Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: 2009-10 and 2010-11 financial and performance outcomes

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s Report on the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Financial and Performance Outcomes, which was tabled recently in this Parliament. I will focus my comments on chapter 7 of the report, as well as the minority report. At the outset, and as a former member of the committee, I must say that I am deeply concerned by the very political nature of the way in which chapter 7 has been put together. As the minority report states:

 

… there was not a single hearing, nor did it examine a single witness. No former minister, or any departmental representative was given an opportunity to comment on any element of the majority’s analysis, and no submissions were invited.

 

In my experience this is very unlike the way PAEC has previously conducted itself.

Chapter 7 goes through the former Labor government’s Growing Victoria Together strategy and concludes that of the 36 measures 36 per cent were met, 19 per cent were partially met, 25 per cent were not met and 19 per cent were unable to be determined. In many areas, including those referred to in the minority report, the majority has taken a simplistic approach to determining if measures have been met. I will refer to one measure in particular:

The appreciation of diverse neighbourhoods and communities will increase.

The majority determined that this measure had not been met, citing the Victorian population health survey, which indicates a decline in support for multiculturalism between 2001 and 2009.

I ask members opposite to think back 10 years to what was happening in Australia from 2001 onwards. We had a Prime Minister in John Howard who was intent on dividing our community. He was a Prime Minister opposed to multiculturalism. In an act reminiscent of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, he obliterated the word ‘multiculturalism’ from the name of the department. I am proud of Victoria’s bipartisan commitment to multiculturalism, and I hope it will continue. We are indeed fortunate to live in a multicultural community here in Victoria and especially in my electorate of Narre Warren South, which has many people who have come to live in peace and prosperity in our great state. The factors taken into consideration in determining whether measures have been met are, as you will see if you read the report, far too simplistic. That is just one example. Time prevents me from giving further, more extensive examples.

While the majority of PAEC members have sought to politicise chapter 7, they have also taken the extraordinary step of declaring a number of good outcomes achieved between November 2010 and June 2011. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development section is just breathtaking, really; I advise everybody to read it. In this section the majority has claimed several outcomes, including:

Give children the best start in life and provide access to affordable, quality early childhood education in the years before schooling

 

Develop the basic skills for life and learning so children make a successful transition to school

 

Assist young people to transition from school to further education and/or work that provides further training opportunities

and

Supply the skills needed to improve labour market outcomes and equip Victorians of all ages with the skills and capabilities to enable educational, labour market and social participation.

 

The evidence the majority uses to support these outcomes is just as simplistic as the factors used to judge the Growing Victoria Together strategy. It is typical of conservatives that they apply different standards to themselves than they apply to others. But what I know will be the ultimate measures of these outcomes are the following: the cut to the Take a Break program funding, the lack of investment in kindergartens, the cuts to the Victorian certificate of applied learning and TAFE, and the record high youth unemployment rate. On these measures the Baillieu government will score a big fail. By any measure Victorian families will be worse off.

The majority’s work in chapter 7 clearly shows a government bereft of ideas and intent on trashing the proud record of the Labor government. It is very disturbing as a former member of PAEC to see a government abusing the function and workings of such an esteemed committee of this Parliament. I suggest to the government that in the interests of good government it commit to openness and transparency and return PAEC to doing the good work it has done in the past.