31 August 2023

Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (16:20):

I would like to thank the member for Broadmeadows for her amazing contribution. There is so much going on, and she is such a fabulous member. Thank you for your contribution.

I too rise to speak on the budget take-note motion today to talk about some really significant recent state budget announcements in the communities across the Ripon electorate. Even before the budget, we have been working really hard every single day as a government, upgrading the hospitals, schools and roads that rural and regional Victorians rely on. We have made TAFE free, we have helped create hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and we have invested in more teachers and nurses. We have made kinder free, saving families thousands and giving our kids the best start. These are the things that truly matter and the things that we promised to Victorians. This year’s budget delivered even more than that – it delivered every single election commitment that we made at the last election, and more, all while repaying our COVID debt.

One of my favourite moments on budget day was calling the principal of Ararat College Ellie McDougall. Ellie had been advocating for upgrades to Ararat College’s E-wing for the past year. Currently the classrooms are not fit for purpose and remind me of the old, cold classrooms I learned in as a teenager. I had raised the need for funds to upgrade the school’s facilities with the Minister for Education, the Treasurer and the Premier, and I was so proud on budget day to let Ellie know that this advocacy had paid off and that Ararat College was receiving $4.6 million in the budget to upgrade and modernise the school. It is a huge win for students, teachers and the community of Ararat, who deserve a state-of-the-art public school that they can be truly proud of.

This budget also delivers on our promise to build 50 brand new government-run early learning centres across Victoria, including in Maryborough, the Loddon shire and the Creswick–Clunes area. Currently the whole of the Loddon shire in my electorate is a childcare desert. Parents are having to take their kids to work at the local butcher because there is no other option. Farmers are having to lock their kids in the car with the window down because they cannot go to child care and it is too unsafe for them to be wandering around the farm when dangerous equipment is being used. Women are having to keep their businesses afloat by working through the night because they have to care for their kids throughout the day. This will soon change, though, with new early learning centres bringing benefits to these families and their little ones, and I know so many parents across the Ripon electorate are excited about that. Delivering more childcare options across Ripon will allow mums to return to work and give our littlest rural Victorians the best start in life. In more good news, we are also continuing to deliver free kinder for three- and four-year-olds, saving parents on average a massive $2500 per child per year. It is another way that we are helping ease the cost of living for families no matter where they live.

More massive local budget wins include upgrades for our much-loved local sporting clubs – 550,000 bucks for new female-friendly change facilities at the home of the Maryborough Football Netball Club and $450,000 for new netball courts and lighting for Maryborough’s Royal Park Football Netball Club, the much-loved Bushys. This is $1 million of investment for Maryborough, where sport is the lifeblood of the community. It will mean our local netballers will not have to play on old cracked and slippery courts anymore and that sports will be more inclusive for local Maryborough girls and women at Princes Park. I shared this news with the local community at the Maryborough FNC’s Thursday’s night dinner after training and at Royal Park FNC’s Saturday arvo game. Both clubs were over the moon and cannot wait to benefit from these upgrades. Importantly, the netball court upgrades will benefit the new home of the Maryborough Giants, who are in the process of merging two local clubs to strengthen their future. The female-friendly change facilities at Princes Park will benefit not just the local football and netball club but also the local cricket, athletics, masters footy and annual events like the famous Energy Breakthrough and Highland Gathering, which is a well-anticipated event on 1 January every year. I recommend anyone to come on up to Maryborough to check it out.

Even more wins were announced on budget day for our local neighbourhood houses. As we all know, so many of our neighbourhood houses are run on the smell of an oily rag and the sheer determination of their managers and volunteers. Every dollar of funding they receive brings at least five times that value in impact to our community. In our rural and regional areas they are even more critical to connect people and offer them tailored activities and support. This year’s budget delivered $100,000 for the Creswick Neighbourhood Centre, $100,000 for the Maryborough Community House and $50,000 for the Wedderburn Community House. I visited these volunteers who are beside themselves with happiness. The Maryborough Community House are keen to use these funds to expand their services to the community, and the Wedderburn Community House want to use the funds to upgrade their op shop, which raises funds for more local activities and services in town.

