Oct 11, 2016

Appropriation Bill Speech – 11 Oct 2016

I rise to speak about Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017 and about the need for the Turnbull government as part of the budget process to fully commit and invest in the outer suburbs of Australia’s major cities, like in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and in my electorate of Holt. To put this in context, according to the National Growth Areas Alliance, Australia’s fastest-growing suburbs are home to five million people. The Casey region, in my electorate of Holt, is home to the fastest-growing suburb in the country, which is Cranbourne East. There is rapid population growth occurring in other suburbs, but the key challenge is that infrastructure—roads, schools, jobs and services—and then social infrastructure are failing to keep up with that population growth. Research commissioned by the NGAA shows that there is a $50 billion backlog in infrastructure for fast-growing outer suburbs and, unless it is seriously addressed now, that figure will grow to about $73 billion in the next 15 years. By then, the population in these areas is expected to reach 7.5 million.

One suggestion was put to me with respect to that, and I encourage the Turnbull government to contemplate this to speed up the backlog in infrastructure: there needs to be consideration given to setting up a specialised fund for the outer suburbs in the same way that rural and regional areas have a dedicated fund. It really is only fair that growing outer suburbs are treated equally and get their fair share of infrastructure funding—because a view that a lot of people have is that they do not get their fair share.

The key priorities for the Casey region during the 45th Parliament should be to provide more funding and more support for community safety and more support for Casey’s youth, roads, education, hospitals, NBN and mental health services, as well as having a plan—and this is quite vital—to improve government services, create new manufacturing jobs for the south-east, turn the Fountain Gate precinct into a new mini outer suburban CBD and continue to invest in areas where extra investment is required, like Doveton, Hampton Park and such areas.

One of the key issues that came up in my constituency during the 2016 federal election campaign was the issue of community safety. It was not something that, then, a lot of people were paying attention to, but it was an issue—particularly when we were speaking to people in the community and even doorknocking, when people were too afraid to answer their doors because of the substantial increase in the space of home invasions, car thefts, assaults and carjackings—that we needed to address.

It is quite interesting that initially when I put that on the public record—there was an article written by Ellen Whinnett about it in the Herald Sun—the local Liberals, shall we say, were quite perplexed about why I would do something like that, and I could not say they were really supportive. It did not come up on my discussions with them, but it was an absolutely key element of my speaking to the community, notwithstanding a lot of the other broader macro issues that we discussed in the campaign, like the assault on Medicare. And you can see that in subsequent reporting in our Victorian papers. There is a substantial rise in home invasions and car thefts. It has been a common theme in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, including in the city of Casey and, particularly, in my electorate of Holt.

The issue is lack of police resources, and we are not here to allocate blame, as others have, but to basically, positively address this particular issue, because as Melbourne grows by 100,000 people per year the demands on social infrastructure are going to occur. The Andrews Labor government has been made fully aware of these ongoing challenges and is keen to increase police numbers across the state. In the state budget Premier Andrews made a commitment for an extra 406 sworn police and 52 support personnel, which includes 20 much-needed extra police for the Casey region in our local area. Over the coming years, the Police Association of Victoria believe an extra 189 police will be needed in Casey by 2022, and with such rapid population growth it is vital that we deliver the required resources to the Casey region over the coming years.

It certainly was a substantial issue, and I would like to thank the Kerala community in particular for conducting a community safety forum with the Victorian police to amplify their concerns. As a consequence of their lobbying, I believe that the state government has responded with much-needed additional resources where there is a federal overlay with this. I think the member for La Trobe has spoken about a joint gang task force. I think that is one suggestion that is noted, but I do think that we need to have more concerted ongoing attention, and possibly the legislation, to disrupt and degrade these gangs. I will be pursuing that in other fora and possibly through other committees.

I also wanted to ensure—and there is an overlay with the federal government here as well—increased CCTV resources. I note that the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, has mooted a potential expenditure in the Hampton Park area, which is one of the key areas where the so-called Apex gang congregate. I would commend the minister for that, welcome that and look forward to working with him to deliver that, but there is much more that needs to be done. I will be flagging with the minister that I will be seeking much more extra funding for CCTV cameras for local shopping centres, community centres, churches and mosques.

Also, in my role as deputy chair, there is one issue that I have some measure of concern about, and that is the issue of countering violent extremism projects. What we have, Deputy Speaker, is an issue that you may or may not be aware of, with the difficulties that we have with radicalised youth in our region which resulted in the Endeavour Hills police incident on 23 September 2014 and also the thwarted Anzac Day plots in April 2015.

We conducted consultations with the federal government, federal government agencies, the Attorney-General’s office, the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police. One of the key issues that arose in the consultations with the key stakeholders that were worried from the affected communities was meaningful federal government funding going to projects that could help them in terms of the prevention of radicalisation of youth. Now, I am not here to criticise the programs, but one of the difficulties, and I have raised this concern with the Attorney-General’s Department directly, is that we need to fund projects—even if it is through that particular funding or if we segregate the CVE funding from the Attorney-General’s Department and call it community capacity building funding—where good community groups, such as Afghan community groups as an example, can build the youth community facilities that they actually need. The difficulty is that, because they are not getting this federal government support and funding, we are facing a challenge where those whom we are quite worried about do not have access to this funding to provide the facilities which would act as an attractor to those that we worry about in our community.

