Activity, energy and bold thinking have Victoria on track: Andrews

Victoria’s rapid pace of infrastructure investment and delivery needs to be the state’s new normal, Premier Daniel Andrews told CEDA’s State of the State event.

Speaking some 100 days ahead of the state election in November, the Premier said a lot has changed in Victoria since his Government came to power. 

“For everything that has changed since then, I think perhaps there’s been no greater difference than the sense that now finally Victoria is moving in the right direction,” he said.

“Just four short years ago, things were very different to what we enjoy today. 

“Our state was at a standstill. Victoria's economic performance was among the worst in our nation. Per capita GSP was going backwards, shrinking by some .2 of a per cent in the 2013–14 year – the worst performance of any state in our nation.”

Mr Andrews cited mainland-worst ambulance response times and highest-ever elective surgery waiting lists as further indicators of the state’s poor performance. 

And the Premier fired a salvo at the previous Government for cuts it made to the TAFE sector in the middle of a jobs crisis, that saw TAFE enrolments fall by a third. 

While acknowledging the previous Government faced challenges beyond its control, Mr Andrews said it was no excuse for the policy decisions made. 

“I think everybody in this room knows and understands so well that in the face of those challenges and others, there's no excuse for doing nothing and it's certainly no excuse for making things worse,” Mr Andrews said. 

“Governments are not excused from their responsibilities simply because times are tough, things are challenging, things are beyond your control. You’re not excused from that fundamental obligation, you simply aren’t.” 
Mr Andrews said Victoria now boasts the strongest growing economy of any state with 3.3 per cent growth in GSP against a national growth rate of two per cent. 

“That growth and that confidence is reflected in every aspect of our Victorian economy,” Mr Andrews said. 

“We lead the nation in dwelling starts, construction work and of course business investment, which is a great metric for confidence and certainty has increased by 15.5 per cent, the largest increase on the mainland. All told this and some other things mean an extra 340,000 Victorians are in work.” 

The Premier referred to 70 new schools, upgrades to 1300 others and the state’s infrastructure program – including level crossing removals, the Metro and Westgate tunnels – as some of the major projects driving the state’s economy. 

He said 75,000 of the 340,000 jobs created in the state were directly attributable to his Government’s road, rail, hospital and school infrastructure agenda. 

“These infrastructure investments are some $13.7 billion this year alone,” he said. 

“They mean that across the state there are cranes in the sky and shovels in the ground and that's very important for all of us; activity and energy the likes of which we have never before seen.

“But as you all know, that can't be exceptional. Far from it, that kind of pace needs to become the new normal. That means that we have to double our efforts and particularly double our efforts in relation to skills.”

In a sign of what may be to come in the looming election campaign, Mr Andrews cited repairing the TAFE system, removing barriers to training, infrastructure and health and aged care as key planks in his Government’s re-election platform.  

“Victorians will make a choice of their own in just 100 days’ time, at the end of November,” Mr Andrews said. 

“It is in my view a contest that will be fought on three fundamental questions: who's got the runs on the board, who's got the big ideas for the future and who's actually got the guts to get on and get things done.”

He said the city and state need big ideas and bold thinking. 

“The status quo, I don't think, will cut it any longer and nor will the politics of the past do in this modern period,” he said. 

“The 1990s are well and truly gone and so too should be 1990s thinking.

“We should never, we can never go back to the days of austerity, of cuts and closures.

“We need big ideas that guarantee a modern strong and growing Victoria. But to get there we need to think big and we need to build big and governments need to have the guts to make big and bold decisions.”

He said at the centre of his Government’s plan for a second term in office will be the biggest transport building program in Australian history. He also vowed to tip the scales back in favour of the consumer with energy