Appropriation (2020-2021) Bill 2020 | Bill

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (15:03): It is an honour to make a contribution in support of the Appropriation (2020–2021) Bill 2020. I want to congratulate the Victorian Treasurer for delivering a budget that is one of the most crucial budgets. This budget will be used to create great opportunities for Victorians. Recovery is at the heart of this budget. This budget delivers on the key investments that will help Victoria get up and running again, make our communities recover and give opportunities to all Victorians.

This year has been like no other. Victoria faced devastating bushfires at the beginning of the year that impacted regional communities. We all then faced the once-in-100-year pandemic, a global novel coronavirus that brought the world to a standstill. But now, as the year 2020 ends, we begin our state’s recovery. Victorian people are at the heart of this recovery effort. People have sacrificed a lot, and I think this is the time to make sure that no more sacrifices are needed. This budget will make sure that we protect and create jobs, look after families, take care of Victorians’ loved ones and build strong and connected communities.

We can see how bad things have got for the rest of the world. We are lucky to be in Victoria, where we have managed to control the virus. Many countries in the world are struggling. Many thought that Victoria would be in a similar place, but we are not. The road map that we presented helped us to get out of the pandemic. Now the world is taking inspiration from us. It is the determination of the Victorian people who believed in the government’s plan that helped us achieve this great victory over the virus. This year has been rough, but the scars from this battle need to heal now. For many people this battle was too difficult, and we acknowledge this. I know that this budget will bring some ease to each and every one of us. Many people have gotten in touch with me during this pandemic. I have heard many stories of their hardships and struggles. The small business community has struggled very much. They have made huge sacrifices, but we have to be optimistic and positive. We have to put 2020 behind us safely.

This budget kicks off the economic recovery by bringing a phenomenal jobs plan. We aim to create 400 000 new jobs by 2025, with an interim goal of 200 000 new jobs by 2022. We will be investing $1 billion in TAFE and training to give Victorians the skills to get back to work, including providing 80 000 new training places over four years. This will make sure that Victorians are trained to tackle the challenges of today and the future. The expanded workforce of apprentices, trainees and engineering students will also be supported by the Victorian government’s Big Build program. The Big Housing Build package will also play an important role in using these skilled people. We are providing a $6.6 billion Big Housing Build package, including $5.3 billion to build more than 12 000 new social and affordable houses. This program will be supporting around 10 000 jobs per year over the next four years. This investment is very important and vital to Victoria. This investment will provide opportunities, homes and jobs. It is an all-in-one.

I am a member of the Legal and Social Issues Committee of this house. We had the inquiry into homelessness, so I have heard about the immense struggle someone who becomes homeless goes through. The pandemic has revealed to us some issues related to insecure work. Victorians have relied on insecure work for many years, risking their health and wellbeing. That is why we are developing a new secure work pilot scheme to provide up to five days of sick and carers pay at the national minimum wage for casual or insecure workers in priority industries.

Victorian businesses are also to be supported. Victorian small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The Victorian budget 2020–21 invests $1.5 billion in new tax relief for Victorian businesses and families. This builds on the government’s existing support, with a total of more than $3.5 billion in tax and fees relief to Victorian workers, businesses and households to help them through the pandemic and recovery. This includes $836 million for the new jobs tax credit to encourage small and medium businesses to increase employment by rehiring staff, restoring staff hours or supporting new jobs as they recover from the effects of the pandemic. Small businesses have gone through a lot, and they do not need to worry about cash flow at this time.

Furthermore, we want to give support to the brightest minds in Victoria. Through the groundbreaking $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund, Victorian minds will help make world-changing discoveries which will change and save lives while driving Victoria towards the future. The $2 billion investment will create more than 15 700 jobs and deliver the best research and innovative solutions. Our world-leading scientists, researchers and innovators need to be backed up. Being a former cancer researcher in Victoria, I am extremely delighted to know that this funding will support many researchers and it will be very beneficial for generations to come. The best minds can now make effective medicines and treatments faster without worrying about the finances.

Regional small businesses and the hospitality industry are very important parts of the Victorian economy. The $465 million Victorian tourism recovery package will support local jobs and make sure that Victorian families experience the best of Victoria. The budget will provide up to 120 000 vouchers each worth $200 to entice people to explore regional Victoria. I look forward to visiting regional Victoria once we take a break during Christmas time.

The 2020–21 budget also invests $1.9 billion in schools, including 123 school upgrades and $389 million to support improvements at 39 specialist schools across Victoria. The Victorian budget 2020–21 will deliver a $773.8 million investment in early childhood education, including $169.6 million to help cover the cost of kinder and give our children the very best start in life. We will continue to roll out the landmark three-year-old kinder reform through a $302 million investment. This will be expanded to Western Metropolitan Region in 2022 along with the rest of the state.

We are also encouraging Victorians to get back into the property market. We are waiving up to 50 per cent of stamp duty for eligible homes till next June. We need to support people to get into the property market. We need to invest and get the economy running.

This budget delivers $9 billion for our health system, including to maintain capacity in our health system as hospitals return to COVID normal. The budget delivers $869 million in mental health initiatives, including more acute mental health beds.

We are continuing our unprecedented overhaul of our state’s transport network, including $2.2 billion for initial works on the Suburban Rail Loop, $2 billion towards the Geelong fast rail and $4 billion to upgrade and support our regional rail network.

This is the budget to repair the damage, to heal the pain and to make us stronger than ever before. We cannot fix the economy until we have addressed the public health crisis. We are now in a better position than so many jurisdictions right around the world, and our economy can return to a position of growth. This budget gives it the kickstart it needs. This budget will bring hope to the Victorian people as it will start the economic recovery of our state. It will mean jobs, opportunities and recovery for Victorian people. I commend the bill to the house.