The VCOSS Treasurer’s Breakfast

This event was held on Wednesday May 4th 2022, the day after the Victorian Budget was tabled in Parliament.

2023 VCOSS Treasurer’s Address

This event was held on Wurundjeri Country..

This event was held on Wednesday May 4th 2022, the day after the Victorian Budget was tabled in Parliament.

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  • Tim Pallas’ slides
Full transcript

Emma King:  For those of you who I’ve not met before my name is Emma King I’m the CEO of VCOSS and it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome you here this morning.  It’s fantastic to be here again for the VCOSS 2022 post Budget breakfast with the Treasurer and welcome Treasurer.  It’s wonderful to have you with us.  We’re really looking forward to a fantastic morning today. 

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and to emerging leaders, and of course acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.  I would also like to particularly acknowledge Aunty Jill Gallagher who is in the room, Jill is the CEO of VACCHO, Victoria’s First Treaty Commissioner and a VCOSS board member, which we’re particularly excited about.  It’s wonderful to have you here, and also Mena Singh, Victoria’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. I’d also like to acknowledge and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are with us today.  There’s some other people in the room that I would also like to acknowledge, so Todd Fernando, Victoria’s Commissioner for LBGTQIA+ Communities, Gerard Mansour, the Commissioner for Senior Victorians and Craig Robertson the CEO of Victorian Skills Authority and Lisa Line who is the Chair of the Victorian Skills Authority. 

Of course, a thank you to our members and our friends who are in the room for what is a really fantastic occasion every day and it’s such a wonderful thing to be able to have the opportunity to ask the Treasurer questions directly around the budget and to have this moment to be together, and I think it’s particularly special given the COVID environment that we’ve been in and the chance to gather together is particularly important.  I really want to acknowledge that and look forward to catching up with those of you that I haven’t had a chance to chat to yet. 

I’m going to introduce you to our wonderful event MV for today who will get us started.  Needs no introduction, known to everyone as Channel 7’s Victorian political reporter, podcaster, celebrated dog lover and an incredible woman on Twitter.  She’s also most importantly a sharp and incisive questioner.  Those of us who had the privilege hundreds of press conferences throughout the COVID lockdowns know too well how brilliant she is at her job.  We’re very lucky to have Sharnell with us today I will pass over to her now.  Thank you. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Good morning.  I was meant to say who I am, but that was a wonderful introduction.  Thank you.  I won’t bother doing that.  Just some housekeeping if I may, while we start.  If you’re looking for a bathroom you just need to wander out into the foyer and you’ll find one, and if you can turn your phones to silent now that would be greatly appreciated, but what a 24 hours we have had for those who have been perusing the budget books, it can feel like a bit of a hangover today.  

Of course the State Government wants us to look at that big $12 billion spend on healthcare they want you to look at how many nurses we’re hiring and ambos and of course police officers, but today we’re going to delve down a little bit further to see what the budget’s social policies include.  That’s why we’re all here.  That is what is important today. 

But after that, after we hear from the Treasurer shortly, it will be your turn.  We’ll have some roving mics around the room, so if something annoyed you in the budget that’s your chance to put your hand up and ask the Treasurer directly.  But you’re not alone in this room today.  Very 2020 there are people joining us online.  They’re looking through the website.  If you are watching online, if you go to the bottom of the video that you’re seeing now you’ll be able to pop a question in, and if there’s anyone from the state opposition watching online you can submit your questions to the Treasurer anonymously.  They can do that if they choose to do so.  But just pop your hand up and someone will come around.  If you are using social media today, if you can hashtag VCOSS breakfast to any of your tweets or your posts that would be greatly appreciated, but I will now introduce the Victorian Treasurer, Mr Tim Pallas. 

Tim Pallas:  Things are moving quickly though.  First of all I’d like to start off by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and to pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.  Look, it is really a great pleasure to be here to once again join a VCOSS breakfast.  I would like to take first of all a moment to thank everyone in this room for the amazing job you’ve all done in very difficult circumstances for this community.  The work that you do in supporting Victorians, particularly those Victorians who are most in need and at risk of impoverishment and isolation from the rest of the community is an outstanding commitment and demonstration of it, and I hope at least to some extent in the circumstances that we confront we’ve demonstrated that as a government we too share your values and to the extent we can we make a commitment to your incredibly worthy undertakings. 

So the last two years have challenged governments in a way that I don’t think anybody could have foreseen.  I often tell people I’ve been treasurer for eight years and the first six were pretty good.  Last two, well not so much.  But you don’t create in many cases the events that sometimes surround us, and the measure of a real government, a government that is focused on its principal priorities, and those of course for a Labor government, the Andrews Labor government are very much around protecting the wellbeing and the welfare of the community.  That’s our number 1 priority.  I hope this budget lives these values large, but it’s also about recognising that governments have to confront the circumstances that present themselves and they have to live their values largely in order to protect the community and to give them the opportunity to prevail and to prosper going forward. 

Of course confronted by a global pandemic, in Victoria the government decided that it was our responsibility to act decisively.  You may have heard that on occasion I’ve criticised the Federal Government for going missing during a lot of these times, and as they disappeared from view of course increasingly the state, and not just this state, other states, had to become increasingly more involved in protecting the community and performing roles that, quite frankly, were not normally seen as being state roles.  In doing that we stepped up and we provided 44 billion dollars of support to the health system to save jobs and to protect the community. 

It created the foundations for Victoria’s recovery, to be honest, and if you look at the November budget, 2020 budget, again the May 2021 budget, and finally today’s budget, I think you’ll see a continuum of focus and effort.  We can’t just simply see the circumstances that confront the state of Victoria as a crisis and ultimately just seek to apply a bandage to the problem as it presents.  We have to make profound structural change to the way our economy operates.  We know, for example, that the demonstration and the onset of the pandemic has proved our public health effort needs to step up and be substantially, and in an ongoing sense than we’ve seen historically. 

We also know that insecurity of work is one of the scourges that are required in many ways.  People who needed to isolate not to be able to do so, and that in itself created even more problems. 

So I believe that the budgets, the three budgets since the onset of the pandemic, have really created the foundations for Victoria’s recovery, and quite frankly can I say that that recovery has exceeded our expectations.  I won’t say my expectations because, well, I’m a professional pessimist so it would probably come as no surprise that I’ve been surprised, but it has been quite amazing how profound the improvement in our material circumstances have been. 

So the budget I handed down yesterday puts patients first and it’s really about this government living its values large.  We understand that Victorians need help.  They need a government that’s prepared to make an effort and an investment in their wellbeing and that’s exactly what we’ve done.  The budget also supports our recovery and it will help Victoria bounce back.  It will deliver our pandemic repair plan, it will build a world class education system, it will create decent and secure jobs.  It will get Victorians home sooner and safer, it will help families, it will make Victoria fairer, and it will build stronger communities. 

So the Victorian economy suffered quite an extraordinary shock due to the pandemic, as did jurisdictions right across the globe.  But we’re confident of a quick bounce back, and I’m pleased to say it’s been even faster than predicted.  Every politician you talk to during the course of the pandemic will give you the trite line that you should never waste a crisis.  I’m not sure that many of them had any idea what that actually meant, but it didn’t mean trying to segregate and separate people, it meant looking at opportunities to bring a community together, get some singularity of focus and some effort around the problems that our economy and our community had particularly been brought into sharp context during the course of the pandemic. 

So employment has risen by 280,000 jobs since the September 2020, the lowest point, the nadir of the economic cycle if I could put it that way, and it’s forecast to keep growing strongly.  The unemployment rate is lowest since current records began and labour force participation is at a near record high.  For me it’s particularly pleasing to see that the recovery in the labour market has been inclusive.  Women, young people and single parents were most adversely affected during the COVID19 outbreaks in both 2020 and 2021, and I’m pleased to say that earlier this year the proportion of workers amongst these groups had recovered to above the pre pandemic levels.  I want to basically put this into the broad sweep of the economic revitalisation of the state.  Think about it this way:  about 560,000 jobs have been created in this state since the government came to office.  That’s about one in six jobs in the total employment pool in this state have been created since this government came to office in November 2014. 

The thing that really thrills me about it is about four in five of those jobs have been fulltime jobs, and that overturns what has been a decade’s long movement towards insecure employment in the labour market. 

So COVID19, of course, has put unprecedented pressure on health systems and the world, including ours.  This budget delivers $12 billion pandemic repair plan, delivering more staff, better hospitals and first class care.  Key investments delivered in this budget include 2.4 billion dollars for more hospital staff and to provide support new wards as they open, $698 million so people can get the care that they need in the comfort of their own home as we continue the better at home program.  I’ll just pick out some of the things that I particularly like in this budget, and this is one of them.  It was decades ago that we came up with case mixed management which was about a much more efficient way of delivering healthcare but there hasn’t been much, really, that constituted a game changer around the way that health is delivered.  Better at home effectively is just such a game changer in my view.  It’s about getting care to people in circumstances, and in an environment where they feel most comfortable.  It’s about therefore freeing up the capacity of our hospital system to be able to, of course, deal with the more substantial and intractable health problems that require care in a hospital environment.  But ultimately we do know that if you get care in situ at home, the prognosis and the outcomes are much better.  Our investment in health and hospitals will mean that we’re training and hiring up to 7,000 healthcare workers, including up to 5,000 nurses. 

Every Victorian should have confidence that when they call for emergency care someone will come to help.  That’s why we’re investing $333 million to add 400 new staff to increase triple zero call taking and dispatch capacity, $236 million to double the capacity of the emergency departments at the Casey hospital and Werribee mercy hospital, $124 million will put more paramedics on the road and also improve ambulance performance. 

Last year we promised we’d fix our broken mental health system by building a new one from the ground up, and of course in that budget in May of last year we put in a record $3.8 billion investment.  This budget builds on these investments with $1.3 billion to take the next step to implement the recommendations of the mental health Royal Commission. 

