Former Government Performance – Matter of Public Importance

Mr RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) — It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on this matter of public importance. Reflecting on the past leads us to the future. It is worth noting that a number of new members have come into this chamber and reflected on their journeys to this place and what values underpin what they want to achieve over the course of this term of Parliament. I will reflect on some of the contributions of members as I go through this speech.

The coalition came to power on the slogan ‘Fix the problems, build the future’. What we saw was nothing more than a train wreck of policy and politics that would lead to the defeat of a first-term government for the first time in 60 years. The east–west link did not get a mention in the coalition’s 2010 election promises. Instead there were pledges to build a high-speed rail link between Melbourne and Sydney, to plan the Melbourne Airport rail link, to plan the Doncaster rail link and to conduct a feasibility study for the Rowville rail link.

Four years on, the east–west link was the Napthine government’s no. 1 transport priority. The former Premier and the member for Malvern showed reckless haste in signing a contract before going to the voters in November. Labor left a AAA credit-rated economy, 11 consecutive budget surpluses and unemployment at 5 per cent. These are the facts. Victorians put their trust and faith in a coalition government to build on that and deliver.

Key measures of assessment are education, health and employment. Firstly, however, I want to reflect on infrastructure policy. The failings and disappointments relating to transport policy concerned the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the subsequent secrecy surrounding the east–west link. It is important to note that in the final budget of the previous Labor government money was allocated for planning work on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. Not one cent of that money was used in that budget and it was returned to consolidated revenue. It is important that we have a system with openness and integrity — one that relies on bodies like Infrastructure Australia to underpin good public policy and good operation. The lack of resources in that state budget and the lack of allocation by the former public transport minister were a real shame.

We need to consider broadly where we come from to determine where we are headed in the future. I reflect on the city loop project, which took 14 years from inception through to completion. It spanned a number of coalition and Labor governments and was a project that was seen through. The key point is that transport priorities go forward. It is about acknowledging that we start various projects and see them through. It is about looking beyond the short term. That probity and long-term vision was completely lacking in the former government’s approach to the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel.

Where did the former government go with its transport priority? The Liberal government signed the east-west link contracts just before the state election — an absolute fraud on the Victorian people. Who would ever sign up to a deal that delivers 45 cents of economic benefit for every $1 invested? Talk about being small business focused. What would your constituency
say — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member will speak through the Chair and refrain from using the word ‘you’.

Mr RICHARDSON — What would the constituents of those opposite say about a return of 45 cents for every $1 invested? Tolls on the Eastern Freeway, tolls on the West Gate and tolls on the Tullamarine Freeway — —

Mr Katos — Do you drive on the West Gate?

Mr RICHARDSON — Absolutely; I used to go down to Geelong every day to Deakin University.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Mordialloc will not respond to interjections.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr RICHARDSON — I will come to shovel — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Mordialloc will resume his seat. When the Acting Speaker is addressing the house, members should remain silent. It is important not to respond to interjections. The member now has the call.

Mr RICHARDSON — It was also revealed through documentation released under the freedom of information that the Napthine government’s most senior transport planners detailed the superior economic return of a rail tunnel: a $1.90 economic benefit return on every $1 invested. Why on earth did those opposite go down the pathway of the east–west link?

I said that I would reflect on the contributions of members and their first speeches. Let us play a game of Who Am I?. Who made this statement in their first speech?

I sought election to this place to be part of a sovereign Parliament, deliberating and legislating for the good government of Victoria, not to merely be a service provider.

Who made that statement? It was none other than the member for Malvern, putting forward the notion of good governance. Let us have another Who Am I?. I will give you a clue. The member is in the chamber today.

To treat taxpayers money with frivolous disregard is to treat Victorians with contempt.

I believe that government should be standing up for the way of life that so many Australians have and want to continue to have, not seeking to limit it.

That was none other than the Leader of the Opposition. So if he thinks that the side letter deal that was put forward by the member for Malvern constitutes frivolous disregard for Victorians and an act of contempt, how on earth does he still have confidence in the member for Malvern as the shadow Treasurer? It is an absolute disgrace.

It is worth reflecting on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the comments of the member for Malvern’s predecessor — I could call him his mentor — Robert Doyle. Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, said shifting Melbourne Metro west would be a ‘100-year catastrophe for the city’, and urged the state government to recommit to the route originally proposed. That was because the route had been audited for a number of years. It was clearly the key priority for Victoria, and it was put on the backburner. Robert Doyle went on to say:

The Berlin Wall was a 30-year mistake but not building Metro One in the original way it was designed would be 100-year catastrophe for our city.

That is a pretty big indictment. Those opposite come to this place undermining proper probity and some would say using common sense rather than a business case. I reflect on the case of the Phillip Island rezoning. To put this in context, when the Leader of the Opposition was asked about the lack of a business case for the change to the rail tunnel, he said, ‘Well, do we need to have a business case to find out whether we should put a railway station underneath an area where there is going to be 40 000 people in the next 20 years? I would have thought that was common sense. We don’t need a business case’. He did not think it needed a business case despite it clearly running through sewerage lines and not having proper probity. I do not want to pooh-pooh the Leader of the Opposition’s proposition, but it does run through a lot of sewerage lines, as was outlined by ABC radio.

So we come forward to a position of common sense. Was the rezoning of Ventnor a common-sense approach? It was the rezoning of 23 hectares of farmland on the outskirts of Phillip Island to residential development. Suddenly a pop star, who is probably closer to my generation than to that of the Leader of the Opposition, stepped forward and said, ‘We’ve got to protect Phillip Island’. That was none other than Miley Cyrus. The response of the Leader of the Opposition, as the then Minister for Planning, was that he was not sure who Miley Cyrus was, but that he was more of the ilk and demographic of her father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Subsequently the then minister cannoned back on that position, revoked his position and let the residential zone go. Maybe he took his cue from Billy Ray Cyrus, who had a song — not one of his better known songs like Achy Breaky Heart — titled Ready, Set, Don’t Go. Maybe the government was taking policy from a song by Miley Cyrus and the Leader of the Opposition is the Wrecking Ball.

The opposition loves to talk about being shovel ready. The only shovel it ever took out of the shed was to use on the poor former Speaker, Ken Smith, who is a fond friend of ours on this side of the house. What about the former Premier, Ted Baillieu, and his mandate that was put forward? That was pretty shovel ready! His political grave was dug well and truly. I am sure the shovel might have been put in the back of the Ford Territory of the former member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, as he tore apart the former government. The opposition might look to blame Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Geoff Shaw or the media, but when you build your policy foundation on sand, when you have absolute contempt for Victorians, that is what happens.