August 4, 2015  |  Second reading

Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — Dear, oh, dear! The member for Eildon started off very well. She recognised that Infrastructure Victoria was a very good idea. She recognised that there is a need to plan ahead. But then how she faded off so dismally as she progressed — very sad.

I am pleased to rise to add some positive comments about a very sound government that is responding to the people of Victoria. Why is this bill necessary? We know that this bill is necessary because the people of Victoria have said that they want a government that shows a sense of planning forward. They want a government that is prepared to listen to people in the community, that can provide knowledgeable advice and that is prepared to put forward plans to people so they can discuss them and so we can have a sense of where things are going in the future.

Why is this necessary? Because the last four years were a great disappointment to the people of Victoria. The people of Victoria woke up in the year 2010 and found that the government had surprisingly, perhaps, changed. What is more, Ted Baillieu and crew were even more surprised and suddenly thought, ‘What do we do now? We’ve been negative for the last four years, and suddenly we’ve found ourselves in government. What do we do?’. They did not do anything for two years.

In the last few weeks the people of Ballarat have found that their passenger rail services have suffered because although under the regional rail link — now that it is open — there was the opportunity for more services, unfortunately the former government forgot to order any rolling stock. It is a long-term thing to order rolling stock so that you can have sufficient rolling stock on the line. Fortunately we now have rolling stock coming from the Victorian business Bombardier, in Dandenong. It is coming onto the line now so that Ballarat passengers will see more rolling stock and will be able to travel on the line and know that there will be a seat for them in the future.

What people want is a government that can see ahead, plan ahead, listen to expert advice and present it in a sensible way. Getting back to the last government, after it had been in government for a little while it eventually realised that there was another election coming up and it had better show it had done something before the election. That was going to be a worry in 2014. Suddenly, with a change in leader, the then new leader of the Liberal Party determined that the government had better take some action. The member for South-West Coast has spoken strongly on this bill already, trying to say, ‘Why didn’t they listen to me?’. The fact was that those opposite came up with a plan.

I have noticed that a number of members of the opposition have talked about the Eddington report, but they have obviously never read it. They like to pick out a few bits of the Eddington report and say that the report was what they were all about, but if they had actually read the Eddington report, they would have seen that the key issues related to the central area of Melbourne — hence the Melbourne Metro tunnel was proposed — and to a link across the Yarra or a crossing point so that you could get from the western side of Melbourne towards the Tullamarine Freeway. Suddenly a project that was somewhere down the priority list, the east–west link, was noticed by the former government. Money was committed with no business plan. Finally, only a month before the election, the contract had to be signed because they had to get on with it. They could not wait for the people of Victoria to look at it one month later and actually vote on whether they wanted it or not.

I see that the member for Malvern has just left the house. I would have loved to have made more comments about the side letter, which I know said, ‘What we need to do is make it so that even if the people of Victoria say they don’t want it, they’ll pay for it. Let’s make them pay over $1 billion with this side letter’. The miserable member for Malvern has now left the house, and that is a good thing. It is a pity that he will come back into the house, because he is shamed forever on that issue.

What the people of Victoria want is not these half-baked ideas that have supposedly been taken from the Eddington report or somewhere else. They want a plan that will show them how it all fits together and that will be verified by people from the business community and broadly across Victoria as an appropriate plan. They do not want to hear ideas about alternatives to a Metro rail loop that do not do what needs to be done. They do not want to hear about an airport link which we saw so much government money going into advertising ahead of the election, telling them about the airport link but not telling them that the former government did not actually have any designs — it just thought it was a good idea that should happen sometime. There were no plans and there was no real action on a whole range of those projects; they were just thoughts thrown on paper. What people want is a serious plan that will lead them forward.

This legislation sets up Infrastructure Victoria as an established independent body. It asks that body to prepare a 30-year plan. What are the key things we need for Victoria in the next 30 years? We know we are a rapidly growing state. We know Melbourne is growing remarkably rapidly. There are 4.5 million people now, there will be 5 million by 2020 and we will be on to 8 million by 2050. We know we need to plan for Melbourne’s growth. We know that a lot of people are seeing that the regions are great places to live, so they are moving to places like Ballarat and Geelong and other regional cities further out from Melbourne. We know they want connectedness across the state, so we clearly need to plan for all that — not just with transport infrastructure but also with social infrastructure, which is so important in our communities.

That is what we are looking at Infrastructure Victoria to help us with — providing a 30-year plan that can then be put up for discussion across the state of Victoria. The government will develop a 5-year plan initially so that people have a sense of what the direction is for the next five years and then what it can be beyond that. Obviously you need to review these things as you go along. Although the Eddington report does present some great ideas about things we need to look at in terms of our transport infrastructure, it needs to be reviewed and we need to take on board new ideas.

I am very pleased that the Andrews Labor government has developed what the people of Victoria have asked for and that we are committing to our promises, as we are determined to do in the years ahead. But not only that, because it is about providing good and sound leadership for the people of Victoria. We are looking not just to the next election but to benefit the people of Victoria so that they will look upon our legacy for many years to come. Not only do we want to see Victoria as the education state, a state where we provide great education, but we also want to ensure that we have great health services to provide to the people of Victoria, and we want to know that the infrastructure that we plan to put in place over the next 5 years, 10 years and beyond will meet our needs so we can plan accordingly. The people of Victoria will know there is a plan in place and understand how they will relate to it in the future. Hopefully future governments will continue to adopt that plan, review it appropriately and build on it into the future.

Good governments leave legacies for the people they are elected to represent. The Andrews government is determined to be a good government. I am very pleased that we are showing that we are responsive to what people are saying, which is that they do not want governments that might after a period of four years or whatever change their priorities completely. People want a sense that priorities will flow on and meet their needs into the future. They want to know that when governments are elected, even if by accident, as we saw the Baillieu government being elected unexpectedly — I have to acknowledge that even the Bracks government before that was elected perhaps unexpectedly — good governments, like the Bracks government, have a plan ahead of them that they are able to deliver on. Good governments work on delivering on their plans. We do not want to see any more governments elected that then sit and think, ‘What do we do now? Oh, I don’t know. We’ll do nothing for the next few years and then hopefully we’ll get some ideas before the next election’.

Debate interrupted.