A good education, of course, is a foundation for a good life.  We’re creating a state where every student can learn and achieve, regardless of where they live or the barriers that stand in the way.  No matter their background or their postcode we want every child to have world class schooling that can give them the key to unlock their best life.  So this budget delivers $1.8 billion to deliver 13 new schools and 65 school upgrades, including upgrades to 36 special schools, meaning that since 2015 we will have upgraded every special school in the state.  There’s $779 million to recruit around 1900 teachers, the aim being to give them more time to prepare and focus on each individual student’s particular needs, and $277 million to transform VCE and VCAL.  This is a big policy initiative and intervention, something that the deputy Premier, the education Minister should be particularly proud of.  It’s aimed to help students graduate into a great job and rewarding future.  It will be the biggest reform of the VCE since its inception and it will get away from what I think is an insidious process of discriminating between educational forms, people with technical prowess are in some way considered second class students.  We need to have an integrated system of education where we recognise and reward technical prowess. 

We’ve always prioritised ensuring Victorians have decent, secure jobs.  In this budget we continue that with the $246 million to fund the sick pay guarantee pilot, $120 million for the Victorian industry fund which is aimed to invest more things right here in Victoria and make more things here in Victoria, also $353 million to help our creative tourism and major events industries bounce back from the pandemic, and believe me they are.  The turn around in the activity in metropolitan Melbourne in particular has been nothing short of profound. 

So the Andrews Labor government is helping families with a oneoff payment of $250 to all Victorian households that use the energy compare website.  Not only will households find money by finding the best deals, but they’ll be rewarded for doing so.  Now, this is a program that’s been progressively rolled out over some years, and we’ve had a number of iterations of it, but I’ve got to tell you this is more than just a cash grant, as it were.  It’s about trying to get the community to appreciate that if you don’t shop around you don’t get the best deal, and of course the Energy Minister tells us that there’s something in the vicinity of $333 most families will pick up in terms of savings by shopping around.  Added to that, $250 from the government to encourage you to start to realise those options.  So children  and that is just one of a number of the initiatives that the government has put in this budget to support Victorians with cost of living pressures.  Children starting 3-year-old kinder receiving a kinder kit to help parents supporting their children’s early learning, $15 million will support neighbourhood houses and community relief efforts, including the food relief taskforce and the expansion of regional food hubs.  This builds on our record of helping families through the pandemic with a test isolation payment, the rental assistance grants and of course free RATS.  So this budget supports all Victorians regardless of who they are, where they’re from and what they believe in.  This includes $940 million for programs and services primarily focused on improving outcomes for women, and I must say I’m particularly pleased about our gender responsive budgeting strategies that have been unveiled in this budget.  I know the Minister for women, Minister Gab Williams, has taken particular focus on this and made sure that this is not a tick a box process, this is a genuine engagement by the government as it makes its decisions to be  to satisfy itself that it’s taken into account the long run implications of the decisions it’s made in terms of getting to a more just and equal society. 

$400 million has been put aside to support Victoria’s Aboriginal community taking the government’s total investment to $1.6 billion, and there are many other initiatives supporting all parts of our diverse Victorian communities. 

So the Andrews Labor government has invested over $3.5 billion to protect and support Victorian women and children facing family violence and this budget invests a further $241 million to support victim survivors.  That includes $69 million to continue enhanced support to victim survivors in family violence refuges, $43 million for strengthened family violence services, $30 million to enable family violence specialists to continue delivering perpetrator interventions and contribute to an increasing evidence base about what works to change behaviour and to prevent violence, $30 million to continue the central information point to share critical information about risks posed by perpetrators to help keep victim survivors safe. 

This budget also builds on our commitment to support families and children, providing $272 million to improve services and safety.  So this investment includes $85 million to meet demand for residential care and continue the care hub program which supports young people who can’t live with their families due to abuse or neglect.  Care hub services help minimise the time young Victorians spend in care and reunify them with their families sooner.  $58 million to support up to a thousand additional vulnerable families and to strengthen child protection responses by increasing support staff capacity.  $7.2 million to support culturally safe services for Aboriginal children in child protection and the continuation of the Aboriginal children and families innovation and learning fund. 

So the budget also, as I previously indicated, makes a $400 million to our First Nations people and those investments include $151 million invested to continue to our support for our nation leading treaty process, $36 million to deliver assessments for the protection of significant Aboriginal Victorian cultural heritage sites, $7.2 million, including support to continue the Aboriginal children and families innovation and learning fund, $5.8 million to continue joint land management, the Bama national park, $5.8 million to deliver educational programs in schools that support learning and understanding of selfdetermination for Victorian Aboriginal communities, $3.9 million to support returning water to traditional owners for cultural, spiritual and economic use.  $2.8 million to support the delivery of the certificate $4 in reaching a First Nations language, and $2.2 million to support the lake Tyson…Aboriginal trust. 

So the budget also makes investments to ensure that Victorians are treated with respect as they age, and the key investments contained in this respect include $146 million to build new public sector residential aged care facilities in Camperdown, Mansfield and…30 million for places in public residential aged care, $3 million for a range of initiatives that support recovery  social recovery programs for older Victorians and carers.  $2.9 million to continue the elder abuse prevention network addressing family violence for older Victorians and stopping it from happening.  $800,000 for the design and planning of a 60 bed public sector residential aged care services facility in Mornington. 

Our community services sector workers have gone above and beyond for Victorians during the course of the pandemic and as I’ve said in my introduction, we can’t as a government thank you enough for what you do to support those who need it most.  We’ve heard from you that prices were rising and that this budget provides an uplift locked in over the forward estimates to help manage that.  One thing we’ve consistently heard from VCOSS and others in the sector is we need the certainty of funding going forward.  Hopefully this goes some way towards addressing those concerns.  Funding for the sector will be increased by $90 million over four years to support increasing wages across its workforce and other operating costs.  So this response directly to advocacy from VCOSS embeds indexation for these costs into the budget for the first time, giving certainty that we know the sector has been asking for.  Workforce shortages in the broader community services sector will be addressed with a $5 million set of scholar ships to increase the pipeline of graduates and also $2 million to recruit workers considering a career in community services sector. 

So we’re committed to continuing working with the unions and the social and community services sector to introduce a fair jobs code in the sector to improve issues with workforce shortages and job insecurity while continuing to discuss issues such as indexation and funding.  Can I say the government accepts if a code is of value to us in this sector then we understand that we have to bring value to the table as part of that process of engagement. 

The Andrews Labor government has a record of delivering for Victorians who need it most.  As we know, the key to meaningful change for families and communities is early support when people first reach out for help, well before they reach crisis point.  I was really proud to introduce the early intervention investment framework in last year’s budget.  It is a nation leading and also, I think, at the cutting edge of international budgeting processes.  This year we’re going further and adding and investing $504 million to address problems earlier, getting Victorians help and support sooner.  Intervening early not only helps individuals and their families, it reduces the need for more acute and costly services.  Investments this year support students in crisis, those suffering mental ill health, persons exiting prison and those experiencing homelessness.  So the budget invests in more of the services and the support that Victorians need, including $5.7 billion into our rural and regional communities in addition to the schools, hospitals and transport upgrades I’ve already outlined there’s also $196 million to replace and expand the mental health facilities at Goulburn Valley health in Shepparton and planning for two more. 

$146 million for three new public sector residential aged care facilities in Camperdown, Mansfield…30 million for the regional jobs and infrastructure fund, $30 million for tourism infrastructure projects across regional Victoria. 

I’ll finish there.  I’m sure our Auslan interpreter has probably got RSI by now, but there are many other initiatives that I haven’t mentioned that will continue to support our remarkable recovery.  At its heart this is a budget that looks after the health and the wellbeing of every single Victorian.  This is a Labor budget, one that I’m very proud to have had a hand in producing.  It invests in the hospitals and the healthcare our state needs and the Victorian workers we need to deliver it.  It’s a budget that delivers more staff, better hospitals and first class care.  This is a budget that puts patients first. 

Finally, this is where you get to pay for your meal if you haven’t already, and really every budget I have a budget charity.  For any cynics in the room this is not something that the state of Victoria uses taxpayers’ funds for.  I put my hand in my own pocket and I hope that you well and truly dwarf my miserly contribution to the Treasurer’s charity for the budget, and I would really appreciate you looking at Oz harvest.  It’s a fantastic charity.  I would encourage you  as an organisation, of course, they fight against food waste through its food rescue education and sustainability work.  It truly is a great charity and one that I would encourage you to think about making a contribution to.  Thank you very much. 

Sharnelle Vella: Thank you.  Thank you very much to the Treasurer and to our Auslan interpreters who joined us on the daily Premier press conferences, so well seasoned.  He’s exhausted.  You’ve done a wonderful job.  It is now time to apply some pressure if we can to the Treasurer by asking questions.  He’s already sat down.  He’s ready for breakfast.  I was trying to time my eating to when he was going to finish talking.  It was difficult.  I was trying to scoff some food.  We’ll let him have a drink, but there are roving mics that will be going around so you can pop your hand up and ask a question.  There’s already one hand that’s gone up here.  Don’t forget you can also ask questions online.  I might just start treasurer by asking you what the decision was to  you don’t have a mic. 

Tim Pallas:  I’ll come up. 

Sharnelle Vella:   You can come up.  I might ask you just about the $250 energy bonus and why the decision was made not to means test that. 

Tim Pallas:  Well, there’s two reasons.  One, sometimes you can find means testing is quite expensive process to put in place, particularly state governments who don’t have access to income.  It’s a good idea.  Maybe I could think about an income tax strategy, but I don’t think it would be well received somehow.  So we don’t really have that data.  The second reason is there’s a public policy objective that we’re seeking to achieve here and that is to encourage people to shop around when it comes to energy and it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a low income earner or whether you have more substantial means.  It’s about greater competition in the market, that driving that greater competition opens up hopefully more efficient distribution and retail companies, but it also inculcates a mentality in the community that says we’re going to drive for the best price for our energy year on year going forward.  So yes it’s a oneoff payment, but it’s about changing attitudes, shopping around, getting the best return and hopefully getting a much more competitive market in the retailers. 

