May 5, 2011  |  Second Reading

Appropriation (2011/2012) Bill 2011 Part 1

I am pleased to rise to speak on the Appropriation (2011/2012) Bill 2011. From the outset I want to say that I was elected to this place to advocate for the rights and needs of the Ivanhoe electorate and for the people who live there. They have made their commitments clear and what they expect me to deliver and fight for them in this place. Those commitments that they expect me to work hard for include the continued redevelopment investment in the Austin Hospital and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre. I note that in some ways there is relief on the part of the Ivanhoe community that a strong public campaign that we ran in the lead-up to this budget to secure $45 million for the funding of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre has been provided. I commend the Ivanhoe community for their involvement and the 3000-plus signatures that my office received in relation to their support to secure funds for this project, because it had been mentioned by the Minister for Health as funding that would not necessarily be made available in this budget.

I think it goes to show, given that the government made no election commitments in Ivanhoe, that what is important is that our community in the Ivanhoe electorate can secure funds and investment for much-needed and valuable projects if we are prepared to work together to advocate as a community, to put pressure on the government to ensure that we can secure funds for those projects that are important to us. Being able to see the details in the budget of the funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre is a case in point. Given that the government has made no election commitments in the Ivanhoe electorate, we will need to continue to advocate on the priorities we feel are important to again see, hopefully, funds secured in future budgets.

I quote when cutting to the chase that all politics is local. That is pretty clear in an article in the Heidelberg Leader, which in its story on 3 May blazes away with the headline ‘Budget blues for Banyule’. It points out that schools in the Ivanhoe electorate have not received funding in this budget. It points out that Charles La Trobe College, Macleod West, missed out on securing stage 2 funding. Over $20 million had already been allocated by the previous Bracks and Brumby governments to make sure that we have a P-12 school in the electorate offering state-of-the-art facilities for state-of-the-art learning for the local community, in partnership with La Trobe University, which has been a strong partner in this project.

Stage 1 of that project was funded by the previous Labor government, and we have been seeking to secure funding for stage 2 to complete the project. The funding required is in the order of $18 million to $20 million. Those funds would allow the students in the senior campus to be accommodated in adequate new facilities.

Currently, as all the students move into this new Charles La Trobe College, which will continue to have my support, they will lack the appropriate senior campus facilities. The department and the government have made it clear that Charles La Trobe College will have to make do with the investment provided by the previous Labor government and house all students from prep to year 12 in these new buildings which have opened for term 2, and that the further funding that the local community had been led to believe would be provided by this government to enable students to be enrolled there will not be available to complete that project.

Clearly I will be working closely with that school community and with people throughout the Ivanhoe electorate to make sure that we secure stage 2 funds.

Ultimately delay will add to the cost burden of completing this project at Charles La Trobe College, because whilst the building works will be largely completed in the coming months, rather than being able to roll on the further works while the builders are on site, they will have to come back at some future time to continue their works for stage 2. Given that students and parents have embraced this new school and the parents have enrolled their children there, they are keen to see them educated there in consultation with and supported by La Trobe University, so we are keen to see this project completed. It is part of the Heidelberg schools regeneration project. It is a vital project, and we will continue to lobby and work hard to secure its completion. It is disappointing that the funds that we need, particularly to provide new classrooms, physical education amenities, and arts, music and drama spaces at the main campus at Macleod have not been provided for in this budget. In fact no schools in the Ivanhoe electorate have received any capital funding in the budget released earlier this week.

I also point out the critical need for public housing investment by the Baillieu state government in the Ivanhoe electorate. I note that no new growth funds for building or acquiring public or social housing were outlined in the budget. We saw the lowest target for upgrading public housing in a decade in this budget as well as the lowest target for assisting families at risk of homelessness through the transitional housing management program in a decade.

I note also that there is no projected improvement in the number of families being turned away from crisis accommodation services. In the West Heidelberg community in the Ivanhoe electorate through a partnership between the Gillard government and the previous Brumby government we have seen investment in public housing and new housing stock, improvement in housing stock and investment in maintenance throughout my electorate in the years that have gone before.

But suddenly we see no new investment in public housing; we see a cut of $900 000 in the recurrent funds from the north-western region education budget, and now we will see that people who require investment and support in their public housing will not be able to get the maintenance that they require; they will not be able to find the appropriate housing.

In the northern region we will see blocks owned by the government sitting vacant, not being built on or invested in. This is not because the Office of Housing does not have plans to build on these sites but because, it is very clear to me, no funds are being allocated to the northern region to build on the vacant blocks in the West Heidelberg area. I will be watching very closely these public blocks of land where public housing should be built to make sure that they are not sold off by this government. I will be making sure that the people in West Heidelberg, who live 8 kilometres from the city and who enjoy close amenity to a range of services, can continue to live there, do not have their public housing sold off and are not moved out into the boondocks somewhere because the land is now of such value that the government sees fit to sell it off.

We have already seen in the budget papers that this government has no plans for how the land at a number of state school sites will be managed and dealt with.

All we know is that the government is refusing to provide any funding for stage 2 works to complete the Charles La Trobe College in partnership with La Trobe University. It is a great project for the people in my electorate. What we know is that the government is remaining silent. There is no mention in the budget of what the government wants to do with regard to the land from the school sites that are being vacated for this new school in the Ivanhoe electorate.

