Thursday, 30 June 2011
Mr O'BRIEN (Minister for Gaming) -- It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the motion for adoption of the address-in-reply to the Governor's speech. At the outset I congratulate the Acting Speaker and the Speaker on their election to those very important positions in this house in the 57th Parliament. I also extend my thanks to the people of Malvern who saw fit to send me back here for another four years. It was very good of them. When I was preselected my predecessor in the seat, Robert Doyle, rose in this place and said of me the same thing that Jeff Kennett said of him, which was, 'Not even you could lose that seat'. I actually disagree. I think any member can lose their seat, because if you take the people in your electorate for granted, they will understand that and will vote accordingly. I am very grateful to the people of Malvern for sending me back here.
I note that I received a reasonable increase in the margin; I hope that is a reflection of the view of the people of Malvern that I have worked very hard for them over the last four years, and I certainly commit to doing so again over the next four years.
While I am discussing the election I would like to thank the officials of the Victorian Electoral Commission in Malvern, who were outstanding and professional as always. I also thank the other candidates. There were candidates from Labor, the Greens, and Family First. It was a spirited contest but one that was conducted in good spirit, as I think all political contests should be conducted. I would like to thank all those people who participated. It was an important election for the people of Malvern. In many ways they were at a crossroads. There were a number of policies which the former government either had implemented or was threatening to implement which would have caused some significant damage in my community.
The election of the Baillieu government allowed us to put an end to those policies.
The most obvious of those relates to clearways. The Brumby Labor government's clearway extension policy was having a massively detrimental impact not just on the local traders of my community but also on the residents. It was a terrible policy. It was hurting not just local traders, who found that many people would refuse to shop in those strip shopping areas if they could not get parking, but also local residents, because people who wanted to park near the strip shops would instead park on residential side streets. This was a policy which hurt local residents and hurt local traders.
Mr Newton-Brown -- It was a disaster.
Mr O'BRIEN -- As the member for Prahran points out, because he was as affected by this as I was, this was an absolute disaster. It cost small businesses tens of millions of dollars. and for what? Where was the great benefit? Where was the great improvement in public transport times as a result of this policy? The former Labor government also implemented this policy in the city of Moreland. I understand that one of the surveys reported at the time in the Age newspaper found that the average time saved on a tram journey in Sydney Road, Brunswick, as a result of the clearway extension was 14 seconds. We had a government which would happily put small business out of business, costing people jobs and inconveniencing residents, for the sake of a 14-second time saving.
Fourteen seconds is not even enough time to get home, turn on your TV and see one of those stupid Labor Party advertisements telling you how it would improve the public transport system. Labor would put people out of work, shut down businesses, cost tens of millions of dollars in trade and put people at risk by increasing parking and traffic movements in residential side streets to save 14 seconds.
The member for Brunswick, when she was mayor of the City of Yarra, opposed that rotten policy. She had the courage of her convictions at the time and opposed that rotten policy because it was a dud. I acknowledge her for that. I especially acknowledge the work of Cr Tim Smith, who was then mayor of the City of Stonnington. He stood up to bullying and intimidation by the former government and the former Minister for Roads and Ports and the former Minister for Public Transport; he stood up for his community.
As a result the coalition was elected and one of the first things it did in office was to get rid of that rotten clearways policy.
Mr Herbert interjected.
Mr O'BRIEN -- I hear the interjection by the member for Eltham and I wonder what the former member for Prahran thinks about that clearways policy. Given there are 45 seats on this side of the house and 43 seats on the other side I am wondering how clever that clearways policy is looking now.
There are some other good outcomes from the election for the people of Malvern. I have mentioned this previously but we have finally got some money to have a double-storey portable classroom put into Armadale Primary School.
There was a terrible situation where the kids at Armadale Primary School had to have split lunchtimes; they could not have all the kids in the playground at the same time because the area was so small. The coalition made a clear commitment prior to the election and I was delighted to be able to go out to the Armadale Primary School with the Minister for Education and see not just the faces of the kids but also the faces of the teachers and the parents, who are just delighted that we have delivered on this commitment. That portable classroom will be in place by the end of the year and will make such a difference, not just to the education but to the quality of life of the students at Armadale Primary School. I congratulate the Minister for Education on addressing that problem.
The government has provided $2.5 million for planning works for the removal of the Burke Road, Glen Iris, level crossing. This is something the shadow Minister for Public Transport has been condemning. He has been saying 'This is terrible, this is inappropriate, what a bad priority'.
I was fascinated to see that just a couple of weeks ago the Age newspaper carried an article about this specific crossing which reported that members of the Rail, Train and Bus Union (RTBU) had been complaining about the crossing. They were saying it was unsafe, saying that there had been so many derailments where the tram tracks cross train lines and how it needed to be fixed. So you have a state opposition -- and in opposition it usually goes back to its narrow little union base -- that is even out of touch with its narrow little union base. The RTBU thinks the opposition gets it wrong and that the shadow minister does not understand what she is talking about -- and the RTBU would be absolutely right. The opposition does not get it, and that explains why it is now in opposition.
