October 26, 2012  |  Matter of Public Importance

Federal government: budget cuts

It is my pleasure to make a contribution to the debate on this matter of public importance (MPI). I begin by reading the matter of public of importance:

That this house condemns the federal Labor government for attacking
Victorian families and this state’s economy with mini budget cuts which are the
direct consequence of its poor national economic and financial management.

Let us just begin with that first sentence ‘attacking Victorian families’. Since coming to office the federal Labor government has executed many reforms targeted at assisting
families. We have had the biggest increase in the aged pension in a century,
the provision of a landmark paid parental leave scheme, the national disability
insurance scheme, support for an increase in employer superannuation
contributions from 9 to 12 per cent, tax breaks for small business and
education reforms, including the schoolkids bonus.

It is in the education reforms that you really get to see the contrast between the federal Labor government and the current state coalition government.

Recently the federal Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and Disability Reform, the Honourable Jenny Macklin, announced the schoolkids bonus will be paid to eligible families from the start of terms 1 and 3. For eligible
families this will mean that $410 a year for each child in primary school and
$820 a year for each child in high school will go right into family bank
accounts. In all, the federal government schoolkids bonus will help 1.3 million
families to pay for school expenses. But who opposed the schoolkids bonus? That
is right — the Liberal Party. The schoolkids bonus is providing significant
relief to families with school costs. For someone with two teenage children in
high school the schoolkids bonus will mean something like $1600 a year.

An honourable member – Is that true?

Mr CARROLL – That is true. Let us look at the Baillieu
government’s reforms in education, as the Shadow Treasurer highlighted. The
education maintenance allowance has been slashed and the School Start bonus has
gone. Let me begin by looking at the Saturday Age editorial of 27 May 2012,
which states:

If you were to choose just one weapon to fight entrenched disadvantage,
the sort of grinding poverty and unemployment that passes from one generation
to another, that weapon would be education …

… the Baillieu government appears to be targeting those who most need
a good education but are also at the highest risk of not getting one.

I can give you an example in my own electorate of Niddrie with the Essendon Keilor College. Last week the college was front-page news for having the most sets of twins of any Victorian school. However, it also has the highest number of maintenance issues, with
1300 maintenance issues outstanding.

In the Herald Sun of 16 October the Minister for Education said:

Students are front and centre, but it’s important to note the tremendous
role that parents, guardians, teachers and principals play in supporting them.

To give some recognition where it is due, the Minister for Education has at least visited Essendon Keilor College and seen the issues first hand.

He needs to get behind Labor Party policy and bring these maintenance issues up to scratch. It is difficult to inspire students on the relevance and importance of education when the school around them is being neglected.

An honourable member – How many years were you guys in power?

Mr CARROLL – I will take up that interjection.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER – Order!
It is disorderly to make interjections, and I ask the member to ignore them. I ask
government members –

Honourable members interjecting.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER – Order!
Government members! It is impolite to interject when the Chair is speaking.

Mr CARROLL – Last Saturday, 20 October, I attended an important community event at Essendon Keilor College called Fun Day Out. It was great to see the local community coming together to support its college. It was an old-fashioned fete for which the community came together to provide funding and support to the school.

Let us also think about the TAFE sector. The Sunday Herald Sun editorial of 16 June stated – and members opposite might want to think about this in the context of 2014:

The backlash is building in the bush. The last time a coalition
government felt the sting of country voters was the 1999 election when under-appreciated electorates helped sweep Jeff Kennett from office.

The Baillieu government must review some of the TAFE cuts, in particular
the ones devastating the regions.

If Premier Ted Baillieu does not listen to the echoes of 1999, he does
so at his peril.

The Kangan Institute of TAFE is in the electorate of Niddrie, with campuses in Essendon and Moonee Ponds. It has had to endure a $25 million funding cut, resulting in the closure
of some 52 courses and the retrenchment of 50 staff. Kangan chief executive Ray Griffiths has forecast that at least another 150 to 200 jobs will go. An article in the Moonee Valley Weekly of 18 September states:

Mr Griffiths said that in presenting its ‘transition plan’ to the state
government – the blueprint of how the TAFE would function without significant
funding – Kangan also asked for the funding cuts to be reversed.

