Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Statements by Senators
Victoria State Election
This Saturday the people across my home state of Victoria will head to the polls to vote in what is possibly the most important election that Victoria has faced in 30 years. It's been a very dark time for Victoria. The institutions and the services that we have relied upon have been left to fail and to founder. Our health system, our children's education and wellbeing, our integrity, our justice system and our financial and fiscal positions have all been whittled away by a government and a premier obsessed with power at the expense of people.
For two years, Victorians suffered at the hands of a government whose responsibility it was, first and foremost, to protect them. We had draconian lockdowns, school closures, business closures, travel restrictions and curfews that we hadn't seen before—not even in wartime. We saw families torn apart, businesses ruined, and lives and livelihoods damaged irreparably. We should never forget that Victorians were forced to carry permits to go to essential work and that playgrounds and skate parks were taped off like crime scenes. The police were tasked with moving on elderly citizens sitting on park benches or with dispersing children congregating secretly because they had missed the social contact of 186 days of their schooling.
The police were also tasked with arresting pregnant women in their homes for daring to question government's priorities on social media and with firing rubber bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. This was my state, and it was all done without scrutiny because parliament was shut down and extraordinary powers were bestowed on those in charge—long after such powers were necessary. This was my state for two dark years, and we are changed forever because of it.
On the other side, what are we left with? Skyrocketing debt and deficit; 47 new and increased taxes; cost blowouts in the billions for public works; a failed health system that, quite frankly, brings fear into the hearts of any Victorian who is elderly, injured or unwell; and the stench of corruption from countless inquiries into government members and government decisions. The office of the Premier, bloated and contemptuous, are surrounding their leader with spin and ring-fencing him from scrutiny. We cannot continue like this. Victorians deserve so much better.
The people of Victoria have the opportunity to vote for change, to vote for integrity and to vote to fix our health crisis. Matt Guy and the Liberals have put forward a positive agenda that will deliver real solutions to the problems that Victoria faces. It is a comprehensive plan that will fix the healthcare crisis without raising taxes. It will put an end to Daniel Andrews's era of spiralling debt and higher taxes, rewarding hardworking Victorian families, helping small businesses, restoring integrity and accountability in government and building stronger communities.
Victoria needs new government now more than ever before. Under an Andrews Labor government, Victoria's state debt has increased to more than that of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined. The projected deficit for 2022-23 has blown out from just below $8 billion to more than $10 billion. This is a 30 per cent blowout in just six months alone. The lagging household disposable incomes of Victoria mark a decade of financial decline. The Andrews government is focused on entirely the wrong priorities. Indeed, Dan Andrews himself can't say how much his signature project, the Suburban Rail Loop, will cost.
I will call him by his correct name. The Premier says that, whatever it is, he'll pay for it; that's fine. The Victorian Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated that the first two stages might blow out to as much as $125 billion. That would make it the most expensive infrastructure project in Australia's history, and this is despite the fact that the Victorian Auditor-General has said it will only return just over 50 cents in every dollar spent.
This is a project that does not stack up; it's a vanity project. It's an exercise in ego, but we have a Premier in Victoria who refuses to change his mind. Matt Guy, on the other hand, has committed to end this waste by shelving the Cheltenham to Box Hill rail line and diverting every dollar available from this project to fix Victoria's health crisis. Ambulances are ramping, surgery waitlists remain at stagnant record highs and children needing vital chemotherapy treatment are being turned away from hospitals. The new Guy government will fix this crisis. The Liberals have committed to provide an additional 50,000 surgeries, halving elective surgery time waitlists and dental waitlists; to train an additional 40,000 nurses; to build or upgrade 20 hospitals; and to fix the triple 0 line so that when you're ill or injured, somebody comes to help. These are real solutions that will put an end to Labor's healthcare crisis.
Daniel Andrews has been in charge—sorry, the Premier has been in charge—of Victoria's health system as minister or Premier for the last 11 of 15 years and, as much as he tries to wriggle out of it, he cannot escape responsibility for this crisis. Victoria has a Premier who deplores accountability, but Matt Guy and the Victorian Liberals have a plan to restore integrity and accountability in Victoria, with more funding for the Victorian anti-corruption commission, more funding for the ombudsman and more funding and powers for the Parliamentary Budget Office. And they have future pandemic plans to keep schools open and for no vaccine mandates.
Of course, no Victorian will ever be allowed to forget those lockdowns and the impact they had on hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. I've been on the ground in Victoria, and everywhere I go Victorians are sick of this sick government and its distorted priorities. They are sick of the stonewalling and sick of the lack of accountability. But I've had the extraordinary pleasure of being with some outstanding candidates across Victoria who will deliver real change for Victorians. These are candidates like John Pesutto in Hawthorn, who is a dear friend of mine. He has lived in the area for 25 years and he continues to demonstrate a boundless energy to support the people of Hawthorn inside and outside parliament. There is Jess Wilson in Kew, who brings such a brilliant policy brain and a real understanding of what matters to the people in Kew. Matthew Lucas in Prahran; Debbie Taylor-Haynes in Bentleigh, Lucas Moon in Richmond and Nicole Ta-Ei Werner in Box Hill are outstanding candidates who have been recruited for all that they love and all they can contribute to my great state of Victoria. They demonstrate the kind of talent that Victoria needs in its parliament, to see it through what are going to be a number of challenging years ahead.
