As a new opinion poll shows his government with a commanding lead over the coalition Opposition, the Victorian Labor Premier, Steve Bracks, has delivered his party’s policy speech for the November 30 election.
Bracks promised a new women’s hospital alongside the Royal Melbourne Hospital, assistance to parents returning to the workforce, more money for outer metropolitan roads, and a 10-year plan to manage Victoria’s water resources.
Prepared text of the policy speech delivered by the Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, at the Kingston Town Hall in Moorabbin.
Three years ago we put a plan before the people of Victoria.
A plan to repair our health system.
A plan to get fairness and opportunity back into education.
A plan for a safer state.
And we said that our state should grow together.
That everyone deserved a stake in the future – whatever your income – whatever your post-code.
No-one left out – and no-one left behind.
We had a plan we believed in – and we’ve put it in place.
Where nurses and health workers were sacked – there are now over 3,300 back at work in our hospitals.
Where every Victorian teacher was gagged – forbidden from speaking out about the state of our schools – they now have a voice again.
There are now over 3,000 new teachers and staff back in Victorian schools. And 925 more teachers will start next term.
Labor believes in a great education system – and we’re putting that belief into practice.
We’ve opened a new primary school in Aspendale.
A new school in Roxburgh Park. Three new schools in Narre Warren. 16 brand new schools are being built.
And there’s 15 more to come. From Caroline Springs in the west to Lynbrook in the south-east.
We’ve got Prep to Grade 2 class sizes coming down right across the State.
And we now have the best Year 12 retention rates of any state in Australia.
In regional Victoria we’ve been true to our word.
New rail links, new hospitals, new schools and new jobs.
Regional Victorians are no longer second-class citizens.
In a second term we will continue to invest in our regions.
$70 million to extend natural gas supplies to 100,000 homes and businesses – easing the burden on households and helping business to expand.
Victoria is no longer a state divided against itself.
We’ve got rid of that old ethos of dividing people into winners and losers. I believe we’ve been able to change this state for the better.
Decency – compassion – and fairness are back at the centre of decision-making.
Moving around the state you can really feel the difference with 135,000 more Victorians in jobs.
And here’s a great figure – Victoria now has the lowest country
unemployment rate in the nation.
I’m starting to see a new optimism and confidence in this State. But I’m also starting to hear an Opposition trying to talk the state down.
Trying to talk down the economy – trying to talk down our future.
It’s a foolish exercise – and it’s not backed up by a single fact. Victoria’s economy grew by 4.9% in the last financial year – compared to 2.4% in New South Wales.
We’ve led the nation in growth for three years now – and our Budget surpluses are strong and here to stay. A $542 million surplus and a healthy surplus in the years ahead.
All the international credit agencies are rating Victoria as Triple A.
We are a government that only promises what we can deliver – and we deliver what we promise.
Financial openness is now a mandatory requirement in Victoria. Labor made it a law.
We wrote the Auditor-General’s powers into the Constitution.
For the first time, we’ve opened Treasury’s books during an election campaign. The way we manage the economy is there for all to see.
It’s extraordinary to hear the contradictions coming from our opponents. On the one hand – they’re telling us there’s a crisis around the corner. On the other hand – they’re promising billions of dollars for one marginal seat after another.
And … they claim we can have a tax cut too!
They are trying to be everything – to everyone. But you can’t believe what they’re saying.
Look at police numbers. They promised a thousand – but sacked 800. Now they’re promising a thousand again. Who could believe them? It’s just not credible.
Take health. They promised a better health system. Then closed a dozen hospitals and retrenched 2000 nurses. Now they say it was all a mistake, and they’ll never do it again.
Who could believe them?
But let’s assume they would spend the billions they’re promising. Where would those billions come from? They could only come from two places.
Selling state assets – and cutting services. A return to the bad days of rampant privatisation.
Of lousy standards in our hospitals and schools.
The Liberals made the cuts – Labor’s undoing the damage.
A lot has been achieved – but there is more to do.
Labor believes in a health system based on need – not the ability to pay.
We’re re-building 70 hospitals, nursing homes and ambulance stations. It’s the biggest capital boost to health in Victoria’s history. Terrific new hospital developments in Berwick, Frankston, Kyneton and Ararat.
The Austin Hospital – saved from privatisation – and now undergoing the biggest hospital rebuilding project in the nation.
Waiting lists are coming down for the first time in many years.
And with new dedicated elective surgery centres – at the Alfred and Moorabbin – we will reduce them even more.
