Speech: MPI – regional Victoria

To be honest, I could not believe my eyes when I read the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development’s proposed matter of public importance today, which is:
That this house notes the Andrews Labor government’s continued record of delivering for regional Victorians, especially in the areas of:
(1) jobs;
(2) roads and transport infrastructure;
(3) tourism and major events;
(4) education; and
(5) health.

Well, okay. I will start with roads and transport infrastructure. It is no surprise that I would start there.

This is after last week, when we had the minister, who is sitting at the table today, the Minister for
Roads and Road Safety, get up and talk about the great work he is doing delivering for regional
Victorians on roads. That is so deluded. That would be laughable if it was not so serious. That is so
out of touch.

And do you know what? I do not have to say anything, because the community around me are saying
so much. I am inundated with people talking about how bad our roads are, how disastrous our roads
are, how big the potholes are.

I requested last week for the minister to come down, and I issue the invitation once again. In fact, Minister, I beg you. I along with the truck drivers who talk to me on a daily basis, the bus drivers and the local community members who drive the school buses, who are terrified on some of the roads with the responsibility they have for those kids on those buses, actually beg you on their behalf.

I am begging the minister to come down to south-west Victoria, take up those offers of the truck drivers and the bus drivers and experience those roads. I guarantee you will be shocked and terrified, because you are hearing something from your department—through the Chair.

He is hearing that they are okay, and he is spruiking it. They are not okay. The roads are in a disastrous state, absolutely disastrous.

So I look at the $24 billion of waste that this government is responsible for on the Big Build projects,
on tunnels in Melbourne, and I say: imagine what could be done in our part of the world or right across
regional Victoria with that money.

The Princes Highway west project is a project the federal government gave $60 million for in 2019. If this government cares about regional Victoria, why is that money still sitting in the coffers and not being used to fix the Princes Highway west now? Go and have a look at the Illowa part of that road. It is literally cracking apart it is so bad.

So the government was brought kicking and screaming to the party to actually add some money to those coffers—a measly amount, nowhere near $60 million—yet still nothing has started, and I heard from Regional Roads Victoria just recently that they do not even think they are going to start that project until at least 2023–24.

This government has no interest in regional Victoria, and the community know it. They know that
when this government runs out of money, regional Victoria gets even less. So I cannot believe this
government thinks it is worth spruiking the great work they are doing in regional Victoria delivering
on roads and transport infrastructure. They are so out of touch, so deluded. Come and talk to the people.
You will figure it out pretty quickly.

I might move on to health, but I am going to start with ambulances, because I literally just received
this email.

This is an email from Nicole in Portland:
Hi Roma,
I’m writing this while sitting in Portland hospital waiting on xray results for my boy.
The reason I am writing to you is because this is the 2nd time in 3 months where my kid has had a pretty bad accident at school and its the 2nd time my childs school rang for ambulance to have no ambulance arrive.
After the last accident in November my son ended up having to be transported to Warrnabool via ambulance
for surgery but no ambulance showed at the school for him (the hospital staff in both Portland and Warrnabool were very mad at this due to his injury) so he had to endure an extremely rough drive to Portland hospital—

there are those roads again—

… with no pain relief, Same as today. After the first incident I got in contact with Ambulance Victoria and the school and each was blaming the other. This time I’ve decided to bring it straight to your attention as I want protocol’s changed so no other child has to go thru what my son has on 2 occasions in Portland.

That is right now. She is sitting in accident and emergency right now with her child. This is happening
all the time.

I have already talked in the Parliament about ambulances not arriving. These are the sorts of things that we in regional Victoria are experiencing all the time.

This government will say, ‘Oh, we’re building a hospital in Warrnambool’. Well, how hard did we beg for that? It was way past needed. It was not wanted, it was needed. It is good governance—it had to do it, that is government’s role.

But now we find out that it is going to be late. It is not even started, and they are not going to be
able to deliver on time in 2026. It will now be 2027.

Not only that, the waiting lists have blown out from 85 days to 218 days. Those are the waiting lists
caused by this government’s mismanagement, underfunding Victorian health—which is a
Productivity Commission report statement, not from me—and this has been happening since before
the pandemic, that Victoria has the least funded health system anywhere in this nation.

And we are starting to find out where the money is coming from for these things like our hospitals.

The social housing issue in Warrnambool is massive. We have got over 800 people on the social
housing waiting list, and we have been promised $25 million.

Well, that is going to build about 75 houses if you work it through, which is not going to help a list of nearly 1000. So where is that money coming from?

It is coming from taxes, because you have run out of money and you are going to start all these new taxes. There was another tax announced a couple of days ago on new developments, on top of the windfall tax on the subdivided land of farmers around town.

This is just going to stop any possibility of us solving the housing problem. Regional Victoria is not the focus of this government, and that is why this is so absurd.

I am going to move on to agriculture, because the Minister for Agriculture put up this matter of public
importance.

We have this fantastic group called the Great South Coast Food and Fibre Council, and they have been begging the minister for a measly amount of funding just for them to be sustainable.

This is a group that is really innovative. It came up with an 18-point plan for water policy reform, all
about jobs growth and sustainability and prosperity in the region, which will generate $54 million per
annum of additional value to the region by using water responsibly.

We have that opportunity with our underground water, quite different to the Murray-Darling Basin challenges—very different. We will do it well before mistakes are made—if the government supports this.

Ms Shing from the other place recommends this as a great project. She was there—this is in today’s paper—but the government will not support them, and they cut 145 jobs from agriculture just last week.

Agriculture is the industry that will recover and rebuild this state. We have got a world demand in
food, and we have got a state with a food bowl with potential to grow—and this government is sitting
there going, ‘We’re supporting regional Victoria’.

No, you are missing opportunities. You are failing regional Victorians. You are absolutely deluded and totally, totally missing the opportunities that are there for the taking.

In November, there is a very, very important decision, and regional Victorians will be making that decision. If there is only one thing I think they will be voting on very, very seriously, it is the fact that this government for 17 of the last 21 years has let Victorians down.

Their roads are dangerous. Their kids are learning to drive on these roads. They are worried about their
families. They are getting frightened to go out at night on these roads. It is so serious.

The decision by this government to spruik and say they are doing a terrific job on our roads is so out of touch. Please, Minister, take up my offer. Come and sit in a truck. They will take you for a drive. They will be respectful. Please, please take up this offer. South-west Victorians and plenty of truck drivers are lining up asking me to issue this invitation. You will be shocked. Through the Chair, I issue an invitation to the minister to come down to south-west Victoria and sit in one of those trucks or next to the school bus driver, and I am pretty confident that he will be shocked.