He said the cuts must be reversed, otherwise they were not going to be back on a sustainable level. He is quoted as saying:

I don’t think there is any point dodging the issue; in this transition
plan, the Kangan Institute has asked the state government to reconsider its
market model and reconsider a return of full service provider funding to public
TAFE institutes.

Let us now look at the cost of living backflips by the current government. On the eve of the last state election the opposition leader and now Premier promised there would be
absolutely no reduction in public servants. When asked by the ABC before the
2010 state election if he would cut the public service, the then opposition
leader and now Premier said:

No way, and we have made that very clear.

Yet what did we see in the last two budgets? We saw 4200 public servants cuts.

Let us look at jobs: 40 000 jobs have been lost in Victoria since the election of the Baillieu government in 2010. Let us compare this to the Brumby government’s record: in the last 12 months of the Brumby Labor government the Victorian economy created some 100 000 new jobs.

Mr Watt interjected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER – Order! The member for Burwood!

Mr CARROLL – In the heart of the financial crisis, in 2009-10, 92 per cent of all full-time jobs created in Australia were created right here in Victoria. What do we have at the moment? We have 900 jobs being lost a week. The government’s own 2012-13 budget reveals that unemployment growth is now forecast at 0.00 per cent.

In the Age of 2 May Tim Colebatch described the Baillieu government’s 2012-13 budget in these terms:

… nor was there anything resembling a jobs plan, or anything aiming to
get the economy to fire on all cylinders again.

The Niddrie electorate is also a feeder to the local aviation industry. I wish to put on record my thanks to the Speaker and the President in the other place for arranging a visit to
Tullamarine, which I was pleased to attend. A few members opposite, including
the member for Burwood and the member for Gembrook, also took part in the tour.
It was great to get that briefing.

What struck me in the briefing was the need for the government to get behind the aviation industry.

We have seen 400 jobs cut from Qantas, and more recently LTQ Engineering, an aircraft engine overhaul company based in Tullamarine, axed another 164 airline jobs. This is
devastating news for people in the north-west. A jobs plan is needed.

I also want to talk about the cost of living. The government is very happy to talk about how the federal government’s impacts are hurting Victorian families, but let us have a look at
some of the reforms the state government has instituted since coming into
office. On the eve of the last state election Mr Baillieu and Mr Ryan visited
the Keilor Bowls Club in the Niddrie electorate to make a key election promise.
I quote from a Victorian Liberals-Nationals coalition media release of 24
November 2010, which states:

A Victorian Liberal-Nationals coalition government will ease cost of
living pressures for older Victorians by funding a year-round reduction of 17.5
per cent on their electricity bills for concession card holders …

Now in power Premier Ted Baillieu has short-changed hundreds of local concession card holders by cutting a portion of financial concessions from their utility bills. Under the cover of the federal government’s compensation package for the carbon price Mr Baillieu
has absolved himself from his original promise of a state-funded, year-round 17.5 per cent reduction on electricity bills.

I recently received an email from a constituent from which I would like to quote. It states:

I have never contacted a politician in my life but am so angry at the Liberal
government’s sneaky ways I had to email you.

As a pensioner I knew nothing about the reduced winter utilities
concession until my bill arrived. I hope you and the opposition make sure that
the government ministers hear that people like me are disappointed and angry.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr CARROLL – No. Members opposite interject, but the
federal government’s midyear review this week showed that it has its policy
settings on track. It is returning a surplus to provide maximum flexibility for
the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut interest rates, and the bank has
repeatedly done so since the 2007 federal election. Members have to remember
that interest rates went up 10 times in a row under the federal Liberal
government.

Mr Nardella – How many?

Mr CARROLL – Ten times. The federal shadow Treasurer,
Joe Hockey, himself admitted that interest rates went up under the Liberals
because of excessive spending by the former federal Liberal government on what
is called middle-class welfare. Interest rates are now lower than at any time
the Liberals were in office. Our national economy has fundamental strengths and
is the envy of the world – and the Gillard Labor government is doing everything
in its power to make sure we are a standout economy on the international stage.
We must get behind federal Labor because it is doing a very good job. The
member for Scoresby should probably take a couple of lessons in investment and
infrastructure strategy from federal Labor.