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Victorian Government Budget 2017

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Appropriations (2017–2018) Bill 2017. To paraphrase something Teddy Roosevelt said at the turn of the last century, ‘Every time the honourable member opens his mouth’ — and I mean the honourable member for Kew — ‘he subtracts from the sum total of human wisdom’. The fact that members of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee will have to listen to him for the next 55 hours over the next two and a half weeks fills me with dread.

I am not surprised that the member for Kew and all his other colleagues talk about everything but the budget, because if I were in their shoes, I would be embarrassed to talk about the Andrews budget. It is a profoundly well-accepted budget. In fact I have lost count of all the articles that the Treasurer read out from the media about how well commended this budget has been across the business community, across community sporting groups and across the whole Victorian community.

Then you have got post-truth politics in action in this chamber like I have never seen them before, with the member for Kew saying that there is no media. Honestly, if he had one ethical bone in his body, he would be taking those media articles that the Treasurer, the Premier and all of us have referred to and saying, ‘Maybe I am actually fibbing just a bit’. I understand the notion of stretching the truth in politics, but those on the other side — and I will get to the member for Mount Waverley later in my contribution — have just gone beyond a joke to the point where they are doing themselves and the whole political class a disservice.

Nonetheless my contribution is not just about this budget. It is primarily about this budget, but this budget has to be seen within the context of not just this one but the two budgets before it and the one next to it, because you do not build a fair society, as the Premier has said, with one budget. You do not build a better society with one budget; you build it by forming a relationship with the community, with Victorians, and building budget after budget after budget with changes to society. That is what this government is doing. We are changing society every single day. No clearer is that evident than in the area of the prevention of family violence. We are changing society.

We did not set out to hoodwink people by making some election promises that we would never deliver just to get into office. We did the hard yards from the very, very beginning. This budget, like the two before it, is an investment in the Victorian community. When he was the Leader of the Opposition the now Premier rallied the team and did the hard policy yards. Acting Speaker Thomson, you were a part of that team, as was the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, who is at the table. I was not, but the team did an amazing job. It took a defeat in 2010 — and I have said this before in this chamber — and consolidated under the leadership of the Premier. It went around Victoria with its Labor Listens tour — —

Ms Graley interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Labor Cares tour, I thank the member for Narre Warren South. It did a stellar job. It did an incredible job in meeting with average Victorians. We heard the member for Kew talk about meeting with Victorians over the last six months. Whoopee! It was about time.

That Labor team, led by the now Premier, met with a whole range of people. It met with women and children around Victoria, in their living rooms and in town halls, and found out their needs. It found out about the enormous impacts of family violence. If you do not listen, you do not hear the things at the top end of town. That team was in the living rooms of Victorians, listening to the painful cries of women and children around family violence.

The Labor team met with apprentices and came up with innovative solutions to help apprentices retain their apprenticeships through, for example, initiatives like half-price registration and through funding TAFEs. These are really articulated and well-reasoned policies that come from speaking to people and listening to people. The other side do not accept that. They do not do that work.

That team, led by the now Premier, talked to average Victorians about the impact of the ambulance dispute. Do you remember that on the back of all the ambulances it said, ‘Resolve the ambulance dispute’? They actually sat and listened to people. They talked to regional Victorians about isolation and the lack of infrastructure. They talked to everyday Victorians about the environment. That is why we have the boldest targets on renewable energy of any state and the commonwealth. They talked to average Victorians and parents with kids with special needs about the impact that mainstream schooling has on their children. They talked to parents with kids — —

Ms Thomas interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Absolutely, it was proper policy development, as the member for Macedon said. They talked to parents with children who are desperate for medical marijuana so that they can see some positive healing for their children. They talked to principals and teachers about their schools. They talked to outer suburban communities about their lack of infrastructure and then responded with aggregate road projects and tendering, as the Premier and the Treasurer announced months ago in the west, and I know that will be coming in other areas of Melbourne. They talked to victims of crime about the impact of the justice system and the enormous mess that the previous government left us with, a 44 per cent recidivism rate. They talked to average Victorians about the impact of those bail laws that failed us that were developed by the Baillieu-Napthine governments. In response we developed proper bail laws, developed proper resourcing for police. Everyday Victorians mattered in our consultations.

