That this house takes note of the 2018–19 budget papers.
Mr BURGESS (Hastings) (14:02:57) — It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the take‑note motion on this year’s budget. It is typical of the last three budgets that this government has produced. It is a boom‑bust budget with revenues just slightly in front of expenditure but of course built on a false base of immigration. Without that immigration we would be in real trouble in this state. It is a very similar scenario to where we were in 1988 moving on from the Cain‑Kirner years. The last time they were re‑elected things looked like they were okay because there was revenue that would substantiate the overlying figure, but in the end we saw that that revenue was built on sand, as the revenue at the moment is built on immigration. If that immigration starts to falter, which projections from the Housing Industry Association says it will, then while the revenue will drop considerably and suddenly, the expenditure that this government has built up certainly will not, and that will leave us in a very dire situation.
The revenue for the year is just under $70 billion, which is up about $6.2 billion, and obviously expenditure is just slightly lower than that. Of that expenditure $25 billion is on public service wages and costs. That is the biggest cost to the budget. It is a 38 per cent increase and a $7 billion blowout. This is projected to rise to $28.3 billion in three years. One only needs to look at the Premier’s own department, at his advisers, to see that we are in a situation where this government has just expended money hand over fist to support a failing Premier and his government. They have now got more people advising this Premier than the Prime Minister has got, which is an incredible situation and one that I have not ever seen before. The Premier has 63 advisers while the Prime Minister has got 54. The Prime Minister is running the whole country while the Premier is running just one state. There are 268 ministerial advisers, averaging over $125 000 per person, which is an enormous number of advisers for a government that appears to have very little talent at the top level and is just relying on continuing to employ more and more people.
This is a plan with no economic productivity plan. It is a budget that takes us nowhere in a big hurry. It is built completely on immigration. It has got the same failings that the last government had with blowouts all over the place and a failure to plan for anything moving into the future. The people who put this budget together are the same people that put the last three budgets together, which left us with the wonderful Myki, the desal plant, the north–south pipeline, the IT project budgets that were blown to pieces — all of those pieces of infrastructure or projects that were such a mess that the government that took over in 2010 had to address them over a period of time. These are exactly the same people. It is an unusual situation when there is a one‑term government; you get back the same people that were 11 years in government before that making the same mistakes and building this budget up to an unsustainable level where the revenue and the expenditure do not match.
Of particular interest to small businesses, but also to Victorians across the state, is the massive increase in the cost of energy in the state, which has tripled for some businesses. The increase is $300 on average per Victorian across the state in energy costs, which is a massive increase, with no real cause other than the government’s own actions. The government forced the closure of Hazelwood by tripling coal royalties and then dispatching the Treasurer over to see Engie in France to make sure that they closed the generator down at Hazelwood. That, combined with the ban on looking for gas in Victoria, has really put pressure on energy prices right across the board.
If you put energy prices under pressure as far as electricity is concerned and then you ban gas exploration as well, of course electricity prices are going to go through the roof — and that is exactly what they have done. Victorians are paying the price every day for an incompetent government.
Our policy, of course, is to take the pressure off electricity prices and off gas prices by allowing the exploration of gas throughout Victoria again — not fracking, as some people would have you think, because fracking was banned by our government while we were in government. What we are talking about is traditional gas exploration. By doing that, by allowing that to open up by giving a veto to the landowner and a share of royalties and having a state retention on any gas that is found so that the states’ needs are met first before anything else can be done with that, that will take the pressure off the cost of energy. We will have more to say about the costs of energy as we get closer to election.
As we all know now, and as we have heard many times in this house, the Premier started off the night before his premiership in the way he is finishing it. Over four years he has told untruth after untruth, and the night before the election he told one of the boldest. That
was when he spoke to Peter Mitchell. Peter Mitchell said to him:
Daniel Andrews, all the polls say you will be Victoria’s next Premier. If you are, do you promise Victorians here tonight that you will not increase taxes or introduce any new taxes?
And of course the Premier looked down the barrel of the camera and said:
I make that promise, Peter, to every single Victorian …
Since that time he has broken that promise many, many times — 12 new and increased taxes, and 13 if we look at the piece of legislation that is going through at the moment about container deposits. One of those was the new city access tax to fund the West Gate project — a charge of $7.74 billion extra in tolls, with a capacity that even those that are behind the project are saying will probably be up to its extent by the time it opens or very close to it. Those involved in the planning have also questioned the plausibility of this project.
There has been the tripling of the coal royalties, which I have already mentioned; taxes on fares for taxis and Ubers; an increased tax on new cars; new stamp duty on off‑the‑plan purchases; new annual valuations for land tax, which have of course pushed land tax up and also had an effect on rates; a new stamp duty on transfers between spouses; a new point‑of‑consumption gambling tax; a new land tax surcharge for absentee owners, which has since tripled; a new stamp duty surcharge on foreign purchases, which has since tripled; and an increased fire services levy. And there are more to come. Obviously we are debating another one of those new taxes in the house this week. That makes Victoria Australia’s highest taxing state by quite a distance.
