May 10, 2018  |  Second reading

Appropriation (2018-2019) Bill 2018

Mr Howard (Buninyong) (16:06:37) — I am very pleased to be able to speak on this year’s Andrews Labor government budget, a budget that invests in our community, with funding for our schools, hospitals and regional roads and support for local jobs. In starting my response on the budget let me just quote a little bit from the headlines, at least from the Ballarat Courier of last week when the budget came out. On budget day the Courier had become aware of the massive $461 million — nearly $0.5 billion — commitment to Ballarat Base Hospital. ‘Massive budget windfall for base hospital’ was the headline on the front of the paper on budget day. The following day, when they had further details on the fuller scope of the budget, the headline was ‘Budget splashes cash on skills, roads, health’, and they noted that the cops — as they called them in the paper — mental health, train users, state schools and regional roads were all big winners out of this budget. Those are not just my words; those are words out of the Ballarat Courier, not noted to be a particular supporter of the government, but it has been won over by this budget.

Let me just outline in further detail some of the significant benefits of the budget to the region that I represent in the Ballarat area as well as Moorabool and Golden Plains shires within the Buninyong electorate. Obviously, as I have already commented, the announcement of the massive $461 million investment in the redevelopment of the Base Hospital is something that has excited so many people across our community. Last week, after the budget was announced, I was really delighted to attend the Base Hospital with the Minister for Health to celebrate this great investment. It was great to see the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics and the hospital support staff all very excited by this announcement, which more or less blew them away.

The hospital of course has gained significant funding under this government to develop both the cath lab and other facilities in the hospital. They are used to being able to plan for a modest upgrade in the hospital or a reasonable upgrade in the hospital and to seek funding from the government, but this massive announcement of funding will see them being able to complete their master plan knowing that everything they put in their master plan can be reliably funded into the future.

The specifics of this will enable the revamp of the Base Hospital, creating a new emergency department, a modernised acute mental health facility, an intensive care unit, a women’s and children’s hub, an expanded critical care hot floor and at least an extra 100 inpatient beds.

The dated operating theatres will be replaced and fitted out with the latest cutting-edge equipment and technology. The critical care hot floor will bring together operating theatres, procedure rooms, endoscopy suites, consultancy rooms and high-dependency care so that the hospital will be able to work so much more effectively, seeing more patients come through. It is said that there will be 1000 extra full-time jobs created through this development at the hospital and 1384 additional jobs just in terms of the construction. This is great news not just for health care in our area but also for jobs, which will be provided in construction and in an ongoing capacity at Ballarat hospital, which of course is a massive employer in Ballarat. This is great news for Ballarat.

We will see 18 000 more emergency patients treated, 14 500 more inpatients each year able to go through the hospital and 4000 additional surgeries every year associated with that. For people who have been concerned that we are not meeting the needs of our growing region into the future, this demonstrates that this is clearly not the case. Those who are concerned that they might be waiting longer for surgeries should feel comforted that with this massive investment in Ballarat Health Services they will be able to get the health support they want in their region at a quicker, more reliable rate.

As I said, this adds to the $10 million that was delivered for the new cardiac catheterisation lab, which was opened last year. The $50 million boost in this budget for the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund is going to be of great benefit to the region and again shows that this is not a Melbourne-centric budget, as some of those in The Nationals will try to have you believe. This clearly recognises that regional Victoria has its place — not just Ballarat but regional Victoria more broadly — through the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund and through other funds that I will talk about as we move along.

Perhaps I will go straight to roads, because roads is one of those other issues that is clearly of concern to regional residents who often have to travel some kilometres every day, whether it is commuting to work, taking children to school, doing local business or having freight transported from their business. This budget allocates $941 million to get on with the job of improving our state’s regional road network. Exciting to me in addition to that is the $17.4 million announcement saying we are going to establish a separate section of VicRoads, the Regional Roads Victoria section of VicRoads, which will be dedicated to better planning, maintenance and advocacy for the state’s regional roads. This centre is to be based in Ballarat. That is great news for regional Victoria overall in terms of opportunities to see regional roads identified as a key area under this government and also in terms of the jobs that will be supported in my region as a result of Regional Roads Victoria being based there.

Regional Roads Victoria will oversee $333 million for resurfacing, rehabilitation and maintenance of regional roads. In addition to the record maintenance spend on roads, the $100 million for fixing country roads will give regional councils a boost too. That $100 million will be put not just into the state-controlled roads but also towards supporting councils in their work in fixing the roads they are responsible for. It is great for regional Victoria to see that the Andrews Labor government is committed to extensive investment in our regional road network.

