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Ryan Smith MP, Member for WARRANDYTE

Roads and Infrastructure

Budget papers 2017-18

10 August, 2017

It seems a little bizarre to be here in August talking about the budget. I think it is fair to say, and I think the house would agree, that we are probably the only ones still talking about this budget. It faded into obscurity pretty quickly after it was first released, despite the deluge of press releases that came as a result of it. Most Victorians would not really have seen any impact from the budget whatsoever, although maybe they are feeling the extra taxes that have been put forward by this budget. Other than that, I think people are still feeling unsafe in their beds at night, they are still stuck on roads and their power bills are still going through the roof. Really, the trials and tribulations that this government has brought on them still remain despite this budget coming down.

I have listened intently to many of the contributions by the government backbenchers, and I will give them some credit. Having sat through Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings, I would say that the majority of the backbenchers know a hell of a lot more about this budget than the ministers do. If you were privileged to sit through the contribution of the Minister for Roads and Road Safety as he sat before the estimates committee, the lack of knowledge he had about his own portfolio was embarrassing. You would have to actively try not to know about your own portfolio to know it to the degree the minister did. The questions put to him induced copious amounts of sweating, breathlessness and a complete lack of understanding of what was happening. If it was not for department and agency heads sitting next to him, he would have been in all sorts of trouble.

To add to that, the Minister for Industry and Employment was asked how was he going to help the 17 per cent unemployment rate in Morwell, when the job losses from the Hazelwood closure are added in. He said they were putting an employment hub into Morwell — into Gippsland. That is an admirable thing to do, to put an employment hub in. But do you know when that employment hub is opening? In three years time. That is not going to be a great help to those people who are unemployed down in Morwell. He said it with a straight face too. They did not have a site for it, and it is not opening for three years. I am not entirely sure that that is going to be too much help for those who are unemployed down in the Gippsland area.

As I said, I have listened to the backbenchers. I have listened to the sycophantic euphoria that they exude as they talk about the budget and as they talk about the various things that this budget delivers to their electorates. But they do not understand the real issues that are going on. Take the wide-eyed naivety of the member for Sunbury: he thinks that this budget is going to help him retain his seat. The fact of the matter is that the biggest issue down in that area is the Sunbury out of Hume issue. The Premier and the member for Richmond both promised, hand on heart, that when they got into government they would deliver Sunbury out of Hume. The residents of Sunbury will not forget, no matter what the member for Sunbury stands up in here and talks about. He will know that they do not forget.

The member for Oakleigh thinks that this is a good budget for him, but sky rail is going to make sure that that honourable member is a oncer in this place — there is no doubt about it. The introduction of this intrusive piece of infrastructure has drawn anger and ire. It is a 20-metre-high concrete monstrosity that is within metres of people's backyards, and they did not know one thing about it before the election — but the member for Oakleigh will certainly hear about it when the time comes.

Crime in various places, including the member for Frankston's electorate and the member for Cranbourne's electorate — and I could go on and on — is the biggest issue on people's minds in the state. Crimes such as carjackings and home invasions were unheard of before this government came to power. Now people do not feel safe in their own beds at night. Even Labor's own Minister for Police said that she understood this. There are, disappointingly, countless examples of victims who have had their homes invaded, and those home invasions are becoming more and more brazen and the acts of violence have been appalling. As the member for Mordialloc carries on, we can see that he, just like the Premier, has little regard for the victims who are traumatised by these home invasions and carjackings. People now put locks on the inside of their own bedrooms. They make a joke about it — this is typical of Labor, which is soft on crime — but this budget does nothing at all for the ongoing trauma that these victims are facing every single day.

Let me talk to you about the electorate of Warrandyte. We all know the Premier is a divisive, politically driven Premier. We all know that. I have been the member for the electorate of Warrandyte for the last three terms. In the last three budgets this government has barely delivered a cent to the electorate of Warrandyte — barely a cent. The reason for that is obviously a political one.

The Premier is a nasty, divisive — very divisive — man who insists that because it is a Liberal seat with a reasonable margin he will not give money to that seat. He is punishing the 42 000 voters in the electorate of Warrandyte, and their families, because he is politically driven. There are no two ways about it. There are other seats which are also held by Liberal members to which successive Labor budgets have not delivered a cent. As much as the Premier likes to talk the talk about being an inclusive Premier, a Premier for all Victorians, the budget papers do not lie: there is no money in the budget for the good people of Warrandyte.

In the last term we saw money being given to schools, we saw money being given to the local police station and we saw money being given to the railway station. Taxpayers in the electorate of Warrandyte saw some value from the previous coalition government, but as I say, this is a nasty, divisive, politically driven Premier. Fortunately the good people of Warrandyte will have to wait only one more budget before they can finally get some relief from this divisive Premier.

I do want to bring up particularly the schools in my electorate — schools which did receive funding under the previous coalition government but which now, unfortunately, do not get a cent. I want to quote from an email sent to me by a student at Warrandyte High School — a school we promised $4 million to. Labor scrapped that $4 million of funding on coming to office.

