Budget Reply Speech

Before the first tree was ever planted on Collins St, two doctors opened a tiny clinic at the foot of Exhibition.

This was a time when hospitals were considered a charity’s domain.

So when the colonial Government chipped in with 14,700 pounds to fund the clinic, it was no small gesture.

Individuals founded this budding, six-bed specialist medical centre – the Government backed it and the community supported it.

We could call it an early experiment in public health.

We know it today by a different name: the Royal Children’s Hospital.

It’s a monument of our state, but no party owns its legacy.

Generations of investment built it.

If anything can claim credit for the Royal Children’s, it’s a particular worldview.

One that says a Government must constantly seek opportunities to work with business and the community to build something greater and bigger than itself.

That worldview is the purpose of office – the purpose of a budget – and the Royal Children’s is its lasting testament.

It’s not the only one.

Victoria: the headquarters of world-leading medical research.

The birthplace of multiculturalism, accountability and anti-discrimination.

Home to the country’s thinking economy.

It didn’t happen by accident.

A succession of strong and steady Governments put us where we are.

These were Governments that weren’t fearful of their purpose, weren’t dismissive of their people.

Here, more than anywhere else, we saw a greater standard of leadership, devoted to the progress of this state and the skills of its people.

That was the Victorian way.

Previous Governments, they had a plan.

They had a purpose.

They weren’t panicked.

They weren’t preoccupied.

…So I honestly don’t know, Speaker, what on earth happened to this one.

I honestly can’t explain why a Government would so casually undermine the very things that made this state so great.

This Government fears its own purpose; dreads its own cause.

They don’t believe it’s their role to invest in the people of this state.

They don’t work their hardest to protect our most vulnerable.

Ultimately, they don’t believe it’s their responsibility to build a better society.

They might say it in their slogan but it doesn’t ring in their heart.

This Government dismisses the public.

Victorians are their obstacle, nor their object.

They ignore their voice and remove their choice.

The Victorian people never chose to spend $8 billion of their own money on a tunnel they don’t want.

They never chose to have lifelines of their economy locked up behind chained gates.

They never asked for a war with paramedics; they never asked for a health system in crisis.

They got it.

But they can’t find out much more than that.

Because this Government hides the crisis in our health system.

They deny the crisis in our economy.

They won’t even reveal the business plan – the basic justification – for their signature policy.

They establish an anti-corruption commission that can’t even investigate misconduct in public office.

It’s a systematic reversal of Victoria’s reputation for inclusion, for clarity.

And the effects are felt in lounge rooms and boardrooms across this state.

There’s a different kind of feeling in the Cabinet Room, though.

Because this Government is unstable.

And I don’t just mean a hint of dysfunction or a trace of despair.

I’m talking actual, factual, could-collapse-at-any-moment calamity.

How can they fight for your job when they’re so busy fighting for their own?

How can they address Victoria’s priorities when their first priority is mere survival?

They’re a circus.

And when a Government is so volatile, so volcanic, its every word and sound is compromised.

Even its most formal ones, those which were tabled on Tuesday.

A simple recipe: Put a Government in a blender and leave it on for three years.

This budget is what it spits out.

They’re not strong, they’re not steady and they were never ready.

And what’s it done to the State of Victoria?

It’s sent us backwards.

Let’s look at jobs.

Victoria used to be number one.

We were the engine of the country.

Today, we’re more like the exhaust.

Unemployment’s up, above the national average. Wages have ground to a halt.

Nearly 52,000 Victorians have lost their jobs under this Government.

These aren’t just statistics; they’re families.

Under this Government, you are three times more likely to have become unemployed than to have found a full time job.

Out on your own, the way the Liberals like it.

Tony Abbott celebrates workers being liberated from their old jobs. Liberated. He means sacked.

This Treasurer says our economy is structurally sound, resilient and merely in transition.

Well, his resilient transition has left behind a trail of wreckage.

