East West link

Ms RYALL (Ringwood) — I grieve for all Victorians. I grieve for them because the Andrews Labor government governs for the Greens only. Make no mistake! It is all about saving Labor’s inner‑city seats and preventing them going the way of the seat of Melbourne.

Ms RYALL — Those opposite might laugh but they would not be in government without the Greens, let us face it. They want to stop the inner‑city seats of Brunswick, Richmond and Northcote from going the way Melbourne did. It is not about setting up Victoria for a future and it is not about the needs of business. The cancellation of the east–west link is all about politics and not about policy. This Labor government is paying $420 million plus sunk costs to not build a road that Victoria desperately needs. How do we know it is all about politics and not about good policy or what Victoria needs? Because Victoria needs to be able to grow businesses and jobs, grow our economy and build prosperity. We know this is all about politics because if Labor had had that in mind, it would not have cancelled this contract. We know that those opposite have no idea about the needs of Victoria and put politics first, because on 19 August 2008 the Attorney‑General, then a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the Legislative Council, said:

But the Greens have told motorists in the middle and outer west to ‘stick it’ — no new river crossings and no new roads for them. Car drivers in the west are to be punished, sacrificed on the altar of green ideology.

In the inner west a consequence of the Greens’ position would be that the trucks remain on local roads. We expect all that from the Greens.

We expect that from Labor because we see it now. That is its position, and the problem with Labor’s position is it swings on the breeze of the political moment.

On 8 June 2010 the member for Williamstown, now the Minister for Police, made comments in this house about Colleen Hartland, a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the Council. He said:

Recent comments by a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the Council, Colleen Hartland, opposing the WestLink road tunnel project conveniently ignores independent reports by Sir Rod Eddington and the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission. These reports made it clear that Melbourne’s dependency on the West Gate Bridge cannot be sustained over the longer term. Sir Rod Eddington indicated in his east–west link needs assessment that reducing Melbourne’s reliance on the West Gate Bridge and increasing road capacity across the Maribyrnong River were critical for Melbourne’s west.

That is what the member for Williamstown said in this house. He went on to say that tackling this matter would increase capacity for new business opportunities and generate employment growth. But not now. What has changed? Politics has changed this. It is not about good policy. The same member said on 2 September 2009:

Clearly a second major river crossing is needed … while improving cross‑city travel for all Melburnians.

The Treasurer said on 31 July 2008:

In the land occupied by those opposite —

and at the time that was the coalition —

there is no plan to improve our east–west connections.

Hello! There is no plan now to improve our east–west connections because the government has cancelled it.

On 8 April 2008 the Treasurer said:

Sir Rod Eddington in his report identifies the challenges that confront the state of Victoria, but he describes them as the symptoms of success. They are symptoms that this government —

the then Labor government —

is well equipped to deal with. They are symptoms those opposite —

being the coalition —

would not be particularly well acquainted with.

The Treasurer said that in 2008 about the then Labor government, and it is interesting that this government, the Andrews Labor government, has no idea how to deal with the issue at hand. I suggest that this government and its team of economic illiterates, even having been told the situation by Sir Rod Eddington, still do not get it. The challenges that confront this state are symptoms of success. So unacquainted is the Treasurer with that idea that he and his economic vandals want to stop success. They want to stop economic growth. They want to stop business success by disadvantaging the necessary movement of business around our state. We know that at the heart of this government is a failure to understand business and what needs to be done to grow our economy and grow jobs for Victorians. We might ask why.

It is interesting to look at the parliamentary website to see that the Premier’s work experience was as an electorate officer and a Labor Party assistant secretary; the Treasurer’s was in a union and electorate offices; the Minister for Finance, who is in the house now, was an electorate officer; the Minister for Employment was an electorate officer; the Minister for Industry worked for unions and was an electorate officer; and the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade was an electorate officer. There we have it: the economic A team of the Andrews government is a group of people without a single element of experience outside of unions and electorate offices. They have no experience in business. The Minister for Sport has more experience in business and the outside world than all the members of the economic ministry team put together — and that is saying something.

This is classic evidence of the fact that this government fails to recognise that productivity is one of our greatest challenges in this state. Yet productivity is crucial to our state’s businesses and to jobs. It is crucial to Victoria’s capacity to make sure that it can afford its public services and public servants. It is therefore unthinkable that the last time the Premier of this state uttered that word in this house was on 4 September 2013, when he was Leader of the Opposition. He only ever said it in the context of the Productivity Commission, and he only used the word back then because I pointed out to the house that it was not part of his vocabulary and as Leader of the Opposition at the time it should have been. Interestingly, at the very next question time his advisers gave the word ‘productivity’ to him to use in a question, and he used it then three times. The problem was that he did not understand it; he did not know what it meant.

