Kim O’KEEFFE (Shepparton) (11:21): I rise this morning to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s report on the 2023–24 budget estimates. Right through the PAEC report it repeats a common theme of waste and mismanagement, especially in the areas of transport infrastructure and now in the abandoned and cancelled debacle of the Commonwealth Games. All of these portfolios were held by the now Premier, the previous transport infrastructure and Commonwealth Games minister. In the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee report the committee talked a lot about how things could have been done better and how, if there is a state plan, we could plan things properly and we would not get the waste and mismanagement that we are now seeing and suffering from. In particular, in major projects, $30 billion worth of blowouts – no matter where you look, whether it be tunnels, whether it be level crossing removals or whether it be the Suburban Rail Loop – end up coming at the cost of taxpayers, who wear the burden and pay for the financial waste and mismanagement of the Labor government. The answer from the now Allan Labor government to the state debt and these budget blowouts on many major infrastructure and transport projects is to tax Victorians more when they are already doing it tough with the increasing cost-of-living pressures.
I want to particularly take note of and bring attention to the area of the Commonwealth Games, especially in relation to page 138 of the committee’s report. Finding 77 of the committee’s report on the 2023–24 budget estimates talks about how the government announced that Victoria as a state would no longer be hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games. This came after the original $2.6 billion budget for the event ended up being revised to over $6 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion on the original estimates.
Further, we knew during the actual hearings conducted by the committee that both ministers responsible for the games were steadfast in saying how much the games were going to cost to Victorians. It was $2.6 billion, then all of a sudden out of nowhere the figure was miraculously blown out to over $6 billion. Following this, recommendation 42 of the committee’s report on page 138 states:
The Department of Jobs, Skills, Industries and Regions publicly release a detailed breakdown of the original $2.6 billion forecast cost of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, as well as any cost–benefit analysis undertaken, and a detailed breakdown of the revised approximate of $6 billion forecast cost of hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
It is important to the Victorian community and Victorian taxpayers to understand and know how, within a matter of weeks of having these hearings conducted by the committee in which we had reassurances that the government had the money available, had the plan, had the budget and had it all ready to go, it went from $2.6 billion to over $6 billion. Five hundred million dollars alone for just cancelling the Commonwealth Games is yet another financial burden and punishment for Victorians having to suffer from the waste and financial mismanagement of this now Allan Labor government. This government continues to waste Victorian taxpayers money that could have been spent on our unsafe, crumbling roads and on building hospitals, homes and many things that communities need.
I would also like to highlight for the house’s attention the flood-impacted roads which affect my electorate. In reference to page 99 of the committee’s report, the 2022 Victorian Economic and Fiscal Update allocated $500 million to the whole-of-government flood recovery initiative, which included funding to deliver emergency road repair works to ensure the safety of road users and the community, repair works to reopen priority roads in flood-affected areas and larger scale works like the reconstruction of roads, bridges and culverts following damage assessments. However, the proportion of funding allocated to flood-impacted road repairs is not disclosed in either the 2022 Victorian Economic and Fiscal Update or the 2023–24 budget, although during the hearings the committee was informed that $165 million was allocated to post-flood emergency road repairs and that $141 million had been spent as of May this year.
In addition, the budget papers, in reference to page 99 of the committee’s report, state that the government is prioritising efforts to rebuild the state’s road network following the 2022 floods in the immediate term but that the 2023–24 budget would deliver a strong foundation to continue to support a safer and more efficient Victorian road network in the long term.
This is not the case, and our country roads have been progressively deteriorating – a 45 per cent reduction in our budget, a $380 million cut to the roads maintenance budget since 2020 by Labor. Only significant and serious investment will now fix the problem. How bad does it have to get before this government understand that they are putting lives at risk? We must all collectively act and respond to the dire-straits conditions of the regional roads, as tragically we have seen in recent times that more lives have been lost. I would like to take note of my fellow Nationals colleague the member for Gippsland and in the other place a member for Western Victoria Region and a member for North-Eastern Metropolitan Region for their work as members of this committee. There is so much waste and financial mismanagement by this Allan Labor government. It cannot manage money and cannot manage projects.