Speech on Appropriation (2019–2020) Bill 2019

Before I deal with the budget, I just want to give comfort to Ms Garrett because she might like to know that the Greens have done exceptionally badly in rural Victoria in the last federal election. In all rural seats, as designated by the AEC, they went backwards considerably, and in the great seat of Wannon, with the wonderful federal Minister for Education, Mr Tehan, they came in last—that is, behind Mr Clive Palmer’s candidate and an independent candidate who jumped in the bay. It is all happening, Ms Garrett. Do not worry about the Greens; they are being wiped out, especially in rural Victoria. But I am interested she noted that it is terrible for people travelling on congested roads. Three hours, I think she mentioned, people might be stuck on congested roads. Well, we only needed to build the east–west link. We have wasted $1.3 billion not to build it. That would have been a start to get all your city friends living inside the tram tracks to their destination more quickly.

To go back to the actual budget, which I rise to speak on today, it was handed down by a Treasurer who is so arrogant that he has told Victorians who are struggling under the weight of increased taxes to ‘get a life’. What a disgrace! This from the most senior minister of the state. We can only assume his comments are representative of the Premier and the entire government. What does that say to Victorians struggling to get a life and to get ahead? It is no wonder they delayed the delivery of the budget until after the federal election. Had it been delivered before the successful re-election of the Morrison government, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg would have been responsible for winning more seats. They did well to delay it, because they would have been wiped out even further.

This is a classic Labor budget. It is about division and debt. It is about redistribution of wealth from those who work hard and who just want to get on with trying to buy a house, feed their families, provide an education for their children and beat the elements and world prices on their farms. This budget pits country against city, children against children and electorate against electorate. The 2019– 20 budget escalates the debt burden of Victorians to stratospheric heights. The debt is currently $22.8 billion. In four years time it will have reached $55 billion. Debt is not something that is irrelevant; it is no different to personal debt. After all, the government is not a wealth creator; it is a wealth taker. Someone has to pay debt back.

Hardworking Victorians fund government, essential services as well as extravagances, and hardworking Victorians in this generation and the next will have to pay the interest bill. I am sure this government is banking on interest rates staying low, but this is never guaranteed in any economy. Despite claims that this government has produced a budget for all Victorians, country Victorians and others have been clearly left wanting. In Western Victoria Region we have the worst roads, as per independent analysis by the RACV. The federal government promised $140 million to help fix our key freight roads and the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Port Fairy. They realise how important these roads are to families, to businesses and to feeding this city and providing valuable export revenue. I have frequently called on the government to match this funding, but no hope. Under this Minister for Roads, who is also a member responsible for the region in which I am a member, despite the brilliant advocacy of the Princes Highway West Action Alliance and all the responsible local governments in the area, these desperate pleas have been ignored.

Daniel Andrews can only be described as deliberately misrepresenting the electorate. Hand on heart he proclaimed that there would be no new taxes. Well, surprise, surprise! There have been 20 new taxes since this government came to power: 20 new taxes that involve wealth redistribution, big spending and wasteful government, and that is why they need them. Of course they need more money from Victorians because they need to fund their union allies and grow their socialist agenda while funding their incompetent management of most projects, especially major projects. No private sector business would remain in business if it operated as incompetently as this government in the delivery of projects.

There are so many examples: the North East Link was promised to be $5 billion and has now blown out to $15.79 billion—that is a blow out of $10.7 billion; the West Gate Tunnel, a blowout of $5.8 billion; level crossing removals, a blowout of $3.3 billion; and so on. There are numerous examples of their incompetent management and projection of spending on projects.

Country Victorians, especially farmers, will be most adversely affected by the proposed fire insurance levy, which has been increased to 10 per cent, and by 2022–23 it will have increased to 20 per cent. This comes on top of many rural properties, given that this government has insisted on annual valuations, having their valuations increased by 50 per cent. The fire insurance levy is on top of that, and it is a very serious impost and a fixed cost on how you do business in a free market, which is farming. This increase, of course, is required to pay for the new career firefighter services, which were previously largely provided by volunteers in country Victoria. The powerful, career-only United Firefighters Union, of which Ms Garrett seemed to be a victim, is the biggest beneficiary of levies, which will be paid for by households and farmers.

Another tax, as my colleague previously mentioned, is the gold tax. Victoria was built on the back of goldminers. We are in this magnificent building because of that wealth creation. These high-risk enterprises will now be paying royalties for the first time ever. It is disgraceful. This mining sector is now in a wave of very strong investment, but, like all Labor governments, if you are having a go, you will get taxed, not rewarded, for risk-taking and effort. This is a serious problem. I have now learnt that some goldmining enterprises in my electorate will be under threat. They may not be able to continue.

Children in government schools will get free government services—this is where children are pitted against children—and sanitary products, but not in non-government or Catholic schools. This is clearly discriminatory. Parents in many rural and remote areas, and even in towns and cities, make extraordinary sacrifices to use non-government and Catholic parish schools. Frequently there is no choice but to fund your children’s education because the government service is so inadequate. It is also patently obvious that road and rail funding is significantly directed to those electorates of importance to the government. While the federal government allocated funds to roads, the state government is unable to match them if they are not in their own electorates.

Victoria is now the highest taxing state in Australia—what a reputation to have. Land taxes have more than doubled—up 109 per cent. Payroll tax has increased 27 per cent since Labor came to power. What an iniquitous tax. You promote the idea of creating jobs and then you tax people for employing people. It does not make sense. Public sector wages have blown out by 42 per cent under this government, but where are the discernible beneficial outcomes?

So this government delivers increased debt, increased taxes, class warfare and division and pits Victorians against Victorians. It is not a budget for all Victorians. It is a budget for some Victorians, as identified by the Labor government.

30 May 2019