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Ryan Smith MP, Member for WARRANDYTE


The State Budget

25 May, 2016

It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Appropriation (2016-2017) Bill 2016. It is a typical Labor budget. It is big spending, big taxing. Tax revenues in this budget have gone up by 20.7 per cent. The tax take is huge with an increase of $3.7 billion, and while the Treasurer was happy to come in and talk about the fat budget surplus, he forgot to mention that it was exactly the same budget surplus, more or less, that was forecast by the previous coalition government. With all that revenue coming in, with the rivers of gold from the stamp duty take, with the money from the Tatts appeal decision, this government could only come forward with a surplus that was the same as the one forecast by the previous government.

There are a lot of problems with this budget. There are issues that are going to raise the cost of living. Certainly the rise in coal royalties will only ever be transferred on to the consumer. We have seen this before when Labor's ill-fated desalination plant was put in place, it was the consumer that ended up paying through their water bills, and the same thing will happen in this case; we will see power bills go up. And even during the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearings the minister was certainly put back in her place by the department which said there was absolutely nothing the government could do to stop that happening. As sure as night follows day, as sure as debt follows a Labor government, power bills will rise under this government and will rise as a result of that decision.

In relation to the stamp duty surcharge for foreign buyers, I remember the Premier when he was opposition leader talking to Peter Mitchell, making a promise to every single Victorian that there would be no new taxes. Once again, we see that the Premier has misled the community; in fact he has told them a barefaced lie. We are seeing more taxes, we are seeing the Treasurer refusing to deny that he is planning to scrap the first home buyers concession and indeed we are seeing the typical budget that Labor governments always deliver.

I note on the front page of the budget it says, 'Getting it Done'. As far as the Warrandyte community is concerned, they are getting done over. There is not one dollar that I have asked for in this place for Warrandyte police. The Warrandyte electorate has not had issues with antisocial behaviour and crime to any great degree in the past, but along with the rest of Victoria we are seeing those issues rise and rise. We are seeing the community calling for more police numbers in Warrandyte, as communities are calling for them throughout the length and breadth of this state. There is not one dollar for more police and not one dollar for more resources for the police in the Warrandyte electorate.

There is not one dollar to improve the congestion on our roads in the Warrandyte electorate; not one dollar for any of the many sports clubs that we have in the area; and not one dollar for the neighbourhood houses in the area. I can say there is one positive when it comes to education in the Warrandyte electorate. The Warrandyte community are seeing numberplates with 'Victoria the education state' on them, but as far as anything else from this government when it comes to education, that is about it, because for the 12 schools in my electorate, the 12 schools that need funding, the government of the day has completely ignored them. It is, I am sure, just a coincidence that my electorate, the Leader of the Opposition's electorate and the shadow Treasurer's electorate barely got a dollar in this budget.

If you want to see a government that is concentrating on politics more than people, concentrating on looking after its mates before looking after communities, then this is that government. We have a vindictive Premier who will not ever direct money to electorates where Liberals are supported by the communities, Liberals supporters who know that they get a fair deal from Liberal members. They get members who actually come in — unlike the member for Oakleigh, may I say — and back their communities, who are the representatives of their communities in this place rather than representing a Labor government in their communities.

My community has called on this government for funding for police, for roads, for sporting facilities and for the schools in our area, but this government is a nasty, vindictive government that will not give $1 to the seat of Warrandyte. It is very disappointing for all of my community and certainly in stark contrast to the previous government, where we saw money go to four schools in my electorate at the time, the redevelopment of the Ringwood railway station and the redevelopment of the Ringwood police station. We saw money go to sporting clubs in partnership with the local councils. We saw all those different community clubs and groups supported by the former coalition government. Unfortunately this government is prepared to follow the lead of the former Bracks and Brumby governments that also declined to spend any money or allocate any taxpayers funding to my electorate. It is an extremely disappointing situation and certainly one for which my community will hold this government to account at the next election. Woe betide my Labor opponent in 2018, who will have to come out and explain why this government has abandoned the Warrandyte electorate to the degree that it has.

As the coalition spokesperson for roads I have been quite interested over the last year and a half, and indeed during the recent Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings, to listen to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety. Along with every single other person in this chamber, I have no idea what the minister does. I simply have no idea what he does every single day when he gets up in a suburb that is a 40-minute drive from his electorate — a 40-minute drive on a good day, may I say, because the congestion on our roads is just getting worse and worse. Not only has he got no interest in his electorate — not only does he not live in his electorate, but he does not work in his electorate and he does not meet the people in his electorate — but he has the same lackadaisical attitude to his portfolio.

We have a situation where the shovel-ready West Gate distributor has been scrapped absolutely. We have Transurban writing roads policy to no-one's benefit except its shareholders — not Victoria's benefit, no-one's benefit except Transurban's shareholders. We have Transurban writing roads policy on a project that is going to cost, unbelievably, people who do not drive on it, money. The people who drive in the south-east and the east are going to be paying tolls for an additional 15 years to accommodate this Transurban plan. The Premier has put himself in a position where he has no negotiating capacity whatsoever. He has made such a song and dance and taken such media opportunities about this particular project that there is no way that he is on any solid ground when it comes to negotiating. Transurban will take the blank cheque from the Premier and laugh all the way to the bank, and it will be to the detriment of those who live in the south-east.

