NOTICE OF MOTION | ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING COMMITTEE
Mr Melhem (Western Metropolitan): I rise to speak on the motion moved by Mr Davis. I congratulate Mr Davis. He has been very busy in the last few weeks sitting in his office and writing references to committees even though committees have not been established yet. Hopefully these committees will be established tomorrow. When agreement is reached between the parties, the Leader of the Government will hopefully be able to announce the successful nominees or candidates for the various house committees. As I said earlier, I want to give Mr Davis the credit he is due. He has not changed much. He did the same thing in the last Parliament—he was very active making reference after reference to committees. The problem with that activity, as is clear today, is that if we want committees to actually do some quality work, we cannot just bombard them with reference after reference after reference. I had the pleasure of enduring that with Mr Davis on the Environment and Planning Committee in the last Parliament, where we had many, many references and his ‘reporting every six months’ on the rate capping, for example. This reference also talks about reporting every six months, so the lucky 10—which is a good number; we talked about it yesterday—on the planning committee, which is a quarter of the Parliament, will be dealing with yet another reference. I am sure next sitting week we will have another reference or two in addition to the committee’s ability to self-reference twice a year.
Mr Davis: Wrong committee.
Mr Melhem: I beg your pardon. You are right. It is the wrong committee. It is the Economy and Infrastructure Committee. The poor staff will be very busy trying to catch their breath and get things going. Having looked at what the motion refers to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, it is to inquire into pretty much every major infrastructure project this government took to the election, implemented or is in the process of implementing.
Mr Davis, the only motive I can say is behind this one—I do get it, that public accountability is very important, and there is no argument on that—is basically to try to bog things down. At least this is not moving a revocation motion to stop government projects. It includes level crossing removals, the Melbourne Metro, the West Gate Tunnel—we had a partial revocation motion earlier today on that, or an attempt to have one—the north-east link project, the Murray Basin project, the Suburban Rail Loop project and ‘any other public sector infrastructure or public works project Committee determines appropriate’.
Basically it will be a full-time standing committee to review every single thing the government is actually doing or planning to do. That takes me back to when that lot had the good fortune of getting into government between 2010 and 2014. What they did for four years was review things. They are pretty good at that. They are pretty good at reviewing things, but they are not really that good at getting things done or doing things. This motion is to refer to a committee to review, inquire and hopefully criticise projects to stop things happening. The West Gate Tunnel is one of the main features. I do not know how much we have talked about this project. In fact you get sick and tired of talking about it after a while. We have spent a fair bit of time over the last 12 months, in the previous Parliament and in this Parliament, on Wednesdays, opposition business day, talking about the West Gate Tunnel project. And yet here is another motion sending the wrong signal that we just have to review everything and inquire for the sake of having an inquiry.
There is no specific reason or specific scope that the opposition is asking the committee to look at. They are basically saying, ‘All these great projects that the government is implementing, we just want you to go and look at them. And, by the way, if you find any project over $10 million, look at that too’. I am trying to find the purpose of this. There has to be some sort of purpose in that motion apart from basically wasting resources and trying to—well, ‘critique’ is not the right word, because there is nothing wrong if you want to go and critique something—slow things down and waste resources. If you had a specific issue, a positive contribution, a constructive contribution or constructive feedback on any of these projects, I could understand it. The Melbourne Metro project is one of the projects covered by this motion. Well, that is actually going really well. It is ahead of schedule. On railway crossings, 29 railway crossing removal projects have now been completed, and there are close to 50 in the process of getting done in the next four to eight years.
