Mr R. SMITH (Warrandyte) (14:01:49) — It is an indictment of this government, I suppose, that so much of this Parliament’s time is taken up on things that are really of no interest to the people of Melbourne and things that are not important to the people of Victoria. Those opposite, who think that various censure motions and various requests for documents are the things that keep Victorians awake at night, should really get out from behind their desks, get out from behind the Labor propaganda and actually start knocking on some doors and talking to some people in their electorates.
They will find that among the things that are important to Victorians is the increasing crime wave — the crime tsunami that this state has been a victim of over the last four years, with violent crime getting worse and worse; riots in the streets with hundreds of people involved and no arrests under this soft-on-crime government; and home invasions and carjackings. These are crimes that this state simply did not hear about four years ago. These crimes have got worse and worse and worse in recent times, and this government does not seem to care. That is an issue that people in Victoria are concerned about.
Another issue people are concerned about is the congestion on our roads. Four years ago you could move around this city and the outer suburbs with a relative amount of ease. I say ‘relative’ in relation to how it is now, where you cannot move, the streets are choked and taking a simple 10-kilometre drive can take you half an hour or more. No longer do we have peak hour finishing at around 9.00 or 9.30; sometimes it stretches to 10.00 or 10.30. On the weekends as well you cannot get from A to B without a significant amount of hassle. The fact that this government spent $1.3 billion to scrap a road project that would have helped free up that traffic is again an indictment of this government, and certainly one that they will be held accountable for in November of this year.
Another issue of importance — and this one goes to the matter of public importance — is one of cost of living. The cost of living is a huge issue for people in my electorate and I am sure in electorates right around this great city and indeed to the four corners of this great state. The cost of living is an increasing burden on the people of Victoria, and it is something that the government is seeming to do nothing about. In fact, worse than doing nothing about it, they are actually contributing to the burden that Victorian households are under, and that brings me to the matter of public importance:
That this house condemns the Andrews Labor government for boasting about Victoria being in ‘the best of times’ —
I have to say I was simply shocked when I heard the Treasurer say that Victoria was living in the best of times when crime is worse than it was four years ago, when congestion is worse than it was four years ago and certainly the cost of living is worse and more of a burden, making life more difficult for Victorians than it was four years ago —
while presiding over crippling rises in cost of living, including:
(1) unprecedented rises in electricity costs;
(2) record costs for natural gas;
(3) 12 new or increased taxes; and
(4) signing Victorian motorists up for crippling increases and extended tolls.
An Ipsos survey has shown that amongst Victorians — amongst those surveyed — cost of living is now in the top three of concerns for 27 per cent of Victorians. This is up from when we left office, when it was down at 22 per cent, and it is just getting worse under this government.
In an Age article just this year, in April, we saw Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that:
Melbourne leads the nation in cost-of-living increases, with soaring gas and electricity prices biting into household budgets.
It is no proud thing for this state to have the highest cost of living in the country. It should be no proud thing for this government that they are worried about political mudslinging, they are worried about various shenanigans of trying to make sure that they undermine the opposition or they are refusing to accept that people are appalled by their rorting, their theft, their stealing, their lying. They want to distract people and show them something over here — that maybe there are some difficulties over here; the opposition might be in a bit of trouble over here. Victorians understand where this government is coming from, and certainly the government, as I said, stands condemned for not looking at the things that people are actually concerned about, including the cost of living.
Further to that particular news article, there is another, which says:
Excessive power bills are crippling household budgets, and Victorians are going without food, heating and doctors visits to keep the lights on.
Is this something that the government is proud of? The government does not get up and talk about this stuff. The article continues:
One in 10 is skipping meals because of bills, while 65 per cent have been unable to go on holidays.
Overall, 79 per cent of Victorians felt their cost of living had gone up more in the past five years than it had before. Victorians were struggling to cope, with 60 per cent describing the cost-of-living pressure as out of control or increasing.
And just some anecdotes from that particular article:
When the latest gas bill arrived by post, Mary Boca thought she was going to have a heart attack.
‘We pay monthly and our gas bill has actually doubled in this latest one’, Mrs Boca said.
‘Instead of spending our usual amount on groceries we’ll have to spend $30 for the week and keep everything to the necessities.
‘Every time we get a gas bill it looks like it’s gone a bit higher but this is the worst one yet’.
And it is these cost of living pressures that are, as I said, putting a burden on Victorian households, and with that burden comes an increasing stress on Victorian households, which can lead, unfortunately, to violence in the household and stressful situations for families and for businesses. We have brought example, after example, after example into this house during question time: businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, businesses have gone to the wall. My honourable colleague the member for Caulfield will no doubt talk about these issues in greater depth later on during this debate, but the fact of the matter is that businesses that are the backbone of our economy, businesses that support this state’s economy and businesses that employ simply thousands and thousands and thousands of people right across this state are under enormous pressure to the point where they are having to close the doors or put staff off, and in some cases certainly that affects families, and that is, as I said, an indictment of this government.
Before the government took office they already knew that they were going to lie to the Victorian people. We all remember — and it has been said many times in this house — that just before the election, on the night before the 2014 election, the now Premier was being interviewed on Seven News by Peter Mitchell. Peter Mitchell said:
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?
The Premier said:
I make that promise, Peter, to every single Victorian.
The now Premier looked down the barrel of that camera and he lied to every single Victorian. He lied to every single Victorian —
The SPEAKER — Order! The member knows the use of that word is unparliamentary.
Mr R. SMITH — Isn’t it an indictment of this government that it is a worse crime to say the word ‘lie’ than it is to actually come in here and lie every single day? Isn’t that appalling that that is the situation? Absolutely appalling!
