25 November 2015

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — Starting off, I will take up the invitation of the Deputy Premier to talk about education. I will talk about the fact that the Deputy Premier is actually an Indian giver; while he gives with one hand he takes away portable classrooms with the other. He wanted to take away a year 9 portable classroom from Kyabram P–12. He provided a two‑year reprieve, and I do thank him for that, but he is also going to take away the portable classroom from Tongala. He is also going to take away the portable classroom from Nyah, which was provided by the former government. He is going to take away the portable classrooms from Murchison and from Pyalong.

Mr Merlino — Crocodile tears!

Mr WALSH — It is not crocodile tears. The Deputy Premier is an Indian giver. He gives with one hand, and he takes away portable classrooms with the other. That is just typical of this Labor government.

I am here to grieve on behalf of country Victoria, because this is a city‑centric Labor government. It is a traditional, lefty, city‑centric Labor government. After just one year it has become very clear that country Victoria is not getting its fair share. There are many in country Victoria who say that this is a Melbourne Labor government; it is not a Victorian Labor government. It is very much a Melbourne Labor government, because that is how it is described. If you live beyond Bendigo, Ballarat or Geelong, this government does not want to know you, because there is very little happening out there from that point of view.

If you go back to when this government first came in, just a little over 12 months ago, a very proud department of agriculture had been in place for generations — and agriculture is one of our key industries in the state — but what was one of the first things the government did? It got rid of the department of agriculture. The state no longer has a department of agriculture because it was subsumed into a mega department. Focus has been lost because there is no department at all.

If you go to this government’s first budget in May, agricultural output funding in the budget was cut by 12 per cent. What happened to the international trade budget, which is a core part of the state’s economy with exports worth about $11.4 billion, particularly in food and fibre? What happened to the trade allocation in the May budget? It was cut by 61.5 per cent. If you go to the regional development budget, which helps drive the economy in country Victoria, you see it was cut by 24 per cent. There were funding cuts for agriculture, export industries and regional development. These are the areas that drive the economy in regional Victoria, and these are the areas that create jobs in regional Victoria.

When you think about jobs, you can ask: what was the promise from the Premier? He said, ‘I will create 100 000 new full‑time jobs in the first two years of this government’. What has happened in regional Victoria over that time? Over the first 12 months, we are nearly at the halfway mark of that 100 000 jobs that are going to be created, but what has happened in regional Victoria? It has actually lost 10 000 jobs. It is 10 000 jobs backwards instead of 50 000 jobs ahead, so that was a very empty promise.

If you look at the budget and at the money that has been cut out of the budget that should have been the driver for some of those jobs, you may not believe those jobs will ever happen. If you think about the government’s Back to Work program and the number of jobs — I think it was 164 jobs created in the first period of that program — we had a promise of 100 000 jobs, and 164 jobs were created from the government’s Back to Work program, but 10 000 full‑time jobs were lost over that time. You cannot say this is a government that has any focus on regional Victoria.

Let us look at the things that have been cut since this mob came to government. There was the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund — gone. The Local Government Infrastructure Fund that was part of that was a key plank of local government investing in community facilities — just totally gone from the budget. If you look at the economic development part of the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, you see the things that it did and projects like saving SPC — gone. If you look at Pactum, the dairy processing plant in Shepparton, you see it cannot be funded now and has gone. If you look at Burra Foods and Olam, the almond processing plant, in northern Victoria and all those projects that were helped by the Regional Growth Fund, you see they have gone.

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