MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (09:55:57) — Last Monday I visited two fantastic local schools. As I mentioned last week, we are delivering upgrades to Oakleigh Primary School which follow our previous master plan funding. I also visited Huntingdale Primary School to announce that we will be funding a new master plan to prepare for a future major upgrade. We have also delivered $400 000 for a new oval because the current one has become a dust bowl. Well done to the school leadership for their passion and the member for Clarinda and the federal member for Hotham, Clare O’Neil, for their advocacy, and of course thanks to the Minister for Education for his tireless work on this cause.
Author Archive | Steve Dimopoulos
MR DIMOPOULOS — Notting Hill Neighbourhood House is one of those places that is at the heart of the local community, with dedicated staff, mostly volunteers, putting in countless hours just to help others. But houses like this cannot exist without government help. The Labor government has increased the funding to Notting Hill Neighbourhood House from 20 hours per week to 25 hours. This means an extra $14 760 a year and a lot more access by the community. Thank you to Notting Hill Neighbourhood House for all you do for the community, and thank you, Minister Mikakos, for your recognition of the role that these houses play.
MR DIMOPOULOS — Lastly, I would like to inform the house that in a few weeks the level crossings at Grange, Koornang, Murrumbeena and Poath roads will be gone. This has been 139 years in the making — no thanks to those Liberals opposite, who have tried to stand in our way and have stated on the record that removing level crossings only provides a marginal benefit. We believe the exact opposite, which is why Labor is taking down the boom gates.
MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (18:40:28) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Appropriation (2018–2019) Bill 2018. We are a government of values and we are a party of values. Nothing quite represents the values of a government more than its budget, both in terms of its scope across all areas of public policy and all areas of service delivery. Nothing quite as broad as that exists in any other legislation we consider in this chamber. Its depth is extraordinary — $70 billion of expenditure. There is $70 billion in the Victorian budget and it is all represented in the appropriation bill that we are debating tonight.
When you believe in something, you do something about it. You do not just sit in the corner of your office or at home and talk to yourself about it, perhaps think about it or perhaps attend a press conference and talk about values. You actually do something about the things you believe in. You put them into action. We believe in the power of our commitment to the Victorian people. We believe in the power of the promises we made and the delivery on those promises. We believe in the bonds between words and actions, and that is what this budget and in fact the last four budgets have represented in this Parliament under this government.
Those on the opposite side who are filled with sorrow and regret for an opportunity lost will characterise this budget as a cash splash before an election. If they want some lines to attack this budget, they should do better than that. For example, let me take you back to four months after the 2014 election. That was 31 March. It was a Tuesday morning. It was a beautiful autumn day and I made my way to Carnegie station to meet the Premier and the Minister for Public Transport to make a pretty major announcement. This is the journey we have been on. The announcement was that we would ditch the expensive, inadequate project that the previous government received as an unsolicited bid to remove only four level crossings on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line at a cost of $2.5 billion, effectively privatising the line for 25 years. We said no, we were not going to do that.
There we were, on platform 1 of Carnegie station. The Premier and the minister for transport and I said, ‘No, we have something better for the community and for the Victorian people on the busiest transport corridor in Victoria’. We announced that we would remove the crossings at Centre Road, Clayton; Corrigan Road, Noble Park; Heatherton Road, Noble Park; Chandler Road, Noble Park; Clayton Road, Clayton; Poath Road, Murrumbeena; Murrumbeena Road, Murrumbeena; Koornang Road, Carnegie, and Grange Road, Carnegie — nine level crossings.
Mr Wynne interjected.
Mr DIMOPOULOS — I am glad that the minister at the table, the Minister for Planning, just asked how they are going. This is four months after we were elected. Six weeks from today all will be gone. In fact I can tell you that Chandler Road, Noble Park, is gone; Heatherton Road, Noble Park, is gone; Corrigan Road, Noble Park, is gone; Centre Road, Clayton, is gone; Clayton Road, Clayton, is gone. That is the commitment we had to the promises we made to the Victorian people. We have four more to go and they are going in six weeks time. When people on that side talk about a cash splash and last-minute action before an election, the truth shows them up.