Sharnelle Vella: Great.  We’ll get you to stay there if we can.  We’ll take some questions from the floor.  If you introduce yourself and then go with your question. 

Jenny Smith, Council for Homeless Persons:  Good morning everybody.  Jenny Smith from the Council for Homeless Persons.  Thank you, Treasurer.  Treasurer, we know in Victoria that we have a treasurer who really gets what it takes to end homelessness.  You know with the big housing build and with the funding of…to home.  We told 1845 rough sleepers that they would have a forever home and the support that they need to keep it.  $55 million will do that, $12 million will not.  We told our sector that if they stood this service up, exhausted as they were after putting people in and out of hotels, that they would be in a position to provide a service for at least 1845 people ongoing to introduce housing…into the state.  We know that if we don’t have these services that these people will be patience first and costing net the community around 13 and ahalf thousand more than we’re spending on them. 

So I can’t fathom it.  I don’t understand why you have cut homeless to a home. 

Tim Pallas: Well, can I make the point first up that as a government we’ve invested, as I say, $700 million in homelessness services since we’ve come to government.  We also made a pretty substantial effort during the course of the pandemic to put everybody who is homeless into accommodation, and I’ve got to say it’s a source of incredible frustration to me that we seem to not be getting to the outcomes that we’d achieved, because essentially we’d identified that cohort of people who needed support and we needed to better wrap around services around their needs going forward.  There’s $75 million in this budget aimed at once again improving homelessness services.  I think it’s a little unfair to compare the peak COVID response funding to what constitutes an ongoing need, but I’ll be very clear, from our perspective we’ve said to  I’ve spoken to the Minister for Homelessness, Richard Wynn, and I’ve made it very clear we support the idea as a government of dealing with these issues, and dealing with them in a substantial and gameshifting way.  We need the strategies that will assist us in doing that.  There’s $25 million in this budget for a social bond process that hopefully the sector can come up with strategies to assist.  But that’s not the end of it.  Richard, for example, has a housing program, a homelessness housing program out in Flemington which I think there was some concern in the sector was ceasing.  It is not.  It will continue for another 12 months.  He just didn’t need the funding so he didn’t make a bid for additional funding in this budget. 

So look, we accept that there is more work to do.  I just have to say that we’ve got to come up with strategies that actually shift the game.  I can’t get back to a position where as a government we put a lot of money into a bandaid that ultimately doesn’t give us a longterm structural change in dealing with this, and we know that there are examples around the work that work.  So building housing, providing wraparound support will get us there, but I need the support and the services and the capacity in the sector to be able to do that.  When I’m convinced that we’ve got a strategy that we all agree on, and of course the homelessness Minister is very much focused on this, I can assure you that the government stands prepared to act, and we believe, of course, that  you know we haven’t put $700 million into this area simply to see it fail.  We want to come up with solutions that shift the dial on this, and we are all seeing a representation of homelessness on our streets when we had, fortuitously, one of the few positive outcomes of the COVID process was that we had been able to massively shift the dial.  We have to find ways of locking it in, and as a government we’re committing to doing that. 

Damian Ferrie, VCOSS Board:  Damian from the board of VCOSS.  I know I speak on behalf of all our members, treasurer, in acknowledging the gratitude that the government has showed to our sector that has responded so magnificently over the last couple of years in particular, and we’re grateful for that, and we acknowledge the $90 million in indexation which is in the budget papers.  What VCOSS has been very keen to do with government is to  you know, for the last  forever we have not known from year to year what is the methodology that can guarantee and ensure that we have a methodology that understands at least within the forward estimates  that understands what indexation looks like, what the methodology is around that to give us some certainty to ensure that we can plan in the way that any organisation needs to plan for its future rather than this 12 month, you know, episodic process.  We don’t understand the methodology around the 90 million.  We’re very grateful for it, but we would like to have a commitment that we can work through this in a very systematic, and I guess disciplined way that gives certainty to our members. 

Tim Pallas:  Thanks Damian.  Looks, can I say we’ve made some progress.  It may not be to the full extent of your ambitions in this area.  I think the $90 million that we put aside is about 2.55 per cent to 2.69 per cent, thereabouts, in terms of annualised adjustment.  What we  given the circumstances that we’re in, $17 million worth of deficit in the 21/22 financial year, it’s a pretty substantial demonstration of our priorities that we’re using our balance sheet to assist the community sector, and I know very much that it’s difficult to plan year to year if that’s all you’ve got, but I’ve got to tell you I feel your pain at the moment.  I’ve been doing a bit of year to year planning the way that the economy has been bouncing around quite profoundly, but  so the big outcome in this budget for this sector is essentially four years worth of guaranteed indexation adjustment.  The issue becomes exactly whether or not that is in the longterm an adequate number.  We’re up for a discussion, but it’s a baseline on that conversation.  So we’ll have further discussions with you.  I think the thing that does worry me a little bit is that we also do need to recognise that we have to be prepared to drive efficiency in this sector, if effectively you’re guaranteed of an indexation amount, we’ve got to be assured, therefore, that there is some return effectively in terms of the performance of the industry, and I know that that is not what you want to hear from a treasurer.  It makes me sound very pointy headed, but I am currently oversighting a wages policy as the industrial relations Minister of this state where effectively all I’m guaranteeing is 1.5 per cent of wage adjustments to public servants.  It’s probably a pretty hard number that we’ve put in place, and we’ve done it for a very good reason.  We effectively need to demonstrate that as a government we’re serious about winding back our consistent outlays, and pretty much we’ve locked in almost all of our workforce into those agreements for well the next three or four years. 

So we’re in a position where we’ve been pretty substantial in terms of the insistence on efficiency and winding back our recurrent costs.  All that said, I do accept that this is not an industry that  or an undertaking where the government should be driving efficiency at the expense of welfare.  So I won’t do that.  We’ll use this as a baseline for conversations and we’ll see where it leads us to. 

Sharnelle Vella:  I believe there’s a someone on table 12 that has the mic. 

Sarah Toohey, Community Housing Industry: Hi Sarah Toohey from the Community Housing Industry Association.  There’s one billion dollars in low cost loans and finance to the community…sector in the budget this year which is fantastic, but…don’t allow us to drive rents right down for social housing levels.  With the big housing build expiring in 23/24 it feels unfair to ask you about future budgets, but what is the plan post big housing build to secure a pipeline of social housing in Victoria? 

Tim Pallas:  Yeah, well first of all I think the housing Minister’s got a lot of work on his plate at the moment.  Secondly, I think the one thing this government has very much been focused on is recognising that we can’t just deal with one cohort, one presentation of the problem in the housing market, whether it be the rental market or people getting into their first home, or whether it be a much more substantial social and public housing strategy.  So the $5.3 billion that we put aside for our big housing build is about trying to make a substantial and dramatic intervention in this space. 

Where does that lead us to into the future?  I suppose we are in the process of reviewing our strategies as a consequence of the social housing levy that the government did propose, but the industry reacted adversely to it and looked like they were lining up to run a scare campaign that there was going to be a massive increase in home prices as a consequence.  So we won’t be proceeding with that levy now or at any time in the future, can I be very clear about that, but we will now have to review exactly how we can get to a position where we can have some certainty about funding going forward. 

At the moment, I’m sorry, I can’t give you that certainty, but we are very conscious about the need to provide that certainty going forward.  And I might say the industry, I think, is a little focused on the fact that they had an opportunity for a singular approach right across the board rather than a council by council levy approach, and it was never about increasing the cost for industry.  In fact there was $700 million worth of planning reform that went hand in hand with this package.  So from our perspective we’re going to have to have further engagement with the industry and the community groups that are very much focused on this area to see what constitutes a measure of consensus about where we go into the future.  We haven’t landed it yet because, well, our plans have been somewhat derailed. 

Glen Kruithoff, Quantum Support Services: Thank you, Treasurer.  My name’s Glen from Quantum Support Services.  A pleasure to be here today.  Firstly thank you for your commitment to $75 million for tailored homelessness support and $504 million for your pathway to help chronic homelessness that we heard today.  Seems that it seems the topic today is homelessness across the board.  I think it’s an issue in intersectionality that we deal with on a daily basis that needs a solution.  Specifically thank you again for your examples of the investment you make into regional Victoria.  Specifically is there any of this funding that’s set aside for Gippsland region specifically and to increase the supply of social housing through the big build in that space? 

Tim Pallas:  Well, I think you might be asking me to go a little bit too much into   

Glen Kruithoff:  I thought so, but I thought I would take my chance. 

Tim Pallas:   But look, I’ll have a crack around the broader issues of the government’s investment in regional Victoria.  Well over $5 billion of investment in regional Victoria in this budget.  The way I like to look at it is if you compare our term in office  this is a little unfair because we’ve been in government approaching eight years and the previous government’s four years  we’ve invested five times more in regional Victoria, so 250 per cent on a year by year basis increase in funding to regional Victoria to put it simply. 

Certainly we’re putting funds into aged care facilities in Orbost and Mansfield and I think another three aged care facilities publicly run aged care facilities in the state.  In practical terms around social housing and public housing I think I’ll have to demur to the expertise of the housing Minister, but there is a very substantial contribution.  We’ve made it clear that our aim is to ensure that around 20 to 25 per cent of our investment in public housing and social housing in the big build goes into regional Victoria, and I’m sure Gippsland will get their fair share. 

