Mr M. O’BRIEN — Victorians
deserve better. They deserve better than this budget because this was not the
budget they voted for. Before the election the then Leader of the Opposition
moved around Victoria on a roadshow, with a new haircut, new glasses, new
clothes and a series of slick promises. It was almost reminiscent of a 1950s
Elvis. All that was missing was a swivel of the hips. He was going to boost
infrastructure, he was going to boost jobs, he was going to protect the
finances and he certainly was not going to increase taxes.
But come the first budget of the Andrews Labor
government, and it is all too clear: Daniel Andrews may have campaigned like a
1950s Elvis, but he is governing like Elvis in Vegas. Just like those Elvis
shows, a few rhinestones cannot hide the fact that this budget is a
disappointing, bloated effort — one that only makes people remember what
was once promised and how the reality is so very different today. Because this
is a budget of broken promises.
This is a budget that weakens our great state and
reduces the economic security of Victorian families. This is a budget that
slashes the surplus, trashes infrastructure and smashes Victorian families with
higher taxes and charges. This is a budget that lays bare this government’s
financial incompetence and, in some cases, dishonesty.
For a budget that Labor trumpets as being for
families, it is clear that Labor’s union brothers are the only family that
counts. This is a budget handed down by a former union official for the benefit
of current union officials. I suppose that is the Treasurer’s definition of
Budgeting is supposed to be about laying out a plan
for the future, but spending more of other people’s money is not a financial
plan, paying to not build roads is not a transport plan, imposing new property
taxes is not a housing affordability plan and cutting funding to police is not
a community safety plan.
Every budget has ups and downs. In Labor’s first
budget debt is up, taxes are up, inflation is up, expenditure growth is up, the
fire services property levy is up and unemployment is up. But some things are
down. The surplus is down, economic growth is down and infrastructure spending
is down. Labor has done something remarkable. In just over 20 weeks of
government it has brought down a budget where on practically every single
financial and economic indicator Victoria is in a far worse position than under
We have heard so much rhetoric from Labor this week
about keeping its promises. So how do those claims stuck up? Let us start with
the budget surplus. When the coalition was elected in 2010, Victoria’s budget
faced a structural deficit after a decade of expenditure increases that had
outstripped revenue increases. The coalition worked hard to restore Victoria’s
finances and warned that Labor could not be trusted with money. But the then
opposition was very quick to assure Victorians that this leopard really had
changed its spots. This is what Daniel Andrews was quoted in the Herald Sun of 19 November 2014 as
… we have got no intention of changing the
surplus profile outlined in the pre‑election budget update.
This is what Tim Pallas said on ABC 774 Drive on 27 November 2014:
… our commitments will have no impact on the
projected budget surplus throughout the four years of the forward estimates.
The surplus profile outlined in the pre‑election
budget update — this was released independently by the Department of
Treasury and Finance during the election — stated that Victoria was set
for surpluses each and every year, totalling $9.1 billion out to 2017–18.
These surpluses protect Victoria and Victorian families not just from external
shocks but from having to go into debt to pay for necessary infrastructure. But
did Labor keep those clear promises to maintain those surpluses? Of course it
Under Labor the surplus profile and the budget over
that same period is not $9.1 billion; it is now just
$4.9 billion — a loss of $4.2 billion. Losing over
$4 billion in less than six months has to be a new record for budget destruction,
even for the Labor Party. Premier and Treasurer: you made a solemn promise to
Victorians, and you broke that promise.
Now the budget surplus for the next financial year is
just $1.2 billion. But what is worse is that that surplus relies on an extraordinary
proposition, which is this: Labor’s surplus relies entirely on the hope that
$1.9 billion in east–west link funding from the federal government will
not have to be paid back. Labor’s surplus strategy depends on taking money from
the federal government for the east–west link, dumping the project and then not
handing the money back. If you tried that on eBay, they would call in the cops.
But Daniel Andrews calls it ‘a modern Labor government’. This is a phony
surplus from a phony Treasurer.
Let us look at debt. In the pre‑election budget
update, the last year of the forward estimates was 2017–18 and the ratio of
state debt to gross state product was 4.5 per cent. In Labor’s budget,
debt to GSP in that year is now 4.6 per cent. What Labor has buried in the
budget papers is that it has made a policy decision to change Victoria’s debt
strategy. Under the coalition the strategy used to be ‘General government net
debt reduced as a percentage of GSP over the decade to 2022’. This was under
the coalition, and it was similar to the policy of the Bracks and Brumby
In this budget we see a new debt strategy: ‘General
government net debt as a percentage of GSP to be maintained at a sustainable
level over the medium term’. Do you notice what is missing, Speaker? There is
no longer any commitment to reduce net debt under this Labor government. When
Labor trotted out its financial statement before the election, there was
nothing in that document about abandoning the commitment to reduce Victoria’s
net debt — another Labor lie.
