Address in-reply 2015

Mr CARROLL(Niddrie) — It is my pleasure and honour to be in the house today to make my contribution in the address-in-reply debate, and I would like to dedicate this speech to dealing with some of the issues that have been most pertinent in my time in this place and those that will continue to be significant into the future. I am proud, and it is a privilege, to serve as the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice in the most diverse and talented team of any government in Australia. I acknowledge that we have 22 ministers, of whom 9 are female, and that is an excellent start to one of the Andrews Labor government reforms, which was outlined at the last state party conference, of putting equality on the table. It is an important step for the future.

I came to this place in 2012 after a by-election in Niddrie, replacing the Honourable Rob Hulls, a former Attorney-General. It was a by-election that the coalition did not contest, although the electorate was a marginal seat, such was the arrogance of those opposite and the coalition’s apathy toward the state of Victoria. I do not want to claim credit for the downfall of the former member for Hawthorn, Mr Baillieu. I think that can partly go to the former member for Frankston, but the decision not to contest the by-election in the early years of the government speaks for itself. It was my privilege to follow in the footsteps of the previous Attorney-General and become the state member for Niddrie.

Let us look at the fantastic vision for our future laid out by Premier Andrews and his team. First and foremost we are going to become the education state with an unrelenting focus on building the education institutions of the 21st century. We are also going to fix the 50 worst rail level crossings. The electorate of Niddrie returned me with an increased margin, and I am very proud of that. Now as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, it is a privilege to be working with the Minister for Emergency Services, the Minister for Police and the Attorney-General, and I also acknowledge the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, who is at the table. I was privileged to be on the Law Reform Committee during the last Parliament, a committee which did a groundbreaking inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, the drug known as ice. The then Leader of the Opposition, now Premier Andrews, led the debate on crystal methamphetamine and, as he committed to doing when opposition, has set up a task force within the first 100 days in office and laid out a blueprint for how we can tackle this scourge in our community.

As many members would also be aware, there was an electoral redistribution for the state of Victoria in 2012. As with many other members, my electorate changed substantially. I was lucky to gain the suburbs of Aberfeldie and Keilor, and I have since been engaging with those communities. It has been a growing experience, and I look forward to expanding and engaging with the wonderful people in those suburbs well into the future.

Something I have long recognised in my electorate, since riding the Kastoria 475 bus to St Bernard’s College as a teenager, is that public transport will need to continually grow to accommodate a growing state. My suburb contains the 59 tram and several bus routes, which I believe can always be fine-tuned to get the best outcomes for commuters in the local community. It is interesting that during the last election campaign, and before that, the then Napthine government promised an airport rail link. It was going to run right through my electorate. It was to go through Airport West, Keilor Park and East Keilor, but not one person in the community was consulted. It was to run through their backyards, but the coalition government was so keen to promote that rail link that it had not done one ounce of consultation. It had even posted advertisements about it at Southern Cross station, but not one council, whether it be the City of Moonee Valley or the City of Hume, was consulted about the airport rail link. That was one of the biggest hoaxes I have ever seen. The Andrews government today, through the Minister for Public Transport, has committed to investing in the Melbourne Metro rail project, which will double the capacity of the city loop and improve our rail network.

One of the biggest issues in my electorate is the Buckley Street level crossing in Essendon. The Premier has come out and met with me and my local council and is very keen to ensure that the level crossing is grade separated so that we can have a 21st century outcome for local commuters and ensure that there will be more trains, that travel will be safer, with less congestion, and that we can run more buses.

On the subject of buses, I congratulate the Minister for Public Transport for, just this week, stopping the proposal by Transdev, which was signed under the previous government, to cancel the 903 SmartBus which runs up and down Buckley Street, Essendon. It is one of the most popular bus routes in my electorate, and it was going to be chopped in half, with potentially a 37 per cent cut in services. We need to be investing in buses. In relation to cost-benefit ratios, for every $1 invested in a bus network, $3.50 comes back to the community. Buses are something we need to invest in, and they are an important aspect of mobility in our public transport system. I am very happy to hear the news from the public transport minister that those cuts planned under the previous government will not proceed.