In a second-term, we will continue to build new health services in our suburbs. In Maroondah, Werribee, Dandenong, Epping, and Monash.
Three new super health clinics in Craigieburn, Melton and Lilydale.
And we will build new rehabilitation services for our elderly in Knox and Mornington and Rosebud.
We’ll recruit 1800 more nurses and health workers and open 900 more beds across the State.
We are making real progress in health-care – but there’s more to be done.
Today I can announce that right next door to the Royal Melbourne – you will see a new public hospital for the women of this state.
They do fantastic work at the Royal Women’s – caring for the most vulnerable mothers and the sickest babies. But the facilities are wearing out.
We listened to Victorian women – and the medical profession. And we learnt of the real need for a new specialist hospital. One that keeps a step ahead of the changing needs of Victorian women.
A second term Labor Government will give new life to a great institution. $190 million dollars for a world-class research hospital for women.
And there is more we want to do.
Around the State there are many Victorians who would like to rejoin the workforce.
I think of those parents – mostly women – who want to get back into paid work after caring for their young children.
It’s not always an easy transition. Skills need to be renewed. Sometimes confidence needs a boost. There are practical issues like child-care costs.
It’s a time of major adjustment – and we will make that adjustment easier.
Today I can announce that … Victorian mothers – and fathers as well – will get a one thousand dollar Return To Work grant.
It could be used to help out with training at a TAFE. It could be used as a part-payment for a University course – or for books or child-care during new training.
This new initiative is about giving people more choice – and more opportunities. It’s about lending a hand at a critical time. It’s the kind of practical help Labor’s proud to give.
Friends, I’m also proud of the infrastructure projects that Labor has brought to life over the last three years.
The Collins Street bridge extension that opened yesterday. Connecting the Docklands to the city – and Melbourne to the waterfront at last.
Melbourne’s new County Court precinct. The new Malthouse Plaza – a place that invites us to get involved and enjoy the arts in this state.
We’ve got six billion dollars worth of projects. Like the Wimmera Mallee pipeline. The MCG redevelopment. The standardisation of our railway lines. The new fast rail links that will connect the regions to the city.
Infrastructure that answers a need – and makes our state a better place to live.
One of the most important infrastructure projects in this State, the Scoresby freeway, can only go ahead with Labor.
We now know that the conflict between the Liberals and Nationals means the Scoresby freeway, will never go ahead under a Coalition.
The growth in our suburbs was very badly managed by the last Liberal administration.
Decent infrastructure didn’t keep up with rapid development.
We were getting new suburbs with inadequate services – and inadequate roads.
Labor’s metropolitan strategy is all about managing the growth and protecting the natural environment.
And making sure that as families move in – there are proper services – like schools and parks – better and safer roads.
We are repairing 1098 dangerous intersections and roads.
And I can announce today, that as part of our continuing commitment to new growth suburbs – Labor will invest $100 million in a new Outer Metropolitan Road Fund.
This new fund will duplicate roads in growth areas like Frankston and Greensborough.
On the Moorooduc Highway from Tower Hill Road to the Frankston-Flinders Road.
And in Berwick – on the Berwick-Cranbourne Road – from Pound Road to Greaves Road.
Practical improvements in the places that need them.
The Government I lead puts the natural environment at the top of our agenda.
Logging is being reduced by a third – without leaving workers behind.
Greenhouse gas emissions are being cut as we invest in clean energy.
And we will continue to do everything in our power to convince the Howard Government that Australia must sign the Kyoto Protocol.
We are working hard to sustain our environment for future generations.
We’ve got the new Box-Ironbark national parks. The most marine parks anywhere in the world.
Locked in – saved for the future.
In the last three years we have created more National Parks than any other government in our history.
I’ve seen so much of this state in the last three years – and again and again I’m struck by its diversity and beauty. It’s so good to know that more and more of it has been safely preserved for all time.
What a great day it was when we announced that logging would stop in the Otways. And a new world class National Park created.
Another great moment for me was when we saw the first return of water into the Snowy.
One of the proudest days of our first term.
Our children will be able to see this great Australian river flow again.
We’ve always held the Snowy up as a national icon – but we were letting it die a slow death.
We listened and we acted – across state borders and across political lines – to do what needed to be done. To do what was right.
But it’s not only this great river that needs our attention.
We must face up to the challenge of securing our water for Victoria’s future.
And this is where our plans for Victoria’s water resources come in.
