Matter of Public Importance – Budget: employment

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I have accepted a statement from the member for Narre Warren South proposing the following matter of public importance for discussion:

That this house:

(1) notes that only Tasmania has a higher unemployment rate than Victoria; and

(2) notes that the Baillieu government has done nothing to secure and create jobs for Victorian families in the 2012-13 budget.

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I woke up from a restless night’s sleep last night, and I picked up the Age and had a look, and I thought, ‘He’s back’. He might be taller; he might be richer; and he is probably even funnier, but Spooner got it in one. With the axe being wielded, the Kennett-like cuts to families and jobs in Victoria are back.

An honourable member interjected.

Ms GRALEY — And they are praising it on the other side of the house!

Industry groups; the business sector, including big and small business; housing and construction companies; community organisations; and newspaper editorials — not to mention the workers of Victoria — have all called on the Baillieu government to show some firm leadership in guiding and supporting the Victorian economy and creating new jobs. And what do we see?

We see a Premier that has failed this test of leadership. As Tim Colebatch said today in the Age:

And there was nothing to answer the question Victorians are asking: why does Ted Baillieu want to be Premier? Where does he want to take us?

At some point, his government is going to have to tell us what it stands for. The budget was a missed chance to do that.

What do we see in this budget? The Baillieu government’s second budget is a horror budget for Victorian families who were hoping for a government plan to save jobs. Instead we have a budget full of excuses and without solutions. We certainly do not have a jobs plan from the Treasurer. In fact in his speech yesterday he mentioned the word ‘jobs’ twice.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — Look at the budget. Look at those noisy — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! Government members!

Ms GRALEY — Look at those rude and noisy people opposite who do not really give a damn about Victorians’ jobs! This is a job-killing budget. Last year’s budget was a disaster for Victoria. The problems we have with this budget are the inheritance of the fact that those opposite mucked up last time as well. If last year’s budget was a disaster, this year’s is a catastrophe for Victorians. Instead of setting Victoria up for the future, it is setting Victoria up for going backwards. The saddest thing of all is that this budget has ensured that Victoria’s unemployment queues are going to grow.

When the global financial crisis hit a few years ago, the Labor government took action by investing in job-creating infrastructure projects around the state. In the final two years of the Labor government — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — Take notice! You weren’t here! We created nearly 200 000 new jobs. Since the Baillieu government’s first budget, over 41 000 jobs have been lost; 41 000 Victorians have had to go home and tell their families they have lost their jobs. And still — as of yesterday’s budget — there is no jobs plan for Victoria. The former Labor government always made jobs for Victorians a priority. During these tough economic times — and there is no doubt there are some pressures in the Victorian economy — what is the Baillieu government doing? It is sitting on its hands. Its members can hardly say the word ‘jobs’. Their approach has been to do nothing. Let us look at what the situation is.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — Have a listen to this, because you are hiding, putting your head in — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Gembrook!

Ms GRALEY — Since this government has come to power the unemployment rate has increased from 4.9 per cent to 5.8 per cent. There are 16 500 fewer full-time jobs in Victoria, and over 30 000 more Victorians have joined the unemployment queues. Thanks to the lack of support from the Premier, it also seems now that Qantas workers are about to join that number.

This rate of unemployment is second only to that in Tasmania.

Underemployment is also very high in Victoria, with 96.4 per cent of any of the new jobs created in March in Victoria being part-time jobs. That is an appalling record for this government.

Let us look at the situation out my way in the south-east of Melbourne where 4800 jobs have been lost — that is, 4800 people in the south-east have lost their jobs. When the Baillieu government came to office the unemployment rate in the south-east, which is Victoria’s manufacturing heartland, was 6 per cent. Now it is 8.3 per cent. The member for Frankston has been very loud in this house and finds it very easy to tell people not to bug him, but I will bug him with this figure: the unemployment figure for young people in Frankston is the second highest in the state. The Minister for Youth Affairs stood up in this house and could not even tell us what the youth unemployment rate is. Last month it got to 23.1 per cent, the highest point since March 1988. What did the government do? I will tell members what it has done.

In the last budget it cut 3600 more jobs and in this year’s budget it has cut 600 more jobs. An Age article headline states ‘Public sector jobs to go in biggest cuts since Kennett’.

Honourable members interjecting.


Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — And there is more. Do you know what the Treasurer says to these people — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! Through the Chair!

Ms GRALEY — Do members know what the Treasurer says to these people who are losing their jobs? He says, ‘They’re only back office jobs’. Back office jobs they may be, but they are the jobs of mums and dads who have to put a meal on the table every night, have to pay their mortgage, have to pay for their children’s education and have to clothe their children. When they go home and tell their children that they will not have a job, it will have a devastating impact on not only the people in that family who have lost their jobs but also the people around them, especially their children.

I am absolutely bemused. If the government is going to cut people’s jobs and increase the unemployment rate, as it said it would, and make sure that young people cannot get a job, you would think that it would do something about making sure that young people could stay at school or go to TAFE to get some extra training. But what the government has done with this budget is make it much, much harder for them to do that.