Sharnelle Vella:  We’ve got questions   

Ryan Sheales, VCOSS:   Good morning, Ryan Sheales from VCOSS.  I have a question from the livestream though and I’ll encourage all those viewers on the livestream to keep the questions coming…this is the first budget with a fully operational Gender Equality Act and the gender responsive budgeting unit in place.  What have you learnt about the importance of a gender lens applied to the Victorian finances and what does the future hold in this space? 

Tim Pallas:  Well look, I think the first thing I would say is quite often you don’t appreciate that the decisions you make in some of the less apparent areas do have a gender impact.  For example, what have I learnt?  I’ve learnt a lot since becoming treasurer in this space, but the one thing that really brought it home to me is your public transport times and priorities.  It has a dramatic effect if all you’re doing is dealing with peak hour services at the expense of nonpeak services because that has an adverse effect upon women principally, who have responsibilities to move around that are not during that nine to five peak, but that’s just one of a multitude.  The construction of, I don’t know, bike sheds at train stations, you wouldn’t have thought  I wouldn’t have thought, it hadn’t even occurred to me  I mean I get on a bike once every year and fall off, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that when you build a bike shed you have to have an exit point, an access and an exit point and a lighting system that automatically deals with people coming in, because women don’t feel safe in them unless there’s that prominent display of the facility so that they can move in and out safely.  So it goes to our infrastructure design as well as the way that we provide services.  I’ve got to say I’m on a rapid learning course here and I think that ultimately the one thing that we are served exceptionally well with is having so many women in our cabinet and in our caucus.  More than 50 per cent of the cabinet of the government are women and slightly less, I think 48/47 per cent of our caucus are women.  But I’ll give you an example of how that helps, just in daytoday conversation when we’re talking about ideas. 

One of our Ministers while we were looking at the COVID restrictions and how you basically isolate during the course of a contact in your household at one point one of our Ministers, as we were moving to the idea that people don’t need necessarily to be isolated and how you isolate younger people, one of our Ministers said well look my son  I think it was her son  got COVID and she basically had to stay at home with him, and she got COVID as a consequence, and she said you don’t really appreciate when you make rules like this you’ve got to understand that mothers can’t not be around a young child who’s not feeling well, and to say that the individual must isolate themselves within the house is meaningless in that context.  So it’s a perspective that I don’t think too many of the men brought to the table. 

Sharnelle Vella:  There’s a question over here on table 9. 

Katherine Ellis, YacVic:  Good morning, Treasurer, Katherine Ellis from YacVic …firstly congratulations and thank you for all the hard work that your government has put in over the last two years to keep Victoria running and bouncing back.  For young people I’m sure you would acknowledge that young people have done it very tough over the last couple of years and have probably made more sacrifices than most in the community in terms of their education, their social connections, their community activities, all kinds of things.  We’re really pleased to see in the budget the investments in the education system which will benefit a lot of young people and some of the other initiatives.  What we did see as a gap, though, is recognition of the fact that there are many young people who are not in the education system because either they’ve dropped out or they have aged out.  You know, young people  we consider up to 25, and a lot of them are really struggling at the moment because of the impacts of COVID, but also the cost of living pressures and we didn’t see a lot in the budget for those young people and for supporting those young people, and we would really like to understand your perspective on investing in community services which is where a lot of those young people turn. 

There’s a lot in the budget in terms of crisis, child protection, mental health, crime prevention, those kind of things.  We’d love to see some more investment upstream in youth work, particularly in rural and regional communities where youth workers fill the gap that is there because services aren’t nearly as accessible as they are in the cities.  But also just generally understanding the importance of youth workers and people who act as youth workers in sports clubs and in school environments and in other places in supporting young people in providing prevention and early intervention services that in the end save a lot of money down the track in crisis services.  I know there’s a youth strategy coming down the pipe.  We’ve been waiting for it for a while.  Really keen to hear some positive words from you today about where this is all heading. 

Tim Pallas:  Yeah, thanks very much.  Gosh there’s a lot in that.  First and foremost I think I would accept the basic proposition that young people have particularly had to endure a difficult time as everybody has tried to pull together and keep the community safe as we develop vaccines and strategies to deal with the onset of COVID as an endemic part of society.  I’ve got to say I don’t say that with any satisfaction at all.  We would have much preferred to have been in a position where eradication could have been a strategy and we could be rid of the virus, but we’re not rid of it and we probably never will be.  It’s going to be part of the ongoing challenges that we as a community confront.  But yes, young people have particularly suffered quite egregiously in this  and they will nonetheless have a very substantial long tail to the sacrifice that they’ve had to make, and that of course goes in part to the debt burden that the state carries. 

In my speech I revisited my favourite ancient Greek proverb which basically says society functions best when old people plant the seed of trees, the shade of which they know they will never rest beneath. That is we function best when we’re making investments in a future that might not be relevant to us, but is relevant for future generations, and certainly that’s entirely what the early intervention investment framework is about.  It’s about trying to find those interventions that we can make, whether it’s around homelessness, whether it’s around avoidance of young people getting caught in the justice system, or many other problems associated with mental health, for example.  The navigator program, which we put some money into in this budget, is about also trying to find ways to better connect young people and keep them connected into the education system going forward, and as a government I think we recognise that the best possible start you can give somebody is to keep them connected in education, but also to recognise that there’s no such thing as a single pathway to a good education.  That’s why we’re getting to the position of trying to do away with the idea of VCAL and VCE and start talking about training for skill, and that’s why I think we do lose a lot of young people.  They don’t see themselves as being necessarily academically proficient and they walk away from the education system per se.  Our head start apprenticeships, which are incorporated within the budget, will mean that every staterun secondary school will be able to offer what is effectively a year 13 for people undertaking apprenticeships.  It’s about making sure that we don’t just provide for young people who are looking for a completion of their VCE year to go into university from there and to get skills.  It’s about keeping connected with young people in education by providing them with a range of opportunities and not seeking to Pigeonhole them and they will them there’s a second class form of education. 

The broader question you asked around, well how do we keep connected through our investment in social services and young people where they interact, whether it be in sporting areas or elsewhere, I think is a point well made, and one of the big troubles  or problems that we’re all confronting at the moment is we are looking like we’ve got a workforce problem in this area.  We just don’t have enough people to deal with the social needs of the community at the moment, whether it be in mental health, whether it be youth engagement or more broadly in broader social welfare concerns.  So the government is, as you would appreciate, making investments in terms of training places to get the skills into the community.  That’s why we put free TAFE in place.  Hopefully that encourages people into these areas of training, but there’s still a lot more to do. 

Sharnelle Vella:  We have time for one more question just here. 

Jenna Chia, Volunteering Victoria:  Thank you.  Jenna Chia here from Volunteering Victoria.  As you’re probably aware volunteers are the foundation of our community sector.  Pre COVID 2.3 million Victorians volunteered contributing $58 billion or more to the economy and with profound benefits on community wellbeing and resilience.  Despite this their contribution is often taken for granted.  Now in this budget there doesn’t appear to be any direct funding to address declining volunteer rates or the systemic issues impacting volunteers.  Can you explain a bit about the government’s intent and plan to support Victoria’s volunteers? 

Tim Pallas:  I think there was a little bit in the budget for keeping people connected into volunteering.  At the risk of being contradicted here I think it was 2 to $3 million, so it’s a relatively small and modest contribution, but we do recognise the value that volunteers make.  We’ve given money to the Vic SES and to the CFA for their continued efforts in terms of volunteerism in the community as well.  Look, we know that society can’t function without volunteers.  I can tell you as a treasurer if I had to pay for the services that are provided by volunteers, well my budgetary problems would be even more profound than the challenges that we confront at the moment.  So they are recognised for their services and I’m happy for my office to take you through directly what is contained in the budget and what our ambitions for the future look like. 

Sharnelle Vella:  We’ll leave it there.  Thank you so much for all of your questions and thank you for taking them, treasurer.  I’ll invite Emma King back up on stage. 

Emma King: Thank you very much.  On behalf of the VCOSS board and members and friends, etc, in the room, treasurer, I want to say a very sincere thank you, and I know at times we’ll have robust conversations around things that we agree or disagree on, but one of the things I really appreciate about our relationship with you and your office is that we can have those and actually look at how we progress forward, and also I think really enormously proud of the collective effort that’s been made, and I would call out in particular the last few years.  It has been incredibly difficult for Victoria and the way that we’ve been able to work together during that time.  I think they’re the things that stand us in good stead for the future.  We have been so excited around announcements in previous budgets around things like the big housing build, the mental health reforms, the family violence reforms etc, so we know there is so much that stands us in good stead as we shift forward. 

So I want to particularly acknowledge the relationship that we have with you, with your office, with the Andrews government, because it is something that we do not take for granted. 

Now in terms of Victoria’s number plates, if you remember, used to have Victoria on the move, and we very much hope that Victoria’s on the move once again as we’re moving post COVID, and as you know VCOSS and the community sector is very focused on wellbeing and we’re on the move, we hope, towards a wellbeing economy. 

As a small gift of thanks today and a reminder of that bold and positive aspiration, and to remind you that VCOSS is always here to work with you, we had some new number plates made up of Victoria, the wellbeing state…we hope that this sets a tone for as we move forward.  We are mindful this has been a budget in an election year and this is what we want to see going forward.  Sincere thank you treasurer. 

Thank you.  We know the Treasurer has another appointment at 9 o’clock and has to head off.  A sincere thank you again to the remember and making the time to come.  We know it’s always that balancing act each budget where different priorities are emphasised, but having the time to ask questions, etc, today has been fantastic and much appreciated. 

Before I hand back to Sharnell I also want to invite Stephen Riley from HESTA up on stage.  HESTA is a very good friend of VCOSS and I think of everyone in this room and for all of those who are listening online today as well.  Events like today would not be possible without the support of HESTA.  It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to Stephen.  Thank you very much Stephen. 