Let us look at unemployment. Victorians remember all
the claims Labor made about jobs before the election. Labor said it had a jobs
plan. We know it is really only a jobs brochure. In this budget we see
Treasury’s assessment of Labor’s jobs plan, which is that under Labor
unemployment will be higher for longer than it was under the coalition.
Forecast unemployment is 25 basis points higher in 2016–17 and
50 basis points higher in 2017–18. These are not just statistics; these
are real Victorian families who will not have a job because of Labor’s economic
Why should we be surprised that unemployment will be
higher for longer under Labor, when we see everything this government has done
since coming to office just six months ago? That includes two new public
holidays, the abolition of the construction code compliance unit and the
scrapping of 3700 jobs on the shovel‑ready east–west link.
Let us go to economic growth. That is something we
should all agree is objectively a good thing for this state. Under Labor,
Victoria’s economy is growing slower than under the coalition. GSP growth is
down by 25 points in this year and down by 25 points in 2015–16.
While growth is down, inflation is forecast to increase, hitting Victorians with
the triple whammy of a higher cost of living, higher unemployment and lower
Now to taxes, which is Labor’s favourite topic, as we
know. There is nothing that Labor likes more than taxing Victorians. Treasurer
Pallas has secured a place in history. He is now the highest taxing Treasurer
in the state’s history. Congratulations, Tim. There is more than
$1.1 billion in extra Victorian taxes in this budget alone.
Victorians were made promises by the then Leader of
the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer that Labor would not introduce any new
taxes, charges, fees or levies or increase any of them beyond inflation. This
is what the now Treasurer said on ABC 774 Drive
on 27 November 2014:
Our election commitments will not lead to an increase
in debt. Our commitments will have no impact on the projected budget surplus
throughout the four years of the forward estimates and we will introduce no new
first budget Treasurer Pallas has introduced not one but two new property
taxes. There is an extra land transfer duty and an extra land tax — two
new taxes and two broken promises. Then the Treasurer has the hide to say he
wants to promote housing affordability. The former coalition government knows a
thing or two about housing affordability. We released land to meet demand. That
is how you help to address housing affordability. The former coalition
government halved stamp duty for first home buyers. That is how you help
promote housing affordability. You do not do it by introducing new property
taxes, which is the only thing this Treasurer knows.
to infrastructure, we are a growing city and a growing state; we are one of the
fastest growing areas in Australia. There are more than 100 000 extra
people every year. Under this government infrastructure investment is down by
$6.4 billion. That is $6.4 billion worth of work that Labor has ended
and $6.4 billion worth of jobs that Labor has destroyed. Labor has
cancelled projects, including east–west link stage 1, east–west link
stage 2, the Melbourne rail link and the airport rail link. Labor will
leave Victorians stuck in traffic for longer, hurting productivity and damaging
the quality of life of our citizens.
is now so desperate for projects that it is trying to claim credit for the
CityLink‑Tullamarine Freeway widening project, a project signed by the
coalition government. Maybe Labor thinks that any contract of the former
government that it does not rip up counts as one of its own projects. Of the
road projects Labor did take to the election, most are unfunded in this budget.
Thompsons Road, Yan Yean Road and Napier Street — the money is not there
to get those projects built.
course there was one what I will call not a major project but a semi‑major road
project that Labor did take to the election and seek a mandate for — the
West Gate distributor. That project has been junked in Labor’s first six months
in office. However, somebody needs to tell the Minister for Roads and Road
Safety, because the Premier has been saying that the West Gate distributor is
finished but the roads minister seems to think it is still alive. Nobody over
there seems to really know what is happening.
member — Did you talk to the
Mr M. O’BRIEN — That is true. That
brings me to another road project that hangs like a shadow over this budget.
