Regional Victoria - MPI


Mr McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (17:21):

I am delighted to rise and make a contribution on the matter of public importance (MPI) in the name of the member for Macedon. Only Labor can call Macedon regional. It starts 48 kilometres from where we stand here. I reckon she will be calling herself a metro member as we get closer to November. It is hardly regional.

Can I say in soccer terms this MPI has got to be the greatest own goal ever kicked by the Andrews Labor government for Melbourne since coming to power in 2014. The arrogance of them parading around gloating and boasting about the neglect, the abandonment and the complete disregard by this government for the regions is completely breathtaking. Whoever thought this MPI up should have a serious look at their job role. Maybe they should consider working as the CEO of V/Line because their skill set might be used better there, because no government in Victoria’s history has turned its back on regional Victoria like the Andrews government for Melbourne have, and they wear that as a badge of honour. Investment in Melbourne, the Big Build in Melbourne—and that is ‘build’ with a D, not just ‘big bill in Melbourne’; the Big Build they call it—and the removal of level crossings, all in Melbourne.

Then they try to roll out this rubbish of their record in the regions. We all know it is aimed at the Melbourne market. Come to regional Victoria. Come to Wangaratta, Seymour, Swan Hill, Bairnsdale or Horsham and talk to those communities about what they think about the government for Melbourne, and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that they have been ignored. That is the way they feel about the Andrews government for Melbourne.

The MPI talks about jobs. Are they talking about the jobs that have been lost through the vaccination mandates? The Alpine Truss centre in Wangaratta, King Valley wineries and Burder Industries in Wangaratta call me weekly begging for the vaccination mandates to be scrapped because they are having trouble finding staff. Or are they talking about the jobs at the dairy giant Saputo, one of the world’s top 10 dairy producers and Australia’s largest dairy processor, which recently laid off staff in Gippsland and Cobram on the cheese line. Where have the Andrews government been on this? Silent, sitting on their hands, wearing hard hats and touring the tunnels around the CBD of Melbourne.

They talk about roads and infrastructure. What an insult—cutting $200 million out of the roads budget, scrapping the country roads and bridges program. And on top of that we watch our roads crumble—our potholes get bigger, edges break away—and our speed limits are now being reduced in country Victoria. I know with the bushfire recovery down in Gippsland there is a bridge, the Thurra bridge. It is going to be four years since the fires when that bridge finally gets built—and that is their timetable, not ours. So do not tell us that they are looking after regional Victoria. Of course do not expect a new build or a new road upgrade because that is simply not going to happen. The Whitfield road from Wangaratta out to King Valley—the government love to talk up the wine regions, you know, the King Valley and how great these wine regions are, but they refuse to invest in safer roads, and all the while they are spending their money, tens of millions of dollars, on wire rope barriers, which are cheese cutters for our motorcyclists.

Then they have got the gall to talk about tourism and major events. The member for Macedon must be embarrassed about what has happened in regional Victoria. Over the last two years we have been closed for business. The government’s spin is, ‘It’s all about COVID’. Well, yes, there was a lot of COVID in Melbourne. We know about that, and we know about the 801 people that died because of the mismanagement, and we can never forget that. But many of our rural communities were COVID free. Some municipalities had no cases or very few cases, single-digit numbers, but because the Premier could not stop people exiting Melbourne, could not stop them coming through the ring of steel—or, as we call it, the ring of marshmallow—the easy fix was just to shut the regions down. So you shut the regions down, all in the hope that you could keep Melbourne people in Melbourne. Over the last two years regional Victoria was closed, and quite often for no good reason. The Wangaratta jazz festival—gone. The Echuca riverboat festival, the Port Fairy festival—all these festivals disappeared over the last couple of years because we were closed for business. And our communities rely on each other. We depend on each other, and you stopped us from helping each other.

And of course if you live in a border community, well, the government from Melbourne created a monster, a nightmare that would not go away. It does not go away for our schoolkids, our health workers and everyone else who lives in a border community. So the member for Macedon should not dare stand in this place and try to tell us that they have supported regional Victoria, because they shut us down and they shut us down unnecessarily. I hope that the Labor MPs pay a heavy price at the ballot box in November.

There is also education in this MPI. The old saying goes, ‘Don’t listen to what Labor say, look at what they do’. The registration plates in Victoria say ‘the Education State’. Well, it is not the Education State. There is hardly any money spent in the Ovens Valley, I can tell you. I mean, there might be plenty of money spent on education in Melbourne, and if you believe the budget, the 2021–22 budget, $1.6 billion is going to get spent on new schools. Well, my maths says $1.6 billion divided by 88 seats is $18 million a seat. I can tell you what, I will not be getting $18 million in the Ovens Valley. I will not even be getting half of that—maybe 10 per cent to patch up a few walls and a few holes in some of our schools. But they are certainly not spending it in regional seats. Yarrawonga, the fastest growing town in regional Victoria, has been waiting, waiting, waiting for the final stage, the third stage, of their P–12. I secured nearly $8 million in 2013–14 to build stage 2, but since Labor has come to power there has been absolutely doughnuts—zero.

The people in the Ovens Valley laugh when they hear the Andrews government for Melbourne spruiking about education investment. And when they do invest in schools in regional Victoria it is things like the Shepparton super-school, the school that nobody wants. It is an experiment, a social experiment by the government for Melbourne pushed upon the good people of Shepparton. And if you want proof of that, of the government’s popularity in the regions, you will see the Premier just snuck into Shepparton recently, made the announcement and snuck out again before anybody knew he was there, before anyone could protest against him. And you guessed it right, it is all about the nightly news grabs for the Melbourne nightly news cycle audience.

Now, health—do not get me started on health, because we all know we are in the midst of a health crisis. Ambulance wait times have absolutely blown out. Elective surgery has absolutely blown out. And try to get a doctor in regional Victoria. If you move to regional Victoria, all the doctors are full and they will not take new patients, so we have got shortages throughout the country regions. We have got towns like Cobram—it is a beautiful country town on the mighty Murray River that needs a significant investment in its hospital. We do not even have dialysis chairs. We need that investment. We get this piecemeal approach in towns like Cobram. We get a carrot thrown here and a carrot thrown there, but it needs a significant investment. It needs $30 million as an investment. Now, that is not even a drop in the bucket of what gets wasted on some of these projects in Melbourne. I have been calling for it for years, and it just falls on deaf ears. So do not stand in this place and slap yourself on the back to say regional Victoria has been the winner for the Andrews Labor government. It is a disgrace.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I remind the member for Ovens Valley not to use that reflection on the Chair. ‘You’ is not acceptable.

Mr McCURDY: My apologies, Deputy Speaker. It really is a disgrace. It is a slap in the face to regional Victoria. Yarrawonga Health also needs investment, and so does Bright. Our smaller communities need that investment. They have been left out in the cold for years. They are desperate for aged care, they are desperate for high-care needs to service locals and visitors.

I look at the Albury Wodonga Health partnership, a partnership which the Premier signed off on himself in 2009, and Victoria is still not coming to the party. New South Wales has invested $75 million in this partnership and Victoria just $6 million, when 47 per cent of the patients who use this health service on the Albury-Wodonga border are Victorians.

The Andrews Labor government for Melbourne need to admit that their record in regional Victoria is absolutely appalling. We deserve our fair share, and we expect our fair share. Our roads are dangerous, our health system is failing, and I cannot wait to see this government removed.


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