We started this journey in March 2015 — in fact way before that. We started with the election campaign. That is one example, and that project is one I am extremely proud of. It will boost capacity up to 42 per cent in peak hour on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, an extra 11 000 passengers in the peak. We got straight to work. We put out an expression of interest and today we are here, a few weeks away from getting the last four crossings removed. In fact by the middle of June they will all be gone.
I will take you back to even before 31 March 2015. On 29 November 2014, on election day itself, I spent some time at the polling booth at Amsleigh Park Primary School with the volunteers, handing out for all parties. I looked to my right and I saw an A-frame with the words, ‘Labor will rebuild Amsleigh Park Primary School’. I knew that of course, but I thought it was great that we were telling voters as they were going to the polling booths that that very school would be rebuilt. Sure enough, the journey started then. I went to that school about three weeks ago and met with the principal. We are almost done with that project. The old red brick building, which we all love, has been gutted. We are refurbishing that. But the new building to house the junior school is completely built, with I think eight classrooms, very modern spaces, inclusive spaces and a place you would be proud to call a school. There are outdoor spaces and theatres. It is a wonderful, wonderful commitment to what we promised that community.
Again, we start with consultation and a plan and we deliver it within four years. By contrast in my community, with schools as one example, under the four years of the previous government only $544 000 was spent across all 15 schools in my electorate. In the three and a half years of this government, in the same electorate, in those same 15 schools I am talking about, how much do you think was spent by this government on improving the lives of students and the teachers’ capacity to teach? Fifty-six million dollars —
Mr Wynne — How much?
Mr DIMOPOULOS — Fifty-six million dollars, Minister for Planning. We have gone from $544 000 over four years on the same schools to $56 million under our government. That is a commitment to education, that is a commitment to Labor values and that is also a commitment to the community we serve. That is 103 times more funding than the funding under the previous government.
In this budget alone, there is $9 million for Oakleigh Primary School for a new gymnasium and a new fit-out of the old building, which was built in the 1970s and which has leaky roofs, rotten gutters and windows. We are going to fix all that. There is $300 000 for Clayton North Primary School to extend their hall; $400 000 for a new oval at Huntingdale Primary School and a new master plan; and $1.9 million for Monash Special Developmental School. Other colleagues have talked about the profound effect that spending on special needs schools has, and there is now $13.8 million for the Monash children’s hospital school — $13.8 million for a school that will teach 170-odd students who call Monash hospital their home for that period, with about 17 or 18 teachers. That is our record in education in one electorate in Victoria.
If you listen to those opposite, capital upgrades do not count. The shadow Minister for Education has left the chamber, but apparently capital upgrades do not count. But for us they absolutely do, and the parents, teachers and students tell us they do. As the Minister for Education says, you cannot have a 21st century education in 19th century accommodation.
That is the legacy of just two projects in my electorate — level crossing removals and schools — but there is so much more. The budget speaks to a lot of values that are not only dear to the Labor Party but are personally dear to me, and mental health is one of those. I thank the Minister for Mental Health for his very generous comments in relation to me, but fundamentally without his commitment and the commitment of the Treasurer and the Premier, the transformation of $700-odd million spending on mental health would not have happened. This means an extraordinary amount to not only people who have led torturous lives in terms of their ability to live in a community and fully express themselves as human beings but also their loved ones, who have to care for and worry about them day in, day out, who have to have endless conversations with nurses and psychiatrists in and out of psychiatric wards and endure late-night phone calls. The daily lived experiences of thousands and thousands of Victorians are too easy to ignore. They are not as powerful as the top end of Collins Street in arguing for funding. We are making over $700 million worth of investment in this budget for almost 13 000 more Victorians to get mental health beds. We are investing in the community and mental health sector and also in more drug and alcohol rehab services.
I wrote a story on Facebook the other day. A young man in Oakleigh rang me. His name was John, and he said, ‘I’m 32, I’m an ice addict and I want to get help’. For anyone who has dealt with someone who is an addict, whether it be ice or anything else, the first powerful step for them is to say, ‘I want help’, and he could not get any. That was two years ago. He could not get any help. He was of Greek background — not that that matters — his name was John and he lived in Oakleigh. I had an affinity with who he was and his life. I am so proud that we are investing in more drug and alcohol rehab beds because it is not just about John’s story, it is about the stories of his mum, his dad and his whole family who live lives of constant anxiety about where he will end up.