The SPEAKER — Order! I have warned the member. It is established practice in this place. I warn —
Mr R. SMITH — All right. For the Premier I could use ‘deceit’. He is deceitful. He engaged in deception. He is dishonest. He makes a distortion of the truth, an evasion of the truth, a fabrication, a falsehood, a fiction, a forgery. His inaccuracy — although that is probably not strong enough because he is more than inaccurate.
Ms Halfpenny — On a point of order, Speaker, obviously there is not enough material for the member to actually discuss the matter of public importance. I do not think all the name-calling of the Premier is relevant in this debate.
The SPEAKER — Order! I do not uphold the point of order.
Mr R. SMITH — There are many other words we could use — myths, he tells tales, he tells fables, he is false, he tells fibs, he is fraudulent, he makes inventions, he is mendacious, he tells whoppers. Let us not beat around the bush. There is a good word for this — ‘lie’. Let us just call it what it is. He made that announcement down the barrel of the camera —
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Warrandyte will resume his seat. I have warned the member two times not to use that word. He continues to do so. If he uses it again, he will be sat down and not heard again.
Mr R. SMITH — Having made that fraudulent statement to the people of Victoria and having deceived the people of Victoria on purpose —
An honourable member interjected.
Mr R. SMITH — Anyway, let us call it what it is. Do you know what? I do not mind calling it for what it is here, because the people of Victoria know exactly what he did. He said that he was not going to increase or introduce any new taxes, and over the last four years he introduced or increased 12 new taxes. There is a new city access tax for the West Gate tunnel, he tripled brown coal royalties — and we will come back to that shortly — he introduced stamp duty on new cars and he introduced a new vacant home tax, new annual property valuations to increase land tax, a new point-of-consumption and a gambling tax. The taxes now mean that Victoria is the highest taxing state in this country. Taxes have gone up by 38 per cent. There is no state in this country that is paying more taxes.
You would think that would be enough for this government. You think it would be enough, but no, they have also doubled debt, so they are also borrowing money. Not only have they got their hand in your pocket on this side, they have got their hand in the pocket on the other side as debt doubles over the course of their government. And it is just getting worse. That is but one area where this government has made things worse. The other one, and the one that people talk to us about right across the state, is of course energy prices. Gas prices are going through the roof. An article earlier this year in the Age says:
Victorians are paying far too much for gas because of the Andrews government’s stubborn refusal to allow onshore exploration …
It is not this side of the house that is saying that; that is from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC is pointing the finger squarely at the government’s policies of closing Hazelwood and of not allowing gas exploration in this state. The fact that the government refuses to lift the moratorium means that Victorian families are paying far more for gas than they should be. Mr Sims from the ACCC said that the moratorium was impeding exploration development and that lifting it could push gas prices down for all consumers. You would think that if you were in government, you would want to do that. You would think that if you were in government and Victorians were bending under the burden of increased costs that you would want to help them. That is what the government is for, isn’t it?
That is totally what we are thinking about on this side of the house. That is certainly our policy. We will allow that exploration so that we can reduce the cost of gas in this state. But of course the government does not want to do that, because the government is ensnared by Greens ideology. The government is ensnared by an ideology that it will be in coalition with these people. If Victorians are unfortunate enough to see them on the Treasury benches again, the member for Melbourne will be sitting in the chair as Deputy Premier of the state. Could you imagine the policies around energy? Could you imagine, if you think energy prices are high now, what they will be under a Greens-Labor coalition? Could you imagine how bad that will be?
It is not just gas prices, it is also electricity prices. Electricity prices have gone through the roof since this government’s policies raised coal royalties by 300 per cent and forced Hazelwood out of business. That took supply out of the market and meant that Victoria’s household bills would go through the roof. Of course the government said — in fact the Treasurer boasted — that power companies could easily absorb the increase in royalties. That did not happen, unfortunately.
Engie said that the government’s policies would put them out of business, and in fact they left. You know what? The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, who is sitting at the table, said it was a sad fact of reality that Hazelwood’s closure would affect prices but that the good news was that analysis showed the rise might be less than a dollar a week. Well, that is good news, isn’t it? In fact she was backed up by the Premier, who said the closure would result in higher electricity prices but that the rise would be about 4 per cent, or an average of 85 cents a week. I am not sure that there are many businesses or households saying, ‘Oh well, it’s only 85 cents a week; we can afford that. It is a cup of coffee a month that I might have to do without’. But no, these guys once again spread misinformation, were inaccurate, were dishonest, were deceiving, were deceptive and falsified their comments, and what we are finding now is that the cost of living as a result of these utility bills has gone through the roof and is causing burdens on this state and on households in this state that are just too difficult for people to manage.
Of course that led to increased costs, because we had to get diesel generators in to make up supply. The minister at the table, the energy minister, said:
Victoria has more than enough capacity to meet our energy needs.
And that the government were:
… not considering any diesel back-up because we are building the generation and storage necessary to protect Victorian consumers.
That is in an article headed ‘Diesel generators to bolster Victoria’s energy network over summer’. In a subsequent article the question was asked, guess who pays for the cost of that? It is the poor old Victorian taxpayer, who is already bending under the weight of the cost-of-living burdens that are being imposed on them by this government.
It is also in budget blowouts under this Treasurer, who is also sitting at the table, where we are seeing something in the order of $12 billion over budget on all major projects. The Auditor-General himself said that with the level crossing removals the cost of the program had increased by more than 38 per cent. I mean, how can you get it that wrong? ‘Another billion here, another billion there’. It does not matter under this government whether it is their warped ideological policies around increased gas exploration, around the closing of Hazelwood power station or around the budgets of major projects that they find impossible to keep under control, it is the poor old Victorian taxpayer that is paying the price. That is a matter of public importance. This government cannot handle it; an elected coalition government will.