I point out also that there has been a sleight of hand in the last few days with regard to councils now having a further review of their budget because of the municipal charges and levies that have been slipped in by the government in the last week and have escaped notice. There was no consultation with the MAV (Municipal Association of Victoria), which in recent days has had to go back to councils, which have now had to reconsider the budgets that they had completed because they have been provided with no advice or consultation from the government.

I will be asking the Banyule City Council about the decisions that have been made by this government in relation to municipal charges and levies and just how much extra will be added onto the rate bills of the people of the Ivanhoe electorate to meet this sleight of hand cost that has been passed onto them by the government.

I will refer to what was said by Cr Bill McArthur, president of the Municipal Association of Victoria, in his media statement from the MAV — which of course represents all councils in Victoria. I will be raising the matter with each and every one of the councillors of Banyule and seeking their personal response on what they think of this landfill levy. I am sure the councillors at Banyule do not support unnecessary rate rises. They certainly made it clear when I was a Banyule city councillor under the previous government that they did not support or appreciate any duckshoving of responsibilities, expenditure or bills that needed to be paid.

In relation to the appropriation bill and the extra landfill levy that is now being imposed as a cost to residents of my electorate, Bill McArthur makes it clear that the $43 million landfill levy cash grab was buried in the budget papers yesterday and as a result councils will now be expected to impose an additional $11.9 million in state taxes through rate notices this year, but the government has yet to inform local government directly. I wonder why. Maybe the letter has been lost in the mail — I am not sure.

I am sure local governments, which have to be held accountable for their budgets and the rates they will charge local residents, will be very keen to ensure that the 100 000 or so residents of Banyule are very clear about where any rate rises that they have to pay are coming from. They will be making it clear and I will be making it clear on behalf of our local community.

I also note in regard to the Living Libraries program and the Ivanhoe library, which was a significant project that we were pursuing at the last election, that $750 000 was to be allocated by the previous Labor government. That was welcomed by Wayne Phillips, a former member of this place and a former mayor of the City of Banyule. He made it clear that we need to see the redevelopment of this very old library, which has no disability access. It is a priority for the Ivanhoe community. It is a library that enjoys great use, but it has no disability access. There is no lift. You cannot even get to the second floor of the library. We need to make sure this library is funded by the government under the Living Libraries program, but again there is no mention of any funding for libraries in Ivanhoe in the budget. However, we will continue to fight for it, as we have done to secure $45 million for the Austin Hospital for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre.

We can secure $45 million through a strong public campaign in our electorate.

We can secure $750 000 for a new library in Ivanhoe, and that is the work we will do. We can secure the $20 million that we require.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Tilley) — Order! The time set down for consideration of items on the government business program has expired.


Debate resumed.

There are a couple of other matters I would like to raise in relation to the Appropriation (2011/2012) Bill 2011, and one of those is the West Heidelberg police station. In response to the adjournment matter that I raised in relation to this resourcing issue in my local electorate, I received a letter from the Minister for Police and Emergency Services in which he made the point that the West Heidelberg police station will not close and that the station remains able to be staffed as required. I point out that the station is currently closed and has been so since December 2010.

It is, as described by the local community, a very large filing cabinet on the corner of Altona Street and Waterdale Road.

That adjournment matter was related to resourcing in the Ivanhoe electorate, which is not catered for in this budget. In his letter to me the minister said that the Chief Commissioner of Police has indicated that the 80 hours per fortnight that were allocated to the West Heidelberg police station counter of inquiries would continue to be used to service the needs of the Banyule community — but not at West Heidelberg police station, which remains closed.

If there are 80 hours of police resources per fortnight required in the Ivanhoe electorate, then extra resources should be allocated in this state budget for those hours rather than stealing them from the West Heidelberg police station, resulting in its closure.

What those opposite have done is simply swipe 80 hours of police resources per fortnight from West Heidelberg, shut the police station and send those hours to the four winds — we do not know where, exactly — and the people of West Heidelberg have missed out. This is totally unacceptable, and it is something we will continue to fight for and raise awareness about in order to make sure the West Heidelberg police station reopens. We do not want a giant filing cabinet; what we want is police on the streets and for people in the community to be able to go to the West Heidelberg police station and get the support they need. That is not catered for in this budget.

I would like to acknowledge some funding that has been provided for the Children’s Protection Society (CPS) in Altona Street, West Heidelberg. Funds for one of the programs they run have been provided by the state government, and funding has also been received from the federal government. The program is for vulnerable children aged under three years and their families. It provides intensive support to improve health education and family stability. I am familiar with the work of Children’s Protection Society; it does very good work. It is a service that is valued in the local community, and I am pleased that it has received support from this government, along with commonwealth funding, to maintain a recurrent funding program over the next few years. We would like to assess the program in a few years’ time to see how successful it is and whether it might be something we will maintain in the future. The range of programs and the work done by Children’s Protection Society is highly valued, and I am thankful for the work that Mr Glazebrook, the CEO, and the team at CPS do for the local community.

In the Ivanhoe electorate not one school has received any capital funding. We have seen Charles La Trobe College left half complete.

We have seen West Heidelberg police station remain closed because this government will not fund it appropriately, and we have also seen the School Start bonus ripped away from thousands of families in the Ivanhoe electorate without any consultation. I do not recall that being mentioned as an election promise, given that none was made in the Ivanhoe electorate in the lead-up to the election. We did secure funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, and we will keep fighting for more.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member’s time has expired.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr KOTSIRAS (Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship).

Debate adjourned until later this day.