In discussing this appropriation bill, my request is not to criticise the existing funding, but I do believe that it could be targeted. The communities at risk—and there are several—that I have dealt with do in fact need targeted funding to provide the resourcing that they need. I will certainly be continuing to raise this with the Attorney-General’s office and, as I said, I have worked very closely with them. There are a couple of examples. For example, there is a gentleman that I know named Peter Aguto from the Sudanese community. Funding could help him run his Road to Therapy program, which moves young Sudanese youth away from acts of crime to become active members in the community. There is another very interesting program, called the Raqib Task Force, which was created by Anooshe Mushtaq and Hussain Nadim, which is a counterextremism initiative led by the Muslim communities. They are based in Sydney.

We want to make these people stakeholders in the process of reducing acts of crime and terrorist threats in this country. That is not to say that I—as you may be aware, Deputy Speaker—say that those who commit those crimes should not meet the full force of the law, and we will flag that we will continue to be giving our security agencies the powers that they need to address those particular concerns, but the intelligence agencies tell me that it would be much better, as you would know, to be dealing with these threats or to see them mitigated rather than having to deal with the endpoint. Had some of the foreshadowed threat of the Anzac Day terror plots occurred and not been thwarted by the excellent work of our intelligence agencies and the security community, God knows what would have happened in our community. We commend the intelligence community for their work, but we must do everything in our power to ensure that that does not happen. I think more appropriate targeting of the countering violent extremism funding is one way of doing that.

In the same vein, I am also committed to campaigning for additional resources for Casey’s youth. In the Casey region we have about 60,000 people, but, because they live on the outer suburbs of Melbourne, they do not have the same opportunities as those in the inner city. As a result, I have continued to be keen to support their youth in the best way I can and to provide them with world-class experiences. For example, Google and Facebook—and hopefully Twitter, if this actually occurs—are coming down to my constituency at some stage in the next month or two to talk about the youths’ concerns about cyberbullying, social media challenges and extremism and how we could, collectively, combat those. I would like to commend them for doing that. That is bringing them out to the outer suburbs to actually assist in terms of the issue that the youth are dealing with.

It is pertinent because the Fountain Gate area in the Casey area, for example, has the second-highest uptake of mobile phone appliances in the country. It is not as though there is not a demand for something like this to be happening. If you said ‘Fountain Gate shopping centre’—besides people automatically jumping up and talking about Kath and Kim—it is, as I said, one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The shopping centre is the second largest shopping centre in Australia. The diversification of the community is proceeding at an amazing pace, and so we need to act in accordance with that in the services that we provide, and we are just not getting those services. We are not getting the funding that we need.

I spoke before in this place about mental health funding. We were very worried about the two headspaces that had been funded, and I think the member for Cowan was talking about suicide prevention or World Mental Health Day just before I spoke. The difficulty with these transitioning arrangements was that the ongoing future of those two headspaces was not guaranteed until fairly recently. The problem with that uncertainty is that you lose qualified staff. I hope this matter has been resolved. I was listening carefully to what the health minister said with respect to this issue today. I hope that she is now in the process of allocating that additional funding for early psychosis prevention services. I think the minister spoke about the 12 suicide prevention services, but that should be just on top of the existing early psychosis programs that are being run, which do a lot of the suicide prevention work.

One of the key problems that we had prior to the last election was that funding for a very key early psychosis service was going to be taken away. There would be 75 per cent funding the first year and 25 per cent the next year. As a consequence of lobbying by a lot of young people and by Professor Patrick McGorry and others—and probably by some on your side of politics too, Mr Deputy Speaker—that funding is being reinstated. But the difficulty with the contracts that need to be renewed is that the funding actually has to be allocated, and it has not been allocated yet. I would urge the health minister to do so so we can keep those world-class services up and running, on top of the delivery of the 12 suicide prevention special projects.

Roads are obviously a key issue. I am running out of time, but I could talk a lot more about that issue, particularly with respect to Thompsons Road and the commitment that we made to it. We made an $85 million commitment to assist in the widening of Thompsons Road, which would duplicate high-volume sections to six lanes, build a full-grade separation over the Western Port Highway intersection and upgrade intersections to the Frankston-Dandenong Road and the Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road. That would be very good. That was a commitment that we made, so I certainly welcome the Turnbull government’s commitment with respect to the Monash Freeway and some elements of Thompsons Road. But this money is required for the completion of the project, so I will certainly be writing to the Prime Minister to ask respectfully that he ensure that that happens.

In finishing, people in the outer suburbs often feel like they have been taken for granted. They provide so much of the industry and the resources and so many of the bright young people for our country, and they create the future that we want for our country. But they often feel like they do not have respect or resources. I spoke about Kath and Kim, and I say that because they feel like they are disparaged every time that term is used, and they are right. This is the future of our country, all dotted in the outer suburban areas in this country. I would urge the government to recognise that. I will continue to work with them to ensure that they get the appropriate resources that they need in this area.

 

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