EXTRACT FROM PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES – HANSARD
Mr DIXON Nepean
BUDGET PAPERS 2018–19
Tuesday, 5 June 2018
Mr DIXON (Nepean) (14:51:33) — If you look at a map of Victoria and you draw a line along the southern boundary of the electorate of Frankston, there are three state electorates underneath it — Mornington, Nepean and Hastings — and between all three of us we actually got nothing in the budget. Unfortunately that has been the sorry story for my constituents and my communities — it is a very consistent story and a tale of woe — over successive Labor budgets. Labor have been in government in Victoria for 15 out of the last 19 years and the Mornington Peninsula has got very, very little to show from their governments. Even in 2002 when Nepean was the most marginal seat in the state there was still no money; we were just neglected. You might think, ‘Yes, for one or two terms this might be the way it goes, this is the way politics is’, but we are looking at decades now of total neglect and very, very little money being spent — in my last term representing the people of Nepean there has been absolutely nothing in the budget for all those vital services my community is missing out on.
There is a misconception about my community. People think of it as a place full of rich holidaymakers and superannuants and retirees rolling in money, but that is just not the case. In fact I have the oldest age profile electorate in the state by a long shot — 27 per cent of my electorate is aged above 65; the next nearest electorate is 20 per cent — and I have I think about the fifth poorest electorate in terms of income. That is the reality of my electorate. Even though there might be a high degree of home ownership, most of those home owners are pensioners — they are surviving on pensions or they are, as self‑funded retirees, not earning very much on their investments at all. So there is very, very little disposable income in my electorate, hence that very, very low socio‑economic ranking that we have. That is the everyday reality, and we are just not getting the services that state governments should provide to a community like that.
I want to run through some of those needs — for example, public transport. Public transport is very, very important to the people of the Mornington Peninsula. We have got a large elderly population and because of that many of my constituents do not drive. Many are of the generation where females did not drive; the husbands tended to do that. Obviously many wives outlive their husbands, and they are therefore stranded. With that incredibly high level of disadvantage that we have in the electorate as well, many people cannot afford to run a car. Because of the geography of the Mornington Peninsula, there is only one way to go to access services, and that is up the peninsula to the Frankston area for a lot of the services that are required, whether they be medical or shopping or a whole range of other services that people require. Training, education, further education — the only way to get there if you do not have a car and cannot afford a car is the route 788 bus.
If you want to go to Melbourne, it takes longer to get from Rosebud to Melbourne than if you were travelling from Traralgon to Melbourne or Ballarat to Melbourne or Bendigo to Melbourne or Geelong to Melbourne. It takes longer by public transport if you get the bus and because the bus is so crowded it often just drives past bus stops. In fact a couple of families have mentioned to me recently that their schoolchildren have been left behind and have been late for school because the bus was too full and they were not allowed on. I recently referenced a Public Transport Victoria (PTV) document in this place which actually makes recommendations that the service should be improved. It says the bus is dangerous and dangerously overcrowded, and that is the reality. So we need more services. We need them to be brought up to the level of a city electorate. The bus goes to the Frankston railway station. If you get to Frankston station and you want to go to Frankston Hospital or to the medical precinct or to Monash University, you actually then have to catch another bus to get to those areas, which are only a matter of 1 or 2 kilometres away but are obviously unwalkable, especially for elderly residents.
For the bus to go past Frankston station and finish at Monash University via the Frankston Hospital and medical precinct I think would be a very good suggestion. That was put forward to the government as an option, as was having some express services because it actually takes an hour and a half to go from Rosebud to Frankston. If you drive, it takes about 35 minutes in a car. To relieve some of that congestion of cars on the freeway but also to relieve some of those overcrowded buses, it would be important to have some express services from the southern peninsula right through to Frankston, especially in the morning and afternoon in the peak times. Again, these are all options that have been given to the government, and consistently they have been ignored. When you see a report to PTV that says they are worried about the dangers and the safety issues on our buses, let alone the lack of service to a very poor electorate that needs that service because it is its only service, that is an indictment of this government.
Moving onto roads, after the construction of the Peninsula Link more traffic is coming down to the Mornington Peninsula. The Mornington Peninsula Freeway is the only freeway in Victoria running through a built‑up area that has no sound barriers. As you can imagine the traffic has increased. The population has increased over the last 10 to 15 years, and now we have houses abutting the freeway with residents living in them — not holiday houses, but people living in those houses right up against the freeway. The noise levels are just incredible. In fact, VicRoads has tested the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, and the noise levels from Rosebud right through to Safety Beach and just about all of those areas are above the acceptable decibel level and actually qualify for sound barriers.
My constituents have seen — and we have seen right across the state, especially in Melbourne and some suburbs of Melbourne, probably some electorates of Melbourne — some retrofitting has gone on. Even walls have been made larger or higher to protect residents from noise. In my electorate we do not even have walls. The government just refuses, even though VicRoads has said that the decibel levels are too high. It is totally refusing to make the money available for those sound barriers.
