APPROPRIATION (2012/2013) BILL 2012
Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — They are good people who dream of getting a secure job, owning their own home and raising a family. They want to know that their children will have the best possible start in life, attend good schools and have quality options available to them in their senior secondary school years and pathways to university, TAFE or employment. They also want to know that there is proper health care available should their family need it. While I call these ‘dreams’, they are actually pretty reasonable aspirations. This is exactly what I wanted for my family, and I can understand that the Narre Warren South families want that for theirs.
It is really sad that the Baillieu government’s second budget has made this dream more difficult to achieve. In many ways this budget eliminates the dreams and aspirations of the families of my electorate. It has made it more difficult to get a job. Indeed, it cuts jobs. By cutting the first home bonus the government has made it more difficult for people to own their own home. It has made it more difficult to secure a good education for your children by cutting the School Start bonus — how cruel is that? — and limiting options in higher education through the cutting of funding to TAFE. It does nothing to help families secure better health care, breaks the promise of new beds at Casey Hospital and further delays the opening of the much-needed Monash Children’s hospital.
During the global financial crisis — one of the worst crises this state has ever faced — the former Labor government took action. We had a plan to create jobs, and we invested in job-creating infrastructure around the state. In the final two years of the Labor government we created nearly 200 000 new jobs. What a sad contrast it is to see today that since the Baillieu government’s first budget, over 41 000 jobs have been lost in Victoria. Eighteen months into its term and despite the current situation the government has no plan for jobs in Victoria. The former government used to talk about jobs and always make them a priority. We kept Victorians in jobs during the global financial crisis.
During these tough economic times it is very sad to see the contrast with the Baillieu government, whose members are plainly sitting on their hands. Their approach has been to do nothing. As we saw in March, the unemployment rate has reached 5.8 per cent. Only Tasmania, that weeny state at the bottom of Australia, has a higher unemployment rate in Victoria’s.
The situation is far worse in the area of my electorate in the south-eastern suburbs. When the Baillieu government came to office the unemployment rate in the south-east was 6 per cent; however, the loss of around 5000 jobs in the south-east has seen this rise to 8.3 per cent. What is Premier Baillieu’s response to this jobs crisis in Victoria? It is to cut 4200 more jobs. Youth unemployment is also a major concern. My electorate is home to many young people, and I know that the parents in my electorate do not want their kids joining the dole queue. I am very concerned by the youth unemployment rate, which stands at 22.3 per cent. Look what the government has done in response.
It has made savage cuts to TAFE and VCAL (Victorian certificate of applied learning) that will ensure the youth unemployment rate will continue to grow.
In this budget the Baillieu government has slashed $290 million from the TAFE sector, cutting subsidies to 80 per cent of courses. We read in the papers — and we are hearing from students and staff at the TAFEs — that this will mean some TAFEs will probably not be able to remain open. Indeed in this house the Premier is not saying there will be no closures; he is walking away from that. He is leaving it open for TAFEs across Victoria to be closed down. This is a very sad situation for the many students in my electorate who are sent to TAFEs — and the many families that send their kids to TAFEs — so they can get along in life, get a good education and make a pathway into university. Those students and families are seriously worried about these cuts. Chisholm TAFE is in my electorate. When we were in government we expanded Berwick TAFE, which is having nearly one-third of its funding cut — around $25 million.
I note from the newspaper that the chief executive, Maria Peters, has been quoted as saying:
… given the magnitude of the cuts, it is more than possible there will be job losses and the likelihood that some of our current courses will not run.
There is the dreams of a generation being snuffed out by these massive cuts to TAFE. It is clear this is going to happen elsewhere. At Holmesglen TAFE the situation is equally distressing. It has warned that diploma fees will double next year, from $2500 to $5000, and that jobs will be lost. TAFE is a crucial pathway for disadvantaged students to use to progress to university or employment. It is very clear that the Baillieu government does not care and does not have a strategy to lower the youth unemployment rate.
On the contrary, given what it is doing in the TAFE sector and what it did in last year’s budget with VCAL, it appears it is intent on planning to extend the youth unemployment queues.
