Federal Government Performance

Mr RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) — The member opposite says that I am on the fourth row sometimes. It is great to be elevated to the B-team. I thank the member for Warrandyte very much. It is good to be speaking on this matter of public importance (MPI) before an important federal election that has significant implications for our great state, a state whose metropolitan area is growing by 1800 people each and every week. More people are moving into our suburbs. The infrastructure burden and the burden on our education and health systems could not be heavier.

This federal election is a tale of two sides, two opposing parties: one that has not seen Victoria or its infrastructure and education needs, and a Shorten-led Labor opposition that talks about funding the Gonski education funding reforms in full and joining with this state Labor government. There is a key problem we are presented with though, and the focus of my contribution on this MPI will be particularly around education. The Gonski education funding reforms are absolutely paramount for the long-term prosperity of our state, giving children the education and support they need based on need. The David Gonski report of 2011 could not have put that into sharper focus.

What is really astonishing is what the Liberal opposition at the state level says about the Gonski education funding reforms. I have heard a few contributions referencing that, and I am surprised that those opposite have the audacity to reference it when they do not talk to their Liberal counterparts about not signing up to the Gonski education funding reforms. It is interesting to see the questions that have been asked of the Minister for Education through this prism. There has been a vacant space. In fact nothing has been asked of the education minister in this space this year, which is an indictment of those opposite.

I want to take people on a bit of a journey, particularly around someone who has been missing in action on the other side for some time. Not since the Leader of The Nationals went on the search for the big cat has there been a need like that to find the shadow Minister for Education, the member for Ferntree Gully. Where is he? This is the big cat search that the Leader of The Nationals put forward — he went looking for it. We have got to put out a search for the member for Ferntree Gully.

The Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee has just finished the Fiskville inquiry and is now looking at invasive species. I am going to tell my chair, the member for Thomastown, that we have got to do an investigation. We have got to find where the member for Ferntree Gully hangs out. He is not anywhere. He has not asked a question on education this year. For the whole Parliament he has asked two questions on education of the education minister. He is the epitome of the low-altitude flyer.

What we have is an assessment. I will take members through this wonderful article by the Herald Sun headed ‘Opposition leader Matthew Guy’s attack dogs more like lapdogs’. What is said about the member for Ferntree Gully is that:

… the lowest impact member of the shadow cabinet would have to be education spokesperson, Nick Wakeling.

That article is by none other than James Campbell and it is a fantastic contribution. That is about the member for Ferntree Gully and his contribution. That is the prism through which the Gonski education funding reforms are put forward.

I had to take the member for Malvern to task. He quoted his boss, and his boss here of course was the former federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, and his supposed glory days — Howard this and Costello that. I was trying to ask the wonderful member for Malvern, who is the king of the side letter, if he has read the International Monetary Fund’s contribution on the Howard government’s era. The headline refers to ‘Howard, the king of loose purse strings’. Amazing. Not only did it look over 20 years but the International Monetary Fund examined 200 years of government financial records across not 1 leading economy, not 2 leading economies but 55 leading economies, including the one in which the member for Malvern was an adviser. It found that the Howard government was the most wasteful federal government — pork-barrelling middle Australia, not looking after the interests of our nation — in 200 years of government. It is absolutely astonishing, and the member opposite proudly champions it. No wonder he was the king of the side letter, with those credentials.

The member for Warrandyte talked about the east–west link, which has been hotly contested. I remember an article from last year. This was published on 20 May 2015, and it concerned a champion move by the Leader of the Opposition — ‘Matthew Guy reaches deal to break state-federal east–west link deadlock’. Do you remember that? He took the caravan of courage up to Canberra. He said, ‘We will go up there. We will have a chat to Tony’. Tony thought he was coming about another Fishermans Bend fundraiser. The Leader of the Opposition said, ‘No, mate. Not another $10 000 a head for our mates. We have had too much of a dip there, haven’t we?’. He had come about the east–west link. But what has he said since about infrastructure for Victoria? Absolutely nothing. There has been nothing said on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel — nothing on the important projects for our state, nothing about level crossings other than rank political opportunism.

The Leader of the Opposition has no standing in this matter, unless of course it is in the lead up to the 2014 election. You have a bit of a run-up there. You need a bit of funding to get through on things, and on 1 November 2015 a light was shone on the dark fundraising activities of the Liberal Party with the headline ‘Liberals profit at Fishermans Bend’. This is a story that will plague the opposition leader all the way through to 2018 because this bandwagon has not run its course. When we go through line by line on each and every issue he will be exposed for those activities, exposed for the sham process he put in place to rezone land in a way that directly benefited Liberal donors. They will be teased out in full. Whether they were senior Liberal Party figures, including the party’s federal treasurer, or donors, people have reaped multimillion-dollar windfalls from the former Baillieu government’s signature urban renewal project in inner Melbourne. It was a rushed and botched program that saw significant rezonings and significant funds go to Liberal Party coffers.

We see here that this is a philosophy of members of the Liberal Party — that is, if you are not on their side and not in their camp, they will not act in your interests. That has been clear in how they have approached the cuts that have been made by the federal government in education and in health and the fact that we receive barely 9.7 per cent of overall infrastructure funding here in Victoria. Not one thing from those opposite has been said on those issues. There has not been one comment from the member for Ferntree Gully, who is still trying to work out his portfolio and what the role of a shadow minister is. There has not been one comment from the Leader of the Opposition about the shortfall in funding that exists.

There has not been one comment from the member for Malvern, who is too busy fighting the battles of yesterday and trying to justify what he thinks is a legacy. He is an outside chance; the bookies probably give him a one in eight chance. I think the member for Hawthorn is the real threat to the Leader of the Opposition, but if you talk to the member for Malvern, and he will tell you enough, he believes in his own hype. He is a front runner leading in and he is trying to justify his legacy on the east–west link. He is doing a big run-up.

That is the environment that the Liberal Party found itself in when it governed from 2010 to 2014. It was a government that did not come with an agenda. It was a government that did not seize the opportunity that was given to it by the Victorian people. And we have seen that with the federal government. We have seen that with the cuts that were made in 2014. When your philosophy is about getting out of the way, when your philosophy is about small government and not wanting to use the benefit of government and the goodwill that the people have towards you to try to effect change for the short time you have got in government, it is a wasted opportunity. No wonder the Scott Morrison budget that was put forward recently was lacking in policy and lacking in agenda.

Finally, in an environment of health cuts, the comments by the member for Ferntree Gully about Sandringham Hospital were outrageous. I do not know if he could point it out on a map. If he had any sort of further look, he would understand that the Victorian government has taken the commonwealth to the High Court to try to fight the commonwealth government taking away $73 million in this financial year that has 22 days to run. Its money has already been spent by Alfred Health. That is how callous the Liberal-Nationals coalition is at the federal level. It is trying to claw back money retrospectively. It is an absolute outrage, and I think the member for Ferntree Gully should do his homework before he makes any comments about our patch, our territory, down in the Mordialloc through to Sandringham area. This election could not be more important. We cannot waste another three years with a federal Liberal government.