Speech: Victorian Budget 2018/19

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (12:17:14) — I am delighted to speak on this year’s budget, which certainly builds on the foundations of our three previous budgets with a massive investment in education, infrastructure, public safety, health, jobs and transport.

For the Yuroke electorate this budget provides the biggest local investment that the electorate has seen, and it has been enthusiastically welcomed by local residents. As parliamentary secretary for public transport and for roads I know that in my electorate and across the state our investments in this area, in both this budget and previous budgets, will make a real difference to the lives of many people into the future and for many, many decades to come.

As we see the investment in the CityLink-Tullamarine Freeway widening project really taking shape now, it is great to see that major roads planning and investment is continuing with the incredibly important north-east link — the missing link in Melbourne’s freeway network. I know that that is of great importance to you, Acting Speaker Ward.

But it is not just the major roads that will keep our city moving. I am thrilled that this budget invests almost $2.2 billion in suburban road upgrades in Melbourne’s northern and south-eastern suburbs, building on the western road upgrades funded in last year’s budget. In Yuroke this means that Craigieburn Road will be duplicated from Mickleham Road to the Hume Freeway, with shared pedestrian and cycling lanes on both sides of the road, safety barriers and intersection upgrades. This is a massive relief to the Craigieburn community. It resolves one of the most significant local problems, and it is certainly a long-awaited outcome. When I was first elected to Hume council in 2008 this was an issue that we were advocating for then as a council. Since that time local sports clubs; residents; retailers; public transport operators; local schools; emergency services, including the State Emergency Service, the Country Fire Authority, Victoria Police and the community emergency response team have all raised this as an issue.

At the time that the road started to be problematic there were 21 000 people living in Craigieburn. There are now around 51 000 people. The road is incredibly overused and to say that the community is relieved is an understatement. So there is still a need to look at other roads in the area, both Somerton and Mickleham roads do need duplicating, and I will continue to fight for those works as I have for Craigieburn Road. By way of comparison, the former Liberal government’s investments in road duplications in Yuroke was zero, so this is very significant.

In regard to public transport, this budget has provided a massive investment in solving the other significant issue in Craigieburn and that is parking at the local station. In 2014 there were 267 spaces at the car park, which was completely inadequate for this growing community. Since then this government has invested in incremental improvements, with an additional 55 spaces created onsite and around 100 spaces created or underway in Potter Street nearby. Now this budget has provided a much-needed 745 additional spaces. Once completed, this will bring the total for the station to around 1165 spaces. No doubt they will still all fill every morning, but it is an incredibly huge boost and the community is quite thrilled that this has finally happened. Again, for the record the former Liberal government’s investment in additional parking at Craigieburn station was also zero.

The Yuroke electorate is benefiting not only from this investment in transport infrastructure; we are also delivering for future generations by making education and new schools a top priority. In 2017 the $12.2 million Newbury Primary School opened. It is now well and truly up and running, and it is great to visit and see the kids all proudly wearing their new uniforms. I do congratulate the principal, Michelle Bromfield, and her team for the great work that they have done to make the school a success.

There is no doubt that our local schools are terrific. We have some wonderful schools, but the community is continuing to grow, and we need to provide and plan for the new schools in those areas. This budget provides the investment to ensure that local infrastructure keeps up with that growth. We are building on previous investments in education in this budget. Last year $13.8 million was provided to start construction of the Aitken Hill Primary School in Craigieburn; this budget provides an additional $6.78 million for stage 2, and that will ensure that the school is ready to open its doors for the 2019 school year.

The budget also provides funding of $24 million to deliver stage 1 construction of the new Craigieburn South secondary school, and that will open in 2020. This school will also be an inclusion hub, so that will provide inclusive education for students with disabilities in Melbourne’s growing northern suburbs and is very welcomed by the community.

In addition to these there is still demand for more schools, particularly in the growing Mickleham area and the Greenvale area that is continuing to grow. This year’s budget provided funding to acquire land for the proposed Merrifield West P–6 in Mickleham, and last year the funds were provided for the acquisition of land for the future Greenvale North West primary school. I will continue to work with the minister on the delivery of these and other new schools that are needed. By way of comparison in regard to education, the funding for schools in Yuroke under the previous Liberal government was $5.4 million, and so far under this government it has been $106.3 million.

Along with the new facilities it is also great to see our fantastic existing local schools that have benefited from programs that ensure every child has the same opportunities. Five local schools are now operating school breakfast clubs, both of the government secondary schools will have an in-school doctor service and thousands of families are benefiting from our programs to help with the cost of school excursions and sporting equipment and to help them buy those essential items like school uniforms.

I mentioned in my inaugural speech in this place that as a single parent on a low income I was acutely aware of the strains on a household budget that arise from these education expenses and how frustrating it can be when, as a parent, you only want to do what is best for your child but some choices in reality just do not exist. So I am really proud that this government recognises that no child should miss out on fully participating at school because of a tight family budget. These initiatives are really important. They matter, they really matter. They make a difference to the lives and the education experiences of those who most need our support.

While we all adore our children and enjoy almost every minute of raising them, I am sure that like me many parents look forward to when our little darlings can take that great step into home ownership. The Yuroke electorate is the third youngest electorate in Victoria, with an average age of 31, and it is a community of choice for first home buyers and young families.

