APPROPRIATION BILL 2014

Ms Garrett (Brunswick) — I must say that I am staggered  that the member for Mitcham decided to spend about half of her  speech  criticising  members  of the Labor  opposition about our  relationship with the federal  Labor Party, because that opens a  very,  very large door onto her government’s relationship with the government’s best friends in Canberra. Government  members sat silent and timid while we lost  an entire industry  in  Victoria. Government members were shamed into acting for workers at SPC Ardmona when their federal best friends did absolutely nothing for weeks. Yesterday 300 jobs were cut at Qantas, and the government’s bloke could not even pick up the phone to Joyce. Government members have a shameful record on standing up for Victoria against their best friends in Canberra, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

That  leads us most  spectacularly, most dramatically  and most significantly to what has been widely regarded as the worst federal budget this country has seen. The viciousness of the cuts, the disregarding of the most poor and vulnerable in our community  and the ideological  witch-hunt against middle  and  lower income Australia has taken everybody by the most awful and horrific surprise. There was no discussion of this prior to the election; in fact  it was quite the opposite. The Premier’s best  friend,  Tony Abbott, said, ‘It’ll all be business as usual. Nothing will change. Don’t believe the  scaremongering’. My goodness me!  It was worse  than even we thought it was going  to be, with $80 billion ripped out  of health and education and  a co-payment put on  Medicare for everybody, including the  most  poor and vulnerable, and now the government’s mates upstairs want  to increase that from $7 to $10.

I want to tell members of this chamber just one story about what that co-payment means  to people on low and fixed incomes. There is a bulk-billing clinic on the corner of Sydney Road and Brunswick Road, Brunswick, called Better Health. It is always full of people  needing  medical attention — old people, sick people and young children.  The day  after this  budget the  Leader of the Opposition and I were visiting that clinic and coming out of it we saw  an 89-year-old  pensioner who visits  it so she can be  bulk-billed. The co-payment means that  she has to choose between going to the doctor and having a meal. It is a complete and utter disgrace that that  happens  in this country. The government’s best mates did it with  no warning; it  was  dumped on everybody in  the  middle of the night  and turned everybody’s lives upside down.

What is the  impact of  something like  that on  pensioners and  on people  with little kids who need to be  immunised? If it is a choice between the  doctor and food, you have to choose food.

The flow-on  impact, to  say nothing  of the  human rights  impact, will mean an increase in chronic disease  and people ending up at the other end of  the chain because they have not sought medical care when they needed it. What does it mean for the hundreds of thousands  of diabetics  in this  country? It is an absolute disgrace, and we have not heard a peep about it from those opposite. I take that back:  we have  heard a very large peep from those opposite, from upstairs, that it should be increased.

I stand here not just on  behalf  of the people of Brunswick but of  everybody I have spoken to around Victoria. There has been horror and  outrage  expressed by the community against this budget and the silence of the Napthine government. We had Nappers  and Tone running around with blue washes all over  them. They  were like best friends  holding  hands.  They  could  not get enough photos taken. We heard, ‘You will be the best Prime Minister ever’.

You have gone slightly quiet on that,  but my goodness, you need to be making  a much better noise standing up for Victoria than you are now. You are ripping the heart out of things that Australians and Victorians hold very dear, and you will be held to account for it.

That brings me to education. The ripping apart of education that the federal and state  Liberals have done is quite extraordinary. It is almost like  the  Acting Speaker and  I are back at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings. We spent two  weeks together  in a  room. We  traversed many  issues during that time,  not the least of which was the questioning of the Minister  for Education regarding just  where the Gonski money had gone. We all recall when the deal was done  with  the  federal Labor government. Oh my goodness, the fanfare  and  the press  releases. We had huge  conferences. There were  joint media releases from across the country. This was huge. We were transforming education.

You  and your  mates have transformed education all right — by kicking the most vulnerable and weak in our community — –

  The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order!  I have allowed a bit  of latitude to the  member  for Brunswick. She needs to address her comments through the  Chair and refer to other members of the house by their appropriate titles.

  Ms Garrett — Through you,  Chair, the Liberals  and  Nationals opposite and their  Liberal  and  Nationals  friends  in  Canberra  have  decimated  and  are decimating  the  fundamental  tenets of our society, including universal  health care, access to good public education, an appropriate safety net  for people who need  it,  looking  after  the  disabled,  the  weak and the vulnerable  in  our community, and literally shredding the concept of a fair  and just society and a fair go for all.

When we asked the minister where the Gonski money was in the state budget, which was obviously released just a few days before the  federal  bombshell  that most horrifically  caught  everybody  by  surprise, the minister obfuscated; he  made things up.  Apparently it  was all one big sloshy bucket. There was no  separate Gonski money.  The  minister was quizzed  repeatedly. The member  for  Lyndhurst asked:

  If you could just show us where the additional  funds are in the budget paper,  I would appreciate it, Minister.

The minister replied:

  In Victoria there is no such  thing as Gonski money. It is the money  that the  state government puts into  education  and  it  is  the money that the federal  government puts into education. It is all one big bucket.