I am sure Mr Davis will want to investigate how many of those railway crossings will have sky rail versus underground rail, but he will not investigate the merit of whether these projects should go ahead or not. Whilst Mr Davis and his lot want to keep reviewing stuff and referring things to committees, we are getting on with the job. We are getting on with the business of doing things, of building things. They talked about the Murray Basin rail project, for example, which is one of the projects that is covered by this motion. They talked about it, but we are actually doing it. We are actually implementing that project. The Suburban Rail Loop project is another project mentioned in this motion. That is in the development stage. Thank God there is a federal election coming up so we can finally convince Prime Minister Morrison that Victoria is still part of the commonwealth. The Liberal Party has finally rediscovered Victoria because there is an election on. They have ignored it for the last six years. We were given the smallest proportion ever of infrastructure investment in this country. Most of the money has been spent in New South Wales, Queensland and other states. We are finally getting something because they have realise there is total annihilation coming; there is a total wipe-out of the Liberal Party in Victoria coming at the next federal election.
So Morrison decided, ‘Maybe it’s a great photo opportunity with the most successful Premier in the land, Daniel Andrews, who’s actually getting things done. He just got re-elected with a massive swing’, because of our record, because of what we have been able to deliver for Victoria. ‘It’s a great photo opportunity. I might get some votes out of it, and something might rub off on me and might improve my standing in the community’. But that is not going to work. But that is great. At least we were able to secure funding, between our contribution and the commonwealth’s contribution to make sure that the metro rail, or at least the airport link, which is part of the metro rail project, will now be secured. We can start planning and design and hopefully commence construction, from memory, I think by 2022. So that is another great project that is going to be implemented by this government. The north-east link is another great project. Again, I am not sure what the committee is going to discover that is not already out there in the public domain because this project is now in the planning and design stage. Some geotechnical work is taking place and so forth. The commitment is already there to actually commence and complete that long-awaited ring-road, which should have been done years ago, but at least now it is getting done. Again, the Liberal Party, the coalition, will do what they are best at doing, and that is review things and basically put a stop to them or slow progress—
Mr Ondarchie: You love the east–west link.
Mr Melhem: See, that’s the thing, mate; you need to get over the east–west link. There is stuff other than the east–west link. There are more things than the east–west link.
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Mr Melhem: Mate, Mernda? You haven’t learned a thing in your life. You have not learned a thing. We have had two elections. The people of Victoria said—
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Mr Melhem: You have not learned anything, and now your federal colleagues have decided, ‘Oh, we’ve got $3 billion. We’re going to go and save our seat. We’re going to save Michael Sukkar and his friends, so we’re going to go and rebuild the east–west link’. Well, we have got a better project for you, brother. We have got the West Gate Tunnel project, and we have got the north-east link. That is a better proposition.
Mr Ondarchie: You supported it.
Mr Melhem: Look, I did, because I wanted you to do something, because you weren’t doing a thing when you were in government. You weren’t doing a thing, okay? You weren’t doing anything. And guess what—
Mr Davis interjected.
Mr Melhem: No, it is actually still called the east–west link. I am glad you just said east link, because the west was missing. From memory, the western section of the east–west link was in the never-never. It think it was 2030-something. It was in the never-never. But guess what, I am pleased that it is the western section of the east–west link that is going to be built first, and thank God for that. I am very pleased about that. That means my constituents are going to get the benefits of the east–west link—
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Mr Melhem: The eastern section, well, that is going to happen; it is going to happen by connecting the M80 with the Eastern Freeway. I was actually pleased to see only earlier this week that the new signalling system is actually operational at Punt Road. I think Victorians and people travelling through this section of the city will be able to enjoy a better run in the morning. I know some teething problems are taking place at the moment, but it is looking good. We are actually doing things. The only thing you dreamt up in the last term of your government, with a few months to go, when you changed leaders, was that thought bubble, ‘What will we do? We haven’t been doing anything. We’ve been reviewing everything’, and somebody came up with the idea, ‘We’ll do an east–west link’. Well, Victorians rejected it. Come up with different ideas; come up with different things.
Mr Davis interjected.
Mr Melhem: Were you? Well, you haven’t done anything more then, have you?
Mr Davis: I did.
Mr Melhem: Did you? Okay, well, there you go. At least we are getting things done. The only things you could do was review. You did not even have the money back then.
Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders