Appropriation (2015-2016) Bill 2015
Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — That is truly a hard act to follow. We all appreciate the entertainment value of the contribution of the member for Kew this afternoon. It is a pleasure for members of Parliament on this side of the chamber in particular to rise to speak on the Appropriation (2015–2016) Bill 2015.
I would like to begin by saying congratulations to the Premier and the Treasurer on the delivery of the Victorian budget 2015–2016, because this is a budget that is first and foremost for Victorian families. The Age noted that the Treasurer said ‘family’ or ‘families’ 23 times, and I say good on the Treasurer for spruiking the F word — families — because that is very much where the Labor Party wants to be with this budget. We are talking about looking after, caring for and supporting Victorian families. I would much prefer the F word to be used than to be in the situation that former Treasurer Kim Wells found himself in during his first budget delivery. He could not bear to use the J word; there was not one mention of jobs in the first Liberal budget when that party returned to the government benches.
I would like to contrast that with this budget, which is very much focused on families and on jobs. The Treasurer said on the day he delivered the budget:
The budget I hand down today has fairness at its heart and families in its reach.
It gets us back to basics:
Jobs, schools, hospitals and transport.
The things that families need to live a good and healthy life.
Is that not just the space good government should be in? The 2014 Victorian election was a time when Victorians said they wanted a better government. Indeed one of our slogans was that Victorians deserve a better government. The Treasurer and the Premier have started that process with this budget.
It is sort of quaint when people say to me with a tinge of surprise, ‘You’ve delivered on all of your election promises’. I recall the Premier remarking very early in his tenure that the trust barometer for the Victorian public, and indeed the Australian public, is very low in our civic society. This budget is more than just some numbers delivering on great programs and projects; it is also a statement to the Victorian public that this government can be trusted to deliver on what it said it would do. We said a lot of good things about what we are going to do, and it is in this budget in black and white that our election promises will be delivered for Victorian families.
This is a Labor budget through and through. It is back to basics with no razzle-dazzle. It is about getting on with it and helping Victorians to do likewise. I am starting to hear negative comments coming from the opposition across the benches, and frankly the nasty commentary, the negative talk, the lies and the concoctions that have come from members of the opposition in the last few days do them no credit. The talking down of the Victorian economy, the education system and the infrastructure commitments does them no credit.
Victorians, I have to say, wanted a better government and they are getting it. They are getting it in the positive way that this modern Labor government is going about delivering it with its first budget. I suggest that Victorians do not listen to what those over there have to say. They had the chance, and they were a lazy, crazy government. The election result on 29 November last year certainly sent the message that Victorians were sick of what that government had to offer. It is a bit hard to swallow that we have to stand here and listen to people on the other side lecture us on Melbourne being the most livable city when for four years they did nothing but make it less livable for most people.
I would like to concentrate most of my commentary around two aspects of the budget. Firstly, I would like to again compliment the cabinet for having as part of its budget papers Suburban Growth — Budget Information Paper. Most of Melbourne’s population is now living in the outer suburbs, and that trend will increase. This is a government that is going to be focused on what people want in order to make central Melbourne a livable place with a great world-class public transport system and great infrastructure projects within the inner urban areas, but it is also a government that is concerned about the lifestyle and the quality of education, hospitals, roads and community infrastructure in the outer suburbs as well.
I notice that in the budget there is a commitment of $50 million as an initial contribution towards an Interface Councils Infrastructure Fund to help councils in the growing outer suburban areas get local projects up and going. Far too often constituents come to us saying, ‘I’ve made a commitment to building my dream home. I love the area and my kids are enjoying being in a suburb that has lots of young families in it, but I have some complaints about the quality of the community facilities’, ‘I am concerned about congestion on the roads’ or ‘I am frightened that I’m a little bit far away from a good world-class hospital’.
This infrastructure fund will be doing some of those local projects that need to be done much earlier to improve the quality of life for people living in the outer suburbs. As the minister has said, these projects will make a big difference in people’s day-to-day lives, and we are going to help local councils and communities to deliver them because it is at the local level that we can understand best what the issues are.
