Appropriation (2022–2023) Bill 2022 – Second Reading Debate

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (18:34): Hello. I am going to bring the energy up a bit in this chamber and talk about what a great budget the Victorian budget is, because there is so much to celebrate in this budget. This is a great state budget for Ballarat, it is a great state budget for regional Victoria and it is a great state budget for all Victorians.

I thank the Treasurer, his office and the Department of Treasury and Finance for putting a budget together that will make Ballarat an even better place to live, to study and to work—not forgetting a great place to raise a family and also to retire, Minister for Planning. That is possible. We can make Ballarat an even better place to live.

Across our state, our country and our world COVID-19 has put unprecedented pressure on health systems, including in my electorate of Wendouree. I want to commend and thank everyone at Grampians Health, particularly the Ballarat Base Hospital, our prevention and recovery care centre and our many public aged care facilities across Ballarat as well as our local GP clinics, Women’s Health Grampians, Ballarat Community Health and our child and maternal health services. I am so proud that the Andrews Labor government is supporting the needs of regional patients in Wendouree, making sure everyone can get the health support they need close to home.

The Andrews Labor government will always stand by our frontline healthcare workforce—our paramedics, our nurses—and this is the case again in the 2022–23 Victorian budget, with our $12 billion investment in Victoria’s health system and our pandemic repair plan.

I would like to thank our ambos for the work they do every day but particularly over the last two years during the COVID pandemic. Thank you to Danny Hill and the ambulance union for your leadership and advocacy. But it is not just words of thanks we offer to show our appreciation to our ambos; we are investing in our ambulance service, with another 90 paramedics being delivered in this budget. Significantly, this means we have added 790 extra paramedics to the workforce since we came to government.

This budget is delivering funding to train and hire up to 7000 new healthcare workers, including 5000 nurses. This will ease the pressure on our COVID heroes and will support the delivery of quality care in Ballarat and across Victoria. I thank Lisa Fitzpatrick and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation members for their incredible resilience today and throughout the pandemic.

The budget also provides for 1125 new registered undergraduate nursing positions and 75 new registered undergraduate students of midwifery roles over the next two years. I am also pleased that we are recruiting up to 2000 expat and international healthcare workers through a global workforce recruitment drive. This will reduce pressure on our healthcare workers, and I welcome that.

Right around the nation demand for emergency services is at an all-time high. Our 000 call takers and dispatchers are dealing with unprecedented call volumes. Unlike the opposition, I thank them for the work they do under the most challenging circumstances. To support these important frontline workers to speak to Victorians who need help faster, we are investing $333 million to add nearly 400 new staff to increase 000 call taking and dispatch capacity for 000 services. When there is a problem it is our job to come up with a solution, not just to throw rocks.

This budget also has a very strong focus on regional health. I strongly believe that regional Victorians deserve the same level of care as do Melbourne patients. At the centre of our plan is $300 million to upgrade regional hospitals and healthcare facilities in every corner of our state—the largest Regional Health Infrastructure Fund boost since it was created by the Andrews Labor government. We are also providing $9 million to regional women’s health services, including Women’s Health Grampians, and a further $11.5 million to deliver group parenting sessions to support families with children struggling with their mental health. I know how important this is going to be for the families who are struggling at the moment.

For the Ballarat Base Hospital our government has already announced $541 million for a transformative redevelopment, and in this budget we are continuing to support Ballarat’s hospital services. That is why we have announced new equipment in this budget, including a surgical robot and a replacement radiotherapy linear accelerator. This is great news for patients from across the Ballarat and Grampians regions. The investments in state-of-the-art surgical and cancer treatment equipment for the Ballarat Base Hospital will mean regional patients will save countless hours travelling to Melbourne for treatment.

As a mother who has travelled to Melbourne in the past for appointments and treatment with a sick child, I know firsthand what a difference it will make for patients and their families to have the provisions of quality health care close to home.

Surgeons from across Ballarat have been calling for a surgical robot that will enable them to offer a robotics program performing many different types of complex surgical procedures. The console of a surgical robot provides the surgeon a high-definition magnified 3D view of the surgical site. I know if I am under the knife, I want them to have a good look and see what is going on. The benefit of robot-assisted surgery is that it is less invasive surgery, with fewer complications, quicker recovery and shorter hospital stays. Currently there are surgical robots across metropolitan hospitals, including the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and St Vincent’s Private Hospital, as well as three surgical robots in Geelong, but this was a first for Ballarat, and I am so proud to have helped achieve this for my community.

I would like to single out colorectal surgeon and general surgeon Carolyn Vasey for her pivotal role in advocating for the surgical robot. She explained to me the benefits, not only to patients but to Ballarat’s ability to attract surgeons into the future. The technology is mind-blowing, and it was incredible to have the opportunity to have a go on a surgical robot, fortunately without any patients in sight or anywhere nearby. Our $6.5 million investment for robot-assisted surgery to be delivered at Ballarat Base Hospital will improve surgery outcomes and reduce recovery time for patients in Ballarat and across the region, a huge win for Wendouree.