In my electorate $22.5 million is currently allocated to road work that either has just been completed or is underway, and that includes the $4 million upgrade of the Pykes Creek Reservoir Bridge. Some people might be irritated at the moment as this bridge is currently being strengthened, but it will provide a much better route to Melbourne to ensure that as we continue to have trucks and heavy vehicles on that road, it will meet the needs of all of those who use the road into the future.

There is also $12 million for new overtaking lanes on the Midland Highway between Meredith and Bannockburn — again perhaps irritating to those people who are using the Ballarat to Geelong road at the moment, but they know that in just a few months they will have a much better road with four new overtaking lanes on that section.

There is a $2.4 million upgrade of the Gisborne
Road–Holts Lane intersection presently underway in Bacchus Marsh, and $3.4 million is going towards the Halletts Way upgrade, which is nearing completion in Bacchus Marsh. There is over $1 million for road resurfacing on the Western Highway, Ballan; Midland Highway, Buninyong; Old Western Highway, Anthonys Cutting; Ballarat-Carngham Road; Mount Clear-Sebastopol Road; Main Road near Sovereign Hill; and the intersection of Main Road and Eureka Street, Ballarat, as well as $79 000 that was spent to seal the rough shoulders on Hertford Street, Sebastopol, between Albert Street and Alfred Street, including outside Phoenix P–12 Community College’s Redan campus.

We are also planning for the future, investing in options for roads. I will be at a consultation next week with regard to road development to help better traffic flow around Ballarat-Buninyong Road and around Buninyong, and also in the Bacchus Marsh and Sebastopol areas. There is lots of planning going ahead to see improvements to those roads. I am sure we will hear more about that later in the year.

In regard to education, people know that as a former teacher education continues to be a passion of mine. This budget delivers $3 million to complete the secondary stage of the Mount Clear College major upgrade, which is underway at the moment. That is great, and the college was so appreciative to have the Premier and the Deputy Premier out at the school recently to make that announcement. Previously we announced $2.4 million for the school, and modernisation of the tech wing is currently underway. This additional $3 million will further enhance that school. This is absolutely fabulous news, and it adds to the contribution we previously made to the school in establishing the earth sciences centre and the language centre, which was established under the Rudd federal Labor government. The people in Mount Clear and those associated with Mount Clear College know that the school has gained great attention. It is great to see that the school, led by Lynita Taylor, will continue to be able to provide the great programs that they are planning for and continue the great work that they do for the students there.

This of course adds to and completes the sweep of funding that has been allocated under the Andrews government to the other secondary schools in my electorate. Phoenix P–12 Community College gained funding in the last two budgets for its extensions. The renewal of that school is exciting to see. The same is true of Ballarat Secondary College’s Woodmans Hill and Mount Rowan campuses. They have gained substantial funding to redevelop and complete stages of development in their schools, and they are very excited about that.

This adds to the exciting suite of activities the Andrews government has undertaken in the education area. Ballarat Tech School opened this February, providing inspiration to our secondary school students across Ballarat with its high-tech capacity, great teachers and great programs that are underway in that new facility. I am sure they are going to inspire our younger students to want to go on in those science, technology, engineering and maths areas, which is really necessary. It is great that we are partnering with 15 local secondary schools, industry and community leaders to identify priorities in technical education to see that the tech school will function well.

There are other things I wanted to talk about, but TAFE is something that I really have to talk about. There is inspiration within the budget, like the Head Start apprenticeships program that says, ‘What we want to do is ensure that there is a nice flow from secondary school into those trade areas and into those apprenticeship-type areas and into other areas where students within the school environment will be able to start some of the certificate programs that might be appropriate to their learning pathway’. That is going to be a great thing, as will be the significant increase in our contribution to TAFE.

This government has been committed to TAFE. It recognises that it is so important not just to see that students have a pathway if they are academically inclined to go on to university but to recognise that for job requirements in the future we need people who are technically trained. TAFE and registered training organisations can provide that, and to provide the significant increase in funding for that area is going to be so important.

What this government then focuses on is jobs and seeing that there are going to be more jobs. In terms of our public transport system we continue of course to construct the X’Trapolis trains in Ballarat. With the 30 new X’Trapolis trains there is a $130 million investment in jobs in Ballarat. We will see improvement in our public transport system in the Melbourne area when the X’Trapolis trains are being run, and we will see jobs with high technology and skills being practised in Ballarat. This is a great advance.

I strongly support this budget. It is a great budget for jobs, education and health and for so many other reasons.