Leader of the Liberal Party
Leader of the Opposition

Portfolio Speeches

Budget: departmental efficiency dividend

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) -- My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer advise the house how this budget continues efficient and effective service delivery, which is essential to building a strong state economy?

Mr O'BRIEN (Treasurer) -- I thank the member for Caulfield for his question and for his interest in making sure that Victoria's finances are strong so we can deliver better services. This budget brought down a very strong economic program and a strong surplus for Victoria. We are determined to strengthen this state's finances so we can invest in more infrastructure and better services. We have a program to reduce the cost of running government so that we can spend more on the services and infrastructure that Victorians use. If we can cut the back-office costs -- cut out the waste, cut out the mismanagement -- we can deliver better services and better infrastructure to Victorians.

As part of that, in the budget this year we have continued and increased the efficiency dividend that we are applying across departments from 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent. This will save an additional $25 million in 2013-14. Just to put that in context, $25 million is about two weeks worth of desalination plant payments -- only two weeks worth! It is about 0.05 per cent of the $50 billion budget, so it is a small but important contribution to making sure that we can keep the budget in surplus. We have heard other people say they welcome the budget being in surplus, but they oppose every single measure we implement to keep it in surplus. You cannot say you support a surplus when you oppose the economic measures that a government takes to actually put it into surplus.

Importantly the efficiency dividend does not affect front-line service delivery. It does not affect teachers, police, nurses or child protection workers, just to name a few.

The other point is -- and we are already hearing the complaints about it -- our efficiency dividend is 2.5 per cent, but federal Labor's efficiency dividend is 4 per cent. Apparently some members of this house are quite happy to support a 4 per cent efficiency dividend from their Labor mates in Canberra, but they will oppose a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend when it is provided responsibly by a coalition government here in Victoria.

There was some misinformed media commentary today about so-called cuts, and I would like to give just one example of the sort of thing that has been termed a cut by some in the media and echoed by others in this place. For example, the federal Labor government refused to support the Mallee solar park project, a great project that the member for Mildura has been a champion of and the Victorian coalition government had money on the table to support because we wanted to see large-scale solar in northern Victoria. We wanted to see more renewable energy here in Victoria, and we had money on the table to support the project. But not once, not twice, but three times the federal Labor government turned its back on this project and turned its back on the people of Mildura, so the project could not proceed.

We could not spend the money on a project that was not proceeding, so we are spending that money in other areas of the energy and resources portfolio. Based on the commentary in the media and the Labor Party, that is a cut. Perhaps the opposition thinks we should spend money on a project that is not proceeding. That is the opposition's financial management style; it is not ours, and Victoria is stronger for a coalition government.

The SPEAKER -- Order! Members will probably be delighted, or disappointed, to realise that that was the last question for the day.

Dr Sykes interjected.

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