I would like to also talk about what, for me, is the pride and joy of the state budget, and that is the biggest ever commitment to education. We all know, certainly on this side of the house, that education is the key to providing the wisdom and knowledge that one can use in everyday life and to get a job; but we also know that a good education gives people lots of good prospects in their life, like becoming more wealthy, having a healthier lifestyle and living longer.
We also know that in the last four years education was not the priority of the government of Victoria. I spoke to the principal of a school in my electorate during that term of government and he declared that he had experienced the worst Minister for Education ever. I know that teachers, parents and students were very disgruntled about how they were going to make sure that kids got the best education possible and make sure that they could secure a job in the future with the qualifications they were hoping to get.
Locally, that commitment to education means an upgrade to Hampton Park Primary School, which is quite a small school in a suburb that does it hard. If you go down to Hampton Park Primary School, you will see children from nearly every nationality and parents who are newly arrived from refugee communities. They, like any of us, want the best opportunities for their children. They have made a commitment to come to our country so that their children have better opportunities than they experienced. By committing to $5 million for the upgrade of Hampton Park Primary School we are definitely giving that community a lot of hope for their children’s education in the future. That was a very important commitment to the Hampton Park community.
There is also a commitment in the budget to Berwick Fields Primary School. If you want to see education in a primary school at its best, I suggest you visit Berwick Fields Primary School. There are, I think, 1097 students at that school, but it is one of the most dynamic and innovative educational facilities you will come across. It has a truly dedicated staff, led by an amazing principal in Stephen Wigney, and they do extraordinary work.
One of the things the school wanted to do was to place greater emphasis on environmental education and sustainability. The government is very pleased to be able to provide the school with $100 000 to develop a student-led community supported eco-cubby. The minister visited the Berwick Fields school recently. He was impressed with the school and what was going on there. He also pleased to confirm that election funding commitment and looks forward to returning to see the eco-cubby up and working and seeing the kids having a lot of fun there.
The government’s commitment to education is not confined to schools. In fact one of the new technical schools that is part of the education state commitment will be opened in the city of Casey during this term of government. It has also guaranteed funding for Chisholm TAFE. It is not just about making sure that TAFEs are operating really well every day; it is about making sure that the qualifications that students attain from a tertiary provider or training authority are real and that they are able to go out and get a job with them. We have to have that match right. That is why it is good, when we are talking about having a commitment to jobs and getting people back to work, that we are looking at the way that skills that are acquired by students at TAFEs and in other educational settings can be translated into employment.
I turn now to the half-price car registration for apprentices. There are many apprentices in my electorate. I would like there to be a lot more. Many kids have probably missed out on the opportunity to attain an apprenticeship in recent years. I hope employers and young people will take advantage of that scheme, because it is another incentive for apprentices to be taken on and means the journey of getting a qualification is made just that little bit easier and more accessible.
I am pleased to be able to report that the budget makes a strong commitment to another one of our featured election commitments around education. There is the $148 million Camp, Sports and Excursion Fund; $16 million for the affordable school uniforms program; $14 million for school breakfast clubs; and $2 million for the music in schools program. That is an especially important innovation. No matter where you go to school, if you are interested in taking up an instrument, singing loudly or being involved in a school performance, that should not be determined by your postcode. Every school should be able to run a music program that takes up the talents that certain students have.
There is also $1.6 million for the mentoring scheme, which I am particularly proud of. It is hoped that this innovative program will provide students who may be thinking about going to university but who have doubts about whether they will be able to achieve the score to enter university with the support necessary to do so. This scheme will provide them with the tutoring, mentoring, guidance and support necessary to get them to university and enable them to fulfil their dreams. We know there are many families out there where students are still not going to university. We also know that once those students get to university, they excel and they set the pattern for future siblings in their families to take up the experience of university education and indeed guarantee a better world and better lifestyle for themselves.
Just over $1 million is allocated for Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, and $400 000 for glasses for kids. As the Minister for Education has said, this will make a real difference to many families and school communities. He also said:
This is about fairness. Breaking the cycle of disadvantage starts in the schoolyard. All kids deserve the best start, no matter their background.
This is a terrific budget. I look forward to working with the Minister for Education in implementing the steps that we have taken and the financial commitments we have made to making Victoria the education state. I know our heart is in this. We have a budget that provides us with the formative funding for transforming this state into the education state. It is indeed a great pleasure to commend the bill to the house.