Differences? You bet there are
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge says the Coalition has improved child protection services. Photo: John Donegan
IN THESE pages on Monday, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews questioned the Baillieu government's progressive credentials. He put the proposition that there were stark differences between Labor and the Coalition.
Thankfully, there are stark differences. The Coalition is getting on with tackling the problems left by an ALP government that spent hundreds of millions of dollars over its last four years in office telling Victorians what a great job it was doing.
The legacy of that former Labor government, of which Daniel Andrews was a senior minister, is waste, mismanagement and incompetent service delivery that cost Victorians billions of dollars.
It had 11 years in office, but who can think of substantial reforms left by Labor? It lived off a decade's good economic management at the national level and reforms left by the Kennett Coalition government.
The Baillieu government, like the people of Victoria, believes in a fair go. We want to see opportunities for families and small business, individual choice and a safe, secure community. We value our tax dollars. We are securing a strong economy. We love that we live in a vibrant, multicultural society.
We are also a caring and compassionate government, wanting to ensure that those least fortunate can control their own destiny.
These are the values of the Victorian Liberal and National parties.
I challenge Daniel Andrews to name the significant progressive achievements of 4000 days of Labor against the first 500 days of the Coalition. On the issues that he raised on Monday - transparency and social policy areas - the Coalition has made great strides where Labor failed.
Let's take transparency and fighting serious corruption. The Coalition is introducing an anti-corruption body. Labor failed to do so despite repeated calls over its 11 years in office. Daniel Andrews lauded former Labor premier John Cain's introduction of freedom-of-information legislation, yet the Auditor-General last week derided the culture of secrecy embedded in government when we arrived.
The Coalition is making the most significant reform to FOI since John Cain introduced the original legislation, through the establishment of an FOI commissioner. For the first time, an independent umpire will carry out first-stage reviews of FOI applications, a function currently carried out by the same agency to which the application is made.
All across government the Coalition is putting out more information to the community. Issues that have been hidden for more than a decade are now coming to light. A better-informed community can make better decisions.
The second area the Opposition Leader highlighted was progressive social policy. Here, we are tackling mismanagement and waste, while keeping our focus on the most vulnerable in our community.
Child protection was a mess when we arrived in office. We are already improving workforce retention and broader structural problems in this area. Children with autism and other disabilities are now benefiting from a massive increase in funding delivered in last year's budget.
The Baillieu government is pushing hard for a national disability insurance scheme. We are working with the Commonwealth and taking a lead with the development work required to make this once-in-a-generation reform a reality.
One area of appalling neglect we inherited was the lack of education at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre.
The Age on Monday reported on how we are fixing that problem. It is disgraceful that the former Labor government allowed seriously disadvantaged children no opportunity for schooling.
There are a host of other areas in which the Coalition is showing courage and leadership. We have doubled funding for pharmacotherapy drug treatment, to help more Victorians beat addiction. We have introduced condoms to prisons, a sensible health policy that Labor's Tim Holding failed to implement. We have introduced laws that put decision-making about children's drinking back into the hands of their parents, a policy Labor flatly rejected. We have increased funding for the homeless, but also released a plan to bring a strategic approach to the complex issues of homelessness.
We are also confronting other difficult social issues, such as bullying in schools and cyber-bullying, sexting and child exploitation. And we are sensitively reforming palliative care to provide better end-of-life care.
Across health, education, housing and my portfolio of community services, we have taken a systemic approach to fixing the problems we inherited. It will take time and continued effort, but we are getting on with the job.
Sound financial management, good administration and firm and consistent approaches to law and order allow Coalition governments the opportunity to tackle long-term social issues. Unlike the Cain government that Daniel Andrews eulogised on Monday, one that sent the state to the brink of bankruptcy, the Baillieu government has placed a firm hand on finances in difficult times.
That's why we have been able to deliver the mix of innovative and practical policies that match the hopes and aspirations of Victorians.
Mary Wooldridge is the state Minister for Community Services.