Of course one of the flagships of that Labor opposition, that team led by the now Premier, was they talked to average Victorians about the congestion and level crossings and the number of deaths at those level crossings, and in response developed the policy to rid this state of 50 level crossings. I could go on in a whole range of areas: rental laws, first home buyers. This is a government that did not wake up one day and think, ‘Oh, we’ve got the Treasury benches, let’s put a budget together that’s going to get us through’. No. This is a government that started its evolution years before we had access to the Treasury benches. It started its evolution in opposition and did the hard yards under the current Premier.

This is a story of building a government that has longevity, not the story of building a political campaign. We came to office with an agenda, an incredible and powerful agenda driven by people and the aspirations of average Victorians. Budgets are not a shopping list. It is not good enough going around the community and just adding up the sum total of what they are after because anyone could do that; any monkey could do that. A proper budget and the ones we have delivered so far are about applying the aspirations of Victorians, together with values, intellect and prioritisation, and ending up with a quality budget.

I bet those on the other side, in the privacy of their own offices, are thinking, ‘How on earth do they do it?’ — referring to us — ‘How do they do it? How do they get it so right? They fund social policy. They fund $2 billion in police. They have flagship programs like level crossings and family violence, yet they have lower debt than we had. How do they do it?’.

They must be so upset about that because they were once the economic managers. We have lower debt now than we did under them. We have higher growth than we did under them. We have higher employment by a long shot than we did under them.

Mr Pearson — Two hundred thousand jobs.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — That is right, 200 000 jobs, member for Essendon. And they think to themselves, ‘We can’t get a break. They not only cover off aspirations of Victorians, they do it economically responsibly’. Because that is Labor.

What is the alternative? Politics is about choices. No-one is going to have the perfect government, although this is as close to a perfect government I reckon as you could get. In Victoria at the moment the choices are clear. You have the Andrews Labor government or you have the hapless, angry, shouty Leader of the Opposition and his ragtag — whatever the term is — team. Or potentially in a horror scenario you could have a Greens bastardised government. The fact that the Greens vote with the Liberal-National Party coalition in the upper house more than they vote with Labor is testament to that association.

But you know we do not have to go too far in judging the opposition because they were in government four years ago. Most of them on the other side were in government four years ago, and what did they do? They were a basket case. I have referred to an article by Josh Gordon in the past in this place. Josh Gordon in the Age a few months ago said that the Liberal government back then were backending their important work like infrastructure projects. Others would have read the same article. Effectively it was all about political cycles and when best to do things to get a political benefit. That is no way to run a government, and it is definitely no way to run a state. According to the article, and I quote:

The challenge, so the thinking went, was to change the shape of the bell by extending the upswing, delaying the point at which the peak was reached, and slowing the eventual rate of decline.

In this, the former coalition government failed abysmally. If you charted its political trajectory, the bell shape would be tremendously skewed towards the start of the cycle, with a peak immediately after the 2010 election, followed by a tail of decline lasting almost four years …

That is a political strategy and a disastrous one, whereas we did not have a political strategy. We had a strategy to build longevity in a progressive Labor government, and that is what the team did in opposition and that is what the team that I am proud to be a member of now does.

There is an enormous amount in this budget for my community, an enormous amount: $10 million for Oakleigh station, $4 million for Huntingdale station, $7.6 million for the bus interchange, $10 million for the Alexander theatre redevelopment at Monash University, $1.5 million for Carnegie Primary School and $3.5 million for Hughesdale Primary School. That is not because we favour Labor seats. The member for Kew did not do any work to get anything for the guide dogs or for the Kew primary schools; he did no work. Not once did he meet with the Minister for Education and lobby. Not once did he bring the principals in here and lobby — not once.

