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Tuesday, 29 May 2018
Page: 4839

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (17:42): I rise tonight to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, which provides appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the annual services of the government for 2017-18 and for the remainder of 2018-19. I want to talk about how the budget affects my local electorate in Holt and some other issues. The local residents in Holt, in my experience and that of my staff, need financial relief given the very low wage growth that we've had over a number of years, the continued rise in the cost-of-living expenses and cuts to penalty rates. And they also are in urgent need of new infrastructure to keep pace with the rapidly growing population in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

The City of Casey, as of the end of 2017, had a population of 327,380 people. I'm sure it's well into the 330,000s now. In another 20 years, its size will be past Canberra's, basically. It's one of the fastest-growing areas of Australia. It's an area that, regardless of how it's portrayed in the press, offers, I think, a lot of hope for the future of our country. I'll be talking a bit further about how we can assist those many young families who have shifted into the area to make a life not only for themselves and their families but for their family's families, and talk about how they are portrayed and about how the real contribution that hardworking families in the outer suburbs make to our country's future should be appropriately recognised. I think the member for Werriwa has an outer suburban constituency as well, so she would well know what I'm talking about. Before I amplify that particular discussion point, we on this side certainly believe that more funding should have been committed to the City of Casey region. Some ideas include the duplication of Thomsons Road between Cranbourne and Clyde, and also an idea that I had that we had secured opposition support for prior to the last election, which was an overpass on the intersection of Thomsons Road and Western Port Highway. The budget delivered by the government does not invest in much needed infrastructure projects like that and other projects in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and in my area. The government certainly hasn't delivered in areas like protecting pensioners. It's cut the energy supplement, costing pensioners $14 a fortnight. It also has failed to deliver in areas such as education in schools and cuts to TAFE.

One contrast I would make is what the Andrews Labor government has achieved in Victoria, particularly in the infrastructure area, in the past 3½ years. Since being elected in November 2014, the Andrews Labor government has invested more than $48 billion to build the schools, the hospitals, the roads and the public transport system our state needs. Construction work completed in Victoria is up 6.5 per cent in the March quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, compared with the national average of just 0.2 per cent. As a result, more than 320,000 jobs have been created since the Andrews Victorian Labor government came to office. Business owners said to me for a long time before the election of the Andrews state Labor government that they wanted a government that invested in infrastructure, roads, construction and rail. With that investment, as testified by the figure of $48 billion, there are a lot of cranes, Deputy Speaker Kevin Andrews, as you would know, in the sky in Victoria. That's always a good sign. There is a lot of road and rail work being done and a lot of hospitals are being built. The Casey Hospital, for example, is very close to where I live. It's adjacent to my constituency, as it currently stands, with perhaps some alterations to occur in the future. The Andrews Labor government has made a very substantial investment there.

When people drive on the roads that are being widened, such as the Monash Freeway, or they travel on sky rail, particularly around the Cranbourne area, or they see the extension of the Narre-Cranbourne Road, TAFEs being built and expanded like the Chisholm Institute of TAFE, and the Casey Hospital—and that is a very, very large building that is offering excellent service to a growing community, one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia—they know that the state government is investing in essential infrastructure: road infrastructure, rail infrastructure and what I call medical infrastructure.

The other thing I want to compliment the Andrews government on is the number of new schools that have been opened in our area. It is amazing to see the number of almost high-tech schools that are catering to the growing community that we have in our region. I believe that the Andrews government has made a commitment for another three schools just in that growth corridor, approximate to where I represent. That is a government that really is reacting to the needs of the community. The sense that I get when speaking to people about the Andrews government—in contrast to what, I regret to say, the Turnbull government has been doing in the south-east in terms of investment in infrastructure—is that Daniel Andrews is getting things done. Certainly, when you look at the hospitals, the roads and the new schools, you can see a lot of work being done. People believe that this government is investing in them and their future. I'd like to commend the government. I hope that the Andrews Labor government is re-elected, particularly on the basis of all the fine work that it's done for the outer suburbs. I respectfully draw your attention, as a comparison, to the investment that we've seen by the Turnbull government. As an example, there has been very little investment in contrast to the splendid new series of wards that have been built at the Casey Hospital.

We have been meeting. Ever since I shifted into the region in 1996, there has been a discussion about a second airport in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, as you would know. A consortium has been working with the Andrews Labor government to finally, after many, many years, potentially invest in an airport after the appropriate environmental impact statements have been made so that the growth corridor would not be adversely affected by the creation of a second airport. But I think we are very close. My understanding is that that consortium has been supported by the Andrews government, and that is something. I do support this second airport with the proviso that those appropriate environmental impact statements are taken into account and the flight paths of what would be Melbourne's second major airport do not adversely affect pockets in some of the growth belt suburbs. I do completely support that. There would be a thousand jobs.