It will be much more expensive and much more difficult for young people to get training with better services and better teachers at TAFE.

In the last budget the government made cuts to the funding of VCAL (Victorian certificate of applied learning).

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — In this budget it has not reinstated any of that funding. Those cuts are having an

impact — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Yan Yean knows that it is not permitted to cross

between a member who is speaking and the Chair. That is the second time she has done so. Ducking is not an excuse for doing so, and I ask her to cease it.

Ms GRALEY — We know that those young people are very disadvantaged through not being able to have VCAL coordinators to help them in their training. The people who yell out that there is more money for VCAL — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — It is just a lot of spin. They should come out to Narre Warren South P-12 College, which has had $126 000 cut from its VCAL funding.

Ms Campbell — On a point order, Deputy Speaker, interjections are disorderly. It is impossible to hear the member over the volume of noise that is coming from the government benches, and I draw your attention to these interjections.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I support the point of order. The volume of interjections is very high, and I ask members to lower it.

Ms GRALEY — If members come to Narre Warren South P-12 College and talk to the students, the staff and the parents, they will find that $126 000 has been cut from the school’s VCAL program and that other programs in the school are being cut to cover the program cuts to VCAL. It is just not fair. It is not fair on kids who need to get the skills training and that extra support and engagement that is going to get them a good job in the future and prevent them from joining the lengthening unemployment queues in Victoria.

I was quite bemused a couple of weeks ago to sit in this house and hear the member for Bentleigh stand up and say:

The Baillieu government has been able to deliver election promises within its first 12 months in office, including a reduction in the cost of living …

That is a big call by the member for Bentleigh. I recently surveyed constituents in my electorate and asked them what they thought of that statement. My question was: ‘The cost of living has improved over the last 12 months — yes or no?’. The responses to the member for Bentleigh’s announcement of a reduction in the cost of living were almost unanimous. They included ‘Outrageous!’, ‘What planet are you on?’ ‘You’re joking, I hope’. I know the member for Bentleigh spends a lot of time giggling up in the back row with those other knuckleheads — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I ask the member for Narre Warren South to stay on the matter now before the house.

Ms GRALEY — What I am saying is that when people go home and tell their children that they have lost their job, they also face the agonising problem of having to balance the household budget. When members of this house get up and say the cost of living has been reduced under this government, they are living in la-la land. Let us look at it. This is what they are going to face: health costs have increased by 22.5 per cent, housing costs have increased by 7.5 per cent, transport costs have increased by 6.8 per cent, car registration fees have gone up and education costs have increased by a massive 37.5 per cent. And to make it harder for those people who are trying to make ends meet, in yesterday’s budget we see that fines have gone up, taxes have gone up and fees have gone up. Even if you wanted to send your children — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — Even if you wanted to help your children get a job in this terribly difficult economy, we have fees going up at TAFEs. What should we expect of this government? What we would have expected was to see an investment in the Victorian economy and an investment in Victoria’s infrastructure. Budget paper 4 is an interesting document in that it is now about a third full of completed projects — say thank you to the Labor government — existing projects, most of which were started by the previous Labor government, and a few projects that have been instigated by this government.

The people of the south-east are waiting to see when this government is going to get its act together and put in some real money, as it promised, to create jobs and to provide health services to the families of the south-east by constructing the Monash Children’s hospital in its first term. Instead, what we get is some planning.

Do not lose your job in Victoria — —

Mr Watt interjected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Burwood!

Ms GRALEY — Do not send your kids to TAFE because you will not be able to afford the fees since they have gone up, and I suggest you do not get sick either because you are going to have a long wait in the hospital queues. We now see that what we have in Victoria is the highest taxing Treasurer that Victoria has had in its history. I am very concerned about how people in my electorate are going to cope.

I draw the attention of members to the fact that so many of those people really appreciated the School Start bonus. Last year the schools were means tested. I heard the Premier say on the radio this morning that he did not need the cheque; frankly nobody is going to get the cheque now. That is what is happening to Victoria’s families — they are doing it tough. Job queues continue to grow at a rate that is only second to Tasmania’s job queue growth.

I note that Margaret Whitlam said she joined the Labor Party because it was a party that cared about people. Labor members on this side of the house care about people and about investing in Victorian infrastructure and jobs so that Victorians have a future. Members opposite obviously do not care about Victorian people or the future of Victoria.

It is very sad day when people are shouting, screaming, smiling and clapping for a budget that increases the unemployment queues in Victoria. It is sad day for Victoria.

Ms Green — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, you rightly ruled against me when I moved in front of you. I did that to obtain a copy of Rulings from the Chair to get some direction from the Chair, because the level of interjection from the other side of the house was truly disgraceful while the member for Narre Warren South was on her feet. I urge you, Deputy Speaker, while this matter of public importance is being debated to pull the opposition backbench peanut gallery into line.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! If the member for Yan Yean has a problem with the way I am chairing this debate, I suggest she speak to the Speaker in his chambers and lay a complaint.

Coming across the line of the Speaker in the chamber to reach for a copy of the standing orders is not an excuse. The member could have walked behind my chair to reach the area where the clerks sit.