Over this term payroll tax and vehicle registration fees have gone up by 20 per cent; stamp duty on property transfers has gone up by 60 per cent; duty and rego transfers are up 36 per cent; and land tax is up a massive 77 per cent. Even with all these taxes it is difficult to see where any of that money is being spent for the benefit of the community, and that is not surprising. There has certainly been an increase in the cost of infrastructure. The government is acting as quickly as it can to make it look like they are doing things, but the point here is that if you look at where the extra money has gone — and there is an enormous amount of extra money; I detailed earlier the extra revenue that is being generated through taxes in this state — you do not have to look past the blowouts that this government is foisting on this state through its failed infrastructure projects. The government says its projects are going to cost us all one thing, and then when we look more closely they cost us something completely different.
I think on the one hand Victorians will accept taxes. They certainly accept their share of taxes, but they would like to know — if their taxes are going to be increased as dramatically as this government has increased them — what value they are getting for them. To be absolutely straight, they are getting zero value for that extra tax. If you go through each of this government’s projects, you see that the extra tax has been completely burnt up in blowouts on projects as we have moved through.
For the Metro Tunnel the promise was $9 billion, now $11.7 billion — a blowout of over $2 billion. Level crossing removals were promised to be $5 billion, now $8.3 billion — a blowout of $3.3 billion. The north‑east link was promised to be $5 billion, now $16.5 billion — a blowout of $11.5 billion. The east–west link of course was cancelled, but it nevertheless cost us $1.3 billion because of another of the Premier’s untruths. The Victorian Heart Hospital was promised to be $150 million and cost $543 million — a blowout of $393 million. The Seaford‑Frankston line stabling project was promised to be $187 million but has cost $236 million at this stage — a blowout of $49.3 million. Hoddle Street was promised to $60 million, now $106 million — a blowout of $48.6 million. The Casey Hospital expansion was promised to be $106 million but cost $139 million — a blowout of $33.5 million. The Ballarat line upgrade was promised to be $516 million but cost $549 million — a blowout of $32.8 million.
This list just continues, and you can see where this extra tax and other taxes have been burnt by this state and why it really is a frustration to Victorians that they are continuing to pay higher costs only to pay for the blowouts that this government creates. The Frankston station upgrade was promised at $50 million but cost $61 million — a blowout of $11.8 million. V/Line fleet maintenance was promised at $12.5 million but cost $23 million — a blowout of $10.5 million. The Huntingdale station car park was promised at $4.8 million but cost $11.5 million — a blowout of $6.7 million. That is $25 billion in waste. That is just waste in these last four years. That would have paid for 25 new hospitals or 1500 new police stations. That is something about which this government should hang its head in shame. It has taken all this extra money off Victorians, and what has it done? It has just burnt it.
In my portfolio there has been damage done to small businesses literally all over the state. Everywhere I go there is more damage being done. The Kananook stabling has destroyed seven businesses. It destroyed Page Bros RV, a 50‑year‑old business which has just spent $2 million on upgrading its premises, and they are going to be just tossed out. Businesses in the Latrobe Valley have been left out in the cold because of Labor forcing Hazelwood to close. Patties Foods in Bairnsdale laid off staff because of ridiculous energy costs, and that is reflected all over the state. For Optec in Morwell there has been a significant knock‑on effect from the loss of Hazelwood, and their contracts have gone. Of course now those business owners are having to pay out of their own pockets and their own assets to try and survive.
That just goes on all over the state; I could talk about that for ages. There literally are hundreds of them. The government said that its small business regulation review was one of its greatest signature policies. Well, where is it? What have we seen? We have seen words. We have seen little booklets come out every now and then going on about what would be the case, what they are going to get rid of and what regulation they might attack, but we have seen nothing being attacked. We have in fact have had a net increase where we were promised a 25 per cent reduction in red tape. That just has not occurred. This government has not been able to keep any of its promises. It has done more damage to Victoria’s small businesses than any government has ever done before.
On the promises of what the Labor Party was going to do just for small businesses, we only have to look at what they have done to school cleaners. I detailed that earlier, in my members statement this morning. School cleaners have been wiped from the face of Victoria. In the metropolitan area we had hundreds of school cleaners and many hundreds of employees that the government just sacked at the end of the financial year without showing any reason for doing so, and then it replaced them with companies that in fact had had major problems in their paying of staff before. Now we have had over 200 complaints about that.
In my electorate we have been starved of funding. My schools have had very little funding. In fact only one school has had anything significant. On police, law and order, Somerville police station is not open but crime is up: in Baxter by 42 per cent, in Bittern by 34 per cent and in Tyabb by 8.7 per cent. On sporting club funding, $225 million is going into Etihad Stadium and nothing —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McGuire) — The member for St Albans.