I am also pleased that we are replacing our old radiotherapy equipment to deliver better cancer care for our local community at the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, and I thank the Premier for coming to Ballarat the day after the budget to promote this announcement and meet the staff, not only at Grampians Health but also our very specialised staff at the BRICC, the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre. He was so warmly welcomed.

I am pleased also that we are addressing the significant issues of mental health in Ballarat. Australia’s first-ever royal commission into mental health told us that, when it comes to accessing mental health care, Victorians do not know where to turn or who to turn to, which is why having a nearby mental health service in your local community can make all the difference. That is why we are getting on with delivering mental health and alcohol and other drug hubs, including planning for a new one at the emergency department at Ballarat Base Hospital so that community members and their loved ones struggling with mental health can get the care they need in Ballarat.

We also know that far too often Victorians do not get the mental health support they need when they need it. That is why we are planning for an additional 33 acute mental health beds for the Ballarat Base Hospital. This means we will be doubling the number of acute mental health beds in Ballarat. For those who need the support, they will get it sooner and closer to home.

In the midst of unprecedented global events and the pervasive impact of social media, young Victorians have suffered a surge in new eating disorders and relapses, a statistic that is sadly replicated worldwide. This budget also provides support for regional Victorians with an eating disorder by developing and expanding high-quality and therapeutic bed-based services. The funding will support an expansion of the eating disorder enhanced integrated specialist model into four regional health services to support clinical mental health services to provide multidisciplinary support for the increased presentation of patients with eating disorders in regional Victoria, with services to be established at Grampians Health, Barwon Health, Bendigo Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital.

I would like to thank the families of the children with eating disorders who shared with me their lived experience. Minister Pulford and I met with some incredible dads, who passionately advocated for the provision of services to be available locally for adolescents with eating disorders. I would like to acknowledge Ballarat paediatrician Dr David Tickell for his insights and support for the enhanced integrated specialist model to treat eating disorders.

So much in this budget for Ballarat, but I will continue. I will plough on, because I have not even spoken about schools yet, and I am so proud that this budget continues to build on our record investment in the students and teachers at Mount Rowan Secondary College.

I know you cannot get a first-rate education in a second-rate classroom. That is why we are building first-class facilities for Wendouree students. It was an absolute pleasure to visit Mount Rowan Secondary College with the Treasurer and share this wonderful news with the year 9 students, their teachers and the principal, Seona Murnane. The announcement will provide $6.1 million to upgrade Mount Rowan Secondary College to build a new year 9 learning centre, because under an Andrews Labor government we are giving every child the opportunity to achieve their full potential. As a former teacher and a mum of school-age students, I know how important it is to invest in our kids’ future, and this is what we are doing in schools across Ballarat.

Another significant announcement for Ballarat in this budget was the $3.2 million safe spaces trial in western Victoria region. This investment will provide for a trial of community-led and evidence-based programs to provide care and respect to LGBTIQ+ individuals most in need as well as a trial of a place-based approach to building resilience amongst the LGBTIQ+ community and the provision of mental and social support. Ballarat is a kind and inclusive community, and this sends a clear message that equality is not negotiable in our city.

We also care about our animals and our pets in Ballarat. We know how important pets are to our health and wellbeing, and that is why this budget is providing $11.5 million to build a new, purpose-built Ballarat Animal Shelter to improve the quality of life delivered to hundreds of strays as well as lost, abandoned or abused animals across the Ballarat, Hepburn, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Pyrenees, Ararat and Central Goldfields local governments. I thank the Minister for Agriculture for joining me and the member for Buninyong at the current Ballarat Animal Shelter in my electorate of Wendouree to share this announcement with my community.

The current animal shelter, where we adopted our beloved Mr Licorice, is housed at a former abattoir, which is far from appropriate and was never fit for purpose. I am delighted that we are building the Ballarat Animal Shelter in Mitchell Park, which will be not only a vast improvement for animal care and protection but also a significant improvement for the very hardworking staff at the City of Ballarat’s animal shelter. I thank them for the care they provide many vulnerable dogs, cats and other animals, day in, day out.

It was terrific to hear the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events talk about the Commonwealth Games—because they are coming to Victoria, and they are coming to Ballarat. This budget announces $2.6 billion to bring the games to regional Victoria. These games will be unlike any before in the history of the Commonwealth Games as they will be held in regional centres, including my hometown, Ballarat; Bendigo; Geelong; and the Latrobe Valley. I cannot wait till Ballarat hosts the athletics, the cricket and the boxing. This is a huge opportunity for Ballarat to host the Commonwealth Games and welcome athletes and officials from across the world to our city, but we will also have the triple benefit of creating local jobs and legacy infrastructure and boosting our regional economy.

I only have a short time left, but I must talk about the duplication planning money, the $6.6 million for Ballarat-Carngham Road from Dyson Drive to Wiltshire Lane in the west of my electorate. I am pleased that we are continuing to focus on roads and road safety, and this business case is going to do great things for road safety in our community. I have listened to community members and key stakeholders about the necessity for this upgrade, and I have worked hard to advocate for funding for this important business case for upgrading the road to accommodate growing traffic areas in Alfredton, Lucas and Winter Valley. Well done, Treasurer.

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