Thursday 10th May
WELLS (Rowville) (16:51:53) — Thank you, Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on the budget. I was going to go into a number of issues but I cannot help but point out things to the previous speaker, the Minister for Public Transport. She talked about fixing up the mess and about others not having their hearts in public transport. I wonder what the situation was when we came to government in 2010 when it came to regional rail? Their great flagship, the regional rail, had a $500 million shortfall. This was for the train that was going to go between Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong into Spencer Street.
What could you possibly forget when you are doing such a multibillion-dollar contract? They forgot to add money for the signals and they forgot to add new trains for the regional rail. There they were building this brand-new rail system to run into Spencer Street, and they had no new trains. How absurd that you would sit down with Treasury and your cabinet to tick off this brand-new big project and that you would forget to add the cost of the signals — hundreds of millions of dollars. One of the first things that we had to deal with when we came to government was fixing up the mess left by the previous Labor government.
Mr McGuire interjected.
Mr WELLS — It was $500 million that we had to find to make sure that regional rail was going to go ahead.
Let us move on to what I want to talk about. The first thing that we need to address is whether or not the Treasurer has credibility, that the budget papers have credibility and that there is integrity in what he said on budget day. The budget is supposed to be a true and fair assessment of the state’s financial position. It is also supposed to be fully authorised and supported by the Department of Treasury and Finance, that in fact everything in the budget papers is true and based on fact, not political spin and rhetoric. If the Department of Treasury and Finance has been compromised and starts playing the role of supporting the government of the day in propaganda and untruths, then the Department of Treasury and Finance has a credibility problem.
The point I want to raise is on page 10 of the Treasurer’s speech, where it says:
Speaker, every Victorian has the right to feel safe in their communities and in their homes.
In the past 19 years, 7000 additional police officers have been funded — all of them under Labor governments.
That is factually incorrect, and I do not understand how the Department of Treasury and Finance have actually allowed the Treasurer to put something like that in the budget speech and have authorised that that is true and fair. It is just blatantly wrong, and for Treasury and Finance to support what the Treasurer has said also leads to a credibility problem.
Let us just go to the facts. It is true that in the run-up to the 2010 election Labor promised an extra 1700 new police. There is no question about that, so I support that fact. I also support the fact that they had a budget of around $600 million in the 2010–11 budget. There is no question that $600 million was put aside to fund the 1700 new police. What they conveniently forget is that we made a similar promise. We made a promise running up to the 2010 election that, because there were ongoing increases in crime, we would make a significant increase in police and also put protective services officers (PSOs) on the train stations. What did the then Labor government call the protective services officers? Plastic police. They had no time for them; they had no support for them. They supported police, but they had no time for PSO policies.
When we came into government in 2010 we had the writedown of the GST and stamp duty. It is very clear to see that where we had promised 1700 frontline police and 940 PSOs we had them as a budget item. The issue then became: how do we actually fund those police? The situation was that when the GST was written down in February 2011, the writedown of GST and stamp duty was $8.3 billion, so the $600 million that had been put aside in the 2010–11 budget by the previous Labor government was wiped out. There was no funding for the promised police because there had been a writedown of $8.3 billion in the GST and also the amount of stamp duty.
With that massive writedown over the forward estimates period the $600 million was completely eliminated. The funding of the 1700 police and the 940 PSOs was fully funded by the Baillieu-Napthine governments between 2010 and 2014. They are the facts. They were the financial and economic decisions made by the Baillieu-Napthine governments that fully funded those 1700 police. In fact, although the promise was for 1700 police, the actual delivery in that four years was 1900 police and it was closer to 1000 PSOs, so we actually overdelivered on what we promised in 2010 — and they were all funded by the Baillieu-Napthine governments.
Another issue I would like to raise is that of accuracy in regard to the Treasurer saying:
… Victoria is the safest it’s been for a decade …
I am just wondering again why Treasury would allow the Treasurer to write something which again is factually incorrect.
The shadow Minister for Police, Ed O’Donohue, has based his figures on not just Liberal Party figures or National Party figures. They actually come from the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency, which was set up by the previous Liberal-National government. The reason we set it up was that we did not trust Labor. We could not trust Labor on crime stats. We saw what the chief commissioner did. He selectively released a number of crime stats running up to 2010, so we made an election commitment that in order for Victorians to have true and fair crime stats there would be a Victorian Crime Statistics Agency. The shadow Minister for Police has released a significant number of stats to disprove what the Treasurer has said.