May 15, 2015  |  Second reading speech

Appropriation (2015-16) Bill 2015 – Budget in-reply

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to make a contribution to the debate on the Appropriation (2015–2016) Bill 2015. Responding to the member for Forest Hill, I will cut to the chase: there was only one thing I agreed with in his contribution and that was that this is very much a Labor Party budget. It is the work of a proud Premier and a proud Treasurer. He obviously did not read the Age yesterday, which ran an editorial headed, ‘Budget firepower kept in check for the future’. This goes to the heart of the distinction I want to make, and I want the member for Forest Hill to listen to it. It states:

… Labor’s philosophical heritage with its commitment to more spending on schools, hospitals, community services, especially children in crisis, and public transport.

And therein lies the stark contrast between Labor and the former coalition government, which, in its last budget, earmarked $27 billion for new roads and a rail tunnel. This budget is about restoring … the crucial services that had been cut — and I underline the word ‘cut’ — by the Napthine government, and doing the groundwork for big infrastructure projects in years ahead.

In this budget, incredibly, 96 per cent of our election commitments are fully committed to. The editorial goes on to say that ‘at its heart’ this is a budget that provides more resources, which is very Labor ‘for the community’s most vulnerable’.

This is a budget I am very proud of. You only have to look at the responses from stakeholders in press statements that were issued following its release. A media release from the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) of 28 April
is headed ‘Budget infrastructure commitment welcomed by VECCI’. It states:

Chief executive Mark Stone: VECCI welcomes the announced $1.5 billion funding to progress the Melbourne Metro rail project’s planning, design and significant early works, to be allocated in the upcoming 2015–16 state budget… VECCI strongly supports the project as it will create 3500 jobs during peak construction and provide much needed improvement in Melbourne’s rail capacity.

Another VECCI press release, this one dated 4 May, is headed ‘Rolling stock strategy and investment supports Victorian jobs, training and apprentices’. In it, Chief Executive Mark
Stone says:

The state government’s 10‑year strategy, including a $2 billion 2015–16 budget commitment to grow the train and tram manufacturing industry in Victoria, is a win for jobs … in our state.

One big thing happened under the previous government: the car industry went. The member for Broadmeadows and the member for Sunbury touched on its demise. Following the loss of the Ford factory in Broadmeadows, the former government did not lift a finger. This is going to be remembered for the next 50 or even 100 years. Under state and federal Liberal governments the car industry crumbled. The impact has been felt from the northern and western suburbs right through to the south‑east. That industry is gone, and it will never come back. We were one of the few countries in the world that made a car from start to finish. Supporting the car industry and investing in it was vital. It provided jobs for people moving into the shipbuilding industry and aerospace engineering, but it has gone. The Andrews Labor government’s $2 billion commitment makes it one of the only states in one of the few countries in the world that makes trams. It is going to be very important for rolling stock. That $2 billion commitment in the budget for more trams and trains is incredibly important.

There is another VECCI media release, in this case dated 5 May, headed ‘VECCI commends 2015–16 state budget’s strong commitment to statewide infrastructure and jobs’. As has been touched on, the former government released its budget without jobs even being mentioned in the Treasurer’s speech. The opposition is not into the job‑creating infrastructure that we are so proud to support.

At the heart of job creation is education. I could actually spend my time reading out the Treasurer’s speech because I thought it was so good. I want to begin with education. The member for Melbourne said in her contribution that Gonski was not mentioned in the
second‑reading speech. The Treasurer’s speech actually says:

… the government reconfirms our commitment to the Gonski agreement.

For the first time ever in Victoria, we’ve met our obligations under Gonski — with full allocations for the 2016 and 2017 school years to make up the $805 million shortfall in allocated funding to the department that was left behind by the previous government.

An honourable member — Did they read the budget?

Mr CARROLL — I do not think some members have read the budget. We have also commissioned the Honourable Steve Bracks, a former Premier, and it was touching to see him here for the Treasurer’s speech. He witnessed a great Labor budget and heard a great speech and about a fantastic investment in education. I was proud that one of my schools made it to page 8 of the Treasurer’s speech. The member for Keilor would know the Essendon Keilor College very well. In 2011 a Herald Sun article said that it had 1341 items needing attention. That is incredible; it was the most run‑down school in the state. We
could not get the minister to go out there, so we brought the school’s door to the minister in the Parliament. We still have that door in the Premier’s office, and it is going to be part of the program when we rebuild that school. But even worse, when the minister finally went out to visit the school he came back describing it as disgusting and unsafe but then did not provide the necessary funding for it to be rebuilt. It is an incredible shame.

When we announce that we are going to fulfil our commitments, we put it in the budget papers. We have made a $10 million commitment to the school, and I can see from the social media post which I am monitoring on Essendon Keilor College it has as of now
365 likes and more than 80 comments. It has had an organic reach of almost 22 000, and the member for St Albans knows what social media is like when you invest in your community. It takes right off. That is an endorsement of our commitment. I am very proud of that and I am very proud of this budget.

I also want to take up something the member for Mordialloc said in his contribution, and that is the contrast between the east–west link and the Melbourne Metro project, because
this goes to the heart of and the philosophy behind what we are debating today — an appropriation bill about financial management and economic responsibility. In an article in the Age of 19 March with the headline ‘Liberals are not better economic managers’ Josh Gordon said that new details suggest that the Liberal Party rushed to lock in the east–west link deal for political reasons, exposing us to unnecessary risk. He went on to say:

… it’s time to abandon the rhetoric from the Liberals that they are the better economic managers, certainly in Victoria, where the handling of the east–west link shows they exposed taxpayers to greater financial risk than they needed to, ostensibly for political reasons. That’s not good economic management, that’s economic sabotage.