However, with property prices continuing to rise, it is all the more challenging for people to get into that housing market, especially younger Victorians. This government has been helping to provide access to first homes, with 427 applications received for the first home owner grants in the Hume municipality from 1 July 2016 to 28 February 2018. In addition to this, we continue to support stamp duty exemptions for first home buyers purchasing properties with a value of up to $600 000; there has been a particularly strong uplift in these purchases in Hume. From the period July 2016 to February 2018 there were 1458 stamp duty exemptions in the Hume municipality and a reduced rate for another 121 purchasers. I spent a number of years renting, so I do understand how very challenging it can be to be able to get your first home.

Another area where we have been able to assist local residents with the cost-of-living pressures has been through the very much welcomed short-term registration payments. Residents of Frankston, Pakenham and Craigieburn have been amongst the fastest to take up short-term vehicle registration. Craigieburn has the second-highest number of three-month registrations with 3296, just behind Pakenham. It also has the highest number of six-month registration payments — just over 2500 people have taken up this option. It has been most popular among the 26 to 35-year-olds in that area. It does not surprise me and I am really glad that people have taken up that opportunity. It certainly does provide a huge relief to a household budget when you are not suddenly having to come up with that massive $800-odd amount in a single hit. Being able to spread that has been very warmly welcomed and we can see that by the fact that people are heading in droves to make that choice.

Saving is not the only challenge, though, that first home buyers face. With a changing employment market and the exit of the automotive industry, they pose some significant challenges for job seekers. As we know, a job is much more important than just a pay cheque. It has so many negative impacts. I know I am not telling you, Acting Speaker Ward, anything you do not know. I know this is definitely a passion of yours. The impacts include social isolation and mental health issues and they can have a detrimental impact on your physical wellbeing. There are too many to talk about.

That is why it is very important for us to keep creating and protecting jobs. In Yuroke that has been a very strong focus. Last week I was thrilled to attend, along with the Minister for Industry and Employment, the opening of a facility and the 100th birthday of Dulux in my electorate. We got to meet Penny the sheepdog, and she was a real treat. That was a great day.

The facility is a very modern design. Its size is larger than the playing area of the MCG. It is huge. The water tanks outside have been painted to look like paint tins, so it is very impressive — and of course the sheepdog is on the wall. That facility will manufacture of all Dulux’s water-based paints and new technology-based paints, producing about 50 million litres of water-based decorative paint a year for the Australian market. It is huge. But even better, it is providing jobs. It is starting by creating 67 new full-time jobs.

It was great to talk to workers there. I met a couple of workers there, Barry and Wish. They now have this wonderful lifestyle. They live 5 minutes from where they work, so they have got zero commute, effectively. With the way the facility is operating they are doing two shifts. They have been able to select shifts that enable them to do other things that are important to them. Wish is a mum and she is able to do the morning shift, which means she can be home in the afternoon when the kids get home from school. That is terrific.

Across our state, one of the main ways that the government supports jobs is through the infrastructure projects that we have going on, and there is certainly no shortage of works right across our state. That is why we need a workforce that is able to do these jobs and the 30 free priority TAFE courses and the preapprenticeship courses are so important for these for these high-demand industries. There are plenty of people in Yuroke who are ready to take up that challenge. Around a quarter of Yuroke residents welcome these opportunities to study at TAFE. We have seen that the number of people who go on to post-secondary education, to either TAFE or vocational studies, is around 30 per cent, which is really quite terrific.

By way of contrast again, while I am talking about TAFE, you cannot overlook the fact that while we are investing in 30 free priority TAFE courses the federal Liberal government have slashed $60 million from TAFE. I just find their priorities quite astounding. Our priorities, on the other hand, are right. In addition to the TAFE courses and the preapprenticeship funding, the budget is also investing $26 million to enhance vocational education in schools and $50 million to deliver up to 1700 Head Start apprenticeships and traineeships at 100 secondary schools. This will ensure that students can finish secondary school with an apprenticeship or traineeship qualification, ready to work in high-demand areas.

Another aspect of this budget that I am also very pleased about and that goes to our continuing investment in infrastructure is the inclusion of another $50 million in the Growing Suburbs Fund. I note that the current and former ministers for local government are in the chamber at the moment. I thank both of them for continuing this incredibly important investment in Yuroke. This has meant contributions to the Livvi’s Place inclusive play space, the Aston Recreation Reserve development, the Annadale Interim Community Centre and the Arena Recreation Reserve pavilion. It brings investment in Yuroke to over $5 million. We are incredibly grateful for that and I am really pleased that this budget now allows for support of even more of these fantastic projects. So thank you to both the ministers who have been responsible for that.

Emergency services also got a great boost in this budget. The community is eagerly awaiting a new Victoria State Emergency Service unit and a new ambulance station in the northern Craigieburn area. This year’s budget also provided $13 million for a new Craigieburn Country Fire Authority station. The current brigade has completely outgrown the station. We are looking to have a new one that will have additional fire trucks. This one will be home to five fire trucks and have better accommodation for 12 firefighters. Our local firefighters do an outstanding job, so I am really pleased that they will be able to have the facilities that they need to do the best job that they can. This budget helps Yuroke in so many ways. I am very pleased to support it.