Appropriation (Interim) Bill 2020

A. Introduction

1. We are all aware that the world is going through a pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen in almost a century. These are extraordinary times, different from anything I have seen in my lifetime.

2. Extraordinary times like these are forcing us to take extraordinary steps. These measures involve the need to alter, adjourn, postpone or do without any long-established and cherished activities.

3. There is nothing normal about the current circumstances, and hence the normal procedures can’t be undertaken.

B. Delay of the budget

4. The uncertainty surrounding the dimensions of social and economic disruption brought upon us by the pandemic makes it difficult for us to go ahead with introducing the state budget. Therefore, all governments—federal, state and territory—have decided to delay their budgets this year.

5. The circumstances at this stage are unpredictable and uncertain. The volatility right now makes it difficult to develop reasonable estimates on which to base a budget.

6. The unprecedented situation due to the pandemic makes it difficult to predict the state of the economy in the coming months, and hence, it is not reasonable to present a budget.

7. We know it is a difficult time, however, the Andrews Labor government is making sure that Victorians are safe.

8. The Victorian government has made investments which will help Victoria get through this.

C. Commitment to date

9. The government, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has already committed significant investments to support Victoria.

10. The investment is going towards supporting our health system to deal with this pandemic and towards Victorian households and businesses to keep them going.

11. The Andrews Labor government has committed over $3.5 billion for these support packages.

12. We are prioritising the health and welfare of the people first. We know that once the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the Victorian economy will be restored.

13. However, the Victorian government needs to prioritise the health and welfare of the Victorian people and make more investments towards the fight with coronavirus.

14. The budget parameters we had previously need to change to meet the current situation.

15. There will be an increase in debt. The good news is that Victoria was in a very strong position before the pandemic. We came in with a strong balance sheet, with a AAA credit rating and with consistent budget surpluses. This puts us in a great position to borrow now to save Victorian lives and to protect Victorian jobs.

16. There may be a revision of the credit rating in the future of all governments across the world; however, Victoria is in a strong position relative to many national governments across the world, so Victorians can rest easy.

17. This appropriation bill will provide the Victorian government authority to keep responding to the current crisis while keeping the usual business of government operating until then.

18. This bill only covers the first six months of the 2020–21 financial year. It is our intention to introduce a state budget for 2020–21 before the end of 2020.

19. It is our hope that the coronavirus emergency will be largely over. However, the ripple effects of this crisis will be felt for a long while.

D. Commitment towards health care

20. An additional $437 million is committed toward the health system for additional beds and equipment, extra funding for emergency departments and intensive care units, additional resourcing for pandemic containment activities and support for workforce continuity.

21. We also committed a $1.3 billion injection for expanded ICU capacity.

22. Through these investments we are making sure that our frontline workers have modern resources to fight the coronavirus crisis.

23. Victorians can also rest easy to know that we are prepared to take the swift steps to keep Victorians safe.

E. Commitment towards businesses

24. We have also committed a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package, which includes $550 million in payroll tax refunds, a $500 million Business Support Fund and a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund.

25. Many constituents of the Western Metropolitan Region have contacted my office to seek information about this survival and jobs package.

F. Commitment towards Victorians

26. A $500 million package is aimed at giving certainty to residential and commercial tenants and landlords.

27. People will be able to stay in homes and stay safe.

28. Renters should not feel the pressure during such times, and landlords should not lose an income source during this time. We are making sure that we take care of all Victorians.

29. This bill also ensures that the vital work on the infrastructure program continues in the safest way possible. These infrastructure projects are not only important for jobs now, but they will play a significant role in the recovery.

30. We drove Victoria’s Big Build. Construction projects like this will change the infrastructure of Victoria significantly and will keep Victorians moving for years to come.

31. We have been working closely with industry and the unions to ensure we protect our workers, with 115 000 people working across Victoria’s Big Build and other projects. Their safety and jobs are protected with us.

G. Additional funding

32. The events of 2020 could not have been predicted. Victoria went through a major bushfire disaster just months ago. It is prudent to provide additional funding for the 2019–20 financial year in this bill.

33. The bill provides an additional $10 billion in 2019–20 and $14.5 billion in 2020–21. These amounts are significant, but to support Victorian through these times we have to take unprecedented steps.

34. This is for the additional expenditure for direct response to the coronavirus and the economic recovery.

35. These amounts are not the predictions of expenses that will occur in the fight against coronavirus. They are just too unpredictable to estimate, and we are in no position to make a forecast.

36. These amounts are a safeguard, a safety net to make sure that we can respond quickly and significantly.

37. The impact of the pandemic has been erratic and random. We have to make sure that Victorians have the confidence that we can continue to support them through the difficult times.

38. The federal government took a similar approach earlier this year.

39. This bill will help fund the measures that were announced and that will be announced by the government. The funds from this bill will be vital to combat the health, economic and social challenges brought forth by coronavirus.

40. I commend the bill to the house.