They'll join other members of Matt Guy's excellent parliamentary team, like Michael O'Brien, the shadow Attorney-General, who of course is also my friend and local MP, and a tireless advocate for his community. David Southwick, the member for Caulfield, understands small business and how it has been impacted by the pandemic. He has been truly instrumental in coming up with the positive policies that will revitalise small business across Victoria. And Brad Rowswell, the member for Sandringham and deputy chair of the Integrity and Oversight Committee, has been holding the Andrews government to account wherever he possibly can—wherever this government has allowed him to do so.
These are just a few of the very talented team that Matt Guy has assembled. He and his team have a comprehensive plan that delivers real solutions to the issues facing Victorians. Their real solutions plan demonstrates that they are safe, that they are sensible, that they are mainstream and that they are ready to govern. But Victorians need to understand one thing: there is only one way to get rid of this bad Dan-Andrews-led government. There is only one way to do that, and that is to vote Liberal and National on Saturday, not for anybody else. You cannot vote for anybody else and guarantee that you will get rid of Dan Andrews and this bad, this terrible and this damaging state government. That is why it's so important on this Saturday in my state of Victoria that Victorians step up, that they get out, that they vote and that they think long and hard about what these last few years have meant for them: what it has meant to have their children taken out of school for 186 days; what it has meant to be separated from their elderly parents for so many months, who have been stuck in aged care, unable to be visited by family and by friends; what it has meant to have their freedoms and their liberties taken away; and what it has meant to be spoken down to by a contemptuous, by an arrogant, by a self-centred government and a leader that simply must go.
I'm going to speak about the Victorian election again, and I have to endorse what Senator Hume said, except for the part of voting for only the Liberal and National parties. Victorians go to the polls this week, and what a choice they have to make. They can vote for more of the same: record debt, actually $170 billion dollars, and an unaccountable government—like, it's my way or the highway under Labor—led by Premier Dan Andrews. Or they can vote for the coalition government, and there is an alternative there. But I'd say the coalition is probably a better choice than the Labor government, and some good, conservative, minor party candidates deserve consideration. Or they can actually vote for the illogic of Reason and waste votes on the radical Marxist Greens, so they have a great choice there.
Or they can vote for the party that puts them, their state and their country first, which is One Nation, and I've always stood up and fought for the values of the Australian people in this country. One Nation will demand accountability for the direct attacks on democracy and freedom. Victorians were part of the longest, hardest and most ruinous pandemic lockdown in the world. One Nation will pursue this through a royal commission into the handling of the COVID-19 'panDanic' that everyone seems to want to back away from and doesn't want to answer to the Australian people for.
Our party will champion energy independence, security, reliability and affordability. We'll push for Victoria's vast gas reserves to be used for the benefit of the Victorian people. We'll push for a second interconnector across Bass Strait and for the expansion of fuel storage facilities at Geelong. We'll advocate for measures to improve water and food security. One Nation supports expansion of the Big Buffalo dam and more certainty about water allocations for the state's irrigators.
We'll work to improve educational outcomes, with a focus on critical skills and thinking and education instead of indoctrination. We'll work to arrest the slide of Australia's educational standards. We'll work to improve health services, especially in regional Victoria, tightening obligations on medical graduates to ensure they work in regional areas in return for assistance with their HECS-HELP debt.
We have a strong, workable policy to address the rental and housing crisis in Victoria, banning foreign ownership of residential property to increase supply, lowering immigration to reduce demand and eliminating red tape which is slowing the release of land. We'll hold the government to account, working to implement recommendations from IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman. They are being ignored by the tyrannical Premier Andrews' government.
We will advocate for long-term investments in infrastructure, especially in regional areas, that will underpin Victorian prosperity for decades to come. Upgrades to the Princes Highway and Bass Highway are our priorities, as is the massive backlog in regional road maintenance. One Nation will be the champion of revitalising Victoria's regional road and rail networks, and we will work to scrap the useless over-budget Metro link—nothing more than a vanity project for Premier Dan Andrews.
We'll implement policies to support a skilled and flexible workforce, revitalising vocational education and establishing innovation hubs in regional areas and, most importantly, One Nation will be resolute in defence of fundamental democratic principles like freedom of speech, religion, association and assembly. These principles came under direct and sustained attack by the tyrannical Andrews Labor government, which shamelessly used intimidation, heavy-handed police tactics and surveillance to force the Victorian people into compliance. We will not allow that to happen ever again. To the people of Victoria I say, 'Make very sure your vote and your preferences go to the candidate who is going to work for you and your interests.'
Election campaigns are like job interviews, and voters are the employer. Select the candidate who is going to represent you and your community and fight for your rights. With the revelations of Victorian voters being deliberately misled by cynical manipulation of upper house group voting tickets, the only safe vote above the line for the Victorian upper house is One Nation, but we strongly encourage you to vote below the line. I wish Victorians all the best for the future of the state, which is in their hands this coming Saturday, and I commend the One Nation team in Victoria, our candidates, members and volunteers for a great campaign. But let's always put Victoria and Victorians first. Heaven help Victoria if Daniel Andrews and his Labor government get voted back in again. (Time expired)