Budget Papers 2018-19

Budget Papers 2018-19

It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the Andrews Labor government’s fourth budget, appropriately titled ‘Getting Things Done’, and that is exactly what this budget is all about. I want to borrow a quote from a very famous former Labor Prime Minister, and that is Paul Keating, who referred to a previous budget as ‘a beautiful set of numbers’. That is in fact what this budget is; it is a beautiful set of numbers.

The Andrews Labor government is building a state where every Victorian can get a great education and secure a good job, and that begins with a strong economy. A strong economy means more jobs for more Victorians, and that is exactly what we are doing. We have seen Victoria’s economy grow by 3.3 per cent in 2016–17, well above the national economic growth of 2 per cent. We have seen more than 117 000 new jobs created in 2016–17, the highest of any state. This was more than 70 per cent of all new jobs created across Australia.

Since day one the Andrews government has invested in the things that matter to Victorians: new schools for our kids, hospitals for our loved ones, better roads and rail services to get people home faster and historic action to curb family violence. This budget continues that momentum and provides a strong foundation to help us get on with the job. That is what Labor governments do. Reforming Labor governments go on and get things done, and I am proud to be a member of a reforming Andrews Labor government the gets things done.

There is nothing more important than giving our children and young people hope for the future and giving them the best start to their lives. I am very proud that we as a government have in fact provided historic and unprecedented levels of funding for our schools, for our TAFEs and for early childhood education.

I want to focus in my remarks on the investment that we have made in early childhood education. I am proud that we are making Victoria the Education State, and that starts of course with the early years. We released our groundbreaking Early Childhood Reform Plan with the budget last year and had a record budget in early childhood last year. That is supported again this year with a $135.9 million to boost early childhood education. We are delivering the kindergarten infrastructure that Victoria needs with a $42.9 million boost to upgrade and equip kindergartens, build new kindergartens and build new integrated children’s centres. This is the single largest state investment ever.

We have seen those opposite claim previous federal Labor national partnership money as if it was theirs. If you actually look at what was appropriated over their four budgets, if you actually look at what they put in their four budgets, it was $37 million over four years. Compare that to $123.6 million, which is more than triple what those opposite managed to appropriate in their entire term: $123.6 million by Labor.

We are also co-locating additional kindergartens at primary school sites: at Botanic Ridge Primary School in Casey, at Riverwalk Primary School in Wyndham South and at Davis Creek Primary School. We are changing the way we fund our kindergartens. We know, because research tells us, that one in five kids starts school developmentally behind, and this is why we are the first state in the country to introduce school readiness funding. We had funding in the budget last year and we have provided further funding in the budget this year for school readiness funding, a total of $58.1 million now to make sure that children who need more support get it.

This new initiative will roll out from next year, and the first 25 local government areas to get it have been announced recently. This will enable our kindergartens to bring in speech therapists, allied health professionals and literacy and numeracy experts to support kids to get the additional support that they need. This reform will be a permanent part of the Victorian kindergarten system and represents a 10 per cent increase in total funding when fully rolled out, because we want to give the kids the best start to their education.

We also have a plan to help children prepare for an increasingly connected world, and we have provided $17.9 million in the budget to deliver language classes to up to 120 kinders across the state, with another 10 moving to a bilingual model. We are providing support for our workforce with an $8 million investment in scholarships and other workforce supports to enable new teachers and support educators to upskill to a teaching qualification. We are also making sure the most disadvantaged kids in our community are supported to access two years of free or low-cost kindergarten with the Early Start Kindergarten program receiving $4 million, as well as funding the expansion of the Lookout model to include preschools for the first time.

We started last year to fund tailored Aboriginal maternal and child health services to give more Aboriginal families access to this vital universal service. We have got the best maternal and child health service in this country, but it is a world-class system here in Victoria. I have had overseas officials and ministers come and talk to me, and they are envious of our system. They are envious because we have highly qualified staff supporting families, and our budget this year provides more support for these tailored Aboriginal maternal and child health services. We are getting on with expanding the enhancement of maternal and child health services later this year from investments that we made in the budget last year. We have rolled out additional family violence visits through our maternal and child health services as well.

There are so many reforms that we are making in the early years space. We are making sure that kids with additional needs who are ineligible for the national disability insurance scheme do not miss out, and we have provided funding for those children in the budget as well, building on previous investments we have made in previous budgets, because we know the National Disability Insurance Agency has been too slow to get the support and the plans in place for children. We are making sure that children do not miss out on getting this vital support because the commonwealth cannot get its act together.

We are making the investments that we need to make sure that kids are ready for kinder, ready for school and ready for life. What we are seeing from the federal Turnbull government is disappointingly yet again providing only one year of funding for their contribution to four-year-old kinder. We have had a groundbreaking report handed down earlier this year, the Lifting Our Game report, which found that short-term, one-off, one-year funding agreements are holding the sector back. They are not enabling our kindergarten committees and parents to plan for the future. They need to know if they have the money in the following year to do major repairs to their centres or expand their centres or whether their staff will have a job the next year. Staff deserve that certainty as well, and parents deserve that certainty. That groundbreaking report points out that Australia to its great shame ranks 24 out of 26 OECD nations — we are down the bottom of the OECD in terms of preschool investment — and the day after that embarrassing report that shames Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull came out, they offered one year of funding yet again.

Unbelievably in the federal budget this week what is hidden away is that they have completely ripped up the national partnership on the quality agenda. The contribution that the commonwealth has made since Kevin Rudd signed up to this national partnership and this national quality framework more than a decade ago — the contribution the commonwealth has made to the quality of our early years services, which goes to pay for inspections and compliance checks of our early year services — has been torn up and they are walking away. So they are not even prepared to make a contribution to the quality of our early years services.

I know those opposite are very sensitive about what their federal colleagues do, because we know it is in the Liberal DNA to cut things, but what the member needs to understand is that this does have consequences for Victoria. Every time the federal Turnbull Liberal government makes cuts and walks away from national partnerships it does have implications for our state and our services. It has implications for workers in our departments, who go about doing regulatory checks and doing this important work every day. I think it should alarm those opposite that their federal colleagues do not care about the quality of the early year services in our state.

There is nothing more important than protecting our kids, and that is why we have made the biggest ever investment in our child and family services system in this budget. We have got an unprecedented $858 million in the budget to continue the transformation of Victoria’s child and family services system through the Roadmap for Reform. We are moving from crisis response to prevention and early intervention. We have provided the biggest ever investment in our workforce — $225 million to support the continued growth of our child protection workforce. I make the point that those opposite over their four years were only able to fund 192 staff. In comparison over our four budgets we have funded 610 new child protection workers.

So when Ms Crozier wants to cry crocodile tears she needs to be reminded that only last week Mr O’Brien in his budget reply flagged that they are going to wheel out the razor gang again. We know that public service jobs are on the line. We know what happened the last time they were in office — more than 600 public servants got the axe from the then Department of Human Services. What that meant was that child protection workers were answering phones and staffing reception desks and were not able to undertake their work. And what happened in response? We had an Ombudsman’s report in 2011 entitled Investigation regarding the Department of Human Services Child Protection Program (Loddon Mallee Region). And what that report found was, and I quote:

Data for cases closed during 2010–11 demonstrated that there were a number of days where an unusually high number of cases were closed. The largest number of cases closed on any one day was 90 on 28 June 2011. This is in contrast to an average of 22.7 cases closed per day throughout the year.

It goes on to say:

An increase in closure activity is apparent particularly during the lead-up to the end of the 2010–11 financial year when data for the department’s annual report was required.

So what happened was Ms Wooldridge’s chief of staff got on the phone and directed the department to close files two days before the cut-off for figures to be published in that year’s annual report so they could fudge child protection cases. This is what they got up to: they cooked the books. When it came to the allocation over child protection we had Ms Wooldridge changing the incident reporting system so she could hide child protection incidents and hide youth justice incidents.

We have got a lot of hypersensitivity from those opposite, and I am very proud to talk about our investment as a government. We are putting the supports in place to ensure that we can support vulnerable families so that fewer children need to come into the child protection system in the first place. We are doing groundbreaking reforms in Victoria. We are leading the nation with things like professionalised foster care and the Aboriginal children in care initiative. We are providing targeted care packages that will see more than 500 children transition out of residential care into home-based care environments.

We are putting in place groundbreaking reforms and investment in ending family violence in our state. We have got crocodile tears from Ms Crozier about this matter. The Liberal Party is yet to commit to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. They are yet to even commit to it. We have seen nothing from them.

We are making record investments in your youth justice system. We are tackling issues that those opposite failed to commit to. There is $145 million in this year’s budget to strengthen our youth justice system — more staff, better infrastructure. We have had to fix up all the deficiencies in Malmsbury that Ms Wooldridge failed to address when she commissioned that project. We are investing in our young people. We are funding the Empower Youth program so that more youth workers can be employed. We are giving young people opportunities through free TAFE, with investments in our TAFE system as well. We are putting in transformational reforms in Victoria because we are a government that delivers. We are getting things done. What we know will happen from those opposite is they will just cut, cut, cut.