Stephen Reilly: I would like to acknowledge the Treasurer.  It’s a tough gig and someone’s got to do it so well done.  We are particularly proud to be able to acknowledge the work that VCOSS and all of the organisations and people in this room do across the community about the reality that so many of you face into and meet head on every day.  I whereas talking to my wife last night about the work VCOSS does and she reminded me about a quote from the thirties  this is what my wife does  and that she thought might be helpful today.  It goes the map is not the territory.  The map is not the territory.  What does that mean?  Well it’s a comment on the difference between perceptions of reality, representations of reality, and reality.  The map is the picture.  Symbols on paper, squiggly lines which try to describe a landscape.  The territory is the land itself the terrain, the hills, the valleys, the flowers, the beauty.  It’s the crags, the brambles, the cliffs, the homeless, the jobless, the disadvantaged  sorry, I lost my place.  I was on a roll.  But the territory’s the work that Emma King and her team look into every day.  The territory is the strong advocacy and the strengthening of community that the people in this room do every day.  It’s the incredible work that people do to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.  HESTA’s purpose is to invest in and for those people who make the world better…we’re a notforprofit fund created specifically for the health and community services sector.  

So our only goal is to make a real difference to the financial future, to the lives, to the territory, of every one of our members by being a gutsy advocate for them and driving meaningful change for generations to come.  You know in superannuation circles we’re about as gutsy as it gets, but I’m not sure I can hold a candle to some of the gutsy advocates in this room.  You can always rely on VCOSS, and for that matter we have a representative from A cost on our board to have a strong and thoughtful view and strong and gutsy…we are privileged to be a partner here today and honoured to manage the money of anyone here today.  HESTA…challenges like our ageing population, transitioning to a low carbon future and ensuring we value and support our critical health and community and social services so we’re prepared to face future shocks like we’ve seen in the past two years. 

We will continue to join our voices with organisations like VCOSS to push for a more equitable, inclusive and just Australia.  We do so because we know that this will produce a more secure, sustainable financial future for our members and a better world, a better territory, a better reality for them to retire into.  Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today.  HESTA is very proud and honoured to sponsor this event.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the function.  Have a great day. 

Sharnelle Vella:   Thank you very much.  I’ve noticed that the Treasurer has left his books behind.  We might take them.  They’ll be safely returned to the State Government.  We’re here to collect them.  Almost.  Almost.  We are going to jump straight into a panel discussion now if everyone is wired up, I believe they are.  We can look at what the Treasurer said, or perhaps what he didn’t say.  Let me introduce to you leading economist Dr Angela Jackson who is also a board member for Gen Vic and the women in economics network.  And also RMIT Professor David Hayward, another seasoned economic analyst, and of course Emma King.  I’m not going to introduce you, but we can clap her though. 

If we can begin to get some of your reactions to what the Treasurer said today and what you thought of the budget.  We’ll start with Angela. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  Obviously coming out of the pandemic it’s a difficult time and it’s a difficult time for any government to be fashioning budgets in this space…have gone into significant amounts of debt and really now it’s about managing the transition back to normality.  I think for the Victorian Government and for state governments more generally across Australia that transition is made more difficult by, I guess, the health overhang. 

 So we’ve seen obviously the COVID19 pandemic was a health pandemic but we’ve seen coming out of that the demand for services has elevated and trends present before the pandemic where we’ve seen greater demand for services, greater acuity of people seeking services there’s been a hypergrowth in that that and that’s caused a lot of stress.  From the perspective of the sector and social services in particular the risk here is health took up $12 billion yesterday just to keep the motors running.  It’s not even around necessarily an expansion of services it’s just meeting the demand that’s there, and as we look to truly try and invest and drive that growth and really deliver the services that we know can deliver such better outcomes, there is a risk, I think, for the sector that there simply won’t be that money available to keep these investments going.  So for me yesterday was really good.  I think they did a good job of balancing the need to get the budget back on to a sustainable footing post pandemic while still addressing some of those needs.  But the risks really are there going forward, that unless we address particularly the issues around the health sector with the fundamental reform that people have been talking about for a generation now, we are going to see as the population ages, as we see this acuity which in my mind is driven by a number of factors, but I think what we’re seeing really is, you know, 30 years of chronic disease rising across our community leading to, you know, ever increasing increases in not just demand  it really is a lot sicker.  People are getting to hospital, they’re really sick, and much sicker than they have been in the past.  Unless we really reform that and do the prevention piece, you know, this problem is just going to go on and we’re going to see budget after budget meeting the crisis rather than preventing people get to go that point.  David? 

Prof David Hayward:  Thank you.  My microphone fell off before and I’m not sure it’s still working but I think it is.  Thanks very much.  I think it’s important to kind of put the budget in historical context.  Looking back from the late eighties through to the last two or three years there’s been an agenda that was set by the Kennett government back in the early 1990s that made debt and deficits look really bad and talking to the journalists yesterday, certainly the ones who can remember the Ken net era there’s been a big shift…they’re really requiring us to think not just about what the debt is but what the debt is being used for.  So it’s a big shift in the analysis.  They’re saying look the money is being used for investment if it’s not for building or freeways or whatever it is it’s investing in people, in health, to get people back into work to make sure they’ve gotten through a pandemic.  It’s the first time that we’ve been able to connect up funding or financing with what it is that that money is being used to pay for.   

It’s the first time in a generation.  It’s a big shift.  To give you some idea of the magnitude of the shift, for years doing these budget lockups I’ve been totalling up the annual amount that the government allocates for new social initiatives and it’s been sitting at around 800 million, a billion, I think in the last budget before the pandemic it was 1.8…once the pandemic hit the new social initiatives were increased to around about 11 billion, it was a massive increase in that first budget.  I remember I thought this is just unbelievable that they’ve done this.  The year that  this year  this financial year hasn’t finished yesterday.  Now yesterday’s budget added an additional 6 billion to what was already on the table.  It’s taken social  new social initiatives to up to about 21 billion in one financial year.  The numbers are literal by gob smacking, they’re huge.  Next year it will come back down to about 5 billion, but believe me these are the really good times for this sector.  I think to pick up on Angela’s point, what’s happening with state Labor is they’re trying to rethink social spending around investment.  How can you reposition it.  

You heard the Treasurer talk  what I thought was a reasonable attempt to answer your very good question, Jenny, about what’s happening with spending on homeless…how it can be spent to get a return over time and he’s looking for more evidence of that.  That’s what this budget is about, it’s trying to reposition social spending so it’s not  Paul I know you’ve been talking about this, we’ve talked about this before, thinking about social spending as investment not consumption.  How can we reimagine it to make it clear to people that there is a dividend down the track.  It’s a really important inflection point for Victorian politics right now and it’s a game changer.  Whether it works or not we’ll find out in November.  I’ve got my fingers crossed. 

Sharnell Vella:  Emma? 

Emma King:  Thank you.  I think one of the things that struck me  there’s a couple of things that struck me yesterday, I think, sitting with my colleagues in the lockup.  It was around the language, around put patients first.  I thought oh, and it interests me, actually, because one of the Ministers who stood up at the lockup said put people first and I thought I reckon that’s what it should be.  We recognise that because of the pandemic  we are in such unusual times and looking at the pressure that is on a government and I was reflecting last night thinking this is a budget that is a pre election budget.  I think there’s a component of investing in key areas where it’s seen that  where the votes are, so in terms of people want to know if they ring triple zero they’re going to have the services deliver, if they go to hospital they’re going to be able to go to hospital, some really great investments in the education system that I would not want to take away from for a second, including from the early years and the continuation of 3 year old kinder to the secondary reforms, but I think for me what I’m really  I feel like they’re very much focused around that prevention and early intervention.  I think the government has a huge struggle at the moment of how do you deal with demand and tipping point when we also want to see a significant investment in how do we stop people getting at that tipping point.  

It’s tricky in a pandemic because that’s where some people are going to end up.  When I read some of the…feel like people are a long way down the track.  How do we keep a focus on prevention and early intervention because we know those investments often are not seen one budget cycle.  So it felt to me like, you know, it’s a budget for a pre election budget and maybe keeping some of the powder dry around what’s going to come as well. 

Sharnelle Vella:  The State Government could come to you to look at naming number plates and the budget before they put anything out.  It would probably be a good idea.  Can I ask each of you what you thought was missing from the budget, what you were looking for that wasn’t there and we’ll go in the same order if we can, starting with Angela. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  That’s a really good question.  I mean I think it’s fair to say the Victorian Government has had a big agenda over its 8 years and it’s certainly invested a lot.  I think, Emma, you went through from mental health last year to domestic violence.  I think for me really what was missing, and probably this is a difficult thing to criticise them for, was that reform agenda.  So I think it was really around fixing some problems that are evident and that needed to be fixed.  There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s not a criticism, but certainly coming out of the pandemic, and look the Victorian Government, again to be fair, I think the work around the casual workers and the pilot there, they’re trying to do things that the Federal Government is failing to do in this space.  So this is not  I feel like I’m criticising them when really if I’m comparing it to the federal sphere we’re worlds apart.  

But again I think coming back to health funding, where are the reforms?  Yes there’s the hospital in the home and that’s a really important advancement and clearly it delivers high quality lower cost care, but clearly the funding of our hospital system isn’t necessarily sustainable with effectively the Treasurer mentioned case mix funding.  In the Victorian hospital sector we’ve moved back to block funding effectively because case mix isn’t working.  Where is that reform agenda to really drive, I guess, these services being efficient.  I think that’s one of the challenges for the sector as well.  The Treasurer is indicating I’m interested in prevention, but we need to make sure that those investments are cost effective and what are the reforms around that, around the evidence base for doing that, because I think you could hear today from the Treasurer it’s like we’re spending this money but where’s the evidence it’s working.   

It would have been good, I think, with that in mind to spend some money on that as well to provide…economist who would possibly do some of this work, but to provide some of that evidence base so that we could ensure we are investing in those early intervention services that they are working, because it’s not just about spending money, it’s obviously how we’re spending that money too. 

