August 22, 2017  |  Budget papers 2017-18

Budget papers 2017-2018

MR HOWARD (Buninyong) — I am certainly pleased to speak on this Andrews government budget that came down a few months ago. It is always interesting, is it not, when you speak on a budget like this that somehow or other those on the other side of the house seem to have looked at the wrong budget papers? It is always dark and gloomy from them. They manage to find ways of criticising the budget or only begrudgingly acknowledging that we have delivered something in each of their electorates, but they continue to play the political games by not acknowledging that this in fact is a great budget for all of Victoria.

As the member for Buninyong there is no doubt this has been a fantastic budget for the Buninyong electorate. It is a great Labor budget because it invests in important things that are vital for the health of our community: local schools, community safety, local roads and infrastructure, and emergency services. Importantly, the budget is about delivering jobs for each area of the state, but significantly, from my point of view, in the Ballarat region.

Following the budget I was pleased to join the Premier, the Minister for Regional Development and the member for Wendouree to announce $47.8 million towards the GovHub project. This is a project that is going to see 600 government jobs moved to or established in Ballarat. GovHub will include an existing 400 government jobs in Ballarat and it will bring together these 1000 staff at the one location at the Civic Hall site in the centre of Ballarat. Employees will come from the Department of Education and Training, the Department of Justice and Regulation, the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the State Revenue Office, VicRoads and Service Victoria, which is a growing area of government.

As I said, it is going to be located on the Civic Hall site, which is one that has been a concern to the citizens of Ballarat for some time because the Civic Hall was closed many years ago by the City of Ballarat and they have been uncertain what to do with the site since. There have been a number of plans for redevelopment of the site, but the City of Ballarat has not been able to bring them to fruition. With the state government’s support in bringing these 1000 jobs onto that site we will see a significant new building constructed, alongside the existing Civic Hall, and this will see some revitalisation for this particular section of Ballarat.

In recognising that, the state government has also contributed out of this budget $2 million towards the City of Ballarat’s parking action plan, because if you are going to bring a number of extra people in to work in Ballarat, which is great to see some revitalisation of the Ballarat city centre, you need to make sure that parking is addressed. This is an issue of concern to the residents of Ballarat in that they welcome being able to access a whole range of businesses in the civic centre but they need to have parking. The city’s plan will create 1000 nearby car parks, and the $2 million from the state government will assist in that being achieved. We expect that the GovHub will be commenced next year and completed by 2020. The construction of such a significant development will provide 500 jobs through the construction phase, so that is great news for building firms in the Ballarat area.

We know that in fact on this score Labor has had a strong plan over a long period time in ensuring that it supports job creation in Ballarat and in the region, not just by supporting private enterprise but by recognising that government needs to play a significant role. The initial move back in 2002 of bringing a significant component of the State Revenue Office to Ballarat was a great start to that process. I was pleased to be with the Treasurer to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the opening of the State Revenue Office in March of this year. This enabled me to reflect back on our first term in government as the Bracks government, when then Treasurer John Brumby joined many Ballarat people to open that State Revenue Office building at the technology park in Mount Helen. We see that 244 people are now employed at that site, and 40 per cent are living and located in the Ballarat area. This has been a great boon for employment in our region. The GovHub will clearly take this a step further as more of the government agencies are moving out of the central Melbourne area and building in Ballarat to create significant benefits for the people of Ballarat.

As a former teacher I am always passionate about education issues and about ensuring that young people across Victoria are educated in good, modern facilities. I was pleased to see a further $9 million in this budget allocated to Ballarat Secondary College, of which $3 million will go to the Woodmans Hill campus and $6 million to the Mount Rowan campus. This will see those two sites upgraded significantly.

Ballarat Secondary College has changed the names of the former Ballarat East campus and Wendouree campus, the site that I taught at for many years, to become the Mount Rowan campus and the Woodmans Hill campus. They then moved away from the former Barkly campus, so both campuses will have students from years 7 to 12. In doing so they have needed to both refurbish and rebuild sections of the school, so a total of $18 million will be delivered by the Andrews government to enable that to happen. The students, staff and the whole communities of the college’s campuses at Mount Rowan and Woodmans Hill are very excited by that announcement. I see works underway on the Woodmans Hill site, funded as part of the earlier budgeted amounts, that will see some of the year 11 and year 12 facilities upgraded and improved on that site.

