Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Speech in Parliament - Appropriation Bills (No. 2-4), 2014-15 - 3 March 2015

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (17:38): It is my pleasure to rise to speak in this debate on the appropriation bills that give all of us in this House an opportunity to talk broadly about the budget issues and, as we just heard, talk broadly about any other issue of public importance. The member for Lingiari showed in his moving speech the broad nature of this appropriations debate. Although we are on the budget bills, technically, convention of course allows members to speak on any topic at all.

This afternoon, I want to speak about the budget, not so much from a national perspective, as important a focus as that is for all of us—and we will have heightened focus on that later in the work with the release of the Intergenerational report—but for the residents of the electorate of Casey about some of the local initiatives that we pledged prior to the last election and that are being rolled out now across the Casey electorate. From a local perspective, I was determined to pursue local policies that would build a safe community, a stronger local economy and a stronger community. I took those pledges to the last election. It is very fitting that my friend and colleague the member for Mayo and Assistant Minister for Infrastructure is in the House. He has been responsible for implementing each of the initiatives that we took to the election. He has been out to the Casey electorate, and I have discussed the timing of the funding of so many of the pledges. It is fitting that he is here at this hour, because the appropriation bills, the budget bills, which fund all of the big programs that we argue about and debate in this House, also fund the very local things that are community priorities.

I wanted to do what I could with the community to build a safer community. That has entailed funding that has been provided by the minister at the table on behalf of the government for security cameras in the town of Lilydale and the installation of security cameras for the first time in Healesville and Yarra Junction. All in all, $250,000 is being provided. Those cameras are set to be installed throughout the course of this year.

There are two local school communities crying out for funding for car parks. Both schools are right near Warburton Highway, which runs out through the Yarra Valley. For parents dropping off and picking up children it was becoming very hazardous. For the Launching Place Primary School and the Woori Yallock Primary School funding was provided for the construction of new car parks at both of those schools. Those works are due to commence around the middle of this year and will be completed after just a few months.

In the heart of the Casey electorate we have a not-for-profit driver-training centre, Metec, which I have spoken about before. It is based in Kilsyth. It has done so much for so many local residents learning to drive. It provides a safe off-road environment for those who are about to get their licence or may have just got their licence to learn to drive in a safe environment, in fact, to learn in a safe environment what to do when they lose control of a car. The electorate of Casey is very like the electorate of the minister at the table, the member for Mayo. They are probably the two most similar electorates. The Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges in the electorate of Casey and the minister at the table representing an electorate of similar size through the outer suburbs and the Adelaide Hills. So many young residents learn to drive and get their licence. The very first night they can drive into the country in hazardous weather conditions. Over more than 30 years, Metec has provided important courses. It is great that we have contributed $100,000 so they can extend what they call their car control area, which to the rest of us is known as a skidpan, where young drivers can learn what to do when they lose control of their vehicle in the wet.

There are a number of initiatives that are being rolled out to strengthen the community—four Green Army projects in particular. The first has already commenced, at the end of last year, in the Yarra Valley, broadly from Healesville, Yarra Glen, Steels Creek and a number of other towns. That is underway. I had the pleasure of meeting the team of 10 doing that great work. They are working for six months for a wage to improve the local environment. Three others, in Mount Evelyn, in Monbulk and along the Warburton trail, will commence later in the year. They will do great work and it will provide a great opportunity for those 18- to 24-year-olds who are signing up for that important project.

Of course, sporting facilities are very important to all of our electorates. They are also so often a community hub. That is why there was priority funding for the Don Road sporting pavilion in Healesville, as well as the Queens Park oval, also in Healesville, where junior sport is played. Works on those projects will commence towards the end of this year. The Monbulk netball club required a court resurfacing and new shelters. This was something that they had been wanting to do for a long period of time. In partnership with the council, with a federal grant, I was pleased to be out there just the other week to see works commencing. Those facilities are due for completion in April this year. The Mount Evelyn Football Netball Club, as so many clubs experience, had no change rooms for the netballers. With an innovative project involving the northern metropolitan institute of TAFE and partnering with the council, funding has been provided for the construction of those change rooms. They are being built at the TAFE and they are due to be installed in the coming months. Similarly, for the Yarra Valley netballers, where a new 24-court facility has been built, funding was provided to shelters for those courts, which was a priority for the Yarra Valley district netball association.

The smallest grant of all was to the Warburton Millgrove football club. The member for Mayo, who is in the chamber, as a very intelligent football fan, supporting the same football team as me, will appreciate this. The club required new goalposts because they had never had professional goalposts fitted. In fact, they had concrete posts that had been fitted some decades ago. So a $10,000 grant has provided them with some goalposts, which will enable that country town to host finals and will have a good effect on the local economy. The Yarra Junction Football and Netball Club will get funding to upgrade their change rooms and provide a new storage area and a gymnasium for the cricketers, footballers and netballers. At another local level at Healesville, $55,000 was provided for a case study to examine the feasibility of the hospital becoming independent. That study is underway now.

I mentioned programs to build a stronger economy. I want to focus particularly on two. One is the Yarra Valley tourist railway. The minister very quickly executed this important contract. In fact, he came to Healesville to sign the contract with the council. That is providing just over $3.5 million to reconstruct the old railway between Yarra Glen and Healesville as a tourist railway. This is something that has the support of all of the local chambers of commerce and the business community, who were all there when we had the signing of that contract. At a tangible level, it will boost tourism numbers and boost the local economy, not just in Healesville but right across the Yarra Valley. Tourism is vitally important in the Yarra Valley—to get day tourists to stay the night and to get more international tourists into the area. That was a priority for me that will boost the tourism industry. It will build jobs; it will provide more opportunities in the job market for young people just starting out in particular. It will help every business in the town and across the Yarra Valley once it is operational. Work is well underway and I look forward to going to their open day in just a couple of weeks.

In conclusion, in the brief time remaining I want to focus still on tourism. I want to focus on the Victorian economy and infrastructure. The Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development has done a number of these projects, as I mentioned, but the biggest project in Victoria is one that the Labor state government is refusing to proceed with. That is the East West Link. The federal government has provided $3 billion to build the East West Link and the state Labor government is refusing to build it. It is contemplating spending nearly $1.2 billion on compensation not to build it. It will be the biggest amount ever spent not to build a road.

For the people of the outer east and the Yarra Valley this road is absolutely vital. You have heard here in question time, from the minister, about the absolute necessity for this road to relieve traffic congestion, to reduce commuter times. Let's focus on the punishment to the tourism industry in the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges of that road not being built and the punishment to the horticulture industry trying to get their products to market. Time is money. We are not alone in thinking this. The Leader of the Opposition once thought this, and as the minister has pointed out, he thought it before he entered parliament when he put in a submission with the Australian Workers Union, and he thought it again as soon as he became a member of parliament when he put in a joint submission with three other members of parliament, a submission that said doing nothing is not an option. Both of those submission strongly supported the East West Link for all the reasons I have outlined.

Our $3 billion is there for the road to be built. It is not too late for 'do nothing Dan', the Labor Premier, to build the road and to see common sense. It is not too late for the Leader of the Opposition to show some leadership, as a leader of the Labor Party, but also as a Victorian member, on what is best for the Victorian economy. Back when he put these submissions in, he was 'Build it Bill', but what he has become is 'Roadblock Bill', and he is road blocking the outer east and the Yarra Valley from a better future. (Time expired)

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