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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1288


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (10:59): I am very pleased to contribute to this morning's debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013 because appropriations debates are an opportunity to articulate one's vision as a government for the nation, and we certainly have articulated our vision for the nation through funding commitments since coming to office. It is an extraordinary history of investment in infrastructure, in education and in health to benefit communities such as mine in La Trobe.

It is extraordinary listening to a member from Victoria whose last contribution was to talk about what a government might do on coming to office. We all know about the 'gonna' government of Ted Baillieu—'woulda, coulda, shoulda'. 'We would, we might, we will at some point,' and then they proceed to dither and do nothing for an entire term. So it is extraordinary to listen to this sentiment, seemingly about national vision. Typically, when the Liberals come to office, we see them stagnate. We see them come to a standstill. We see infrastructure spending come to a standstill.

But, worse than that, we see them have a look at things that, hypothetically, a Labor government might have committed to in its term prior to, for instance, a government such as Ted Baillieu's coming to office—for instance, the funding commitment that has gone to the duplication of Clyde Road. We all know that under this government a funding commitment of around $30 million was made to the duplication of Clyde Road in my electorate. It was supported also by an investment made by the Brumby government for Clyde Road. At the time that those announcements were made, conservatives were very happy. I know the former member for La Trobe—who is now running again, it seems—was very happy to articulate his concern that this would be a completely ineffective project. People did not want to turn up and congratulate the initiative of this government and the Brumby government in investing in the duplication of a road in one of the growth areas in Melbourne. But now we find that the Victorian minister is very happy to put on a hard hat and a high-vis vest, come out and rebadge this as something that is good for the area and tremendously well supported by the Victorian government. Five minutes earlier it was something that required looking at, required additional work and required some serious thinking, and now, when it is something that is underway and that he and others on the conservative side understand is beneficial for a growing area, they decide that it is something that they want to support.

So, if we are talking about a vision for the nation, this side has it in spades—a vision for the nation which is backed up by the kinds of investments that we see made or secured through appropriation bills such as this and the appropriation bills and initiatives that have preceded it. In the context of the matters I was noting before about the growth area of Melbourne, and certainly the growth area in my electorate, I note today that there is some reporting on a recently commissioned report delivered today called One Melbourne or two? I look forward to the opportunity to consider that in some depth in the coming days. I understand that it is particularly focused on increased investment in Melbourne in those areas that are rapidly growing, including areas such as mine. I certainly know that growth continues to be speedy in the areas of Cardinia and Casey in my electorate, as it does in a number of other parts of Melbourne.

I thought it was worth speaking about that in the context of some of the investments that this government has made to support the growth corridors in Melbourne in order to support the growing population of Melbourne and the growing population of Victoria. It is worth bearing in mind that the investments that were made in Victoria under the Howard federal government at its time of departing office were around $89 per Victorian. At this time it has more than doubled: it has gone to just over $200 per Victorian today. All told, this government has provided an unprecedented $6.8 billion from our six-year Nation Building Program to rebuild and renew Victoria's road, rail and public transport infrastructure. These are incredibly important investments and it is this government, and certainly not the Baillieu government, which is making those kinds of forward-thinking investments, recognising some of the growth pressures in Melbourne and, I am sure, in a number of other cities around Australia. I thought it would be worth reflecting later in my remarks today on some of the specific investments that have gone ahead in electorates such as mine in terms of education infrastructure, health infrastructure, roads infrastructure and social and community amenities. I think that is appropriate to do. These are issues that I have raised in this place which I continue to raise formally and informally in advocating on behalf of communities right across my electorate but in particular, in the context of this discussion about growth, in Casey and Cardinia. I look forward to the opportunity to speak further with those councils about some of the findings that are presented in this report.

I would say, however, that in Victoria we have come to realise that any investments that are likely to be made in infrastructure and in growing communities come from this federal government. It is incredibly difficult, and many people will tell you that it is incredibly difficult, to get access to or find an opportunity to articulate the needs of growing communities to the Victorian Premier and to get any kind of meaningful response. We hear that regularly in the state.

The overall investment in health and education by this government has been extraordinary, and certainly in Victoria that has been the case. I would like to talk about some of those investments in health and education in my electorate and also some of the other investments in relation to social infrastructure, roads infrastructure and other commitments that we have made to support our growing population.