He liberated a generation of workers who dedicated their professional lives to putting Australian cars on Australian roads.

And his structurally sound economy houses the nation’s youth unemployment crisis.

If you’re a young person looking for work, Victoria is the worst place to be on the Australian mainland.

Interstaters used to come here for a job, now our own sons and daughters are moving to Sydney.

More than half of unemployed youth have been so for over a year.

We are at a juncture where ordinary young Victorians might not ever be able to build a good life for themselves.

And the figures are the worst in regional Victoria.

Kids are forced to leave home, leave town, just to find work, just to study.

Let me tell the House about the part of Victoria that’s seen the biggest increase in youth unemployment.

Almost a 50 per cent rise, Speaker, in Melbourne’s Outer East.

A real Government would be pulling every lever to give these kids a chance.

Because there is only one university and TAFE in this region. Well, there was one, Speaker.

They cut it.

They closed it.

They’re selling it.

The future of Melbourne’s Outer East is chained up behind ten-foot gates at Swinburne Lilydale.

Well, we believe there is no louder warning for the future of any community than the sound of a school that’s shutting its doors.

And when the books are written about this Government, chapter one, page one, line one will read: They cut TAFE.

Because they wear it. They own it.

And they’re actually proud of it.

Well, you know what?

We’ll re-open it. We’ll give it back.

And we’re proud of that.

And we’re proud of our plans for primary and secondary schools across this state.

The schools this Government forgot.

The schools where kids are crammed into portables that were built before the Bulldogs won their Premiership.

The schools where classrooms are falling into disrepair – falling apart.

Our loved ones deserve the best start but they’re not getting it.

And if they can’t get the skills they need then they can’t get the jobs they want.

Children and adults alike.

The very people who need their Government to step in – they get put last. They’re on their own.

People at home, in panic, waiting those extra, needless minutes for an ambulance.

People in crowded emergency departments, waiting those agonising hours.

People who need urgent surgery, waiting longer than ever.

People waiting on a train platform, waiting in the City Loop, waiting in traffic, waiting at a level crossing.

Workers at factories that are hanging in the balance, waiting for good news, waiting for bad news, waiting for an opportunity – waiting for anything.

A generation of Victorians, calling on their Government to help.

Your call is important to us, but Government is busy with itself right now: please wait.

They might have to wait for a whole new Government, because this one has ground to a halt.

Victoria has stopped.

And this Budget won’t get it going again.

Too narrow, too shallow, too little, too late.

It’s not a defibrillator; it’s barely a pinch.

And Tony Abbott’s in Canberra, winding up the punch.

Hitting Victoria harder than any other state.

Cutting our health funding, more than any other state.

Chasing down our pensioners, our students, our seniors and our sick.

That’s what Liberals do.

Somewhere out there, there’s a vital service to confiscate.

Somewhere out there, there’s a major company that needs a few more reasons to leave our shores.

Tony Abbott and the Liberals want to charge you for visiting the GP.

They want to tax you for the deficit that they doubled.

They want to abandon our struggling industries – these things we call jobs.

They want to make you work longer, pay more and receive less.

And if this Liberal Government doesn’t speak up, it means they’ve signed up.

All the way with Tony A.

The same goal, the same creed – the same Liberal tribe.

And what do we get? Half-baked plans and a half-mast economy.

The white flag from Ford, Holden and Toyota. The red flag from a dozen more. And uncertainty for every single Victorian.

Because when a Government won’t support our industries, they won’t remain industries.

And when a Government has no jobs plan, no job is safe.

And when a Government doesn’t care, then you’re on your own.

The Victorian people now have a question to ask.

Can they trust such a dysfunctional Government to make the right decisions for them?

If they looked at this Budget, they’ll have their answer.

Cunning accounting, perhaps, but a collapse of economics.

You know, that science that’s devoted to providing people with the simple things they need to live and to thrive.

Those most fundamental duties of any Government. The basics.