Here is what Daniel Andrews said in the Australian
Financial Review of 10 November 2014:
project without a business case, it’s a project without a mandate.
do you remember those days when Labor said that business cases were essential
and mandates were indispensable? Like some member of the Kardashian clan, this
Premier has simply decided that mandates are out of fashion and business cases
are so 2014 — they just do not matter anymore.
ditched the east–west link and with no major shovel‑ready road projects, the
Premier has now embraced a secret proposal by Transurban to build a pale
imitation of the second stage of the east–west link. He now wants to sign
Victorians up to a project he never mentioned before the election at a cost of
$5.5 billion, with no business case. That is not what the Premier promised
Victorians. This Premier’s broken promise condemns him as a hypocrite of the absolute
is worse is that the Premier wants everybody else to pay for this toll road
except for him. He is busy sending invoices to the Prime Minister saying,
‘Please pay for this toll road’. Not only does the Premier demand that motorists
of Melbourne’s east and south‑east pay for a western suburbs trucking tunnel
they will not use, but by extending CityLink tolls out to 2050 he wants the
kids of those motorists to pay as well. But he is not prepared to put in one
red cent of his own. What a fraud.
it comes to rail projects, we now know that when the Premier says he has no
respect for Greens he is actually referring to the member for Yan Yean. Why
else would he not only exclude her from the ministry but also turn her promise
to build the Mernda rail extension during 2015 into a fraud? How does Labor
expect to build a train line costing $600 million to $700 million for
just $9 million? Who is going to tender for that contract? Will it be
Tonka or Lego? The people of Yan Yean and the city of Whittlesea have been
conned by this Labor government, and they will not forget the Mernda rail
Labor’s promise to remove 50 level crossings, the only thing that can be
said is that Labor has delayed removing the crossings that were funded by the
previous government. There were eight fully funded level crossings — four
on the Cranbourne‑Pakenham corridor and four announced in last year’s
budget — but despite the fact that those contracts were out to tender,
this government has dragged its feet to delay getting them done. The money is
there; the projects need to be done. Why is this government dragging its feet
on delivering the coalition government’s fully funded level crossing removals?
this budget we see no real funding for its own level crossing removals. The
government has hitched the entire funding for this to a transaction which has
not yet occurred. The Treasurer has again brought up the magic pudding of
contingencies. You have to actually have money in the budget before you can
have a contingency — and at the moment the Treasurer does not have even
education, the Treasurer claimed in his speech that this is ‘the biggest
education budget in Victoria’s history’. We know that is the sort of cheap
rhetoric this government likes to put on numberplates, but let us look at the
facts. With this budget the Andrews government is patting itself on the back
because it has announced funding for 10 new schools. But do members know
how many new schools the former coalition government funded last year?
though the coalition delivered funding last year to build a much‑needed new
school such as the Prahran secondary college, Labor has now completely dropped
the ball and has failed to get the school up and running in the interests of
local families. Labor has also let down the community in South Melbourne by
failing to progress the investment and work undertaken for the new primary
school at Ferrars Street. And of those schools that will receive an upgrade
with this budget, it is telling that around two‑thirds of them are in Labor‑held
electorates despite Labor holding only 53 per cent of the seats in this
chamber. Yet again under a Labor government electoral margin — rather than
educational merit — counts for more.
state schools well remember the $420 million maintenance backlog that
Labor left last time it was in office. This budget sends the message that
Labor’s neglect of the school basics will be repeated, with underinvestment in
maintenance and less than half of the promised funding for asbestos removal
is not only state schools that have cause for concern with this budget. Of the
$120 million committed to infrastructure for Catholic and independent
schools over four years, a paltry $10 million, or only 8.3 per cent,
has been funded in 2015–16. While Labor ducks and weaves on whether it will
honour the final two years of Victoria’s commitment to the Gonski initiative,
no school can be confident that its future funding will be secure.
it comes to technical schools, Labor is the party that closed down technical
schools in the 1980s, and in this budget it has provided peanuts, ensuring that
Victoria remains many years away from any new tech school opening its doors.
relation to the budget being for families, community safety is absolutely
essential. Under the coalition more than 1900 additional Victoria Police
officers were recruited, together with 950 protective services officers
(PSOs) — the same PSOs Labor disparages; the same PSOs the current Deputy
Premier of this state insulted by calling them ‘plastic police’; the same PSOs
who protect this very Parliament and keep us safe from harm. Labor’s budget
offers no additional police and no additional PSOs — not one.
not think I have ever seen a government come to power and not promise to
deliver any new police at all. What an appalling action. That is completely
inadequate for a state growing by around 100 000 people each year.