I have also been very excited to be part of the new tech school concept, which will see the state build 10 tech schools at different sites across the state, one of which is in Ballarat. I have been pleased to chair the steering committee for that project, and it has been great to see that works are underway at the Federation University’s SMB campus on Albert Street, Ballarat, where the member for Wendouree and I knocked a hole through the wall to denote the commencement of work some months ago. Those works are progressing very well. Students from 15 secondary schools across the region will be able to go to this state-of-the-art tech school for sessions of half days or whole days. There will be other sessions where senior students will be able to link in with students from other secondary schools to do special hands-on projects.

Not surprisingly, as a former science teacher I am very excited about the opportunities to enthuse students in regard to science, technology and engineering subjects and to show students — I am pleased that this links with local industry — that in our local industries across the Ballarat region technology can be very exciting. There are great opportunities for those who want to pursue a science career and there is every reason we need young people to pursue science careers to further enhance the opportunities in so many industries across Ballarat that rely upon state-of-the-art science and technology knowledge to advance their production. I am really pleased about that.

I was pleased to visit Sebastopol secondary school, which has benefited so much from the Andrews government’s funding to enable further stages of development there. In driving past the school last week it was great to see the new module for grades 5 and 6 students being constructed on the site and to know that there is more work to be done in rebuilding other sections of the school. The school has changed over the last five years. It is no longer a school of a 1980s construct but a modern school that will ensure that all students going to that school and the whole school community can feel enthusiastic about the quality of education being provided at what is now Phoenix P–12, and this is great to see.

In other areas we know that the Ballarat railway station precinct is progressing. There has been concern amongst some members of the community that in the planning we had not allowed for enough parking or enough space and they were wanting to know what was happening with the bus interchange. But this budget brings another $5 million to provide for the bus interchange on that site and also for the proposed two-level car park to be increased to a three-level car park so that it will have 555 car parks in that space. These additions will work in very well with the proposals for the convention centre using the former bluestone freight shed and allow for a Quest Apartments facility to be constructed on the site. In future we will have both an attractive site and one that balances well the needs of commuters — people travelling back and forth by train or by bus to and from the station precinct — while allowing for other developments on that site. This is going to prove itself to be a great development and one that is going to be of benefit to the people of Ballarat.

In terms of public transport, we see that there is an additional $39 million for an upgrade of the Ballarat rail line, particularly associated with stabling works in Ararat and other areas. We are pleased that we have been able to attract some federal funding towards these projects, and this is on top of the great works that we did with the funding associated with the upgrade of the line between Southern Cross station and Ballarat, the planning for which is well and truly underway, with nearly $500 000 worth of work completed. These projects are going to be great for the people of Ballarat.

While those on the other side of the house periodically whinge about some aspects of public transport and what we have done to our rail services, we know what happened under them. There was no Ararat line, because it was closed in the days of the Kennett government, as was the line to Maryborough. But we have reopened those lines. We have rebuilt the track. We continue to order new rolling stock, and in this budget we have ordered another 39 VLocity carriages for the Ballarat line. The challenge now is that the rail line has become so popular. It is modern, smooth and convenient, thus enabling people to travel from Ararat, from Maryborough, from Ballan and from the Ballarat region and back the other way, as they did last weekend to a football match where for the first time the Western Bulldogs played an AFL game in Ballarat against Port Adelaide. It is Labor that has committed to our train services and our bus services, and this is quite fantastic.

In terms of roads, we have done so much on upgrading roads. I was pleased to see we have announced funding for plans for an upgrade of Albert Street in particular in Sebastopol. At Hertford Street there are issues with traffic flow and pedestrians being able to cross and at the Docwra Street end work is needed for parents from Magpie Primary School to safely get in and out of Docwra Street and onto the Midland Highway. I will be pleased to see the results of that planning work so that those works can be funded in next year’s budget, along with works at Bacchus Marsh which will make a significant difference to the people there.

There are so many great works in this budget and many more that I would have liked to have spoken about, but time does not allow me to. Again this is a great Andrews government budget which benefits the people of my region.