12 March 1991 - Current
Mr McGUIRE (Broadmeadows) (15:42:31): Relevance deprivation is the curse of opposition. The matter of greatest public importance this week in this Parliament is the Victorian budget. The centrepiece that has most relevance to all Victorians is infrastructure investment of $107 billion in a year. This is more than the Australian government is committing for a decade. This is the inconvenient truth that the opposition seeks to deny in this debate. This AAA-rated budget defines why Labor matters. Victoria’s economy leads the nation, driving the world record for uninterrupted growth. The Andrews Labor government recognises the economic benefit in building infrastructure, highlighted by the International Monetary Fund and the OECD. Victoria’s Big Build invests in an unprecedented overhaul of our transport network. The scale is sweeping, from roundabouts to the biggest project in Victoria’s history—the Suburban Rail Loop. Headlines are goggle-eyed. The suburban transport blitz fully funds more than $15 billion for the missing link in our road network, the North East Link. A further $6.6 billion will remove another 25 level crossings, improving safety, easing congestion and increasing productivity. The budget also provides $608 million to develop the business case for the long-awaited Melbourne Airport rail link. Delivering such a long pipeline of projects has a human face. It will create 115 000 jobs. This adds to the record jobs growth already established for the state and spread throughout our regions. Despite the challenge of a $5.2 billion writedown in stamp duty, the Treasurer wrapped up the budget with a $1 billion surplus. Infrastructure think tank Infrastructure Partnerships Australia declared: Treasurer Tim Pallas has delivered another stellar infrastructure budget for the people of Victoria, despite domestic headwinds and a downward revision to the state’s stamp duty revenue … Chief executive Adrian Dwyer said, and I quote: This is an impressive infrastructure budget, made even more remarkable because it’s delivered in the face of global challenges and a considerable writedown in revenue. Adding to the question of the relevance of the opposition’s matter of public importance is that the points it raises have already been answered during question time this week. For anyone who missed it, here is what the Treasurer told Parliament, and I will quote him directly: Let us be very clear that in regard to east–west this government will not break our commitments to the Victorian people, nor will we do that at the expense of honouring a facile offering by the federal government to provide the state of Victoria with a contingent liability offer that is baloney money—money that does not appear in the forward estimates, money that has absolutely no capacity to be delivered in their current budgetary settings. But more importantly, with the state of Victoria having the biggest infrastructure spend going on in this nation at the moment—certainly the biggest in this state’s history, $107 billion right across the state of Victoria—with that sort of investment, where do you think these skills and capacities would go to add another monster project into that process? The Treasurer continued: The Auditor-General has assessed this project as costing over $20 billion, but we are going to get $4 billion of fake money to go on and build this thing. How nonsensical can it be? Remember: this was a project— Here is where the Premier interjected with a comment. 'A zombie project’ is what the Premier said. The Treasurer took up the interjection, as was reported by Hansard: This was a zombie project—correct, Premier—that the Victorian people voted on not once, but twice. The Treasurer continued: … I will be clear: we are not building this road. We are not building it because we promised the Victorian people we would not build it—and we will not. I will be very clear: with a business case that those opposite hid from the Victorian people that showed a return on investment of 45 cents in the dollar, you can understand why we would not do it. And he went on: Anybody who knew anything about economics would understand that that is a pretty bad use of money. So we will not be building it; we will not be distracting ourselves from real infrastructure that will make a real and material difference to the wellbeing of Victorians, such as the Big Build that is going on in Victoria at the moment. I do not believe the Treasurer could have been more forthright. The Minister for Transport Infrastructure also updated the house this week on how the Andrews government is delivering the critical missing link in our road network, the North East Link, which the government put out to market on the first day of its second term. That is the decisiveness that is required. The North East Link was simply a line in the Melway for decades, but the Andrews government has invested more than $70 billion in this vital transport infrastructure project. The minister defined its significance and time line, and I will quote her: The early works package will be awarded soon, with works to start next year, pending those planning approvals, and tenders for the big building package are well underway. Construction will start next year and be completed by 2027. Why is this project important— she asked. It is important for so many reasons. It will give local roads back to local residents—for example, 32 000 cars a day off Greensborough Road and 14 000 cars a day off Fitzsimons Lane. This includes getting trucks off local roads, supporting our freight industry and supporting local communities, cutting travel time to the airport for those in the eastern suburbs by 30 minutes, upgrading capacity and providing a dedicated busway. And only the Andrews Labor government is getting on and delivering. That is the kicker. Nevertheless, I will continue to build unity tickets. In the strategy Buildings Smarter Cities Stronger Communities, published last year, I called for a unity ticket between the Victorian and Australian governments, because they have established this on the North East Link, and the unity ticket I was looking for as well was to anchor a city deal. I have been delighted to inform the house this week that the Australian government has committed to developing a north-west Melbourne city deal. The federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, the Honourable Alan Tudge, wrote before the 18 May federal election to the northern region’s economic development body, North Link, whom I thank for their commitment to the city deal. Here is what he said, and I quote: The North and West regions of Melbourne are undergoing dramatic population growth, with the area expected to grow by around 460 000 people—over 35 per cent—by 2031. The region’s residential areas are growing and the economy continues to transition from traditional manufacturing, with exciting emerging employment clusters and industries. He went on: It will also build on the investments that the Morrison Government has made including the $5 billion investment in the Melbourne Airport rail link and the $2 billion investment in fast rail from Melbourne to Geelong. Quoting the minister again: A North West Melbourne City Deal would provide the platform to deliver the vision, planning and investment needed to support a fast growing population, housing and jobs, and ensure the region acts as an efficient gateway to Melbourne. Minister Tudge signed off declaring, and I quote him again: I look forward to continuing to transform connectivity and support growth in this region. I could not agree with him any more. Mr Tudge has been appointed Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population in the new Morrison ministry, so I look forward to him delivering on the Morrison government’s commitment to a north-west Melbourne city deal. Such a city deal would redress inequality and the tale of two cities in the Australian government’s infrastructure funding disparity between Sydney and Melbourne. Research has been done. Building Smarter Cities Stronger Communities identifies priority precincts and projects for a city deal. It ranks them according to support from the three tiers of government, budgets, submissions and assessments by the National Growth Areas Alliance. The city deal has also secured crucial support. It was a runaway winner, with 72 per cent of the vote in the highest category from more than 160 community leaders, featuring the Premier, five Victorian cabinet ministers, mayors and chief executive officers at the 2017 northern metropolitan regional assembly. Business Council of Australia members, the Victorian ALP state conference and the national conference of the ALP support these initiatives for economic and social development. So here is a wonderful opportunity. Melbourne’s north aggregates assets that communities and governments can leverage and capital craves: proximity to the heart of the CBD, blue-chip infrastructure, affordable land and population growth. It has a gross regional product of $37 billion, and if you add the west to that, it makes it the best offer in Australia for a city deal. This is the real proposition that we should be looking at; this is how we can actually bring them together. Geelong already has its city deal sealed, so I think it is now time to deliver on this one. It is time for responsible government to replace the politics of ultimate ends and to deliver the missing link in Victoria’s infrastructure, and a city deal where it is needed most and where it will deliver outstanding value. This is the unity ticket that can now be delivered, and this is the proposition that I want to continue to work with and to build in this Parliament, through the Victorian government, and with the Australian government.