The people of Malvern will also get more police, which will be terrific for the hardworking officers of Malvern police station who do a terrific job, and they will also be getting Victoria Police protective services officers (PSOs) on the train stations in the evening. As the member for Malvern I represent an area which includes Malvern station where a severe bashing took place not that long ago. A man exited a Frankston line train at Malvern station and was set upon by a group of thugs who were on the train. He was bashed senseless on the platform. This happened at night. That sort of thing we can confidently assume would not be happening if you had Victoria Police protective services officers on those platforms. The people of Malvern look forward to seeing that policy being implemented. Once those PSOs are out there on the system, at the train stations making Victoria safe, let us see where the opposition is then. Let us see whether it is going to take those PSOs off the stations. Let us see if opposition members have the courage of their convictions and scrap the policy. Let us see if they do it. I think they will not; I think they will not have the guts. I think this is just political posturing and when it comes to the crunch they will go weak at the knees and say, 'Actually, we will keep the PSOs'. It remains to be seen and if I am proven wrong I will be delighted because I would be very happy to go to the next election saying that the Victorian government will keep PSOs at the train stations and keep people safe but the Labor Party will not.
I would like to thank my campaign team in Malvern; it is a tough and thankless job. We all have our own campaign teams and they all work extremely hard. I had a terrific team led by Greg Hannan -- I will not mention everyone. Greg was a terrific person to work with. He understands the local area and he had a great team around him.
I congratulate and thank him and all of his team for all the work they did for me and for the Liberal Party in the area. I would also like to thank my electorate office staff, led by Alexander Seccombe and Sujay Capoor. They are very hardworking and diligent and they did a terrific job. I also thank my family. The families of politicians put up with a lot, either with having to attend the things we drag them along to, or during the times we are not home. They have to cope with a lot because of the career we have chosen, and I think every politician appreciates what the family goes through. I certainly do and I place on record my absolute love and thanks to my family as well.
As a member of a new government I would like to congratulate all new members on both sides of the house. It is an important responsibility being a member of Parliament, and the fact that we have so many new members on both sides of the house is good. It is always good to have fresh blood.
As the member for Eltham mentioned, there are always some hard luck stories on both sides and I acknowledge those too. I congratulate the Premier and the Deputy Premier on a very disciplined campaign, not just over the four or five weeks of the election but throughout the previous years. It led to this terrific outcome for the coalition which saw it securing government. I also congratulate the opposition leadership. Opposition is a very important role -- the better the opposition the better the government. I congratulate the member for Mulgrave on his elevation to Leader of the Opposition.
It was a big thrill to be appointed a minister. On day one in the office you are congratulated by the departmental secretary or, in my case, secretaries. They said, 'Minister, it's great to have you on board. Look we've had five weeks of caretaker mode so we've got five weeks worth of papers for you to look through and sign'. If you multiply that by three portfolios, that was 15 weeks worth of paperwork -- and no staff. They said, 'Good luck, go to it!'.
It was a baptism of fire, but I would like to think that we have come through. The good thing was that we had enunciated clear policies; we had a road map and an agenda -- and we have spent the last seven months implementing that agenda.
In relation to energy, we said we were going to try to reduce pressures on the cost of living. One thing we did very early on was extend the 17.5 per cent energy concession year round. This is a massively important thing for people on low incomes, because energy bills are rising. People on both sides of politics acknowledge that is happening, and that they will continue to rise. If we get a carbon tax in one form or another, the rise in the cost of energy is likely to continue at a great pace. The fact that the state government was prepared to step up to the plate and extend the energy concession, not just for 6 months but 12 months, is a significant and practical thing this government has already done to try to help those who are most vulnerable in our community deal with the cost of living.
Last week I was pleased to announce that the government had decided to double the Victorian energy efficiency target scheme. From 2012 we will cut greenhouse gas emissions from 2.7 million tonnes per year to 5.4 million tonnes per year for three years. We will also extend the scheme to business and introduce new products such as stand-by power controllers, which can be subsidised under this scheme to try to keep energy prices low. These are the sorts of practical environmental and energy efficiency policies this government implements. They stand in stark contrast to some of the mickey mouse schemes that the former government engaged in, which actually drove up the cost of energy bills and did not help the environment. The mickey mouse nature of those schemes was identified by the Auditor-General in his report earlier this year. We will not go down that same path. We are interested in practical outcomes that help families with their bills and help the environment, not mickey mouse schemes that add to costs and deliver nothing for the environment. That is the Labor way; it is not our way.
I refer to another stark contrast with the previous government. When the former government tried to cuddle up to the Greens it said it would close down 25 per cent of Hazelwood power station by 2014. This would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, not $1 of which was funded for in the then government's budget. It was an unfunded promise. It had no plan in place to replace the regional jobs that would have been lost and no plan to deal with the price rises that would have resulted. Because the former government had no plan in place to replace that baseload power with Victorian baseload power, we would not have seen Hazelwood closed and replaced with wind or solar power because those energy forms are intermittent, not baseload. We would have seen Victorian brown coal electricity replaced with New South Wales black coal electricity. Victorian Labor's regional jobs plan was a plan for jobs in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales at the expense of jobs in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria! No wonder the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council said its members were pleased by the coalition's announcement that we had decided not to pursue Labor's reckless policy.
In the remaining 15 seconds there are many other things I could talk about in my portfolios, but time will beat me on this occasion. It is a pleasure to be back here for four years and a pleasure to be on this side of the Speaker's chair.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to deliver good government for the next four years.