In Parliament

Bill Debate - Appropriation (2024-2025) Bill 2024


‘APPROPRIATION (2024-2025) BILL 2024’.

Tuesday, 14 May 2024.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (16:41):

I rise to speak on the State Government’s 2024–25 Budget and the associated Appropriation Bills. A Budget should set out the vision for this State; that is the purpose of a Budget. What we saw this year was a new Premier, and even the opposition came into this place expecting to see the Premier set out her vision for the future of this State, her vision having taken the premiership after 10 years as a part of the Government. Her leadership should have been stamped onto this Budget. By the end of the Treasurer’s speech, what was clear was, as has been written, the Premier is at best pedestrian. There was no vision in this Budget.

The Budget included one thing – obviously somebody devised the Budget, drafted a Budget, put a Budget forward and said, ‘But hang on, there’s no announceable. There’s nothing in this Budget.’ So, someone came along and said, ‘Why don’t we take core business of Government,’ – that is, providing, effectively, capital required funding into schools – ‘rebrand it, rebrand core business of schools, put a badge on it and we’ll make that an announcement.’ That is what this Budget does, and that is the only announceable in this Budget.

It is shameful to think that a new Premier has not taken the opportunity to set out her vision for this State – and that is what is clear. What is clear is that the Premier does not have a vision for this State. What we know from this Budget is that the mismanagement of the last 10 years is now recognised both nationally and internationally through the ratings agencies. Ratings agencies are calling out the impact of this Budget on the nation and the mismanagement thereof. That is clear. We also know that the economic vandalism of this government is now coming to a point that requires punitive tax measures which are killing investment in Victoria. You only need to talk to the property sector to understand the damage that has been caused because of the Government’s tax regime.

In fact, it is a regime that was described on Budget day as hostile. This Budget has shown the clear issues in terms of the Government’s mismanagement – the economic vandalism – but also the blatant pork-barrelling. We have seen for year after year the way that funding is directed straight into Labor electorates over need. So, when an assessment measure is done by the Department, Ministers are overruling those assessments and pork-barrelling funding in some of the worst ways we have ever seen. We have seen Government Member after Government Member get up and talk about funding into their electorates. Of course they have received funding, because the Government’s pork-barrelling investment in Victoria. If you do not live in a Labor seat, you do not get Government funding; that is the way it now works.

It is appalling when it comes to schools especially. Our children are receiving funding based on the political affiliation of the seat they live it. It is absolutely outrageous, and the statistics show it. Before this year’s Budget 93 per cent of capital investment in schools went into Labor seats – 93 per cent. You almost have to get up in the morning with a red pen if you are the Minister and actively try and cross out any proposal for funding in a seat that is not a Government seat to get to 93 per cent. I mean, you have to really work hard to make sure that you do not share out funding in the way that it should be shared, and that is what this Government is now known for. All of the things that we have known about this Government have now been put on display for all to see, and that is what is so clear about this Budget. Because it lacks any vision, there is no cover for the truth behind what this Government is doing in terms of its economic vision and strategy, or lack thereof, for the future of our State.

I do want to mention for a moment one of the most important issues that should be considered by policymakers and Government in this State, and that is housing affordability and the capacity for people to get into a home, because it is clear that more and more young people do not believe that they can get into a home. They do not believe that their dream of owning a home is achievable.

Before he left, former Premier Andrews identified the need for improving the number of homes available to Victorians as a key priority for his Government. Since he made an announcement – an announcement that will never be achieved – of 80,000 homes a year over each year for the next 10 years, you could not have seen that stone drop quicker into the water than has been the case when it comes to housing. I have not seen an example of the Premier talking or prioritising this issue to the level that it deserves. It is almost as if the former Premier left and took the commitment with him, because we know that over the coming year there will only be 51,000 homes built of the 80,000 promised, so we are 30,000 short of the promise. It is little wonder that the Government has walked away from its promise. The projections show that over the next two years less than 55,000 will be built in each of those two years. So, it is no wonder that the Government has completely walked away from its promise and its commitment and changed its language. It has gone from talking about 80,000 homes each year to a total of 800 in the 10th year, so I suspect that what we are going to see at some point is a year where the Government will walk up and deliver us all of those missing homes in that year. We know that is not true. We know that this Government has dropped the ball on one of the most important issues facing all Victorians, and that is delivering homes to Victorians.

We know that the Government will be unable to deliver on their promise. I referred to the property council talking about the tax regime as hostile. We know that the Budget confirmed $21.5 billion in property taxes. Almost half of state tax take is made up of property taxes – 29 of the 55 new or increased taxes over the last decade have been foisted on the property industry, so is it any wonder that the impact of these new or increased taxes, 29 of them, is crippling the sector? The Government could not have its hand deeper in the pocket of the sector.

What that means is that on the cost of a home – on the cost of an apartment in an urban area – roughly 30 per cent of the cost is tax. Almost 30 per cent of the cost is tax, and in greenfields areas it is 45 per cent. When you buy a home, almost 45 per cent of the cost in a greenfields site is tax. When you go to buy an apartment, 30 per cent of the cost of that apartment is tax. These taxes are causing incredible damage in terms of housing affordability, and we know that these taxes are parasitic. That is what they are. They are parasitic. These 29 taxes are parasitic, and the Government is causing the biggest movable damage to the sector through these 29 new taxes.

I also want to speak about some of the funding issues in my local community. I note that this budget has walked away from the promise to deliver upgrades to 29 schools. Of those 29 schools, two are in my electorate. Hampton Primary School and Gardenvale Primary School were both promised funding and told by the candidate that that funding would be delivered in the first year after the election. That is what the schools were told. How outrageous to rip away that promise. We know that when it comes to the schools that were promised in the election to be funded, 70 per cent were in Labor seats – of course they were – and 26 per cent were in coalition seats. When it came to ripping away the funding, 80 per cent of the schools that did get the funding were in Labor seats and only 41 per cent of those in coalition seats that were waiting for funding were funded. When it comes to Hampton Primary School and Gardenvale Primary School, hundreds of children have been ripped off by this Government.

They are not the only schools that need funding in my community. I have spoken about it in this place before, but I refer to Brighton Primary, where we have 14 demountables. In those demountables we have one of the few assisted hearing units in Melbourne. Those demountables are placed next to the train line, so you have kids with genuine hearing difficulties who are learning in demountables that are 40 years old next to a train line. It has been over 40 years since that school received any capital funding. It is absolutely abhorrent that the Government porkbarrels in the way that they have.

And there is another school, Brighton Beach Primary School, which has not been reported. There is mould in that school, and we know how dangerous that is. The Government has known for six months about the mould – the open mould – which has now been sheeted over to try and stop children taking it in. Six months that mould has been there with children walking past.

What an absolute disgrace. That is a clear health and safety issue for those primary school aged children. It is an absolute disgrace, and for the Government to have known for six months and done nothing about it is an absolute shame.

Budgets should set out a vision. This budget we saw a new Premier, who should have walked into this Chamber with her Treasurer, and the two should have announced a Budget with some vision, with some sense of purpose, with some sense of direction. Not that I was a fan of his in any way, but I am absolutely sure the former Premier would not have allowed a Budget to be delivered this way. I am absolutely sure the former Premier would not have allowed a Budget to be delivered in the way this budget was delivered. The new Premier walked in, and a Budget was announced that was at best pedestrian – kindly put, beige – and they had found one announceable to take into the fact that it was a budget with mismanagement, economic vandalism, pork-barrelling but, more than anything else, a lack of vision. This Government is now hurting Victorians, and that is on display for every Victorian to see. It is time for the Labor Government to go.