The Beaufort Community House and Learning Centre were also winners in this year’s budget. Before the election I met with them and other locals advocating for the revitalisation of the old Beaufort Primary School site into a new community hub. They proposed that the neighbourhood house be at the heart of the hub, with other local community groups and services to benefit from the site as well. I stood with them back in November last year to promise that a re-elected state Labor government would deliver $800,000 to begin making this dream a reality. I knocked on hundreds of doors across the community and almost everyone raised this project with me. I am so proud that these funds are now confirmed and we can get on with delivering the community hub that Beaufort deserves. We will kick off master planning shortly as well as early works with great things to come.

Another huge win in the state budget I am so proud of is the delivery of $900,000 for the Ballarat Hindu Temple & Cultural Centre to develop a brand new Hindu temple and cultural centre in Ross Creek. Every person of faith deserves a place of worship that they can come together with others in to celebrate their culture and traditions. But right now the Ballarat Indian community do not have this, and they are having to travel hundreds of kilometres to access an appropriate temple. The community has grown to around 6000 residents, including in Lucas and Cardigan, who contribute so much to our region as healthcare workers, aged care workers, doctors and so much more. They deserve a place of worship that they can be proud of, and the Labor government will give them just that. I want to thank Hari, Pradush, Gobi, Raveen, Narayanan, Swarna, Bandhavi, Saikumar and executive members of the Ballarat Hindu Temple & Cultural Centre for their tireless work and advocacy to get this done. The member for Wendouree, the member for Eureka and I were so happy to announce to them just yesterday that they are also getting a further $30,000 from the Labor government for a really important cultural event that is coming up. Congratulations to that amazing group of people for that as well. I look forward to continuing to support them through this process and cannot wait to see the temple and cultural centre completed, which will benefit so many locals for years to come.

Now, there are other big local wins for lovers of boating and fishing in Ripon. We country Victorians love our fresh water, and I am proud that we will be delivering $800,000 for the relocation of the boat ramp at Laanecoorie Reservoir to enhance safety at this popular fishing and swimming spot.

There will also be weekend services every 40 minutes on the Ballarat line thanks to our state budget. We are increasing weekend services on the Ararat line too to five return services, and we have capped V/Line fares to metro prices, which has opened up the Ararat and Maryborough lines to so many more locals who can now afford to catch the train down to the footy in Melbourne or to visit family and friends – and romance as well. It is even cheaper to go on a date on V/Line now. I have had locals tell me exactly that.

Our budget has also delivered more money to repair our rural and regional roads. Roads are the number one issue in my electorate, and the October 2022 floods had a devastating impact on many of them across our region. That is why the state budget is investing $6.6 billion in our roads over the next decade. It is the first time a 10-year investment has been made, and it will include substantially rebuilding, resurfacing and repairing our roads and bridges. It will not just be a patch job, it will actually be ripping it up from the base and starting again. This builds on the investments already made, helping us recover and rebuild across our road network. Importantly, a total of $770 million will be delivered to maintain Victoria’s road assets in 2023–24 compared to the average annual spend of $493 million when those opposite were in office.

There are too many budget wins for me to even fit into this speech today, but some other big highlights from our recent state budget include $49 million to enhance biosecurity protections and back our producers. We have also got a new Tiny Towns Fund, which will provide grants of up to $50,000 for community projects in communities with less than 5000 residents. That one is opening up in just the coming weeks and months, and I am so excited about it. All the tiny towns in Ripon cannot wait for that one. We have also delivered free rego for eligible trade apprentices, saving them up to $865 a year. And there are funds for new comprehensive women’s health clinics in Bendigo and Ballarat that will change the way women’s health issues are treated, providing care and support for conditions like endometriosis, pelvic pain, polycystic ovary syndrome, perimenopause and menopause.

This year’s state budget delivered for Ripon, and it delivered for all Victorians. We are doing the things that truly matter, and I am so proud to be a part of a team that is delivering for all Victorians no matter where they live.