December 14, 2017  |  Public Sector Funding and Employment

Public Sector Funding and Employment

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) (15:20:09) — I am pleased to add my comments to the motion before the house, which recognises that if the Liberal-Nationals come to power again, we will see another period of cuts, as has been indicated by comments that have been made in recent times. The reason I am so pleased to speak on this is it reminds me of why I am in this house.

In the 1990s when the Kennett government was in power I was a secondary school teacher, and for the most part early on I was very happy in the service. But during the period of the Kennett government we saw cuts taking place to important services. I saw so many teachers who were teaching with me being made redundant because Jeff Kennett decided that he did not want to spend so much on teachers so they were not required any more. This is something that I never thought would happen, but on the third round of Kennett government cuts and redundancies in education I determined that I had seen enough and I agreed to take a package because of my frustrations with what was happening. I thought I could do something different to stand up to these cuts and that I would put myself forward to stand for the Labor Party at the next election, which I did, and of course we saw the Kennett government defeated.

It seems the standard practice of conservative governments — of Liberal-Nationals governments — is that when they come to power they want to make cuts. They do not like to spend on those things that the community sees as important. They do not like to see spending on education, on health and in so many other areas that are important to our community, and they just make cuts. Of course we saw that when the Baillieu government was elected in 2010. The first thing they did when they came to office was to say, ‘No, we can’t be spending so much on education. We can’t be spending so much in a range of other areas’ — in ambulance services and so on. In terms of some of the projects that Labor had proposed, they cut those too.

I remember, for example, the Eureka Stadium in Ballarat that the Labor government had proposed ahead of the 2010 election. We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could get AFL football to Ballarat, upgrade the stadium and commit some money to make it a great facility, not just for AFL football but for a range of other uses?’. When the Baillieu government was elected that plan was axed, and the people of Ballarat were disappointed by that.

We saw nothing happen on that project until Labor was re-elected in 2014 and, in line with promises we had made ahead of that election, we got on and built the Eureka Stadium, which opened last year. We saw the Western Bulldogs football club play on Ballarat soil last year. The Minister for Sport was there. So many people from Ballarat and across the state were there too, including some from Adelaide who came to see Port Adelaide facing up to the Bulldogs in that game. This is a great thing for Ballarat because Labor committed to a project that provides not only great sporting facilities but great facilities to improve economic development and improve so many opportunities for people in Ballarat.

In this term I have been delighted to see the Labor government commit to education and to see schools like Ballarat Secondary College gain substantial funding: $6 million on what is now the Woodmans Hill site and $9 million on the site where I taught at Wendouree, which has changed its name. There are so many other projects. It has been great to go to Phoenix P–12 Community College to see that the government continues to fund its upgrades and to see that education is looking great.

At the other end of the spectrum, only last week I was out at another kindergarten in my electorate, the Mount Pleasant Kindergarten, where I was able to turn the first sod on an upgrade to the facilities. The week before that I was out at a kindergarten across the other side of town where the government is building the new Bonshaw kindergarten. The prefabricated kindergarten had just arrived on site to replace the Sebastopol West Kindergarten. It is great to see new kindergartens being built and upgraded as needed across my electorate and so many other facilities.

If we look at fire services, we know that although the former government said it supported fire services, it could not commit the funding that was necessary and still made cuts wherever it could. I have been pleased to see that we have been upgrading fire stations and we are committing to the Buninyong fire station, which will get underway next year. I was pleased this week to open the Lucas temporary fire station ahead of the formal Lucas fire station opening very soon and to see so many projects getting underway in my electorate. Only last month I was with the Minister for Health at the opening of the cath lab at Ballarat Base Hospital. We are committing funding to open the new centre that will enable so much heart work to be done.

We have done a fantastic job as a government. What I want to see highlighted is that people do not forget what happened under the Baillieu government, that they do not forget what happened under the Kennett government and that we do not go away from a situation where communities like mine have gained so much over the period of Labor governments, whether that be in schools, health or public transport.

Just briefly I want to say that it is sensational to see that we have great trains on our Ballarat line, with the new trains operating along the line, along with the upgraded tracks that only Labor could do. We know that they were so badly funded under the Kennett government, whereas over the years under Labor we have seen the challenges of public transport being met. New challenges have been created though by making it so popular, and of course a new challenge is meeting the growing demand for services, including on the Ballarat line. We certainly do not want to go back to having a coalition government that will see those good projects put at risk, particularly the advances in education, health, public transport, fire and ambulance services and so many other things that we are reminded about and that other members on this side of the house have spoken about, including things in their electorates.

I want to see the people of the Buninyong electorate and the broader Ballarat region continue to move ahead, and that can only happen under Labor. We know that under a coalition government, with the proposed cuts that we have already talked about, this simply will not happen.

Debate adjourned on motion of Ms HALFPENNY (Thomastown).

Debate adjourned until later this day.