Another budget issue that speaks enormously to our values, as others have said, are the 30 TAFE courses. I saw some of the comments on the Premier’s —
Ms Thomson interjected.
Mr DIMOPOULOS — That’s right, member for Footscray — 30 TAFE courses. I saw some of the public, raw comments on the Premier’s Facebook page about the life-changing event that this is for some people. There is one that most people saw which said something like, ‘Wow, this now really does change everything for me. I have different choices. I need to rethink my choices’, because some TAFE courses are literally $15 000. This is not small fry. They are very expensive. There is a greater span of hours, giving students, whether they be younger students or older students, the capacity to learn during hours that are suitable to them regardless of their work commitments, so right into the evening and on Saturdays. It is giving people a real chance.
The other thing that speaks to our values as a Labor government is the social procurement stuff that the Minister for Industry and Employment talked about — investments in effectively creating a whole generation of apprentices by using the power of the Victorian government’s chequebook to require 10 per cent of all jobs to be for apprentices and for 2.5 per cent Aboriginal employment targets. I went down with the member for Clarinda to the Clayton level crossing and saw 30 or 40 Aboriginal Australian workers on the project. I think we have reached over 100 now. Fundamentally they would not have had that chance if it was not for the policy matching the expenditure of this government and the values of this government.
There is a lot more I would love to say, but I do want to quickly pick up on a couple of things the member for Malvern and others have said on the other side. I do not want to waste too much of my time on them because, as the Premier says, they are really irrelevant to the goals and the achievements of this government. Fundamentally all they can argue — and it is false anyway — is that we are the highest taxing government. A, that is false. That is absolutely false. But they also say —
Ms Thomson interjected.
Mr DIMOPOULOS — That’s right. As the member for Footscray says, it is absolutely fake news. But they talk about cost blowouts. I think the member for Malvern literally talked about the Cranbourne-Pakenham level crossing removal project and its cost blowout. What he failed to tell the chamber is that from when we initially announced this project to where it is today we have added a whole measure of things to the project which has made it far better. We have increased the signalling and capacity of the whole line, not just where the level crossings are being removed but the entire line. The signalling upgrades mean we will now be able to run trains back to back safely. That is why we were able to, a few weeks ago, make the announcement that from 7.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. at night we will have trains every 10 minutes. In the morning it will be ‘turn up and go’. Fancy that. That is like London or Tokyo — ‘turn up and go’. It is absolutely incredible. They are the investments. That is what you get when you make such investments. They are not cost blowouts, member for Malvern. I would not call those cost blowouts; I would call them prudent investments.
When you talk about cost blowouts you also have to be cognisant of the fact that this government is delivering budget surpluses that are unparalleled, as the Treasurer said, in Victoria’s history. There is $2.4 billion on average in budget surpluses. Debt is down to about 4.5 per cent, from memory. We inherited 6 per cent. So there is lower debt, more budget surpluses, the fastest growing economy in Australia and the biggest employment growth. So the opposition’s commentary about cost blowouts falls on absolutely deaf ears, because we get value for that investment and we also observe budget prudence and fiscal prudence in our budgets. I am immensely proud of this budget and I am immensely proud of this government, of the Premier’s role obviously as the leader of this proud, proud government, of the Treasurer’s role and of the finance minister’s role. I commend the bill to the house.
MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (14:02:27) — I rise to support the motion moved by the manager of government business. I do so because the opposition talk about accountability, but when we talk about accountability we are accountable — yes, of course — to the Parliament, but we are accountable more so to our communities. Our communities, as the member for Essendon said, are expecting us to go out there and explain the budget, and share the news and communicate with those people who elected us to put us here about the most significant event in the calendar of a government — that is, delivering the budget. That is what we should be doing tomorrow and the entire week. Understandably those opposite do not want us to do that, because the budget is a very, very good budget. Of course, politics gets in the way. They say, ‘No, no, no. We don’t want you out there selling a good budget. We want you in here’.
