The New Allan Labor Government – Still Doing What Matters

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I rise this afternoon in the face of this matter of public interest that is equally as ridiculous and laughable as it is insulting to the people of Victoria, because time and time again, over the past three elections, the people of this great state have voted for a government that gets on and does the things we promise. At each election we have expanded our majority in this place, because the people of Victoria have seen that this government invests in what matters – in housing, education, health care and transport – and that is what Victorians can count on.

The rabble opposite are convinced that our track record of delivery is something to be ashamed of, but the Glen Waverley district has a message for them: the Liberals’ dream of Thatcherism and neoliberalism is Victoria’s nightmare. It is why time and time again Labor has expanded our presence in the east, in no small part thanks to the leadership and the tireless work of our Premier. In her previous role the now Premier oversaw the greatest transformation of Victoria’s transport infrastructure, I would argue, since Victoria’s gold rush of the 1850s. It truly cannot be overstated, because the consequences of our Big Build are visible in every suburb of the city and in every corner of our state.

The bold Level Crossing Removal Project is a great example of the terrific work done by the Premier. Back in 2014, after four years of inaction and stagnation under the Victorian Liberals, we promised we would remove 50 of our most dangerous and congested level crossings. Victoria backed the plan, and our Premier delivered on our promise. In fact we went well and truly beyond. Fast-forward to 2023 and we now have 72 level crossings gone for good, plus over 40 new and rebuilt train stations across the state. The Level Crossing Removal Project is supporting thousands of jobs, creating award-winning public open spaces, busting congestion and creating level crossing free rail corridors so we can run more trains.

Under the leadership of the Premier, we are not stopping at the original promise of 50 level crossings, we are removing 110 by 2030. Not only do the Victorian people back the Premier’s work, they see right through the Victorian Liberals, who seek to tear it up at every step of the way. I remember back in the lead-up to the 2018 state election the Liberals’ vicious campaign against the Cranbourne and Pakenham line level crossing removals, railing against the project at every single turn. But the Victorian communities saw right through their negativity and comprehensively returned Labor MPs all along that corridor to office. Now those communities enjoy world-class train stations, the new Djerring bike path and great open spaces thanks to Premier Allan’s great work in the transport infrastructure portfolio.

But for whatever reason, the Victorian Liberals never learn. Stuck in their same old ways of whingeing and screaming at any sign of investment into transport infrastructure, you would have thought they would have learned their lesson by 2018. But they did not, because come 2022 the Liberals were at it again, and this time in the east – at every step of the way, nothing but whingeing and screaming about the level crossing removals across the Belgrave and Lilydale lines. Well, they were once again proved to be deeply out of touch with Victorians, because Victorians know that these level crossings must go. That is especially the case in Surrey Hills, where two people were killed at the Union Road crossing. The Surrey Hills and Mont Albert community resoundingly re-elected the member for Box Hill in the face of an anti-level crossing removal campaign by the Victorian Liberals, and now that community is level crossing free, with the terrific new Union station now open and taking passengers and beautiful new open spaces being planted as we speak. Make no mistake, the brilliant progress is possible thanks to the leadership of the Premier. It is progress that is stifled every step of the way by those in the Victorian Liberal Party opposite.

It is not just level crossing removals where Victorian Liberals do their best to halt our city-shaping investments in transport infrastructure, because in my part of the world, the Glen Waverley district, we back the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) and the incredible work the Premier has done to make it a reality. For context, it is hard to overstate the importance of the Suburban Rail Loop in reshaping Melbourne and our transport network for decades to come. The twin rail tunnels will connect every major line in the state and create beautiful, highly livable communities around each of the station precincts. It is a concept we first took to the Victorian community back in 2018. Once again, as you might have guessed, it was the Premier who spearheaded this great project from the start, and it was the Victorian Liberals who opposed it, first at the 2018 state election, which saw the Liberals spectacularly lose what they call their ‘crown jewels’ – the seats of Box Hill, Burwood and Mount Waverly in the east. They all flipped to red, as did the adjacent seats of Ringwood and Hawthorn, because the people of Melbourne’s east want a government that is visionary and has the guts to deliver the bold infrastructure projects we need for the years to come, like the Suburban Rail Loop.