Of course I have mentioned family violence, and there is $1.9 billion allocated, and the further level crossings we are doing. Before I come back to those, I do want to just address the absolutely horrendous untruths perpetuated today in a contribution in this place by the member for Mount Waverley. I have got to say this man must be living in an alternate reality. I just do not understand it. The stuff he was coming out with — I wish I had the transcript here — was absolutely atrocious. Mendacious is a very light term to use in relation to him. He must be living in a world where they did not lose the election — Dennis Napthine is still the Premier — because I just cannot understand where he is coming from. To be really frank, the member for Mount Waverley has all the hallmarks of Donald Trump.

Worse perhaps, even disregarding the low bar that Donald has set on integrity and truthfulness, the member for Mount Waverley spoke about police stations in my community. Let us go to the facts. This goes to integrity of political leadership. It goes to the voting public in the future when they will judge him and his team for the absolute rubbish perpetuated in this place by them.

In 2014 hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent by the Napthine Liberal government through Victoria Police to investigate the closure of four police stations in my community. That is a fact, a fact that I put in a press release in August 2014 when I was a candidate. Quoting from that press release:

Reports have indicated that the police stations planned to close in our area include Oakleigh, Mount Waverley, Glen Waverley and Clayton.

That was in 2014 when they were in power. The member for Mount Waverley got up today and said ‘that was our plan’ — he absolutely said that today in this chamber. How could that be our plan when we were not in power? But do not take my word for it. An article in the Age on 11 August 2014 — who was in power on 11 August 2014 but the Napthine government? — said, ‘Four key police stations may close’. Who was in government? They were. I remember I was out at the Oakleigh police station at the time with the shadow minister for police then, who is now obviously a minister in our government, guaranteeing all those stations.

I do not recall seeing the member for Mount Waverley at all. But he gets up here now in opposition claiming that was our idea. He also made the ridiculous comment that ‘we did the heavy lifting when it came to police’ during his term, referring to a $27.5 million upgrade of the police academy. Okay, fantastic: a $27.5 million upgrade. How does that compare to $2 billion worth of investment? Heavy lifting? This is why people get sick of politics. That kind of absolute rubbish and those kind of lies do nothing to serve him or the political class.

These are the facts. Under the last government — the Napthine government — $113 million was cut from police funding. That is a fact. Go back to the budget books — there was almost 500 staff cuts to Victoria Police, stations were closed — —

Mr Eren — Shame!

Mr DIMOPOULOS — An absolute shame — and there was no funding for even one additional police officer. I do not mean filling casual vacancies; I mean additional to the staffing profile. Not one.

Let us also go to the Monash region that the member referred to. Between 2011 and 2014, under the Liberal government, frontline police numbers in Monash dropped a whopping 23 per cent. Heavy lifting? No, I do not think so. Yes, 23 per cent — that is a fact from Victoria Police’s own statistics. That is not me saying it; that is Victoria Police saying it. And it was not just Monash. There were over 20 police service areas that suffered cuts to police of over 20 per cent.

But here is another fact: under this government we have already increased frontline police in Monash. We are reversing the damage. But do not worry, there is even more to come. The member also referred to Murrumbeena station in his contribution. I do not know whether the member is aware that it was under a government that his party led that Victoria Police closed Murrumbeena station twice. They closed it first and Steve Bracks’s administration had to open it, then they closed it again when they were last in government and we had to reopen it.

I might remind the member for Mount Waverley that the last time the Liberals — and I have said this before and those opposite were in horror, a sort of feigned indignation — that the last time the Liberals funded additional police in Victoria was as far back as 1982. I think the member for Mount Waverley might have been five or six then. I note the member has also been referring to statements from a private member of the Labor Party. He keeps saying senior Labor figures said this, that and the other. If I held every Liberal Party member to account for what they said and made it opposition policy — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Do you know what? I have got more to come. I have got a lot more private statements from Liberal Party members that I will just assume is Liberal Party policy. Those are the basic politics that people are sick of. You cannot do anything to escape a fantastic, popular budget, so you resort to awful, degrading tactics. You will pay for those come the next election, because people will not vote for you.