We had a lot of references  to buckets. The member for  Preston then grilled the minister:

  Minister,  I note your answers to the last two questions. I would just like to  interrogate a bit further some of the detail related to the Gonski  agreement,  as it is called. Can you provide a breakdown year by year?

The minister answered:

  As  I said, the school agreement that we signed … is not itemised; it is one  big bucket.

Then I asked:

  Look,  I’ve never met a government that is purporting to  deliver such  a huge  transformative project, but apparently it  is all in one big sloshy bucket and  nothing can be pointed to in terms of specific output.

The minister replied:

  I would like to say  to  the committee, we do not have  two  buckets of money,  Gonski and non-Gonski because there is no Gonski, and we know that.

Then we come to what this budget has done to education.

It is not just about  the missing  Gonski billions;  we have  further hacks into TAFE. This comes on  the  back of a  program  of  attack from the  Baillieu  and Napthine  governments  which saw a huge amount of money  ripped  from  our  TAFE system  and  the  slashing  of  our Victorian  certificate  of applied  learning programs, which  are so critical to keeping young people in mainstream education and giving them a chance.

On  top  of that, think about  what  their federal friends put  on  top of that, including no access to social security for six months. We are really  going down the path of  creating  a  class society in  the  most heinous of ways.  All  the outcomes  from this government  about the participation rates of 15-year-olds to 24-year-olds in training and  education are showing real strain. This impacts on real  people’s lives. It thwarts  young people’s capacity  to  make something of themselves, and it is really shameful.

Then we get to health. On  top of  the federal government absolutely ripping the guts out of our public hospital system with its  massive cuts, we know that this government’s  performance on ambulances  and the health system  has been woeful. For the third year in a row,  code 1 ambulance response times will not meet  the 15-minute response time target. It is really distressing. More than a quarter of urgent  code  1 responses have not  arrived  on time. You  are  on your own. The amount of money this government is  choosing to spend on prison beds rather than hospital beds is again something that the community feels very strongly about.

I was remiss not  to point something out during my contribution on education but I  was  passionately  upset  about the federal government and Gonski and what it means for our  kids’ future.  In my  electorate of Brunswick I have been calling for this government  to fund the  urgent upgrade and modernisation  of Brunswick Secondary College, an amazing school  which is hugely multicultural. People from all over the world attend it, with all the benefits that brings.

It is  a remarkable  place. Once  again this government has failed to look after that  vital education institute in  the electorate of Brunswick.  Its members do not care about education.

Then we get to the  shambolic and  botched transport approach and the dumping of the Melbourne Metro project, which another one of the government’s dear friends, the  Lord Mayor,  described  as  a 100-year  catastrophe.  It  has  been  widely condemned as a hasty thought bubble from those opposite, who chose to throw away years of hard work that  had  been  put  into  creating  a world-class transport system for Melbourne. This 100-year catastrophe appears to have been done  on  a whim. I think it is important to quote ministers directly.

We asked the Minister for  Public  Transport about the Melbourne rail scheme and what sort of work had been done  regarding  business cases and geotechnical work that  had been done along the new proposed route  between  Domain  and  Southern Cross, via  the  wonderful station of Montague, which really has become a legend for all  time —  the old Fishermans Bend which is nowhere near Fishermans Bend! We also asked Minister Mulder what will be made public. He said:

  As I indicated,  we have a preliminary,  comprehensive business case that  has  been provided …

A  preliminary,  comprehensive business  case!  This  is on  top  of the interim business cases. I  think the Victorian community  is getting very  strongly  the impression  that in fact  this  government does not  have comprehensive business cases  for these  thought bubbles. Also a lot of Victorians will actually be cut out of the city loop as a result of this proposal.

The government  should  hang  its  head  in  shame,  as  it should regarding the east-west link — an $8 billion black hole that the community simply does not want. It is an extraordinarily expensive exercise —

  Honourable members interjecting.

  Ms Garrett — I understand why those opposite are upset,  I really do. I would be really upset too about  the kind of leadership that is being shown, not  just by those in the  house; certainly I would be  most ashamed of what their federal colleagues have done.

The final point I would like to touch upon, which my good  friend the member for Richmond  made  a strong  point  about,  is  the  shameful  performance of  this government in public housing. It  is shameful. As a former mayor of the City  of Yarra,  in which there is a  significant amount  of public  housing, I  know the importance of having people housed close to the  city,  with  access to services and decent schools.

They  used  to be decent schools, but I  am  not sure how these things will look post Abbott.

Making sure  that people have  those  things, particularly people  escaping from family violence,  is vital.  We should  be providing  them with a safe roof over their heads, which allows people to break poverty cycles and make something of a life for themselves  and their children. This  government has simply  failed  to invest  properly in public housing. It is not only that it has failed to invest; it  is flogging off public housing land at a rate of knots. The government has a very  clear program. We know the site in Richmond that  has been  identified for flogging off could have made a  very big  difference in the public housing stock and capacity. This  is a shameful budget, it  comes on top of a shameful federal budget, and we will be holding the government to account.

Hansard, 29 May 2014