And on basically every measure, this Government fails.

Our health system is in crisis.

Victorians are waiting longer than ever on the elective surgery waiting list.

They’re waiting longer than ever for an ambulance.

They ask this Government, ‘why can’t we get the treatment we expect?’

And the Government replies, ‘You get the treatment you deserve.’

‘If you get sick, if you need an ambulance, if you need surgery, then you’re on your own.’

This Government promised 800 new hospital beds. 757 to go.

This Budget spends twice as much on prison beds as it does on new hospital beds.

This Budget only provides funding for three hospital projects – none of them in Melbourne.

That’s their solution to the chaos at, say, Frankston’s Emergency Department: three projects hundreds of kilometres from Frankston.

But the men and women of regional Victoria shouldn’t get too excited.

Because this Budget is bad news for them.

Regional Victoria is home to 25 per cent of Victoria’s population, but it will get 4 per cent of Victoria’s funding for major projects.

What else. Apparently there’s going to be record spending for schools, but I can’t find any evidence of it here.

The Liberals will have spent – on average, per year – less than half of what Labor spent on new school buildings, facilities, classrooms and grounds.

But I can credit them for one innovation: surprise funding.

If you’re a school that doesn’t make a request for an upgrade, you get funding by surprise.

As long as you’ve found yourself in a targeted Liberal seat, and you’ve kept good and quiet, then here’s the Premier with a cheque and a wink.

Meanwhile, let me tell you about some of the schools in my community – who did submit bids for funding.

Tarneit P-9, Manor Lakes P-12, Werribee Secondary – they’ve been ignored for the third year in a row.

Tarneit Senior College still has a mound of dirt obscuring its school sign.

Construction has stopped.

Kids are doing PE in the carpark.

Tarneit P-9 had to ship in 18 portables. And this is the fastest growing area of the state.

How do you think teachers and parents at these schools feel when other schools win the electorate lottery?

Perhaps they shouldn’t bother making submissions to the Government for funding – they should just make a submission to the VEC at the next redistribution.

The education cuts haven’t stopped.

This Government will spend $124 million less on TAFE.

I thought they would run out of things to cut eventually – adult education, TAFE and training, secondary schools, primary schools.

But, I was wrong, they found one more.


Denis Napthine and Tony Abbott are cutting kinder for four-year-olds.

They formed a partnership to tear up a partnership – to short-change every young family in this state.

The shredder’s working overtime in Canberra, cancelling our most important national partnerships.

Funding for essential vaccines.

For Victorians needing dental surgery.

For school children with disabilities.

Going, going, gone.

Those opposite make a lot of noise about tearing up contracts – well, these were contracts with Victorians.

These were agreements people relied on.

Our seniors rely on aged care and Denis Napthine will cut that, too.

Fewer options for our elderly, more excruciating decisions for their families.

Privatising our aged care facilities wasn’t enough.

Another $75 million will be ripped from the system.

More funds cut from home and community care, which lets seniors live in their own home, with their families, and not in a hostel.

Now, these seniors will literally be on their own.

There’s a checklist in the Premier’s Office, ‘how to make life harder for seniors’.

Every box has been ticked.

Increase vehicle registration? Done.

Increase public housing rents? Done.

Cut gas and electricity concessions for pensioners? Done.

They’re on a roll.

This Government is the highest taxing Government in Victoria’s history.

They’re hoarders – taxing more, charging more, cutting more, keeping more.

They claim a surplus, but ordinary people don’t see the benefit of a surplus if it leaves every school and every hospital in deficit.

And this surplus has blood on its hands.

It was built with the biggest cuts to TAFE in Victoria’s history.

With the institutional neglect of our hospitals and schools.

It’s built on inertia.

It’s built on austerity.

It’s made our state a harder place to raise a family, a harder place to live.

This Government is obsessed with the baubles and bonanzas of a budget.

