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