The point is, given his inexperience, the Premier has no idea how important that word is to our state, and he therefore puts politics before good policy and cancels the biggest productivity improver on the agenda in this state: the east–west link. He will not listen to industry groups. In fact members of industry groups have been at lunches with him, and he has refused to take questions.

An honourable member interjected.

Ms RYALL — Indeed it is a fact, member for Mount Martha. No wonder he ignored their pleas. He just does not get it. In May 2014 the then
Treasurer — —

Mr Scott — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, the honourable member should refer to other members by their correct titles.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I agree with that, but the honourable member should continue.

Ms RYALL — The Treasurer in May 2014 used the term ‘productivity’ once, and that was in relation to quoting someone on this side of the house and saying that we on this side of the house like to talk about productivity. That is the only reason he used that word. We do talk about productivity because it is vitally important for our state. The only thing that reflects any insight is that he does not know why we are talking about productivity. The Treasurer makes an Easter Island statue look active.

The Treasurer last raised the issue of productivity in 2012, and it is now 2015. That is a disgrace. The Minister for Finance, who is at the table, has only used the word ‘productivity’ once in this house, and he did not use it when referring to an organisation such as the Productivity Commission. He used it once, and that was in October 2012. If the member would like to look up Hansard, he might find the same information.

The Minister for Employment last used the word ‘productivity’ in November 2012; the Minister for Industry used it in 2013. Is there a pattern of behaviour here? This government does not understand how critical productivity is to this state and why it needs projects like the east–west link. Productivity is a major challenge we face in this state, and those opposite do not know what it is. It is like children looking into the Myer windows. They are all excited about what is happening but have no idea what is going on behind it. They are fascinated by the spectacle. They have no personal experience in how to drive productivity and what to do about it, how to manage a commercial budget, how to drive operations and how to drive a budget to outcomes.

All we are left with by this Labor government is a discredited ideology in which the people of Victoria are an experiment in its socialist laboratory. It treats the Victorian economy as an ideological experiment. This state is an experiment. Those opposite might like to know that the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing is actually a member of the Fabian Society. That is well declared on the Parliament’s website.

Honourable members applauding.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! It is disorderly for honourable members to clap.

Mr Hodgett — They should do it at the end.

Ms RYALL — Yes, at the end! The Fabian Society is an ideological organisation that promotes socialism, and, make no mistake, the government is treating Victoria and its economy as an ideological experiment. Government members have never done any learning; they are learning on the job. In fact I would say they are not even learning — that is the problem — and we are guinea pigs in their socialist laboratory. It is an experiment in socialism, and I never thought I would see it in my lifetime — something as discredited as this leftist movement and this leftist experiment in this state.

As Tom Elliott likes to say, the population growth in this state increases by about an MCG‑full per year. It is interesting that those opposite are all ears to unions and no ears to business. They are not listening to business. There have been changes in business and innovation and in the way businesses work, and there have been changes in consumers’ buying behaviour. People buy so much online these days, and those products do not get to consumers by train carriage or bus; they get to them via the roads. Changing behaviours within our society mean that businesses need those roads. Appropriate roads can save businesses time, and saving time is money, money businesses can use to put people in jobs.

The Andrews government has shut the door on business by cancelling this contract. In my electorate 300 independent contractors now have no work ahead of them. Many of these contractors are migrants who have worked very hard to buy their own trucks, and they have no work ahead of them. What were they told when I raised a constituency question with the government in relation to this problem? ‘We are doing level crossing removals’. There is only eight days work per level crossing removal. That is what will be given to the earthmoving sector. Compare that to the three years solid work they would have received with the construction of the east–west link and the continuation of the pipeline of projects that was in place.

We need to hear about productivity from those opposite, but we have not heard a murmur. In the
 2013–14 budget, when money was set aside for the east–west link, we did not hear anything from the now Premier, the then opposition leader, nor did we hear anything from the Labor Party. In fact members opposite approved that budget. Now they have the audacity to say to members of the coalition, ‘You delivered on your budget’, something they approved. At the time there was no response, just silence.

Labor has now cancelled the east–west link project. It has said to the coalition, ‘You shouldn’t have spent that money’, and yet it approved it in the budget. Melbourne is Australia’s fastest growing city. We need this project, and Labor knows it. For every day this project is delayed there are costs. Those opposite have said time and again that a second river crossing is vital. Labor has trashed Victoria’s international reputation. The process went ahead according to schedule, and this is why this decision of Labor is all about politics and the Greens, and it stinks that the Andrews Labor government chose to put politics over the needs of Victorians.