But, on the second point, it is interesting that the Leader of The Nationals talks about how we should be supporting sitting for the rest of this week because that is the design of the Parliament — that is how Parliament is designed to work. We thought that too with pairing arrangements in the upper house. We thought that was the design of how Parliament has worked for 700 years of the Westminster system. But no, when it suits the opposition, Parliament just works the way their politics decides it works on any given day.
In concluding my brief contribution in supporting the manager of government business’s motion, I want to say, if they talk about accountability to the Parliament, I give them three things. One is, as the member for Essendon said, that Parliament’s very own committee, the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, will absolutely scrutinise the budget for an intense few weeks; two, they have the rest of this year to scrutinise the budget; and three, because we have had so many prebudget announcements they could have done it in question time today but they squandered that opportunity. I support the motion moved by the manager of government business.
MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (14:49:42) — Yesterday it was fantastic to be at Oakleigh Primary School to announce that our Labor government is upgrading this fantastic school to the tune of $9 million — new gym, better classrooms, upgraded buildings. This is yet another major upgrade for our local schools.
MR DIMOPOULOS — A couple of weekends back I went to Murrumbeena Park to announce a partnership between the state government and Glen Eira council to redevelop this whole area — a $7.1 million upgrade, with $2 million from the Labor government. Add this to the $3 million for Oakleigh Recreation Centre, $500 000 for Scammell Reserve pavilion and $350 000 for Duncan Mackinnon Reserve, all from this government. This is what a real commitment to grassroots sports looks like.
MR DIMOPOULOS — Well done to the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL for their amazing dawn service on Anzac Day last week. There were around 1500 people there, possibly their biggest ever turnout. I also thank Monash Rotary Club and Monash schools for their very special Anzac service at the cenotaph in Glen Waverley.
MR DIMOPOULOS — Lastly can I just say that after 138 years the Clayton level crossings have been removed by Labor.
MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (16:07:05) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018. This is a very, very important bill. I address my contribution to my colleagues in the chamber but also to my colleagues in the other place, who will deliberate and vote on this bill very soon. I also address my remarks to those hardworking Victorians who work in the sectors in which we are seeking to close loopholes: the contract cleaning, security and community sectors. My message to them is: you matter and you deserve the same rights, the same rest and the same family time as every other Victorian worker. This is about decency and it is about equality. There is nothing else to be said, other than how we work to achieve those two principles in this bill.
In my view it is a fundamental principle that all workers should have the same rights and that workers should not have those rights abrogated because some work in an industry that has a different rhythm to it and has changing employers. We should not throw our hands in the air and say it is too difficult to fix this because of the market and because of the industry. We do not abrogate those rights and those responsibilities.
I take issue with the member for Box Hill’s comments. Several times in his contribution he referred to a principle that he said would be breached if this bill gets through the Parliament, and that is the principle of being rewarded for a long contribution to one employer. That has never been a principle that I have subscribed to. The broader and more fundamental principle is: if you work for seven or 10 years, if you work for a sufficiently long period in order to accrue long service leave, you should accrue that long service leave regardless of whether you have worked for the same employer or different employers, because that is sometimes not within your power — it is not your choice, as we have seen time and again in the industries that we are talking about. There are workers who work in the same place for 20 or 30 years, and employers move around them. The workers have not moved at all — they have just been the victims of changing market dynamics.
In my strong view, this is an example of market failure. This is exactly what governments need to address. They need to address market failure. Who you work for or how many employers you work for should not fundamentally matter when you are talking about accruing long service leave. What should matter is the fact that you have worked for the minimum required period. That is what should matter, and that is what this Labor government seeks to address with this bill.
Further, it is a bit disheartening to hear the opposition speak on this bill because the sectors that we are talking about are some of the most disadvantaged. Not only do they include the most difficult jobs — including that of security guard, which can involve work at any time, 24 hours a day, including at night and in freezing cold and very hot temperatures. Community sector workers have to keep applying for their jobs every year through funding rounds. They also have to deal with probably the most disadvantaged people in society, including people who are suffering from family violence. They hear really tough stories, and their jobs are very insecure.
