SPEAKING ON A BILL | BUDGET PAPERS 2018/19

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan): I also rise to speak on the Victorian budget, which is yet another budget delivered by the Andrews Labor government since coming to office. I am proud to be a member of this government that has delivered some excellent budgets since November 2014. With the previous budgets we have built on making sure that Victoria is back on the map; Victoria is investing in its people; Victoria is investing in growth; Victoria is investing in health, education, public transport and roads infrastructure; and Victoria is investing in the most important resource in our state — people. I am proud that in the current budget we are investing in further education, and one of the highlights for me is the further investment in TAFE, which was subject to some major cuts by the previous government over the four years that they were in office.

We are now injecting another $172 million into the TAFE system, and we are offering some 30 priority courses and 18 preapprenticeship courses free of charge so that our kids who do not want to go to university are kids who want to go to TAFE. Particularly in areas like my electorate, Western Metropolitan Region, a lot of our students and our kids want to do TAFE courses, and now they will be able to do so. They will be able to get into TAFE without worrying about where they are going to find the money to pay for these courses, which is a problem in a lot of low socio-economic areas. They do not have to worry about that now, because these courses will be free of charge.

These courses are tailored for the things we will need to make sure that Victoria’s wealth and progress continue, a journey we started back in November 2014. The courses are based on the needs of the state to continue the investment and growth in infrastructure projects like the Melbourne Metro project, projects that will transform public transport in this state. It will make the fast rail project to Geelong, which is part of this budget, a reality. It will make a reality the recent announcement finally by the federal government to chip in $5 billion towards the Melbourne airport link. The preferred model, which was proposed in this budget by the Andrews Labor government, is to go through Sunshine in my electorate to then connect to various regional rails. In order to get all these rail projects you need metro rail built. It has been talked about for decades and decades, but finally now it is a reality, and again it is thanks to the Andrews Labor government investing in Victoria.

There are projects like the West Gate tunnel project, which is another vital project that the state needs. In my electorate that project will transform the way people travel to Melbourne from Western Metropolitan Region and also from Geelong, Ballarat and the whole Western District. Even people who come from the south-eastern suburbs and travel west will find life easier as a result of the continuous investment by this government in the Monash Freeway upgrades over the years and further investment as part of this budget. It is about connecting Victoria and about making travel times easier for Victorians to take their kids to school and go to work and for businesses to work in the most efficient manner.

This budget is about delivering the things we said we were going to deliver when we came to office in November 2014. With level crossings we said we were committing to remove 50 level crossings, of which 20 would be done in this term. Guess what? We have delivered more than 20 already. We have delivered the biggest infrastructure project in railway crossings, eliminating all these deadly crossings in the state, and we have got more to do. We will do the 50. Should we be given the honour and privilege to return in November this year and form government we will continue our program to make sure we deliver the other 30 level crossings.

Some of these crossings are deadly, and one or two of them are in my electorate. The St Albans Main Road railway crossing is now a thing of the past; it is no longer there. Between the terrible railway crossings at Main Road and Furlong Road in St Albans 17 people have been killed over the years. But guess what? Now they are gone; they are not there anymore.

The many railway crossings between Flinders Street and Dandenong are gone. People on the other side have been complaining in the last two years about sky rail and how terrible it is, but guess what? No-one is listening to them, because the people in these regions are now realising what this government is about. This government is delivering a better transport system and a better railway system. They are seeing the results already, and come November 2018, later this year, they will realise the difference between a coalition government that does nothing for four years and a government which said, ‘We’re going to do all these projects’, and delivered them, and going forward we will be putting our plans forward to the electorate about what we are going to deliver in the next four years. That is basically what we have delivered.

Now I want to go to some of the announcements in this budget for my electorate. Sunshine Hospital is a fine hospital, and I want to pay tribute to the men and women — the doctors, staff, nurses and management — of the hospital, who are doing a terrific job servicing the west of Melbourne. On top of the $200 million investment in building the children’s hospital in Sunshine there was an announcement prior to this budget to expand the emergency department and invest $29.3 million to deliver that. That is on top of the investment in the Mercy hospital in the last budget and the commitment to redevelop Footscray Hospital. There will be some upgrades at Williamstown. Most importantly in relation to Footscray Hospital, where the $50 million was committed in the last budget to actually rebuild that hospital, I am looking forward to stage 2 to be able to start being built to put into action a brand-new hospital in Footscray to service the inner west and the people of the west. That is happening in relation to health.