But it always forgets the fundamentals and it cuts the basics to the bone.

We have a Premier walking around like Donald Trump, trying to build the world’s tallest building and the world’s biggest boat…..but our schools are falling apart!

Our hospitals are in crisis.

Crime is going up.

Companies are going down.

They’re turning Victoria into the world’s most liveable wasteland.

And there’s nothing in this budget that will fix it.

There’s nothing in here that will improve our quality of life.

There’s nothing in here for the things that matter.

Congestion is destroying our city.

Trains have ground to a halt.

Cars pile across level crossings every single morning.

This Government were the last to see it coming.

They were the world’s last convert to the cause of public transport.

They’ve gone from a do-nothing Government, to an ‘oh my god, quick, somebody do something’ Government.

A Government of panic and disorder.

Well, Speaker, disorder is no substitute for a decision.

Panic is no substitute for a plan.

This Government has done nothing for three years.

Now they’re facing the test of the people and here they are, cramming for the exam.

No time to spellcheck. No time to revise.

No time to consult. No time to consider our priorities.

Look at what they’ve given us. It’s a mess.

No direction, no design.

Where’s the investment for transport in our growing communities?

For the roundabouts in half-built suburbs that become carparks at the strike of morning?

For the country roads and V/Line train services that are deteriorating by the day?

Yet, they’re signing up to an 8 billion dollar tunnel in inner-city Melbourne.

It’s the Premier’s biggest priority, but it isn’t Victoria’s biggest priority.

Melbourne Metro Rail is.

But they’re not building that.

It was supposed to double the size of the City Loop and build five new stations.

It would have been the solution to the gridlock that plagues our train system.

The gateway to new train lines.

The project this state needs.

But they’re not building that.

If this Budget really is a story about infrastructure, then someone’s torn out the beginning, the middle and the end.

It’s like a Magic Eye.

If you squint long enough, you can just make out the bare silhouette of our most important project.

Melbourne Metro went through the CBD. This one doesn’t

Melbourne Metro alleviated train congestion. This one doesn’t.

Melbourne Metro improved access to the City Loop. This one doesn’t.

Melbourne Metro would build four more stations and service our hospitals. This one doesn’t.

It’s the evil twin.

It’s a ghost train.

A tunnel to nowhere and a service for no one.

There are four massive problems with it.

1. No access to four major hospitals and Melbourne University.

Instead, Denis Napthine wants to make it easier to get to the South Melbourne Markets and the Mahogany Room.

These are his priorities.

As Neil Mitchell helpfully suggested: punters, not patients.

2. More delays at North Melbourne Station.

At the moment, when my train stops at the invisible station in the North Melbourne railyards, I can listen to an entire Bruce Springsteen song before it starts moving again.

Well, thanks Premier, now I might be able to listen to a whole album.

3. Trains on the Frankton Line won’t run through Flinders St.

They won’t even come close.

They’ll be in a tunnel somewhere underneath a suburb that they probably haven’t heard of.

4. The South Eastern suburbs will be locked out of the City Loop. Cut off forever.

We apologise for the inconvenience, but the next City Loop service to depart from the Cranbourne/Pakenham line has been cancelled – for eternity.

Welcome to Denis Napthine’s Victoria, where commuters on our busiest rail corridor can’t even get a direct service to city’s biggest stations.

They’ll have to find their own way to the platforms most people use.

Mind the gap.

This plan has all the elements of something that was drawn up on the back of a napkin on Budget morning.

I wonder how many people in the Department learnt about the ghost train when the rest of Victoria did.

The experts who have to untangle this labyrinth, they’re as confused as we are.

There’s no business case and no justification.

Nothing to progress its design.

No process for public consultation.

No possibility of construction starting in 2016.

No firm date for completion.

Just panic.

And all this commotion about where the new station will be located – it’s enough to drive you round the Fishermans bend.

Now, I suspect that a lot of Victorians woke up yesterday morning asking themselves where on earth Fishermans Bend actually is.