The federal government has tried to go into partnership with the state government. The state government has been complaining all the time, saying that the state is not getting enough infrastructure funding from the federal government, but of course the funding is on the table, the funding is there to be used. On upgrades to the M80, there is no interest there at all. Everyone who drives down the M80 can see that there are those areas of bottleneck, those three areas that need work. This petty government has no interest in partnering with the federal government on that particular program. There is the absolute stubbornness when it comes to the Monash, where again the federal government has put money on the table to do an expanded job on what the state government has proposed. Again, that has been pushed away: we are not doing that, we are already far ahead with this project — so far ahead in fact that we cannot possibly accept the additional $400 million. There is $400 million to help congestion on the Monash, one of the worst freeways as far as congestion goes in the Melbourne metropolitan area, and the state government is leaving $400 million on the table because its members are so stubborn they do not want to move.

We are seeing a $70 million cut to road maintenance generally across the state. It is in black and white, shown during the PAEC hearings. We have the Kilmore-Wallan bypass in the budget papers as an apparently completed project. I challenge anyone to go out and drive on it, because it simply does not exist. When questioned in the PAEC hearing, the minister just said that it was a typo. How can you describe a multimillion-dollar project listed as completed in the budget papers as just an error? It is just simply inconceivable that the minister did not pick this up, if it is indeed a mistake.

The great thing about the Hoddle Street fix is that it is actually on Swan Street and Punt Road; it is not even on Hoddle Street. The minister tried to explain how it will work and said that as far as the benefits that it would bring he was not going to put a deliberate figure on the reduction in congestion that that particular so-called fix would bring. He was completely unable to say. It might 40 per cent, it might be 15 per cent — who knows? The answer to the question of how much it will reduce congestion was simply, 'Oh, well, we hope for the best'. He did say — one of the gems out of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings — that it was a difficult situation to fix because the majority of traffic drives north, south, east or west. What he was saying was, 'We can't fix this problem very easily because there's traffic everywhere and when we do come up with a $60 million' — so-called — 'solution we don't even know if it is going fix traffic congestion to any great degree'.

As far as road maintenance is concerned, particularly out in the west of Victoria but also in the east, the answer there has been simply to put in a great number of signs with speed limits that are reduced significantly, which is a clear message to those in those country areas that there is going to be no money going out to fix those potholes and those crumbling edges that the increased truck traffic is causing to those roads. Country people have got no thought that the minister will even go out and talk to them, let alone actually direct some money that way.

As far as roads go under this government, we have got major projects written by businesses that will get windfall gains as a result, we have got less road maintenance funding, we have got projects apparently finished that have not even been started, and we have got fixes for metropolitan congestion but the government has no idea whether they are actually going to work or not. The whole roads portfolio is a shambles, with a minister who is so disengaged from the whole process of being a minister, much less being a member of Parliament, that it is difficult to see why, with the opportunity to reshuffle, the Premier did not put someone in there who actually cares about the roads and about the frustration that motorists feel every single day.

The Premier did make a good move, though. He moved the former Minister for Industry on, giving that portfolio responsibility to the member for Williamstown. I said this yesterday and I will say it again: I am sure that the member for Williamstown, the Minister for Industry and Employment, in just 24 hours now knows as much about the portfolio as the previous Minister for Industry did. Acting Speaker, you should have heard her in PAEC. When asked questions about industry funds — tens of millions of dollars' worth of funding that she had the authorisation to allocate to industry right across the state — she could not tell us to which industries money had gone, she could not tell us how much of the funds had been spent and she could not tell us by what criteria money would be allocated.

When asked about output measures, 'What will this funding bring?', you would expect an answer such as, 'Well, it's going to bring a 2-to-1 or 4-to-1 influx of commercial investment' or, 'For every $1 million we are aiming to get 10 jobs'. Her output measures for tens of millions of dollars of industry funding are — I will not quote, because I do not have the document, but you, Acting Speaker, can read the transcript for yourself — to make vulnerable communities feel safe and to give them hope.

I have seen output measures in budget papers before. If these are the output measures, they say volumes about this government as far its approach to business is concerned. If they are the government's output measures, it should put them in the budget. It should show us the measure of hope and the measure of vulnerable communities feeling safe if that is what the government is spending all the money on. The reality is that it is a Labor government slush fund, to be used to buy photo opportunities and to farm out to mates. There is no other conclusion anyone could have come to when you listened to the minister at PAEC. When you read the transcript, you will see the complete lack of knowledge she had about these. She either had no knowledge or she was deliberately hiding something.

As I have said publicly before, I have asked the Auditor-General to audit those funds so that we can all clearly understand them and so that the taxpayers can understand where their money is going and what value they are getting from it. These funds, the Future Industries Fund, the Premier's Jobs and Investment Fund, and Melbourne's North Innovation and Investment Fund, are slush funds. They are this Labor government's equivalent of Ros Kelly's whiteboard. That is what brought her down as a minister and the operation of these funds and the allocation of money from these funds is something that this government would be I think very worried about having any sort of independent and external investigation into the operation of, because there is simply no way that the minister cannot have had any material knowledge about these funds.

As I said, the answers that she gave at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing show an ignorance or a need to hide what is actually going on. All up, I am sure government members opposite will get up and say what a great budget it is, but the fact of the matter is that the budget has been allocated to seats that the Premier and the Treasurer want to reward.

Great. The electorate of Warrandyte did not get one dollar from this government, and, really, constituents there do not expect to get anything from a Labor government except more debt and secular interests. They certainly expect to be disappointed on a regular basis by this government, as opposed to, as I said, the previous term, where the electorate was actually recognised as being part of Victoria and part of a broader community that actually contributes to the broader state. They are and will continue to be extremely disappointed by our Premier, who has let them down, who has let them down before and will repeatedly let them down over the course of the next two years that he is in office.

Authorised by Ryan Smith MP, Suite 2, 1020 Doncaster Road, Doncaster East, VIC 3109 | © Ryan Smith MP 2014
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