Worse still, Labor’s financial mismanagement is cutting $23.8 million from
the police operational budget to pay for a black hole in Labor’s poorly costed
country police radio policy. This government cannot talk with any credibility
about Victorian families while at the same time failing to recruit additional
police and ripping off the police budget to fix its own financial blunders.
action of the Andrews Labor government could better demonstrate its
determination to put politics ahead of people than its disgraceful attack on
the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. To cause the loss of $20 million in
philanthropic funding, to cause the loss of 42 cancer beds and to
undermine the financial security of one of our most important cancer treatment
centres is outrageous. To do so in the pursuit of outdated socialist
ideology — a hatred of private medical practice co‑locating with public
health — is nothing less than a disgrace. But given this Premier’s track
record when he was Minister for Health in the Brumby government, perhaps we
should not be surprised.
budget has serious failures when it comes to health. It completely fails to
fund the Maroondah breast cancer centre or the Aikenhead Centre for Medical
Discovery; it provides only 10 per cent of funding for the Victorian Heart
Hospital that the government promised to have open by 2018; as we heard in
question time today, it funds less than 2.5 per cent of the cost of the
expansion of the Casey Hospital; and it cuts 20 per cent from dental
How can a Labor government that claims to care for
families cut 20 per cent from dental concessions for impoverished families
in this state? In addition, 94 per cent of the hospital beds identified as
needed by this government’s Travis review remain unfunded.
True to form, in this budget Labor ignores most of
Victoria which is beyond the tram tracks. If you do not live near a graffiti‑covered
inner city laneway, this government thinks you are just camping out. It has
shown its lack of concern in the traditional Labor way — through budget
cuts to funding for agriculture, regional tourism and country roads, including
through cuts to the country roads and bridges program, as well as by short‑changing
country Victoria by abolishing the coalition’s $1 billion Regional Growth
Fund and replacing it with a pale imitation.
When it comes to public transport Labor made big
promises, but what we see in the budget is just a big black hole. All we see is
$1.5 billion for the Melbourne Metro rail project, which has an $11 billion‑plus
price tag. The Treasurer and the Premier can never tell us where the money will
come from. They will try to put $3 billion into a high‑priced credit card
as a result of walking away from the east–west link. They say the private
sector will invest, but since when did the private sector invest in public
transport infrastructure? It does not happen. It might invest in services, but
it does not invest in the building of the infrastructure. The federal
government has said it is not its business and that it has money available for
other projects. The Treasurer cannot tell us how he will fund the
$11 billion cost of the Melbourne Metro rail project.
What happened to Infrastructure Victoria? The body was
supposed to be set up to give the government a tick on all these big‑ticket
items. The government has committed to building the Melbourne Metro rail
project and to spending $5.5 billion on taking Transurban’s ideas off the
shelf without going through Infrastructure Victoria, with no mandate and no business
cases. What happened to all of that? Again it is last season’s fashion.
When it comes to train and tram procurement, those
opposite should pay copyright fees to the member for Polwarth and the member
for South‑West Coast. Labor never conceived of having a 10‑year procurement
program for trains and trams, let alone announcing it, until the coalition
government announced it during the election campaign. If imitation is the
sincerest form of flattery — and it is probably the only form of flattery
the Minister for Public Transport is capable of when it comes to this side of
the house — the former Premier and former Minister for Public Transport
have been flattered indeed. All Labor has done is take the coalition’s ideas
off the shelf because it has none of its own.
I have spoken a lot about economic issues but social
issues are also at the heart of this budget. I need to mention only one to
demonstrate how all the rhetoric, slogans and political spin about the budget
being for families and about putting people first is an absolute hoax. In this
budget the government has cut funding for the Victorian Responsible Gambling
Foundation, not just in real terms by not indexing it to inflation but even in
nominal terms. What a mean and indefensible budget measure that is. It is one
that affects some of the most vulnerable members of our community. This is from
a Premier who as opposition leader could not stop telling us in his
advertisements how he was all about putting people first. What people benefit
from cuts to problem gambling funding?
This is a government that has its priorities wrong. In
just six months it has weakened Victoria on every economic indicator and has
hurt Victorian families. This Treasurer is like somebody who has been thrown
the keys to a sports car and has crashed it on the way out of the dealership.
He has turned the strongest finances in the country into a ruin. He has a
phoney surplus propped up by east–west link money. He has higher unemployment,
higher debt and lower infrastructure spending. This is a bad‑news budget. It is
not a budget for families. It is a budget of broken promises. For Victorians
looking for work it is bad news. For Victorians stuck in traffic it is bad
news. For Victorians worried about the cost of living, the budget does not
help; it hurts. This is a bad budget from a Labor government that has
demonstrated that, true to form, it cannot manage money and cannot manage major
projects. Victorians deserve better than this budget. The only positive thing
about it is that we are one budget closer to the return of coalition government