There is also contract cleaning. My mother was a contract cleaner for many years and her name is Helen, which was the name of the worker in the case study that the member for Macedon outlined. These are not glamorous jobs. They are not jobs that attract high salaries or bonuses. For that reason alone I would think that it would be meritorious for us to address a fundamental right like long service leave for hardworking workers who do not get the benefits that workers in the banking industry or those at the top end of Collins Street get. These are the workers we need to look after.
This is absolutely about Labor values — addressing inequality and market failure. I am proud of this government because we do that every single sitting week. Every single sitting week there is a bill that in some respects addresses equality and market failure. Coming up later today is the Justice Legislation Amendment (Access to Justice) Bill 2018, which seeks to do that in another area of public policy. We have done that in spades with the prevention of family violence, and we have done that in spades with the budget that the Treasurer handed down today.
I will for a moment turn to better access to TAFE. We are providing free access to 30 TAFE courses. That is exactly what Labor governments do in terms of addressing inequality, disadvantage and market failure — better aligning the skill shortage in this state with the opportunities that young people have.
The member for Macedon has already talked about the case study of Helen, and Helen’s story resonated particularly with me. Like my mother, she is a Greek Australian and her name is Helen. Like my mother, she is a contract cleaner. Her employers shifted and changed under her feet. She cleaned the same offices; she did not choose to leave, so she should be entitled to long service leave like other workers in her community.
I would say to the Greens that that was a very uncharitable contribution by the member for Northcote, and to be honest I was surprised by it. She is on the same side as us on this issue, and it was quite uncharitable of her to say that the community expects more from a Labor government. What do you mean ‘more’? That is exactly what we are delivering. This is our bill, and we are introducing it to the Parliament. I would ask the member for Northcote that when we do not have to disagree and take digs at each other, let us not do it. On this bill we do not have to do that, so let us just not do it.
In terms of the opposition, when the member for Box Hill was on his feet I was conscious that in politics you can be driven by values or you can be driven by ideology. We are driven by values, so as a Labor Party and an Andrews Labor government we say: what is it that addresses our values and is true to the values of the labour movement and the government, and how can we give expression to those values? We are doing that in this bill by addressing inequality and market failure. We say: let us just get it done. We will work out the problems and deal with the issues. That is why we are going to set up a statutory authority and put experts on its board, and that is why a whole range of provisions are included in this bill.
What have those on the other side done in relation to this bill? They have looked at a public policy issue and asked themselves, ‘How can we not do it? How can we find every single problem?’ The member for Box Hill is better than that, but he listed every single problem. He gave the example of someone whose primary job is to work in the office of a cleaning company but then once a month has to go out on the floor and clean, and he asked how he or she would be treated. Of course they are issues that we will absolutely resolve, but they are not issues that would stop us living up to our values with the introduction of this bill. That is the difference between those on the other side who seek to be in government and those who are in government, which is our proud Labor government here in Victoria.
I would also like to just mention some salient points in the last few minutes of my contribution on the bill. The intention of the scheme is to provide workers with an entitlement similar to what they would have received under the state’s default long service leave legislation. The legislation caps the levy at a maximum of 3 per cent, and I note the member for Box Hill’s comments about the higher end of the 3 per cent, but it is an absolute cap on the contributions at 3 per cent. New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT all have these schemes, and we need to have them as well.
Employers will be required to register themselves and their employees. In fact employees can also self-register. An employee will be able to not work in the industry for up to four years before the continuity of service is interrupted, although they would not be credited with any service during that period when they are not working. Periods of leave — for example, parental leave — will be treated the same as they are in the Long Service Leave Act. There is scope for mutual recognition with other jurisdictions. We have left that open, as the minister said in her contribution.
In the last few seconds of my contribution I would like to echo the words of the member for Macedon. The fact that we are here is an absolute credit to the workers in those industries over generations, and my heart bleeds for those who will not benefit from this bill because their time has passed. But it is a credit to the industry of those workers, the union movement and this Labor government that we are even debating this bill. We are going to change the lives of workers in those industries in the decade going forward. I am proud to support this bill, and I commend the minister.