot afford to do what other students are able to do. Terrific support for families on low incomes is available from this budget.

We have committed to a new technical school in Ballarat. I look forward to supporting the various players who are going to come together to develop that proposal. As we know, TAFE was devastated by the former government. I am pleased to see our TAFE rescue package in place, and I will be pleased to work with the member for Wendouree in ensuring that TAFE funding flows back to Federation University and that we can rebuild TAFE opportunities for our young people in the Ballarat region.

Education support services such as the Highlands Local Learning and Employment Network are also going to get ongoing support and funding through this budget. Local learning and employment networks provide great support for young people who might otherwise fall through the cracks. They allow us to see how education flows into the employment sector and to undertake work to ensure that all young people are appropriately supported in linking their education to their employment and do not fall through the cracks.

Let us move on to health services. While at the Canberra level health services are being savagely cut, the Victorian state budget provides great support for health. I was pleased to be with the Minister for Health at the Ballarat Health Services base hospital last week. We looked at the site of a new catheterisation lab, which the hospital will be receiving $10 million from this government to develop. This will mean that in the future people who need lifesaving treatment will not have to go further afield than Ballarat to receive important cardiac services. The budget also includes the $200 million Hospital Beds Rescue Fund to support Ballarat Base Hospital to provide new short-stay medical beds so that an additional 689 patients can be treated there. Looking down the road to Bacchus Marsh, part of which falls in my electorate, I am pleased to see there is further funding for Djerriwarrh Health Services to enable the treatment of an additional 800 patients each year.

The Victorian ambulance service has been allowed to be run down, so the Andrews Labor government is investing an additional $99 million to fix the ambulance crisis by reducing response times and upgrading ambulance stations. This includes $1.5 million to upgrade the Wendouree ambulance station. We are also investing in the employment of more Country Fire Authority (CFA) staff and ensuring that we upgrade our CFA fire stations. I am pleased to see that Buninyong, which has a 60-year-old station, has been promised $1.5 million for a new fire station.

There are so many more things I want to speak about, but time is going to limit me from going through all the great things in this budget that will benefit my region. Roadworks are to be undertaken along the Western Highway, and $11.25 million worth of works will be undertaken to improve the road bridges at the Lerderderg River, Pentland Hills Road and Pikes Creek Reservoir. Funding will be provided to continue work on the Colac–Ballarat road, which clearly fell into a poor state of repair under the last government.

I am pleased to see that pedestrian crossings that the communities of Ballan and Buninyong sought in the last term of the government will be funded in this budget under the Andrews Labor government. Let me not forget Canadian State Park, a great area of forested land on the eastern edge of Ballarat. Six-hundred hectares of Canadian State Forest and Victorian Plantations Corporation land is going to be part of a reserve park, with $2 million to support an upgrade and establish a permanent buffer that the people of the Ballarat community and beyond can appreciate for many years into the future.

This budget delivers much for the people of the Buninyong electorate, as it also does for people across Victoria. It is a great education budget and a great health budget. It is a budget that delivers environmental benefits for people. It delivers road upgrades and many things that the people in my electorate are looking forward to. I am pleased to work with our ministers to see those projects delivered.