Prof David Hayward:  I think that’s a very good point.  I would agree with that, but to tell you the truth yesterday’s budget massively exceeded my expectations.  I thought there was going to be a lot more tightening because the government has been so very generous during the pandemic.  It’s outspent all of the other states.  It’s really outborrowed all of the other states.  It’s really taken it to a high water mark.  I think your point, Angela, I think for the next term they’re going to have to turn attention to that because I don’t think this is sustainable, this rate of spending, and I think they will be turning their attention much more to questions of efficiency and what the return will be on the investment, but I think you can see in the budget papers an emerging agenda that is looking towards that type of approach.  The other thing that was interesting  and the treasurer picked it up there today  where is the biggest crisis in the workforce?  It’s your workforce.  Right?  You all know it.  The Treasurer named it didn’t he, but he only named it a little bit.  There’s money in the budget to help address that, but that care workforce that’s a catastrophe, and what do we get federally?  What do we see with the leaders federally in particular, but it’s also in particular at the states?  They want to keep wearing hard hats and yellow vests don’t they.  That’s not where we’ve got the crisis.  It’s disability, it’s  actually just on disability, I’ll just give you one of the bug bear of mine  it’s markets in the care economy.  I don’t like them.  They don’t work.  They don’t work in energy and they don’t work in the care economy.  I’ve got a place  we had to get the gutters cleaned…I rang a gutter cleaner, he charged  was going to charge me $1,000.  I said $1,000 to clean my gutter?  He gave me a card.  He looked like a movie star.  I said what’s going on?  He said I do work for the NDIS.  I don’t need to clean your gutters.  I’ve got enough business here, so you want me to clean your gutters  I thought that is absolute outrages because the frontline disability worker won’t be getting that sort of money, but that’s what happens when you create markets in the care economy, the money goes in, off in all directions it shouldn’t do and what happens to the core workforce, we forget about it…I hope that will be a hop reform agenda in the next term, I also hope it will be a top…keep our fingers crossed.  I’m sorry about that.  I get   

Dr Angela Jackson:  I’m going to disagree because I think markets do work, but I think the markets that we have across, yes, disability, aged care, childcare, have been set up incredibly poorly where it isn’t about quality competition and there does need to be wholesale reform, and an increase in wages in the sector.  It’s just completely and utterly clear that we’re not going to be able to meet the future demands and needs of our society unless we increase wages and that comes at a cost.  I think  at least I think the Victorian Government understands that, that the care economy delivers for the entire economy and it is the bedrock by way if that is not strong then the rest of us can’t work and I think the pandemic personally, with an 8 year old and a 10 year old showed that if you care and you can’t work so we have to invest in that care economy going forward.  I think markets can work, but I think we’ve set them up incredibly poorly. 

Prof David Hayward:  Can I just finish with one point. 

Dr Angela Jackson:   I had a feeling we were going to go back. 

Prof David Hayward:   You know one of the fastest growing parts of the Stock Exchange at the moment is investment in care economy infrastructure, so investing in childcare centres.  Not the actual delivery of childcare but the buildings.  The financial review has been running stories on you.  You get a nice little return.  You know what the biggest problem is they can’t get enough workers to staff them to enable them to open them.  Think about it.  All the money leaking out of…delivering hand son returns to investors in property.  It shouldn’t work that way.  The markets don’t work.  But I’ll stop. 

Sharnelle Vella: Do I need to check if there’s a return serve or you’re okay? 

Prof David Hayward:  I’m okay. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Did you want to add anything. 

Emma King: …to add in the what’s missing I think we’ve heard some of that from the questions etc in the room so I won’t repeat them now, but I think it is interesting in terms…the Treasurer alluded to this and we’ve had a number of offices around when we look at our sector more broadly and we look at funding and indexation and contract length, remembering that even the Productivity Commission, which is hardly a left wing unit is recommending contracts of up to seven years.  We know we’re getting them for one year.  All of the pre conditions is that actually impact on what are the wages in our sector, what are the conditions, how do organisations keep their organisations going, how do we attract the best and brightest to want to come and work in the community sector, because as David continues to remind us, this is the fastest growing industry in Victoria and the fastest growing industry in the country so we’ve got to actually make sure that we’re able to deliver on that because if we get those pre conditions right that’s how we deliver for Victorians.  For me there’s significant levers that sit with government and we’ve got a lot of work to do to continue to work on at that front.  I know indexation is a pain point for everyone in this room and there’s a tremendous amount of work that’s been done in the leadin and will continue from this point. 

Sharnelle Vella: Thank you so much.  If I can give our apologies to the people who didn’t get the questions to the Treasurer…we do have roving mics if you do want to ask the panel any questions.  We do have a question down the back if we can go there first. 

Jennifer Webber, Caroline Chisholm Society:  Thank you Jennifer Webber from the Caroline Chisholm Society .my question was going to be to the Minister if he had been here, and it speaks, though, to the issue that you raised about this reform agenda.  What does this look like in terms of cost effectiveness when we’re seeing the crisis even in our universal services.  For instance, we’ve been banging on about this now for 18 months about the crisis in… where we’re seeing a 40 per cent increase in the mothers who are coming to us who are trying to Google about how to feed their babies, what should they be looking for with regard to their developmental milestones, and when you see that in terms of your university service you know have a serious problem.  We know the evidence in the first thousand days specialisation…we still cannot get traction with this government with making those investments which is cost effective.   

You’ve got a cost effective evidencebased approach and yet we still can’t get traction in this area.  What would be your advice, what’s the strategy going forward to get this so we don’t find ourselves still 12 to 18 months down the track with a workforce that simply cannot meet the demand because of the perfect storm that we now have with regard to the retention, the recruitment, the training of a highly specialised workforce compared to our workforce of family services specialists?  Thank you. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Do you want to go first Angela. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  I understand the frustration because I think ultimately  and this is such  there are so many different services and so many different models in terms of what’s across the sector and proving and showing to the treasury that if you invest here you save money there, particularly in a system like Australia where it’s fragmented and where potentially you’re saving money for another section of government and so suddenly noone really cares because it’s not their budget that’s saved and that causes a lot of problems across the health system, across the community sector.  I think and this really is what I think in terms of what would be good in terms of well what is the next reform, is that the treasury makes it much clearer what they want to see and that they have the capability we saw gender responsive budgeting this budget and obviously opening the eyes to the Treasurer and to Ministers that policies affect people differently.  It seems like such a basic thing, but if the analysis isn’t done then it’s very difficult for decision makers to be able to take that into account when they’re making decisions.  But likewise when we’re talking about what does early investment mean, what do you want to see in terms of what the savings are, I think there is that need for really a capability lift within treasury about what does early intervention look like, how do we actually do cost effectiveness analysis, how do we judge these policy proposals in a way that’s systematic and clear to the sector so you know what bar you’re trying to jump, because I think at the moment it can be quite difficult to understand that. 

The issue I guess from a government’s perspective and for the sector is often and the nature of these services is they do need to be different across communities.  So, if we think about Aboriginal controlled organisations, the nature of the way services is delivered there’s a lot of variability.  It’s not a cookie cutter situation and they need to be able to respond to their community.  So we need, I guess, a framework that allows people to easily provide the information and the evidence base that this is working, and we need a government that’s committed to that framework and a treasury, I think, ultimately, as an ex finance officer, that understands the importance of this skill set in their analysis of these policy proposals, because I think at the moment that’s probably the thing that’s missing in terms of that capability within government to do this analysis and to understand and therefore trust it. 

Emma King:  Can I just add in quickly to that, though, for everyone who knows my passion in the early years previously heading up Early Learning Association Australia, one of the things that strikes me is that when we’re advocating for three year old kinder and we were being told we were dreaming, even though the evidence was there, there was Nobel prize winning economists that showed that significant value of the early years, and it was I think that cumulative building of evidence over time, but even with that at the time we were still told we were kind of dreaming and annoying and to go away, etc, and now I watch it being rolled out across the state and I was really excited actually to see in the budget papers yesterday more money, and there’s more money particularly for regions where you’ve got your model but you’ve also got the place based differences and the way that it plays out.  I think for me it’s around continuing to build the model because as you say those first thousand days are so critical in a child, in a person’s life trajectory, and the evidence is for me it’s how we continue to build it and sell it and tell it because it’s such a no-brainer in terms of how we actually change someone’s life, whether it’s their social, health, economic wellbeing.  The evidence is in.  I think I’m really keen to see how we can push this forward because I think it’s understood, it’s just within a really such a competing space, but it’s a good news piece. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Is there another question I believe on this yes, go ahead. 

Peter McNamara, South East Community Links:  Hi, Peter McNamara from South East Community Links. I just want to add on to what you said Emma.  Firstly, thank you Emma for today and what you do.  I’ve got a frustration about the language that’s been used by government.  We talk about the values in this room.  I don’t see the value of our values.  I think the community sector over the last two years in particular has done more than most and while the impact of COVID we’ve all felt and more so the Victorians, those impacts have not been felt equally. 

 So, when I hear a government talk a language of efficiencies, evidence, values, geez we’re the masters of low cost no cost.  We are, and I don’t know what more evidence to Angela and David, what more evidence do we need to show to government?  I mean I get it, we’re in the business of showing outcomes, but you’re squeezing so much out of us.  We’re seeing such disadvantage on the ground.  Not just clients, but our staff.  What more do we have to show?  So, efficiency languages, budget claw backs, evidence, it’s BS.  It is.  What we need more of is advocacy…to show it’s important, because if you can’t support the most vulnerable, we’re stuffed.  They can talk about right now it’s recovery.  That’s BS.  We’re in response still.  We are.   

As much as the media to extents, the politicians want to talk about it, we are truly in response on the ground.  I wanted to say to the Treasurer come on.  Really?  Well done Emma and the team. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Does anyone want to respond? 