In my inaugural speech after my election to Parliament in 2012 I talked about fixing Essendon Keilor College. I have spoken many times in this place about Essendon Keilor College. In 2011 a freedom of information application showed, as highlighted in the Herald Sun, that Essendon Keilor College was the state’s most run-down school, with 1341 items needing attention. In fact the former Minister for Education said of the school:

… the conditions at that school are disgusting, they are not safe for teachers, they are not good for those students.

Over four years the former government delivered four budgets, but there was not one red cent for Essendon Keilor College. That was four strikes and four budgets without funds for this wonderful school. In contrast, Premier Andrews and the Deputy Premier, who is the Minister for Education, have committed to providing $10 million to this school in this term of government, and that is something I am very proud of. The school has been around for 100 years, and it is a school in which we need to invest; unfortunately it is a school that has been neglected for far too long. The previous education minister visited this school, and it was reported in the press that he had called it disgusting and unsafe, but he did not bother to put one red cent into it. We will deliver on that promise. I am looking forward to meeting with David Adamson, the principal, to build on those plans. Unlike the education legacy of the previous government, under this government Victoria will become the education state.

Another important component is TAFE, which was a resounding issue during the last Parliament. Before I became the member for Niddrie we had a former TAFE site in Avondale Heights that had been closed for several years. On several occasions I raised that issue with the former Minister for Planning, now Leader of the Opposition, to get action on the site. The former minister delivered a lot of speeches on it and issued a lot of press releases, but we never did see any action. I am pleased that we are now finally seeing some action. We have got a new Minister for Planning, and finally we are getting some resolution about this former TAFE site, which is very important.

There is a dangerous intersection at Newman Street and Keilor Road. I am pleased with the discussions I have had so far with the new Minister for Roads and Road Safety, as well as with VicRoads, to fix this important and dangerous bottleneck. I did a survey and presented a petition during the last Parliament which had over 1000 responses. An off-ramp from the Tullamarine Freeway leading into East Keilor, with several on-ramps as well, makes it a very dangerous spot. The previous minister was fully aware of it. To his credit the previous minister communicated with me about it and started some work, but we need to finish it off and make sure that it is delivered.

I will also touch briefly on east–west link. I know this has been the topic of today, and we should highlight that what the previous government released was 
east–west link stage 1. It was the business case that the public was meant to accept, but it was nothing more than a 3000-word high school essay. You need only look at the commentary in the media to see that the previous government failed to take the community with it on the east–west link. The Treasurer has cleaned up the mess made by the former Treasurer, the member for Malvern, and we should be very grateful that we are finally investing in public transport. As Tony Abbott said, this government has a mandate, and we are now getting on with the job and taking a very important step forward. In August 2013 the Age ran a headline ‘Engineer slams “dodgy model” for tunnel’. In July it had ‘There seems to be some madness in link methodology’. It is clear that the public relations exercise was a failure. An article from August 2013 headed ‘East–west link of little benefit, claims council in marginal seat’ shows that even Glen Eira City Council, headed by Liberal mayor Jamie Hyams, was opposed to the project.

Before I finish I want to take a minute to thank my dedicated staff and volunteers. Brody Viney, formerly of my office, was instrumental in the role of campaign manager. I thank Jackie Foley, my office manager. Deborah Wu was a constant, ongoing help in the campaign while continuing to juggle her normal duties. Her help was invaluable. I also thank the volunteers on the campaign, including Bruce Birt, Bassel Tallal, Annette Death, Maria Cardillo, Pierce Tyson, Keenan Gatens, Ashlea Gilmore and Adrian Grossi. The early morning weekend doorknocks and evening phone calls will not be happening again for quite some time. I thank them for their hard work on the campaign trail, which was so appreciated. The result will speak for itself over the next four years of productive, stable government.

I would also like to thank my parents and acknowledge my partner, Fiona Rothville, and our adorable little schnauzer, Tess, who came in very handy during the puppy farm debate. Whenever I have had a photo of myself and Tess on Facebook the response has been tremendous. I congratulate the Andrews government — it is going to be a successful and stable four years. It is a privilege to have returned, and I very much look forward to delivering on all our election promises.