I am delighted to take note of the Victorian budget, and in doing so I note that the Victorian Labor government’s budget is big on taxes and is big on borrowing, but in my view it is weak on hope.
It is weak on hope, and that is what our community needs at the moment. Our community needs hope. It needs hope for a better and brighter future, but what we have got is not hope from this Labor government. No, we have got big borrowing, big taxing, but we are weak on hope and, further, weak on jobs. Labor members opposite will crow.
They will. They will absolutely crow about this budget being all about jobs, but the reality is quite different. As a result of this budget, as a result of decisions made by this government, or decisions not made by this government, one in five of our fellow Victorians is either unemployed or underemployed—one in five.
I am not a Johnny-come-lately to the party when it comes to talking about the importance of work. I refer those in the chamber this evening to my maiden speech, my first contribution, where I spoke about my own experience growing up in the suburbs of Beaumaris, Black Rock, Sandringham, Mentone and Cheltenham, where I learned the freedom that comes with having a job. I said in that first speech:
… the opportunity to pay for my first car and overseas trip with the savings that I worked hard for. At an early age we understood the dignity of work and the opportunities that employment provides.
The dignity of work is something that is often spoken about in an abstract way, but for those who truly know its value having a job is life‑changing.
So when I say that this budget is big on taxes and big on borrowing but weak on hope and weak on jobs, that is precisely what I mean. We on this side of the chamber, the Liberal-Nationals, wanted this budget to aspire for more, to aspire for greatness, but it fell so, so short of that.
As recently as 7 December when the numbers were released on the commonwealth government’s labour market information portal it showed that job advertisements in Victoria have risen by a mere 4.5 per cent in the last 12 months, but the overall increase in Australia has been 11.2 per cent. So when I say that this budget is, again, big on taxes and big on borrowing but weak on hope and weak on jobs, there is another case in point.
In my first speech I also at that point proposed that Victoria should consider a debt ceiling and said that that was something that would be an economically responsible thing to do. I said in that first speech:
That is why we must have a debt ceiling in Victoria to avoid ripping off future generations. The Parliament— I suggested— should set a limit on Victoria’s net debt of no more than 6 per cent of gross state product.
No more than 6 per cent of GSP. Well, haven’t things moved on from there? Haven’t they? This is before the last budget. In the time up until the last budget the Andrews Labor government had borrowed some $49.5 billion, increasing our debt to GSP ratio from a mere 6 per cent, which was what I was advocating in my first speech contribution, to 12 per cent.
They doubled it. As my friend and colleague the member for South-West Coast points out, they doubled it in that time—in the first two years. This is pre COVID.
But it is worse than that now. The debt to GSP ratio is something closer to 30 per cent now. It seems like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? It seems like a pipe dream to think that way back then, when I delivered my first speech in this place—not that long ago—the aspiration at that point was to have a debt to GSP ratio of 6 per cent. My goodness. I then went on to say:
This would help to preserve the state’s AAA credit rating—
it would help to preserve the state’s AAA credit rating—
and ensure that intergenerational theft is significantly restrained.
I said then, and I say again today:
It is just not right to say that we pay some and our kids pay some.
And that is a quote from the Treasurer. That is reckless, I said, and I say again today: that is reckless, an irresponsible attitude and an arrogant attitude.
We must not be reckless with our spending. We must not mortgage my daughter’s and her children’s future. If there is no parliamentary oversight, governments will continue to spend taxpayer money as if there were no consequences for doing so.
And look at where we are at now.
As part of my role as the state member for Sandringham, a role that I am deeply privileged to occupy, to be the custodian of, I on behalf of my community, on behalf of our community, sent to the Treasurer a budget submission seeking to represent the needs of my community. In that budget submission, which to this point as of yesterday I have not received response to—funny that—I requested a number of things, including $2 million for the construction of a school hall at Beaumaris North Primary School. I acknowledge principal Sherril Duffy, an institution of the Beaumaris community and the Beaumaris North Primary School community, for her strong advocacy in seeking that outcome for her school and her school community. I asked for $1 million for the redevelopment of the Black Rock Primary School sports oval, and I acknowledge Mr Sam Tyndall, the principal of Black Rock Primary School, for his strong advocacy on behalf of his community for that outcome as well. I requested the stage 2 redevelopment of Sandringham College, and I acknowledge principal Amy Porter and the president of the school council, Mr Andrew Barlow, for their strong advocacy on behalf of their community for that outcome. I requested $7.5 million stage 1 funding for urgent maintenance and the development and implementation of a rebuild master plan at Mentone Girls Secondary College, and I acknowledge principal Linda Brown and president of the school council Rachael Angus for their strong advocacy in seeking that outcome as well.