Prof David Hayward:  I was hoping for a question on markets and the care question.  No Peter look, of course your comments are well made, and I applaud you for making them and reminding us of that.  I think that from the I think where it’s difficult or tricky…I do want to back up what you’ve said.  I think VCOSS have done a fabulous job over the last five or six years in particular, but for a long period of time, and we’re very fortunate to have Emma and Damian I think, got a terrific board as well but we’ve been well served by that advocacy.  Don’t forget what I said.  You want to see a government that is actually massively increased social spending, you are looking at it, and I know it still seems tough cause it is tough because there’s a lot to be done.  

I think you can accept your point but still accept that a heck of a lot has been put into the system over the last three years in particular.  To an extent I would never have believed possible.  That’s the scale.  It is truly enormous.  That’s what I think is setting us up for a challenge for the next term.  Where do we go from here?  What’s the pitch?  What’s the argument?  It’s like with Sarah, I thought your question was really good, the big housing build…if you were thinking about all the things you would like to achieve now you’ve got it and more.  What’s the next pitch?  What’s the pitch for the next it emails?  It can’t just be a one-year thing. 

I think Sarah your point was long-term, we’ve got to think of a four-year pitch, what are we going to achieve.  I think for the moment we can be pretty pleased that despite some disappointments we’ve achieved far more than we could have thought possible. 

Dr Angela Jackson: I always come to these things with an economic lens, and I sit on the board at Gen Vic and obviously I want equity between men and women because it’s the right thing, yet I spend my time arguing that it’s the best for our economy.  I guess my point would be investing in social services is good for our economy.  It invests in our people, and it lifts the productive capacity.  Now you can choose to engage in that argument and show your evidence and fight that fight, and I think the reason you do that is because it strengthens your arms, and it gets money out of treasure.  Ultimately should we do it any because is it the right thing to house a homeless person?  Of course, it is, but it’s economically…they stop using health services, more likely to work, you address people’s mental health, they’re more likely to be more productive.  It’s good for our economy as well.  I think there is no need for the social sector to not engage in that debate because on the other side there are other people fighting for these resources and this funding and they’re certainly making those arguments.  Often, they’re not as backed by the evidence as for the social sector.  So, it’s about how you frame it and I know that that’s sometimes it feels like particularly for me as a feminist it feels wrong because I feel like I’m just saying we need to lift the productive capacity of our economy let’s go, go, go, when really, I just want my daughter and son to be equal when they grow up.  It’s not about necessarily just the economy, but when the economic arguments are there, you make them because you make your strongest case you can. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Thank you.  I’m going to go to Ryan.  We have a question online for us. 

Ryan Sheales, VCOSS:   Yeah, one from the Slido.  It’s a composite question I might ask…a number of questions that sought to get the Treasurer’s response to some specific cuts in certain areas, so some of the homelessness areas, some references to child protection funding, going down in networks, and a few other things, AO and D as well.  I guess the economic question is can you actually cut services as a way of fiscal repair?  Is that an economically sound approach?  What would be your view on that? 

Dr Angela Jackson:  So, I think look it’s difficult and without going into the specifics, obviously during the pandemic certain areas got a lot of additional funding and so you would expect some normalisation.  So, is that a cut or is it not?  I think, you know, that’s a difficult situation.  I think in terms of investments in homelessness and child welfare, they’re underfunded areas, so even if they did increase during the pandemic they need to stay at that elevated level if not increase further to address those issues, and so are they good economic policy in the long run?  Well no.  I think child protection, my view is one of the great areas that needs significant reform and investment and new perspectives in this country.  We did this, I think, very poorly where we only provide services to those at the absolute crisis end, leaving a lot of children incredibly vulnerable and we know the long-term consequences of that trauma.  

So, you know, as a general reform area that’s a hugely expensive area, but one that needs more focus.  So cutting services is not good from an economic perspective because obviously it reduces the overall  in the sense of would an austerity budget have been a better economic better no because that would have cut off economic growth…we’re talking about it a lot at the moment because interest rates have  it’s sort of money  gone up a quarter of a per cent and we’re talking about 17 per cent interest rates…when Kennett cut back that cut off growth in this state and we saw that the economic recovery from the 1990s recession in Victoria was significantly slower than the rest of the country.  So, austerity lowers economic growth, and the budget ends up in a worse position than if you had spent the money.   

They were right I think yesterday in a general sense to keep the level of funding, as you said, going.  In terms of specific programs, clearly, he seemed a bit uncomfortable with the homelessness question and perhaps there’ll be some revisit on that one would hope. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Thank you.  I think we’ve got a question down the back.  Table 15? 

Danny Schwarz, Play Group Victoria:  Good morning.  Danny Schwarz from Play Group Victoria, just building on the first thousand days.  One of the things I was going to ask the Treasurer didn’t have to do with money, which hopefully would have made him a bit happy, structurally the government’s done amazing things in early childhood, there’s no question about it, three year old kinder is fantastic, really significant, and as the Treasurer would say nation leading maternal child and health structure in place which is fantastic, but the gap between maternal child and health and kinder is significant.  The ages and stages visits stretch out and the participation drops off.  Play group is really important and it uses that universal modern that proportional universal model.   

Most people can and will do things for themselves and where it is they need more…where people need more they’ve given more.  But an unintended consequence at the last election was that funding for play group Victoria, for example, was moved from Department of Education to DHS and now DFFH, and our Minister is Minister Wynn.  I’m not sure that he even knows that we’re in his portfolio.  But to the government’s credit, they appointed Ingrid Stitt as Minister for Early Childhood.  Brilliant.  She will not talk to me because she doesn’t give us any money.  So, my question to the Minister was in terms of advice, how can we get the government to shift from the silo mentality this is not about money, this is about structure so that the 350,000 families that attend play group every week, the Minister for early childhood is engaged with them in some way.  That was going to be my question…. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Any advice as to how you get the government’s attention? 

Prof David Hayward:  I think some of it is to the issue about the status order been the budget.  It’s interesting because I’m a strong supporter of the care economy as a concept, but it’s interesting talking to early childhood educators who go we don’t like to be thought of in that sector because it’s too low status.  We want to be thought of as education because education is about investment.  I think that means those of us who think care is about investment as much as education we’ve gone a long way to go to get a reimagining about what care work is.  It doesn’t really matter in a sense whether you’re in education or care you get treated with the respect that you deserve to receive from the work that’s done.  There’s generally a low recognition of the skilled work that’s undertaken in the care sector.  I think it’s not so in education.  I think people generally recognise that, the skill that’s involved.  So, I think that’s the message for me from that very good question.  It’s about how do we continue to elevate that understanding of care.  You see it at the moment.  You know you look at the debates happening federally with the 25 per cent pay rise claim going on for aged care workers.  Everybody is saying it’s skilled work, and it is incredibly skilled work, it’s just not recognised as skilled work.  We think anyone can do that…if they won’t do it, we’ll get migrants in.  There’s a job for us to do over the next four or five years to lift complexity and understanding involved in the work we all do.  That would be my answer back to you. 

Emma King:  The other thing I would add is I reckon, and I know we’ve had this conversation before and we’ve posed it to different Ministers at different forums, we see this issue across different areas.  So even to draw a different example, across energy…great job in the energy portfolio, but we’ve got some sections that sit over in DFFH and we’ve seen at times that rub where we’ve been in conversations with Treasury around what are you going to do around a… it’s not at the top of the list for the Minister even though it might be for another Minister.  For me there’s almost that part and I’m interested in the narrative piece going forward and how we start to work through what are silos within government.  So, for each Minister what’s the top things they’re pitching into that ERC process so what gets up and what doesn’t and what is forgotten.  For me I feel so passionately around play groups being seen as part of that early childhood piece because it is.  I think we’ve just got to keep working on that and keep out how we get cut through. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Table 15 now I believe. 

Tiffany, VicSRC:  Hi I’m Tiffany from VicSRC, as a young person, quoting the Treasurer, I’m very interested in the education section of this budget.  We as an organisation are very happy to see investments being put into schools and especially specialist schools and reducing the teaching hours for teachers, but most of these investments and initiatives seemed to be aimed at benefiting future students.  As an organisation we’ve declared a mental health crisis for students due to the remote learning that we’ve been enduring for the past two years.  I guess my question to the Treasurer, or now to you was, how can the government and what can the government do to improve or help the wellbeing and mental health of students now?  Like me? 

Emma King: I just feel this really personally actually in terms of having kids my eldest daughter did year 11 and 12 she’s just in first year uni this year and my youngest is in year 10, so in terms of thinking around the mental health impacts and just to draw a personal story I ran into a mum I hadn’t seen for ages…she saw me…she started crying.  Her daughter is a superstar on the netball court, really great kid and she’s now not able to get out of bed and go to school.  

I just think there’s a part as you say for students right now I don’t have the answer to your question.  I wish I did.  I feel very motivated in terms of how do we get that, but the reality of kids being isolated at home in their bedrooms, and we know for people, whether they be in overcrowded houses or whatever their circumstances were, it’s really, really hard and we owe it to our young people about what do we do now and one of the things we’re arguing around is a youth guarantee he in terms of making sure for every young person within three months of them leaving school that they’re signed up, in effect, across community.  Wherever you go you’re guaranteed a place in education, in skills or in work because we think that there’s a generation of people who have missed out.   

That’s one of the things that VCOSS is advocating for is a youth guarantee on that front, but I think your point goes more broadly and that is around the services, if you like, or the support that has to be there to actually support our young people and say that they matter, because having kids that can’t get out of bed anymore and can’t function, that’s  we’re only going to deal with them at the crisis end of our system or try and help them now?  Sorry, that’s a really personal response to your question but I feel it very keenly. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  I think, again, and we talked about missed opportunities and perhaps this is another space where we know coming out of the pandemic and again with young kids who are probably suffering high levels of anxiety that certainly than they have going into the pandemic and you can see it more broadly that mental health for our young people is a huge issue, I think what we learnt when we closed schools was how important they are to our community, and while more teachers is good,…within our schools that are taking teachers away from teaching, because they are having to deal with these other issues that their children in their class are dealing with, and so it would have been good I think in this budget, as well as seeing additional teachers, to see more of that support staff at schools and at public schools in particular because private schools are better resourced, generally have it, so that we can see schools more as that central base within a community and for…where we need to be investing going forward, and again based on the evidence that providing that support within schools is really important, but it’s not just about teaching.  Schools just are not an education, they are you know, they are much, much more than that for our children and I think the pandemic showed us that in spades. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Does anyone else have any questions from the floor?  Yes.  Go ahead. 