Plans that will involve each and every one of us – in the country and in the city.
Making a difference in our homes and gardens – as well as the major reforms on which governments can take the lead.
This is a new way of working – government infrastructure linked to community action.
Our farmers are suffering from severe drought. Great rivers, like the Murray, the Goulburn and the Glenelg, are in deep trouble.
Salinity is eating away at productive land. Our reservoirs are at record low levels.
These are not isolated problems. They are inter-connected – and they need a comprehensive solution.
Farms won’t prosper unless our rivers are healthy. Salinity won’t be reversed until we properly pipe our leaking channels. Our water problems – and the solutions – are all linked.
And we can all do something about it.
Today – I can announce Labor’s 10-year plan to secure Victoria’s future water needs.
It’s a bold plan. It changes the way we will fund major new water projects.
We will use Victoria’s strong financial position to secure our water for tomorrow.
There will be an immediate injection of $320 million this financial year to establish the Victorian Water Trust.
The Trust will be an untouchable source of funding to rebuild our irrigation systems – revive our rivers – and save our water.
In future years, the Trust will be sustained by ear-marking existing water authority dividends.
The same water authorities that the Liberals were ready to sell-off.
The water authorities that only Labor guaranteed would be kept in public hands. We’ve kept them there – and now we can start to see the benefits.
For the first time – we’re going to have a dedicated and stable fund to meet our long-term water needs. And this is only possible because Labor kept its promise.
To keep Victorian water in safe hands – in public hands – forever.
This new plan for our water gives every Victorian the chance to make a difference.
We will encourage more rainwater tanks – with a $150 cash-back rebate.
And we will encourage ‘grey water’ systems – to re-use water from the bath or washing machines – with a $150 cash-back rebate.
New standards for shower roses and washing machines will be phased in – with a potential saving of 47,000 million litres of water in Melbourne a year.
That’s the equivalent of 72 MCGs full of water. These are major savings we can make in our homes.
Labor will take the lead – we’ll get it started.
More will be done to save water for our farms and rivers.
We will build on our $77 million commitment to the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline.
We will begin three major upgrades to Victoria’s irrigation systems with a $68 million investment.
In Sunraysia and Mildura. Around the Goulburn and Broken Rivers. And in the Macalister irrigation district of Gippsland.
We will stop losing water from leakage and evaporation.
Labor will restore the health of the Gippsland Lakes by sewering nearby towns and reducing run-off from farms at a cost of $12 million.
We will continue to restore the health of our stressed rivers with $16 million to remove willows and weeds and prevent erosion. In rivers like the Latrobe, Avoca, Ovens, Mitchell and Aire.
And we will invest a further $30 million to improve country town water supplies and sewerage systems.
As well as saving water – we will recycle it.
By 2010 – we will increase water recycling in Melbourne by 20%. We will invest $10 million to re-use water that now goes into the Bay.
This will save us building another dam – and drive new agriculture across the Werribee Plains, west of Melbourne.
So many people have said to me – “I want to make a contribution – I want to do something to help.” This 10-year plan will harness that goodwill.
It will be a crucial new partnership that will start the moment we begin a second term.
The question at the heart of this election is about beliefs and actions.
My political faith is all about the decent and practical things that governments can do.
The infrastructure we build – the services we deliver.
And it’s all about the way we do them – compassionately – fairly – and with due respect to the people we serve.
My instincts tell me that the alternative Victorian government is ill-prepared and insincere.
It is becoming more and more clear that they are simply not ready to govern.
I’m not convinced by what they say – and I’m not persuaded by what I’ve seen.
We did see the Liberal Party’s true colours when they announced their “cap” on public servants.
And we all know that a “cap” is Liberal Party code for a cut.
It’s code for a cut to child protection workers, Community Correction Officers, disability workers, scientists, youth and child care workers. And all the things we’ve worked so hard to rebuild.
The plan we put before the Victorian people in 1999 was about repairing the damage and growing the state together.
It was about getting values like honour and compassion and fairness back into the heart of government. The plan we present today is about continuing that work – and investing in our future.
A stronger focus on the natural environment and water resources.
Strengthening communities and keeping them safe.
Governing for the whole state – for every street – every suburb – and every town.
It’s a bright and challenging time ahead of us.
I can feel a new confidence among Victorians.
A new regard for decency and compassion and fairness.
A new sense of people wanting to bring out the best in each other.
Let’s build on the great work we’ve begun.
Let’s make November the 30th a vote of confidence in Victoria.