My constituents are just livid at the moment because they are getting wire rope barriers. This has been going on for 12 months. Residents and locals have had massive traffic hold‑ups for 12 months. The project was meant to be done in nine months and it is only, at best, two‑thirds done so we have got all that going on at the same time. In parts of the Mornington Peninsula Freeway there are a lot of trees in the median strip; there are trees on the edge of the freeway, which actually are a sound and light buffer of some sort, at least, for the residents. So what VicRoads has decided to do for the wire barriers is to pull out the large majority of those trees. It is worth noting that when they were mulching those trees they forgot that because the trees have been there so long, there is a whole habitat of birds and possums living in the middle of the freeway and on the side of the freeway. When the mulcher came through, instead of just mulching the trees it mulched up all sorts of wildlife — birds and possums were all mulched up. It was just unbelievable. It was actually quite distressing for the workers, when you talk to them about what happened there, and at the same time the residents have lost what little buffer they had.
As far as my constituents are concerned and as far as I am concerned VicRoads have just turned around and given the one‑finger salute to my constituents, saying, ‘Well, we know there is a noise problem here. We admit that there is a noise problem here and we are going to make it worse. We are going to knock down those trees and we are going to make it worse for you’. God knows when those trees might regrow. With all that traffic hold‑up it would have been a golden opportunity to actually start construction of those noise barriers. VicRoads knows where they are needed; as I said their testing showed that it was needed, and they could have done it at the same time.
I must read a letter I received from a constituent. There was a public meeting about this issue and there were a number of protests. I am trying to talk my locals out of a massive public order protest on Friday because with the long weekend there will be thousands of extra people coming down, and many of my constituents are talking about blockading the freeway which will, I think, be a major safety issue and is going to cause massive congestion as those tens of thousands of people come down for the long weekend.
But after the public meeting last week about this, one of my constituents emailed the Minister for Roads and Road Safety and said:
I attended a meeting last Wednesday night. So many people just like me, just trying to get some sleep.
I think you were invited but maybe you decided to reduce the traffic noise and stay off the freeway, possibly out of consideration to help reduce the noise levels, or maybe you were just not available.
The traffic was pretty busy last night. Not much sleep to be had, pretty noisy now also and only a few hours till the morning peak hour traffic gets underway.
I was reading the other day that it’s recommended we get more sleep on the weekend. Not much chance of that around here.
Anyhow, could you please update me again on the progress of the funding and plans for reducing the noise outside my home?
Please feel free to visit me and see for yourself what I’m talking about.
So it is a bit tongue‑in‑cheek, but the reality is that people are having health issues, either due to the fumes or because they cannot sleep. Night after night, the traffic is going till all hours of the night and starts again at five in the morning — people are not getting the sleep that they need. It is just a continuous rumble and it is an incredible issue that needs to be addressed. It is a really good example of the neglect and the lack of funding that we have actually had with regard to roads and road infrastructure on the Mornington Peninsula, especially in the seat of Nepean.
Also we have an issue where the freeway finishes at Jetty Road in Rosebud where there are actually three roundabouts within about 500 metres. At the same time we have two large schools in the area, so you have all this traffic coming off the freeway and you have schoolchildren on bikes and on foot trying to cross those three roundabouts. It is just an absolute recipe for disaster, and has been identified by VicRoads as the number two priority to relieve congestion on the Mornington Peninsula. So those are a couple of the road issues.
My schools do not ask for much. Red Hill Consolidated School, which I know the minister knows about, is a school that was built, I think, in the 1940s or 50s and has never, ever received a capital grant. It is a school that raises a lot of money through hard work from its parents and that money, more and more over the years now, is just going into maintenance. It is a school that is not on mains water, it is not on mains sewage, it is in a bushfire‑prone area and it is an area that rains a lot, up there at the top of Arthurs Seat.
They have a great school with a great program, but unfortunately all that extra money that the school is raising is just going into maintenance. You can imagine a school of that age and that size that has not had capital works. They proudly want to maintain the school themselves but at this stage, 60 years later, there is an absence of capital funding, so that is the major education issue.
Rosebud Secondary College now has a few hundred thousand dollars of commitments and in‑kind support to build a wellness centre because there is a whole range of mental health issues and youth suicide in the area. Again, we have a very poor, low socio‑economic constituency that goes to that school. The social needs are very high and they are after only a couple of hundred thousand dollars so that they can actually start construction of this wellness centre. They have gone out into the community, they have done the work themselves and what they need is just a hand up from this government. But as I said, beyond that line under Frankston absolutely nothing came down to the Mornington Peninsula for any services.
There are obviously issues with health services, including mental health services, planning, water and the future of Point Nepean. The last thing I will mention, because I went past it on the ferry last night, is Portsea beach, which no longer exists. The government has now said that Portsea beach will no longer exist and that it is going to put a pile of rocks on it so that the Portsea pub does not get washed into the bay. That is very nice for some people, but now that the local beach has now gone the local businesses have become bankrupt and it is an absolute blight because the cheap and nasty option has been taken. Because of the erosion, which it has now been established came from the channel deepening 10 years ago, Portsea beach is no longer there. The only money has been spent on rocks to ruin the beach. I think that is pretty indicative of the contempt in which my electorate has been held by this government.