Government Performance

03 December 2013

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) - Thank you, Acting President.
I am not going to waste my time trying to convince him; he has made up his mind. He wants to live in the past, and a dinosaur might as well stay in dinosaur land.
I have the pleasure to talk on this motion, and I just want to make a few points. One is that I think it is about time this government acknowledged that it inherited 11 years of surplus from the former government. I do not see those opposite talking about that. There was a AAA rating for 11 years. We had a vibrant economy and we went through the global financial crisis, so those opposite inherited well - and they should just remember that. Unfortunately over the last three years they have been doing one thing: blaming someone else. They have been blaming the previous government for three years now. I think they need to get off that point and say, 'We had better take some responsibility; we have to be responsible'.
When they get into government former opposition parties tend to blame the previous government for the first 12 months, but after that they get off that wagon and start to take some responsibility for their actions. Obviously this mob cannot do that. They also blame the federal government, but guess what - there has been a change of government now. So they have a dilemma: they will not blame their own colleagues. I have not heard them blaming Tony Abbott and his government for - -
Mr Finn - That's because he is doing a very good job.
Exactly. He is doing his job by reneging on the Gonski review, by reneging on the same agreements which Mr Finn's Premier signed before the election to provide better education funding for kids in this state. The Premier, Denis Napthine, was
the champion of and was so proud of signing that agreement with Bill Shorten, the current federal opposition leader, and now what is he doing? I do not see him doing what Barry O'Farrell, the Premier of New South Wales, did - that is, calling it the way it is and saying to the federal government, 'You are no longer in opposition; you're actually in government, and you honour deals when you get into government'. The federal government has broken that promise. I do not see government members moving a motion here in this house condemning the federal government for reneging on that agreement, but they were quick to move various motions criticising the former federal government. But, no, they cannot criticise their own people. They just cannot. Maybe they are not allowed to; I do not know which is the answer.
Let us talk about the scorecard for the last three years. I will not cover it all, because other opposition speakers will be discussing these issues. I will begin with health. The government promised 800 new hospital beds. We cannot find them. It also promised a 12-year health plan within its first 150 days of office. It promised a $1 billion building fund for hospitals, to be funded by drawing on revenue from pokies licences, with $447.5 million to be dedicated to the development of Box Hill Hospital. The former Treasurer and now Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Kim Wells, when he was shadow Treasurer in the coalition opposition, said he would write the new government's promises on a whiteboard and tick them off one by one as they were delivered. There was to be a scorecard. I am not sure what happened to that whiteboard. The Minister for State Development made the same commitment.
That is right. I think it must be a clean one. Maybe government members do not have a texta to write on the whiteboard. Maybe we should buy them some textas.
I could continue talking about the coalition's record on health, which is dismal. In 2012-13, 264 patients at Werribee Mercy Hospital waited in the emergency department for more than 24 hours. The government's target was that no patient should wait in an emergency department for more than 24 hours. It has failed on that. Further, it has cut $616 million from the Victorian health system. It just wants to slash and burn. It wants to achieve a budget surplus and AAA credit rating at any cost, even if that means not spending any money. When we were in government we achieved a surplus and a AAA credit rating, but we actually spent money on hospitals, education and so forth.
In 2012-13 more than 2000 people waited in emergency departments for more than 24 hours. I am not making these numbers up; they are there. An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report showed that in 2012-13 that a shockingly low 68 per cent of those with semi-urgent health issues were seen within a 60 minute benchmark.
In Victoria 21 755 patients were left in emergency departments at their own risk before being seen, and 84 380 simply did not wait. Both of those figures are the second-highest in this country. That is a record to be proud of!
Recently a leaked report from the Victorian Perinatal Information Centre has confirmed that neonatal intensive-care units at the Monash Medical Centre, Mercy Hospital, Royal Children's Hospital and Royal Women's Hospital were at that point either closed or restricted for new patients. A leading reason for the closures was that there were not enough staff to keep the beds open. The government promised 800 new beds, but the minister has not detailed where they are. If he keeps looking for them, hopefully one day he will find them. The government also promised $250 million for Monash Children's hospital at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. We are also still waiting for that to happen. The government took $16.4 million out of that project, including cutting the children's mental health unit, a sleep lab and so forth.
The government is cutting, cutting, cutting, but not delivering on its projects.
I will return to my discussion of the government's federal colleagues. We do not see government members jumping up and down about the performance of the federal coalition government. The former Labor federal government promised to provide funding of $100 million for the redevelopment project of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. The Abbott government, the federal comrades of the state coalition, is now reneging on that. I do not see government members jumping up and down about this or moving a motion of condemnation because the federal government is not going had with that. It is obviously fine for a federal coalition to renege on agreements. That will go unpunished by this government. Why are government members not out there chasing their colleagues in Canberra to make sure they provide that money for the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital? They are not allowed to do so. They are probably too scared of them.