It goes to the heart of the signature of the former Treasurer, the member for Malvern. In the article Josh Gordon says it has been revealed that:

… the former coalition government was so desperate to lock the deal in before the last election, it agreed to a demand by the consortium contracted to build the $6.8 billion
road to sign a so‑called side letter, guaranteeing a large amount of compensation even if the contract to build it were rendered invalid by a court.

Evidently state Treasury had some concerns. In top secret advice to O’Brien, seen by the Age, senior government officials warned the special compensation deal could create a precedent for future projects. If one business group was offered a guaranteed payout even in the absence of a valid contract, why not others in the future?…

The former government was apparently so desperate to lock in before the election, senior sources close to the project are now suggesting it was the consortium, not the government, which drafted the side letter —

which the former Treasurer signed. I put on the record that under this Treasurer and under this government Labor will never, ever seek to enter a side deal to economically and
financially sabotage this state. It is incredible that the former Treasurer even considered it. I think if we had another leadership contest on that side of the house, there would probably be three or four contenders, because I am sure the member for Malvern’s numbers have gone backwards. And today we witnessed another performance, which I am sure will send them further down. It is incredible. If the Leader of the Liberal Party gets a bit hot under the collar and the party decides to go to the member for Malvern, we just cannot wait. He was cut from the same cloth as former federal Treasurer Peter Costello, and look what we have before us now. We are cleaning up their mess.

I want to get onto something positive now, a significant project that has a positive cost‑benefit ratio, and that is the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. In the Age of 16 April there is an analysis by Adam Carey with the headline ‘Metro rail tunnel — Melbourne needs it, so let’s build it’, that says:

It is difficult to overstate how badly Melbourne needs the metro rail tunnel… A hundred years ago Melbourne’s population was 1.3 million. Today it’s 4.4 million. In that time the only significant expansions that have been added to the rail network are the city loop and the Glen Waverley line.

But the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel will also help to transform my community of Niddrie. I would like to put on the record the difference between investing in public transport and
investing in road infrastructure. When the former government was creating its east–west link and focusing on the east–east tunnel, there was a lot of commentary about how it was only a tunnel to the airport to get Liberals there faster and that it had no economic benefit behind it. Road engineers at the RACV and VicRoads all came out saying that if we do not make the switch to public transport now, we never will. We have had CityLink, we have had Peninsula Link and we have had the ring‑road, all of which were great projects and represented significant investments in road funding, but we must make the switch to public transport. Our city is growing by more than 1500 people a week, the fastest growing population in the country, and it is a city we must invest in.

In Adam Carey’s article on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel he says:

In raw terms, the metro tunnel will create space for an extra 17 trains an hour in each
direction —

An honourable member — Seventeen?

Mr CARROLL — Seventeen — each capable of carrying 1100 passengers — 37 400 people an hour in total.

By contrast: The east–west link was projected to carry 80 000 vehicles a day by 2031, which equates to 96 000 people using VicRoads’ measure that shows each vehicle in Melbourne carries — how many? — an average 1.2 people.

So we have 1.2 people in a car versus 17 trains an hour going in each direction, each capable of carrying 1100 passengers. That is a massive difference in terms of mobility and the sustainability of our transport network going into the future. That brings me to the Craigieburn line and that of my colleague the member for Sunbury.

At the heart of the Melbourne Metro project will be a grade separation, if you like, in the city loop. The northern loop, which is shared by the Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines, cannot take any more trains. It is at capacity, and it has been at capacity for too long. If we were to switch the Sunbury line to the new tunnel, there would be capacity for an extra 17 trains an hour on the Craigieburn line and 6 on the Upfield line. That would make a massive difference to transport mobility going into the future.

The Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project is a significant project for our future. It will make an immense difference when combined with the removal of the 50 most dangerous level
crossings, including the Buckley Street level crossing that I have spoken so much about in the Parliament.

I am very proud of this budget. I have said what VECCI said about the budget. I have said what the RACV has said about the budget, which was a glowing endorsement. As Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, I want to take a moment to highlight what Police
Association Victoria said about the budget. It is good to see The Nationals members in the chamber. I was in Bright over the weekend, but I did not see the member for Ovens Valley at the Bright Festival, which was great. I also visited the Wangaratta and Seymour police stations, and the message that officers at those stations gave me was that they wanted to switch the regional radio network to digital. I could not believe that in four years The Nationals did not stand up in the cabinet to look after country police and do just that. It
is a rehash of the Kennett days, with the Liberal Party running the show. Here we have The Nationals in opposition with their numbers going backwards. They invested in the future, which was great, but there is also an investigation into the Office of Living Victoria on foot. History is repeating itself, with The Nationals being whipped by the Liberal Party.

In its press release the Police Association started with the headline ‘State budget delivers on numerous pre‑election commitments sought by the Police Association’. Let us get to the heart of the press release and the statement on country police stations. It says:

Fixing country police radios is an issue for which a number of our country delegates have long advocated on behalf of the members they represent. We’re pleased that their persistence has come to fruition.

We welcome funding that will deliver an extra 15 police officers to Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula to alleviate desperate staffing shortages in the region.

Our members in Geelong have been extremely passionate about this issue. Less than 12 months ago they and their families rallied in their hundreds to push for extra staff.

This is a Labor government that is investing in the future, investing in the regions and investing in the sustainability of our future. The Treasurer is coming out to my electorate for my own budget breakfast next weekend. We are going to make sure that this budget goes down in history.