…One of them was the Premier.

Here’s a tip: the Casino, the South Melbourne Market, the Montague precinct and the factories of Fishermans Bend are not actually the same place.

It’s design-as-you-go.

They realised their mistake – So now there’ll be a new tram line for Fisherman’s Bend, where the train was meant to go.

What next – a zip line to the Royal Children’s?

We don’t know precisely where the new station will be.

But we know where it won’t be.

It won’t be at the doorstep of Australia’s most important hospital precinct.

It won’t take you to uni.

It won’t take you to the city.

It won’t take you where you need to go.

You can’t even call this project Metro-Lite.

It’s not even the Diet Coke version.

It’s more like New Coke.

It’s a completely different plan and it just won’t do the job.

It won’t fix our broken train system.

And it won’t even get a single new cent under this Budget.

That’s how much they really care.

It’s a con. It’s a shame.

It’s a 100 year catastrophe.

The one shot in the locker and they missed by a mile.

And we’ll never hear the end of it.

They’ll fill up another 20-page glossy pamphlet and send it to every address in the state.

They’ll run non-stop, taxpayer-funded ads about more space-age projects that, as we speak, are barely a hole in the ground.

Because that will be the real legacy of this Government – a hole in the ground.

In the Transport Minister’s mind, that’s enough to say: mission accomplished.

It reminds me of the Castle.

Go on, Minister, tell ‘em.

Denis dug a hole.

That’s the price for three-and-a-half years of nothing.

That’s the cost of a dysfunctional Government.

They’re proud of this mayhem, this dollar sign saturation.

They think it’s politically brilliant.

But while the insiders are all high-fiving, the outsiders are left high and dry.

An election is not a cold transaction.

A sham program of panic and disorder is nothing to be proud of.

And only Labor has a plan to prevent it.

Only Labor will consult the experts about the major projects that Victoria needs.

Only Labor will take the advice of an independent body – Infrastructure Victoria.

Only Labor knows the difference between Victorian politics and Victoria’s priorities.

We’ve waited years for this Government to say the same.

We’re still waiting.

And there’s more to governing than dollar signs.

If people can drive to a hospital emergency department five seconds faster, but still face a five hour wait inside, their lives haven’t improved.

If people happen to find a single seat free on their train, but not a single new classroom at their kids’ school, they’re not any better off.

If people hear this Government boast about jobs, but they see the whole state falling behind South Australia, they know where they stand.

Victorians won’t be fooled by another empty promise.

They know the difference between a headline and a deadline.

They’re smart enough to know that the devil, here, is in the lack of detail.

Because a press release isn’t a major project and a dotted line on a map doesn’t get you home.

An artist’s impression is no substitute for the people’s impression. And they’re not impressed.

They were promised Doncaster Rail, Avalon Rail and Rowville Rail. They never came.

Now we have some new promises but no new detail and no new funding.

The Government may as well announce Moon Rail.

Ordinary Victorians have heard it all, they’ve watched it stall and they don’t buy it.

Because Liberals lie about public transport.

A plan to improve access to the City Loop by cutting off access to the City Loop?

The Liberals lie about public transport.

It’s in their DNA to be dishonest.

If a public transport project only ever exists in the Premier’s notepad, it’s good enough for him.

That’s not good enough for the Victorian people.

Because chaos is not our currency.

Panic is not a policy.

Disorder is not a decision.

And the Victorian people deserve so much better.

They deserve a Government that will work for them, not around them.

They deserve a Government that actually governs; a leader who actually leads.

They deserve real train lines – not headlines without deadlines.

And a health system that isn’t on the verge of flat line.

They deserve a plan for jobs, growth and skills.

And every Victorian child deserves every single chance.

We need a Government that will deliver the budget surplus that matters the most – the one in the family budget.

We need a Government who will put people first.

We need a Government who can make Victoria number one again.