I will now discuss law and order. I heard Mr Dalla-Riva asking what the Labor Party is going to do about protective services officers (PSOs). Will we abolish them, sack them or send them home? Our position is clear: the PSOs are here to stay. We support the PSOs.
But let us try and work this out. I thought if there were more PSOs and more police, that would eventually lead to less crime. However, the government puts the argument that more people are reporting incidents whereas in the past they were not, which has led to an increase in crime figures. If the government were fair dinkum about law and order, it would start looking at what causes people to commit crimes. What sorts of programs and systems could be put in place to make sure fewer people commit crimes? The government is not interested in that. All it does is provide more police, more PSOs and more jails. It waits for people to commit crimes, arrests them and puts them in jail. What happened to prevention? Obviously the government does not believe in prevention. Government members are not interested in prevention. They want to build more prison beds. Perhaps they should focus on more hospital beds instead, but that does not seem to work for the coalition government.
Where can I start with transport? I could go on and on and on.
I am trying to work out how many projects the coalition has launched in its own right since it was elected three years ago. There are not many. The regional rail link was not the coalition's project. It sat on the regional rail link for 18 months. It said, 'We want to review it'. After 18 months it said, 'We've done the review. We will go ahead with it'. The regional rail link in is a Labor project'. What other big projects? The government suddenly came up with the east-west link. However, it will not start it until 2015.
Mr Finn interjected.
It might be a laughing matter for Mr Finn; I know he does not give a damn about construction workers losing their jobs. I do. I have seen it. I have seen a lot of construction companies in the last three years laying people off because there are no projects on the horizon for which to employ people, and the east-west link will not even kick off and provide employment for people until 2015. Our project we could do now. You need to spend money today, not in 2015. Those opposite have no plan; they should just face the facts.
Those opposite talked about the desal plant. Let me tell you about the desal plant. People forget that when that decision was made we were facing drought. Hang on; that thing was built, and I am glad the Labor government built it.
The former Labor government had a vision that we would build a desal plant to make sure that the 4 million Victorians who live in greater metropolitan Melbourne would never be exposed to a situation where, when drought hit, they would be running out of water. Those opposite should get their heads out of the sand; climate change is real, and drought is real. Their argument is, 'We don't have to use it'. Thank God they are not in charge of the defence of Australia. If they were in charge of that, we would probably not have a defence force, because their argument would be, 'This government hasn't been attacked since the 1940s, so we don't need air force jets. We don't need submarines, because no-one is going to attack us, so we won't invest in that'. Guess what? The desal plant investment was to drought-proof Melbourne so that we would never have to be subject to the effects of a change in the elements.
I think the funding model was a good model, so just get over it. Citing the recent report from the Auditor-General, we are $1 billion, rather than $900 million, better off. Those opposite should go and read the Auditor-General's report. They should make up their minds. One minute they are criticising, and the next minute - they should just get it. It is all about drought-proofing Melbourne, and we have done it. Those opposite should just get on with the program.
I am happy to pay for it, the same way I am happy to pay to have a police force to protect me and happy to pay for emergency services to come to my aid or my kids' aid or your kids' aid when we need it. I am happy to pay tax to support the armed forces to protect this country. Let us hope no-one ever fires a bullet; that would be great. That is a good investment. It is the same thing with the desal plant and the same thing with all the water projects we undertook during our 11 years in government to make sure that we will be able to deal with a crisis when it comes. I bet those opposite would not have been saying that five years ago, when Melbourne's water storage was down to less than 20 per cent. They have short-term memories. Wake up, Charlie!
Let us not play politics.
Let me move to some of the comments Mr Dalla-Riva made. He talked about the unemployment figures, and he was very proud of that record. Unfortunately he was the Minister for Manufacturing, and he was not doing a bad job until he got the sack when he was in India.
Let us look at the unemployment numbers. The national average is 5.6 per cent. The Victorian figure is 5.8 per cent, which is 0.2 percentage points higher than the national average, and it is climbing, so I cannot work out why all those opposite still brag and say, 'We created all these jobs, and we are doing better than everyone else'. Actually we are not. We have lost more manufacturing jobs under this government than we lost in probably the 11 years of the Labor government. I wonder why!
I have not seen those opposite getting their hands dirty. I do not know what they are doing today about how we are going to save the automotive industry.
What active role is this government playing in lobbying and making sure that the federal government and this government put some proposals in place - we need to give them some certainty and make sure that they stay in this country and in this state. There are 33 000 jobs affected in this state. I do not see government members out there helping these manufacturers, because it might cost a bit of money. The government's record on manufacturing is abysmal. With those comments, I will leave it at that. I am sure my colleagues will have more matters to raise. I had better finish before Mr Finn takes the chair.