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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5602

Mr BILLSON (7:39 PM) —In the few minutes I have tonight I would like to raise a few issues. The first arises from the great concern about the way in which the Rudd Labor government is prepared to spend taxpayers’ money on the mining supertax political propaganda campaign and how, as ugly and unattractive and as damaging as this is to democracy and in reflecting on the Prime Minister’s own words, it seems to be getting worse.

You can imagine my surprise when I read an article in the Frankston Standard Leader on 31 May where a state Labor MP said that an announcement to fund a $40 million pool in Frankston, which was the subject of a funding application to the Commonwealth government Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, was ‘expected soon’. You can imagine my surprise that a state Labor member of parliament would be making this kind of announcement. The report went on to state:

The Brumby Government will pledge its share of the costs in a pre-election sweetener before voters go to the polls and the Federal Government will follow.

You can imagine my surprise. Why would a state Labor MP be making announcements about a Commonwealth funding program where the applicant, the Frankston City Council, had not even been contacted by the federal government? They had lodged the application back in January and there was not a word. Not a word had come back from the federal Rudd Labor government, yet here was a state Labor MP saying that it was all sweet, all hunky-dory, and a ‘pre-election sweetener’ was just around the corner and the announcement would be made.

It was with some curiosity that I rang the Frankston City Council and said: ‘This is interesting. Have you read the announcement on the front page of the local newspaper?’ They were probably as bemused as I was about that announcement, given that there had been no communication with the Commonwealth about their application since they had lodged it in January. Not really to my surprise, but in a quite revealing conversation today with Frankston City councillors, the Commonwealth has told them that no money is coming for this pool project, and I wonder where this leaves the state member for Frankston, the ALP member, Alistair Harkness. He has made this promise about pools and we are coming up to the third election where he will make the same promise. The promise seems to be as empty as the pool that does not exist. There is no water in the pool because there is no pool. The promise keeps getting made over and over again and it amounts to nothing.

The nearest thing we have got to a pool in Frankston as a result of the empty, weak and obviously unpersuasive advocacy of the state Labor member for Frankston, Alistair Harkness, was to get bits of the FINA pool for the FINA championships that were held in Melbourne. Frankston got what we call the hand-me-down Harkness pool. There were only bits of it, not enough to create a pool, and even some of those bits have been given away and the bits that remain are in a container in the council depot in Frankston just wanting to be loved and wanting to be used. In fairness, some of the water filtration system could be used, but the rest of the bits of the pool are really not much good for anything other than public art or some kind of sculpture.

So with the surprise announcement we checked out what was going on. We found that the state Labor government has not made any pledge of any great note and the council is not at all optimistic that they will. The $2½ million that was pledged some time ago—a very small down payment on a project of this scale—has not even been provided. When I provided some leadership to this project and understood its importance to the local community and secured Commonwealth funding to develop a wellness and aquatic facility on the Monash Peninsula campus site, infrastructure that would support both the increasing student numbers and expanded academic programs at Monash Peninsula, where the university and the Commonwealth would provide some funding, we hoped the state government, if Dr Harkness was so interested in the project, would provide some funding. But that opportunity was missed as well because Dr Harkness still could not get any funding. So this completely unpersuasive empty suit that we have representing Frankston is just not delivering for our city.

Even in terms of transit cities we have been disappointed. We see $180 million spent in Dandenong as a transit city; in Frankston somewhere we have lost two digits. About $2 million has been spent for a transit city vision that does not take account of the fact that we need to extend the Frankston railway line to Baxter. We need to look at park-and-ride opportunities so close to the Frankston bypass, and deal with the freight traffic that will come up from the Stony Point railway line and mix and blend with the passenger rail services to Melbourne. It does nothing to secure the opportunity of a flying service that might stop only once or twice on that 44-kilometre trip to Melbourne. No, none of that. That will be part of a transit city and, albeit we have got a nice new wall on Kananook Creek and that is a great project, $180 million it is not—and that is what Dandenong got. We need to do something about this and get some genuine advocacy in our area.