Joshua Lourensz, Catholic Social Services: Thanks.  Thanks very much for VCOSS for putting this on.  My question to the panel, I’m Joshua Lourensz from Catholic social services Victoria, we recently released some research tracking the pandemic over the last 18 months.  We’ve still seen sort of a  I guess there a tripling…I guess within this I guess my question is how do we maintain a focus on those people who are being left out and left behind which I think Peter made the point we’re absolutely in response mode.  We have triple the number of…triple the people on jobs seeker…don’t want to be negative, but it’s really triple the amount of people we’re seeing.  Another part of the research we’re seeing is that within the  like the changing cohort that social services across Victoria are seeing, so we’re seeing the people who are in that crisis end that so many of our services have to focus on, but I guess the  this new emerging group of people who are caught in that tripling number of insecure work or who have casual jobs and we’re having to support them as well, how do we keep those things front and centre in mind in terms of…I think that’s a really good program, we have some good positives, job advocate program that was launched in the last couple of years, but how do we keep pressure on with these kind of things going forward even as crisis response etc kind to occupy so much of our workforce mind. 

Emma King: …I’ll answer with…I think some of the work you’ve been doing…for those of you who don’t know VCOSS is running a listening tour, we’re calling it voices of Victoria around the state.  We’re working in conjunction with neighbourhood houses Victoria, and we’ve gone…across the state to listen to local communities about how are you going.  One of the things that strikes me is irrespective of where we go the key themes remain the same…things like the digital divide, things like food relief and watching going to Peter’s point earlier…engaged with food relief before the pandemic, they have signs around food relief and people are coming in because they need food.  It’s pretty basic.   

We’re watching community we’re getting a mix of people, so you’re getting a mix of people who are in crisis.  I’m thinking  one day I was in literally the tin shed…where is the neighbourhood house and that  like the people in that community were doing it really, really hard, but I just think the themes around  some broader themes around things like loneliness  irrespective of where we go, food relief, cost of housing, cost of fuel, issues around the internet, internet divide, the cost of devices, being able to have access in the first place, good luck with showing a certificate if you don’t have a smart phone and plenty of people have been caught without one.  Loneliness has been a significant one irrespective of what people’s background is.   

We’re collecting those things, we’re doing some online sessions, particularly for people with disability today…women’s voices have come through very strongly.  I’ve forgotten the name, one of the team would remind me, there’s a group of I’m looking at Libby because she knows the name – we’re working with them.  What we’re doing is collecting the work, listening intentionally to communities so that we can frame that up in a report that helps actually shape the narrative around this is what people want to see.  So, in our advocacy around a wellbeing agenda, we’re saying one of the things that keeps coming up is the disconnect between people and government.  We want to bridge that disconnect.   

Obviously, we would bridge that disconnect in working with all of you as awe members and a number of you have been undertaking reports etc as well.  We want to bring them together so it’s a really compelling case to government around this is what people care about and think and that to try and bridge that disconnect, but for us it’s about the broader wellbeing agenda.  I wanted to talk about that because that’s key work that VCOSS has underway. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  I’ll just say I think it is a really important issue to raise and to have more data, and I say this…more understanding of because when I’m looking at the data at the moment and we saw the employment figures, what I’m seeing is actually they’re all  the whole growth has been people who…in Australia and the premise probably is they’re people whose visa status has changed…we haven’t seen new people into work and what that means is for those who were already disadvantaged they’re facing  they haven’t necessarily got a job, they’re facing rising cost of living pressures, rising mental pressures, impact of the mental health issues from the pandemic so  and going to your point, the disadvantage has intensified for that group.  They haven’t necessarily benefited from the economic recovery.  Now the problem is getting that through and trying to get that story through, the overall picture which is unemployment…gets go to party, going to your point, the real story is probably a lot of people aren’t doing that well and haven’t benefitted from this economic recovery and are actually doing a lot tougher…it’s not getting to the granular level about how people   

Prof David Hayward:  Just my take on that very good question is I think with the sector is in a remarkably strong position to get that really excellent research, get it into VCOSS which has become very effective at packaging up as an appealing proposition to governments to fund, so I think the system is working pretty well and that’s how I would see it would be a great way for us moving forward to find ways of keeping that  it’s almost like a…research coming forward to then work on a budget pitch to address it, because you’re at the advanced stage of understanding something and I think that’s tremendous.  I think that’s a strong mark of improvement for the way the sector operates. It’s interesting that VCOSS is now?  Such a strong position…we’re in a good position…. 

Ryan Sheales, VCOSS:  The honour of the last question of the morning goes to anonymous…this person asks are we ever going to see stamp duty reform and a shift to fairer and more predictable land taxes for instance, if not now then when? 

Prof David Hayward:  Look I’ll kick that off.  I tried to persuade the Treasurer to look at this eight years ago and I wasn’t successful and I’m not sure I ever will be.  The problem is with stamp duties is it’s really great…over the last 12 months the reason why the budget is looking…what’s going to happen over the next 12 months it goes into reverse, to prices are tipped into the budget by 4 per cent, turnover…it’s very difficult to find an alternative to that tax that works.  The ACT has tried, New South Wales has tried, and they haven’t succeeded yet.  We’ve had the Commonwealth helping towards that very big shift it’s going to take a while for that to happen, but I think does there need to be reform?  Yes, there does.  Just one final thing from me.  One thing we forget about this government has been good to being prepared to introduce new taxes.  The mental health levy was a remarkable thing for a State Government to do.  Nobody does that.  They did that.  They’ve put all the money coming in towards mental health reform that’s locked in now.  That’s not going to be taken away.  I think that the land tax stamp duty tax thing is something hopefully with a change of Federal Government may be possible to come back and look at to make the state’s tax base better and fairer.  At the moment it’s regressive and far too volatile. 

Dr Angela Jackson:  I accord with that.  Unless it’s part of a national housing strategy or policy which clearly, we desperately need in this country that looks at the whole tax system for housing and also looks at the funding of housing and how we see housing not as a wealth generator but actually as providing people a place to live, then we won’t get that reform.  I think in New South Wales it’s just it’s simply too expensive in the short-term for the state governments to fiscally carry without support from the Federal Government.  So, unless it’s a national reform agenda, anonymous, it won’t happen.  So, I think for me it would be hopefully a new Labor government does a sorry a national housing strategy that really looks at, unlike the parliamentary inquiry report, which was a travesty of evidence, actually looks at solving this problem, I don’t think it will happen, but hopefully as part of that it will because it is so much more efficient.  It’s so frustrating that we have this tax system and this tax base that’s just so incredibly inefficient and just adds to that inefficiency in housing which adds to the unaffordability of housing.  Anyway, fingers crossed. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Emma I might ask if you can outline how we can stay across the VCOSS budget response. 

Emma King:  Absolutely.  We’ll be finishing our key analyses by 5 o’clock on Friday.  We’re posting updates online.  We’ve done the headline updates now, but we do a deeper dive into each of those areas.  Keep an eye on our website and you can see up there on the Vic budget 22 that we’ll be keeping you informed.  So, we do that deeper dive into each area partly for a few reasons.  Sometimes there’s some really great announcements that you don’t spot, not the big-ticket items on budget day, as well as where there’s cuts taken away that aren’t easy to spot…the VCOSS fabulous team is at work pulling that together at breakneck speed.  We’ll have it up there and please do keep an eye on it.  Our goal is to have the full analysis up by the end of the day on Friday. 

Prof David Hayward:  Emma, where do we get the number plates? 

Emma King:  Do you know we had I’ll let Ryan tell the story later we had trouble getting in in to print them.  They thought we were printing dodgy number plates.  That’s another story   

Ryan Sheales:  I went through three number plate manufacturers…said can you make this number plate for me, and they all thought I wanted to rob a bank or something…no, we’re going to give it to the Treasurer, and I sounded even more dodgy.  We found a way. 

Sharnelle Vella:  Give a round of applause to our panellists.  Thank you so much. 

Emma King:  Quick thank you to everyone if that is alright. 

Sharnelle Vella:   Of course.  This is VCOSS. 

Emma King:   If I can, sincerely thanking the panellists, Angela and David, we are so grateful actually we’ve got something else to go with that as well.  We have so grateful to you both for making the time available to be here today.  That economic insight and analysis is so critical, and I think also providing some different perspectives for us to think through as well, good difference…David also does training with members as well.  We’re very lucky and grateful as well.  Please join with me in thanking David and Angela.  And Sharnell we are in awe of the incredible work you do, and we are very fortunate as a state to have a Victorian political reporter of your calibre who asks those sharp and incisive questions and also with the good humour with which you do.  I think we all stood in awe of your Twitter account during the pandemic, and you also brought us great joy in amongst everything else that was happening let alone I feel like I know your dogs   

Sharnelle Vella:  You do.  People know my health issues from Twitter.  I was all out there.  It was a real-time but thank you very much. 

Emma King:   Your generosity in being here today, honestly, we’re so appreciative and please accept our very sincere thank you.  Please join with me in thank Sharnelle. 

Aboriginal flag, Torres Strait Islander flag, and the rainbow 'Pride' flag (including black and brown stripes at the top).

VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country. We pay respect to Elders both past and present, and to emerging leaders. This event is taking place on the sovereign, unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.