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O'Brien - Government spending, Metro Tunnel cost blowout, Cedar Meats WorkSafe inspector, COVID-19 sentence reductions, Lawyer X,

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

** NOT PROOFED - E&OE **

MICHAEL O’BRIEN MP

LIBERAL LEADER

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT

TUESDAY 19 MAY 2020, 1:25 PM

Topics: Government spending, Metro Tunnel cost blowout, Cedar Meats WorkSafe inspector, COVID-19 sentence reductions, Lawyer X, Melbourne City Council, Fines Victoria, China barley tariff, University payroll tax

O'BRIEN

To start off with a few comments about the Treasurer's comments. Clearly, the Treasurer's now out to clean up the mess in aisle 5. The mess caused by James Merlino yesterday. The Deputy Premier let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that the Government would be using the COVID credit card to pay for Labor's unfunded election promises. The Treasurer is now trying to walk that back - but the truth came out yesterday. The Government just hasn't paid for its election promises and is now wanting to borrow huge amounts of new money to fix up the financial mess they've previously created. 

It's also very concerning that the Treasurer simply won't come clean with Victorians as to how much the Metro Tunnel has blown out. Remember, this was a project that Labor took to the 2014 election claiming it would cost $9 billion. Well, now it's up past $11 billion and now we don't know how many more billion dollars this is going to cost us. This is becoming a huge white elephant. The cost of this is blowing out day-by-day. Not by thousands or tens-of-thousands but by billions of dollars, and the Government owes it to Victorians to come clean, and tell us how much taxpayers will have to pay because of Labor's wasteful management. 

It’s very concerning that WorkSafe inspectors weren't notified about the coronavirus outbreak at Cedar Meats. To have a WorkSafe inspector exposed for 10 days to Cedar Meats before WorkSafe was told about the coronavirus outbreak, I mean, who is running this? This has been messed up from start to finish. We've now got around 100 Victorians infected as a result of this Cedar Meats cluster and every day it just makes the case for a full independent investigation into what went so badly wrong. 

The Government announced today that some of the worst criminals in Victoria will be eligible for a 14 day discount on their sentences because of the coronavirus. To me it seems a bit strange that you're telling prisoners who are locked up, they'll get a discount on their sentence because they've been locked up. Coronavirus has affected everyone in the community and you don't see a lot of people getting discounts on their jobs because of coronavirus. I just don't think Victorians will think it makes a lot of sense to tell prisoners who are supposed to be in prison, they get a discount on their sentence because they've also been locked up during a time of coronavirus. 

Worried about the reports that one of Tony Mokbel's drug runners is now going to be released on bail as a result of the Lawyer X scandal. There's a very good reason we've got a Royal Commission into this. There's a real risk that a lot of very bad people will be led back onto our streets because of this absolute maladministration in Victoria Police and the justice system. If the Lawyer X scandal leads to drug runners, drug traffickers and some of the most hardened criminals in our state getting a get out of jail free card, Victorians will be left much less safe as a result, and the Government needs to explain how it's going to clean up this mess. 

Very much welcome Melbourne City Council's decision to freeze rates for this next year. This is a great example of a council realising that their ratepayers are under massive stress due to coronavirus. I congratulate Lord Mayor Sally Capp. I think she and her council have done exactly the right thing. I encourage every other Victorian council to follow suit and the State Government should really step in and make sure that ratepayers don't cop a huge increase in rates this year. Melbourne City Council has done exactly the right thing and good on them for doing it. 

Fines Victoria. I think a lot of people in Victoria will be very concerned that there's been misleading information put out there as to how many people have been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions. To understand there's now an extra 2,800 people have been fined because apparently, the Government said they're on two separate systems. It just seems to indicate the Government doesn't know what it's doing. This information should be out there. When the Government tells information to the public and to the media, it should be accurate. The fact that the Government has put out misleading information to the public, to the media, really there's no excuse for that. We deserve to know the truth about how many people have breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions. 

Final comment today before I go to your questions. Very, very worried about Victorian jobs as a result of China's 80 per cent tariff on barley. Victorian barley is a huge export earner for this state. Our farmers rely on it for income and for jobs. Daniel Andrews is supposed to be the Premier with a special relationship with the Chinese Communist Government. He's supposed to be the Premier with a special Belt and Road deal with Beijing. Well, Premier, why isn't your special relationship with China saving Victorian farmers? Why isn't your special deal with China saving Victorian jobs? Because our barley farmers are going to cop it in the neck as a result of these tariffs. 

JOURNALIST

So the State Government is saying that the Federal Government really needs to come to the party and provide support for the university sector, do you agree with that?

O'BRIEN

I think the university sector is very important for Victoria, for our economy. So I'd like to see governments at all levels support our university sector but what the State Government has done today is to say they'll give payroll tax relief for next year to the universities. In six weeks’ time, Victorian businesses will be back paying full rates of payroll tax. The Government's relatively modest payroll tax concessions expire in six weeks’ time. So if it's good enough for the State Government to give payroll tax relief to universities, it's good enough for the State Government to give payroll tax relief to other Victorian businesses who employ Victorians too.