Ever since the game-changing election in 2018 it has been the Premier leading the charge to complete a massive body of work on the Suburban Rail Loop – first the business and investment case process, then the most detailed environment effects statement of any project in national history and the rollout of the Suburban Rail Loop community funds in the communities along the rail corridor. Thanks to its hard work and leadership, the Allan Labor government is getting on and getting it done.

The first stage of the SRL, SRL East, will connect Cheltenham to Box Hill, with stations at Clayton, Monash University, Glen Waverley and Deakin Burwood in your electorate, Deputy Speaker. Early work is now underway. There has been intense geotechnical drilling all along the corridor. In Glen Waverley I recently visited the construction site with the now Premier, where a team of workers have already been relocating services around the future station box, and in Box Hill there is major construction underway as we speak to build a brand new high-capacity tram terminus in preparation for the SRL station construction. The Suburban Rail Loop is not a pipedream; there are hundreds of workers on the ground right now making the SRL East a reality. The Victorian community sees it and the Victorian community likes it.

You would think that the Victorian Liberals would recalculate after the disaster that was their SRL policy in 2018. You would think they would recognise the community’s support for the project and acknowledge the Victorian community want a government that is bold and then delivers. But that was not to be, and once again for whatever reason they promised yet again to tear it all up, not dissimilar to their stance on the level crossing removals or any number of transformational infrastructure projects across Victoria: too hard, too expensive, too tricky. For an opposition that was trying to win over the hearts of Victorians and form government, it was deeply embarrassing stuff to adopt a no-can-do attitude. Imagine for one moment if we applied the same logic to the city loop or the construction of the international terminal at Melbourne Airport or the electrification of the rail network: we would be stuck in the dark ages. Yet for the Victorian Liberals that is where these things seem to be at, both with their internal social policy debates and also with their transport infrastructure policy. Their 2022 election policy of cutting the Suburban Rail Loop was no different, but once again it failed dismally in every single seat along the SRL East corridor, from Mordialloc and Clarinda to Oakleigh, Glen Waverley and your seat, Deputy Speaker, Ashwood as well as Box Hill, because Victorians have seen Premier Allan’s leadership and the body of work we have done so far and they want us to keep going and get the job done.

When I doorknocked thousands of people as a candidate last year, even the most staunch, traditional Liberals were telling me to just get it done. So that is what we are doing. As I mentioned just before, there is a power of work already underway and we are not slowing down, because by 2026 there will be tunnel boring machines in the ground beneath the eastern and south-eastern suburbs, building the Suburban Rail Loop. This is not just an ambition, it is going to be a reality, because we have just signed the first two tunnelling contracts to make that happen – and I believe you, Deputy Speaker, were there with the Premier the other day to announce that Glen Waverley to Cheltenham section. It is happening thanks to the leadership of Premier Allan, and it is happening because the Victorian community backed the Suburban Rail Loop – not once, but twice.

That is why this matter of public importance before the house today is just so laughable. It is like they do not understand the reality of Victoria in 2023. The community rejects their hands-off, Thatcheresque approach to infrastructure and service delivery. The community wants the state to act and to get things done, and whether it is level crossing removals, the Metro Tunnel, the Regional Rail Revival, the North East Link, the West Gate Tunnel, the Monash widening or the Suburban Rail Loop, the Victorian people want to see it happen. For almost a decade it has been the Premier that has been making these projects a reality.

Believe it or not, though, of course these projects cost money. But it is an investment for all Victorians because this spending is on productive infrastructure that not only creates jobs during the construction but grows the economy in the long term. It is this spending that supports our strong and diverse economy and maintains our position as an economic powerhouse of Australia. The good people of Victoria owe the success of our Big Build to the leadership of the Premier. With a short bit of time: Victorians want better than that, and I am proud to be part of the Allan government, which is doing what matters.

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