I would now like to speak on some schools in my electorate of Narre Warren South. Last year’s budget provided funding for land acquisition for the new Casey central east primary school, a project first announced by Labor in 2010. The community was genuinely relieved that last year’s budget provided the land, and we expected that this year’s budget would provide funding for the construction of this much-needed new school. However, we were wrong. I thought government members would do the right thing here, but obviously they have decided they would rather spend money in other electorates, and certainly not in Labor-held electorates. I gather that only three schools are being built in Labor-held electorates. Unlike the situation in our term of government, during which we built nine schools in my electorate, we have been given no funding to build this new school in an area where it is much needed — Cranbourne North.
In fact this school is desperately needed as other schools in the area are at capacity. We knew it had to be built and we promised it at the last election. Whilst we were grateful to get the land in the last budget, kids cannot go to school in an empty paddock.
I also note that the local paper has been leading a campaign for the opening of the Officer special school, which the Baillieu government promised to open in 2013. Sadly it appears that there is no funding in this budget for the opening of the school at an interim campus in 2013 as parents are requesting.
They have made decisions and arrangements in their lives so that their kids can go to this new school in Officer. I think it will be a very good school, but these parents thought the government had told them that it would be open in 2013. They have asked for an interim campus to be opened in 2013. We did this when we were in power and Alkira Secondary College was not quite ready for the start of the school year — we opened an interim campus at Hillsmeade Primary School. However, the parents’ pleas have gone unnoticed. It just shows you how uncaring this government is towards families in my local area that are really doing it tough.
I would like to move from schools to infrastructure. The Baillieu government’s lack of investment in Victoria’s infrastructure has sent the economy backwards. If you look at the new infrastructure projects in the budget, you will notice that they are on the never-never; the government is mainly funding business cases and planning.
This has undeniably undermined confidence in the Victorian economy and has contributed to weakening the economy and massive job losses. To give you a bit of a hint, one of the things that could have been done to improve the health of Victorians and at the same time invest in infrastructure is for the government to invest in public hospitals.
In Narre Warren South we have the Casey Hospital, which is waiting for its upgrade. We want the 100 new beds that were promised. That would have been a great local project that would have kept many local tradies in work. Of course we would have liked to have seen the government keep its promise to open the Monash Children’s hospital in its first term in office, but it now appears that we will have to wait for the re-election of the Baillieu government before one kid in Narre Warren South is able to go to a children’s hospital closer to home.
I would like to finish up by talking about the School Start bonus and the cuts to the education maintenance allowance. This a really savage cut to families in my electorate. It is a huge impost on the family budget if you are trying to send children back to school, kit them out and give them access to all the fun and games offered by schools, such as camps and excursions. People really did appreciate the School Start bonus. In fact when surveyed people in my electorate said they would like it to be extended, not obliterated. Susan Magee of the Casey North Community Information and Support Service has written to me about this, saying:
Education costs are causing great financial stress to many families we work with.
We have great concern for children that are unable to participate fully in their education programs because they do not have adequate resources or funding for activities such as camps and swimming classes.
Here we have family budgets under all sorts of stress, despite the member for Bentleigh saying there has been a reduction in the cost of living. The government has effectively doubled TAFE fees, it has cut jobs, it has increased car registration fees and it has cut the first home owner bonus. These are great imposts on the family budgets of the people of Narre Warren South.
I will finish up on what may be a lighter note but is actually a very important issue for the people of Narre Warren South.
Having flushed down the toilet the previous government’s commitment to upgrade Hallam station to premium status, which would have provided a fully-manned station with security and toilets for commuters, we now know from the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings that this government is spending $260 000 at each station on toilets for protective services officers. There is not one dollar in this budget for toilets at Hallam station for those commuters who are just holding on. This says everything about the government.
Victorians were looking for the government to really get its act together. It has got its training wheels off by now. We expected the government to kick-start the Victorian economy and create jobs in this state. Instead we have seen the complete opposite. We cannot even get a toilet out of it for Hallam station. This budget is full of excuses and spin. It is a budget based on an artificial surplus, which without creative accounting would not exist. It is a job-killing budget. It is a budget that makes getting your own home much harder.
It is a budget that stymies opportunity. It is a budget that pushes our young people onto the dole queue. It is a budget without even one toilet for Hallam station. This budget deals Victorians a bad hand, especially with the lights going out in workplaces across the state.
This once progressive state, the place to be and a great place to live, work and raise a family is sadly going backwards. The dreams and aspirations of the hardworking families of the Narre Warren South electorate are being snuffed out by this Liberal-Nationals government that just does not care.