The potential here is this: we will have a second major airport and potentially an airport that could rival Tullamarine down the track—and we're talking about the next 40 or 50 years. This will transform the south-eastern region of Melbourne. And the investment, as I understand it, having spoken to the consortium concerned, is somewhere in the order of about $7 billion. But my point is that I'm not aware of the engagement with the federal government with respect to that, and that's a disappointment. These matters need to be negotiated with both the state government of Premier Andrews, which has been supportive, and the federal government, and, from my understanding, that sort of engagement has not happened. I think that's a bad thing when this federal government's touting a lot of the work and a lot of the investment it has made. It could have made, for example, the overpass investment on the corner of Thompsons Road and Western Port Highway. It did not.

We took, as I said, to the last election a $65 million commitment, as I understand it, to actually help the state government construct that overpass. The state government is widening Thompsons Road. It's put Skyrail over Thompsons Road. It's an important east-west feeder and connector and it's of critical significance in feeding traffic into, particularly, EastLink as well, taking traffic from Frankston almost all the way up to Berwick. It needs that sort of investment and that commitment, and that affects marginal seats like Dunkley and places like that, so you would think that a government that did have some measure of concern about its seats would do that.

We certainly did not have that bipartisan support that I would have expected at the last federal election, but we will obviously be speaking to our relevant shadow ministers to talk about, prior to the next election, how they can assist as they have in the past. I can recall, as an example, that prior to the 2007 election the federal government was not investing in part of one of the rural and regional development funding programs for a water-harvesting facility at Casey ARC. I understand that, finally, just prior to the election the then Howard government was prepared to invest, I think, a million dollars. We had our shadow minister, who was Anthony Albanese, that came down. We made a $5 million investment. We have invested. I'd like to point out also what we have done as well.

We invested, particularly during the global financial crisis during the Rudd-Gillard prime ministerships, over $10 million in the City of Casey in emergency funding to ensure that jobs were generating. There is a very fine state-standard athletics track that was funded to the tune of, I think, about $9 million post around the 2009-10 period due to the rural regional infrastructure funding.

Why do I raise this? Because, even with the $10 million that was given by the Abbott government for Bunjil Place, which is a significant, region-leading, $125 million investment by the state government, we cannot access funding anymore through that program line. It's changed from the National Stronger Regions Fund to the Building Better Regions Fund. That's great. We can say to people, 'We invested $10 million,' but, when we have significant other projects that are desperately needed, there is no funding opportunity for us to pursue that.

Cranbourne East is the fastest-growing area in Australia. To say to them that it's okay to fund the regions, but you don't have a discrete outer region funding mechanism, as was used by the previous Abbott government to get the City of Casey the $10 million, is completely unsatisfactory. Tell that to the people who wait in a kilometre-long queue on Clyde Road every morning, when they're coming to work and trying to connect to the Monash Freeway. That is completely unacceptable.

I note that the member for Jagajaga is in the chamber. One of the signature achievements of the Keating prime ministership in particular was the Building Better Cities program. I think it was administered by Brian Howe. It was an inspired program. It was a program that was meant for the outer suburbs, to make our cities more livable and more equitable. They were the two terms used. Time after time you would come across projects across the city—these community-building projects. You would see these great projects—project after project—across the country. Myuna Farm in the suburb of Doveton was one and I think there was another project funded in the city of Elizabeth in South Australia. The feedback that we got was that they were projects that were needed by the community. That $816 million between 1991 and 1996 is a heck of a lot more money now. I represent the fastest-growing suburb, Cranbourne East and I contrast that funding with the level of funding that has been put in with the federal government investment in Cranbourne East now, which is about 0.0 dollars. That doesn't make people happy when they're waiting for half an hour to get onto the Monash Freeway, but it's also about more schools. It's about community based facilities. It's an amazing community, badly portrayed, I might say, by articles in The Age. The fact is when people go out there to make a life for themselves with their families, they shouldn't be written about pejoratively, as they were in The Age saying this area has become a large slum because it doesn't have the social infrastructure. The social infrastructure's not being there is the responsibility of governments that allowed that work to happen. It is our responsibility to provide the social infrastructure for these people in areas such as mental health and a whole range of other areas.

In concluding—I could go on and on, but I won't for the wellbeing of this chamber—the Andrews government has made significant investments in the outer suburbs. The Turnbull government needs to do this and it needs to do it soon.