Laura Moorfoot of Warrandyte High School writes:

… our toilets are outdated and in poor condition. Just some of the issues the toilets have are, no or little ventilation, walls painted dark colours, a lack of toilets actually attached to the wall, door hinges snapped off and out of use for the last eight years at least to our knowledge, poor drainage that leads to large puddles of questionable liquids on the floor that are always present in the toilets …

This is of no regard at all to the government and of no regard to our divisive, politically driven Premier because, 'It's in a Liberal seat, so you get nothing, sorry!'. It does not matter that kids are going to school with rubbish on the floor and toilets falling apart. It does not matter one jot to these people, but it matters to the people of Warrandyte and it matters to me, and I will continue to advocate for money for our electorate and schools, because putting 'The Education State' on licence plates does not mean you are doing anything for education. As far as the people of Warrandyte are concerned, that is all the Education State has given them: a new licence plate with a new slogan, which actually means nothing. What this government has done for education could be written on the back of a post-it note, frankly. As far as the schools in Warrandyte are concerned, they are seeing nothing from this government, and they are certainly learning very quickly what a divisive and politically driven government this is.

I will now turn to the issues that pertain to my shadow portfolio — roads and infrastructure. Before the election there were a lot of shovel-ready roads ready to go. The Premier made a lot of commitments about shovel-ready projects. You would have thought that after the election in 2014 the diggers would have been called in and that by now all the arterials would have been paved in gold, that all the traffic problems would have been gone, that you would have been sailing down Hoddle Street at 70 kilometres an hour every day, that getting to work would have been a breeze and that you would have knocked 15 minutes off your usual commute time. But the fact of the matter is that, again, this Premier deceived people when he said that these projects were shovel-ready.

What projects in relation to roads and in relation to dealing with the congestion that Melbourne motorists see every single day has this government implemented? They have made a hell of a lot of announcements and put a lot of press releases out there. We have had maybe six, seven or eight press releases about the West Gate distributor or the West Gate tunnel or the western distributor. They keep changing the name; I do not know why. The West Gate distributor was shovel-ready. Not a sod of earth has been turned and not a contract has been signed despite the myriad of press releases. This government has not even started that project. Every expert out there — the RACV, the tunnelling experts and the government's own hand-picked expert — have said that that project will not help congestion one bit. After throwing away $1.2 billion in the scrapping of the east–west link, we are now looking at throwing $5.5 billion of taxpayers money into a project that will not help ease congestion one bit. If that is the way this government in its very cavalier attitude treats taxpayers money, it is no wonder they will be out on their ear in November next year.

The north-east link — another project. As reported in the papers, prior to the last election the Premier as opposition leader said of this project, 'I do not support this project. There are plenty of other projects that are of more importance than this. I'm not supporting a project that will take 50 years to build and cost $100 billion'. That is what he said. It is a project that will take 50 years to build and cost $100 billion. I am not saying that under Labor that might not be the case, because they are not good with major projects — not on time and not on budget. It may well under Labor take 50 years and cost $100 billion, but to turn around just three years later after spending $1.2 billion of taxpayers money to scrap an important road project —

After scrapping Australia's biggest road project, they are now asking Victorians to trust them to build another big road project, and what have they done? They are considering routes that have not been on the table for years. What they are actually considering is putting an elevated road through the seat of Eltham and putting roads through green wedge zones in the biggest act of environmental vandalism this state has ever seen. They are actively considering putting this road through green wedge areas.

I do not even know what the member for Eltham is trying to say, frankly, but she had certainly better have something more convincing to tell her own constituents, because I tell you what, there is going to be a big fight out there, and she is going to feel the full force of what her own constituents actually think. I cannot believe that you would even consider such a project. The two major road projects in this budget — the north-east link and the Mordialloc bypass — are not going to be finished this term and they are not going to be finished next term but they might be finished the term after that. What the Premier is saying to people after scrapping the east–west link at a cost of $1.2 billion is, 'Trust me to build these other two road projects. Don't just vote for me one more time to get these projects built; vote for me two more times to get these projects built. Trust me, I can deliver a road project'. Well, he may or may not be able to deliver a road project, but he certainly can spend money to scrap a road project.

This budget has delivered nothing to the electorate of Warrandyte. That is patently clear. It is in the budget papers in black and white that this divisive, nasty Premier cares nothing for the electorate of Warrandyte. It is very clear that he has no idea how to deal with the myriad of problems he has introduced to this state. Congestion is getting worse every day, crime is getting worse every day, power bills are going up every day — and there are cost-of-living issues for everyday people who look at these bills when they hit the kitchen table and cannot work out how to possibly pay them — and businesses are going under because energy costs are killing them. These are the sorts of issue that this government has so far, after three years, refused to deal with.

This budget also does not deal with these issues in any way, shape or form, and many of the issues that Victorians face every day and many of the issues that affect people's lives and their families every day this government has actually caused. They have caused power prices to go through the roof and they have caused this sense of fear by allowing this crime tsunami to spread over the state. The government has only got one year left to see their pre-election commitments become reality. Just like the rest of Victoria I have no faith that the next budget will do anything for us. I have no faith at all, just like other Victorians, that the next 15 months will bring any relief. I look forward to this government being held to account in November next year.
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