I note, as I have noted previously, that this government has made around $110 million in commitments and has delivered those commitments through the Building the Education Revolution program. But that is certainly not the only program that has gone to supporting capital works in my electorate. I am delighted to be able to say that we have invested heavily in trade training within my electorate, which is very much to the benefit of one of the growth regions of Melbourne. I can report to the House that Hillcrest Christian College has been the beneficiary of a trade training centre funding grant of $1.5 million to develop an equine trade training centre. That part of my electorate that is covered by Clyde and right across to Pakenham is an area that will certainly stand to benefit from this. There is a significant amount of interest in the equine industry. There are significant opportunities in the equine industry for young people and people who will be beneficiaries of education through this trade training centre. It shows the practical ways that this government is supporting prospects for employment and opportunity within the region.

Likewise we have made a commitment of almost $1.3 million in a trade training centre at Belgrave. This is a trade training centre which will provide opportunities for training in hospitality, among other things, to not only students at Belgrave Heights Christian College but also students throughout the Hills region of my electorate. So those are two significant investments. There have also been quite significant investments in capital expenditure in a number of other schools throughout my electorate such as Beaconhills College and Heritage College, amongst others. I could certainly go on with quite a comprehensive list.

But, turning to some of the other investments, I should note that prior to coming to office I was certainly an advocate for investment in a new facility for Outlook disability services, which operates in Pakenham for the benefit of residents and families in looking after people with disabilities, their carers and their providers of support. At the time I came to office it was clear to me that the facility they were operating in was absolutely rundown and in need of repair. It was really substandard. It was for that reason that I advocated for a funding commitment to be given to them so that in a growth area there could be a decent facility for people to go to seek assistance from Outlook, which provides disability services and which also operates some employment services within the region. It was for that reason that this government invested $3.2 million in the building of that new community centre—to support the work of Outlook. It is something that I was very proud to support.

Likewise there have been a series of other investments made by this government. This is all about our practical vision for the nation, articulated in electorates like mine and electorates right around the country. We have seen the commitment, for instance, through the regional and local community infrastructure grant with lighting at a recreation reserve in my electorate—Holm Park Recreation Reserve—some work at Pioneers Park and some work at Coonara Community House in Upper Ferntree Gully, which does fantastic work providing training to local residents and really being a place for the community to come together not only to seek training but also child care and a number of social initiatives. These are practical ways that we are supporting existing communities and growing communities.

It is appropriate in the context of this kind of appropriations debate that those things be revealed because so often we hear from the opposition, with their sort of two-speed response to everything we say—they are a two-speed opposition; all that they do is dead slow and stop; there is no initiative—that they anticipate we will never make appropriations for appropriate health, education or social investments. All the funds for new initiatives, like the NBN and significant road development, come from the infrastructure fairy. This is an opposition which carps repeatedly, but which does not reflect on the positive things—the significant investments in electorates such as mine, which are supported by appropriation bills such as these.

We have seen a very significant commitment from this government in child care, particularly in my electorate at the Upwey Early Learning Centre, where we have invested a very significant amount in developing a new childcare facility there—over $7 million. In addition, we have provided funding for primary health care infrastructure. We have provided around three-quarters of a million dollars in primary care infrastructure grants, which to date have supported three GP practices in my area. This has expanded the services that they can provide—additional rooms and additional infrastructure to support their existing patients and also to extend themselves into new parts of the community. That has certainly been received very favourably within my electorate.

There are an extraordinary number of investments that have been made by this government to my electorate. I am sure that those councils I referred to earlier that have commissioned the report, which is discussed in the media today and entitled One Melbourne or two?, are very much aware of the investments that this government has made in relation to local councils. Certainly, they have been the beneficiaries of Roads to Recovery funding repeatedly. For instance, Cardinia Shire Council received about $1.2 million in 2011 under that program. Casey council received about $1 million; the Yarra Ranges Shire Council, also in my electorate, received almost $2 million; and Knox City Council received about half a million dollars. Those figures are certainly replicated subsequently.

There has also been significant funding for the discrete Black Spot Program in my electorate. For instance, in Berwick at the intersection of Inglis and Buchanan roads and on Amber Crescent in Narre Warren. All of these investments are practical ways that this government is assisting people in growth regions and is assisting people right around the country. While those opposite would deny that these kinds of investments need to be made, and whereas those opposite will say that this is simply about spending for no good end and that it is seemingly wasted money, I suspect that the electors in my patch, as with electors right around the country in electorates which have benefited from Black Spot funding, Roads to Recovery funding, health investments, education investments and infrastructure investments—big and small—would be very reluctant to take the same view, very reluctant indeed.

These are practical investments which alter the lives of people right around the country, and particularly in growth areas. I am very pleased to be able to speak in favour of this appropriation bill, as I have been proud to speak in favour of the funding measures that this government has supported in the past.