In relation to education there is a further investment by the Andrews Labor government of $29 million for stage 2 of the secondary campus in Footscray. That is part of $353.2 million in school investment listed in the budget. That is a very important investment in that precinct, which is going to deliver first-class education to our kids in the west.

Also there will be a further investment in the west: an additional $55.7 million for new and upgraded bus services in Melbourne, which will include bus services in Wyndham, one of the fastest growing suburbs in Melbourne. The improvement is expected to be introduced from 2019. That is not all. There will be further improvement and further bus services in these growth areas in my electorate. I will continue campaigning to make sure we get improved bus services and rail services in these growth suburbs. There is $22.7 million to upgrade and maintain active transport infrastructure, including for Raleigh Road in Maribyrnong.

The plan goes on and on. Going back to education, there is $353 million for 12 new schools, including Davis Creek Primary School; for early works for three schools; and for additional stages for seven schools, including Burnside Primary School, Truganina East
P–9 and Sanctuary Lakes P–9 school. They are brand-new schools that are going to be built in my electorate.

The Andrews Labor government is the only government in recent history basically putting the west back on the map. I am proud to stand here representing the people of the western suburbs of Melbourne. This government has delivered again and again for the west. The western suburbs of Melbourne are no longer the poor cousins in Melbourne. I am proud of living in the west. I am proud of the living standard. We have now got better infrastructure and employment in the western suburbs.

I will stand up for my constituents about delivering the West Gate tunnel project and about making sure the M80 ring-road project is finally completed. The EJ Whitten Bridge will be opening hopefully in the next few months. That project was supposed to be done seven years ago. When the previous government came to office, the first thing they did was take that money away and transfer it to the ill-fated east–west link. That is why this project is four years behind schedule. But guess what? That project is near completion and will be open in the next few months thanks to the Andrews Labor government actually making sure that is now a reality.

The list goes on and on in relation to what we are doing in the west thanks to the current budget. Another area about rail projects and improving the public transport system is car parks. That is one of our biggest issues at the moment. There will be further investment in making sure that we increase the number of spaces and car parks around train stations. There is no point having train stations and new rail networks if you do not have enough parking spots. As a result of this budget two train stations in my electorate, in Essendon and in Watergardens, will have funding to increase the number of car spaces so more constituents will be able to drive to the station and use the public transport system, which is something that was somewhat ignored by the other side.

The western region of Melbourne will continue to improve under this government, with increased resources for early childhood across the state. I had the pleasure of opening early childhood centres in Wyndham with Minister Mikakos a couple of weeks ago, and there are more in the planning stages. When we have growing suburbs and new people moving into new suburbs, especially people with young families, it is important to make sure we have got early learning places available for them so they are able to take their kids to these places and make sure they receive the attention and the education they need.

Also there has been a $50 million increase in funding to the interface councils to further assist growth suburbs. This is funding which the government introduced two years ago, so the extra $50 million will be in addition to the current funding of $50 million. Some of my councils, like Wyndham council and Melton council, are actually some of the beneficiaries. Hume council is as well, so three of the councils in my electorate actually are beneficiaries of that scheme. Having the additional $50 million is going to go a long way to assist them in meeting the requirements of our citizens.

One of the other announcements in the budget — which is probably a small item, but you need to watch this space — is in waste-to-energy. The issue we are facing in relation to waste — and I think Dr Ratnam talked about this — is a very important issue. I agree that we need to address the waste problem we have in Victoria. I have the full confidence that the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Ms D’Ambrosio, will be making an announcement shortly in relation to how we are going to deal with the chronic issue of waste in Victoria. One of the areas I have been advocating for, and I produced a report for the minister in relation to it some few months ago, is in relation to dealing with making sure that we do not have waste being sent to landfill any more. I think that is a thing of the past. We need to move away from sending our waste to landfill.

We should be seriously thinking about implementing and building waste-to-energy plants so we can get rid of our waste in the most efficient and most environmentally friendly manner and so we can also generate environmentally friendly electricity. I am looking forward to Minister D’Ambrosio announcing the government’s policy in relation to that in the next few months. Hopefully the western suburbs of Melbourne will be the beneficiaries of that policy and we will no longer rely on landfill.

With these words, I commend the budget to the house. I want to congratulate Premier Daniel Andrews, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Daniel Mulino, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, on the great work they have done in putting this budget together and making sure Victoria remains strong. We are getting things done.

10 May 2018