Now, for a government that says—that claims—we are the Education State, for a government that claims that, sadly, in my community at least, they really need to put their money where their mouth is. They really do, because those requests—$2 million for Beaumaris North Primary, $1 million at Black Rock Primary, second-stage funding at Sandy Secondary and $7.5 million at Mentone—did not come through, were not delivered on. I mean, you may as well put in gold-plated doorhandles at Bentleigh Secondary College the way that the Labor member for Bentleigh has been advocating for his school. You may as well be replacing the taps with bronze fittings or something a little bit more elaborate at Mordialloc secondary college, thanks to the advocacy of the member for Mordialloc—another Labor-held seat. But in my seat, what do we get? Time and time again the government claims that they are governing for all. My community is sick of it. They are truly sick of it because they can see firsthand from all the things that this government does not deliver for my community that they are in fact not delivering for all. They are not delivering for all, and that claim is just simply false.
I requested $1 million for the restoration and ongoing maintenance of Hampton Pier—I acknowledge Graham White and John Barton for their advocacy; $50 000 for the beautification of Department of Transport traffic light boxes across the Sandringham district—I acknowledge Les Rausz of the Sandy Street Art Project, Geoff Bransbury of Graffiti Busters and Derek Jones of the Friends of Bayside Roads; $200 000 for the construction of female change room facilities at Trevor Barker Oval; the preservation of the vast majority of the former Gas and Fuel land on Nepean Highway, Highett, for community use—I will come back to that one; and $10 million towards the staged development of a multi-hectare regional sporting precinct within the Kingston green wedge.
Just on the Gas and Fuel land, 6.3 hectares of land, at a time when sporting groups and community groups are coming to me—by the way, just as a matter of fact, we are not making more land in my patch, in my community. We are not making more land. In fact there is less of it, but at the same time the population is increasing, at the same time the needs of my sporting communities and sporting clubs are greater. This is not an issue that is just affecting Sandringham; it affects a lot of areas. There are 6.3 hectares of state-owned land, prime land, former Gas and Fuel land on Nepean Highway, Highett. What does this government want to do with it? They want to sell it. They want to develop it. They want to put towers on it eight or nine storeys high. But the saving grace, they say, is the 11 per cent open space they are allowing—11 per cent of 6.3 hectares is the open space, open space that includes nature strips. There is no place to kick a footy, no place for passive recreation, a barbecue or something. No, no. This is what they want to do in my community. They say they govern for all but they do not.
I requested additional funding for the upgrade of Sandringham Hospital, specifically the outpatient clinic there. In the road safety space, I asked for half a million dollars for the installation of a pedestrian crossing facility at the intersection of Childers Street and Warrigal Road, Mentone. I take my hat off—metaphorically of course; I would not wear a hat inside, especially in this place—to crossing supervisor Denise Davis and Mentone Primary School deputy principal Ken Bergen for their strong advocacy in relation to that pedestrian crossing facility. Denise is a saint. She is a warrior and she is a saint. She risks her own life every morning and every afternoon at that crossing. I know, I have seen her do it. I have visited there a couple of times and I have observed it with my own eyes. She risks her own life at a very, very dangerous strip of road to protect the lives of the kids that cross at that crossing. When she is not doing that, she is caring for her aged and infirm husband. She deserves better. Those kids deserve better, and that is why I made that request.
Going on, I also requested the removal of the Warrigal Road level crossing in Mentone to be replaced by a rail underpass, and the removal of the Highett Road and Wickham Road level crossings in Highett to be replaced by a rail underpass. I requested more frequent bus services to and from Sandringham station, including bus routes 822, 600, 922 and 923. I requested the approval for the federal government’s fully funded construction of commuter car parking at Sandringham station to go ahead. I also requested on behalf of secondary schools in my area and principals who have advocated for this an additional protective services officer presence at Mentone railway station from 3.00 pm until 6.00 pm, in addition to the regular PSO shift that usually commences at 6.00 pm. I requested these things on behalf of my community because they are desperately needed. I did not put these together in a Sandringham district budget submission to the Treasurer because it was some sort of hope, wish, prayer, folly. No. Members of my community—hardworking members of my community; good, generous, giving members of my community—have come to me requesting them, and it is my job, it is my duty, to advocate for them.
But what we see from this government is an addiction to debt. It is an addiction to spending, and spending in all the wrong places. Just imagine for one moment. There are no issues with borrowing on this side of the house. There are no issues with borrowing whatsoever, especially in this climate. But we should be borrowing to build. We should be borrowing to build, not borrowing to waste. Imagine what could be done in my community if this government were not so addicted to waste?