Matter of Public Importance-VICTORIA’S BIG BUILD

FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:34): It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the matter of public importance today. It is incredibly important for the people of Victoria. I noticed the member for Ferntree Gully did start his contribution by saying that this is not the most important thing in the state at the moment, but that does not mean it is not important. You can walk and chew gum at the same time. Obviously this world, this country and this state are going through a pandemic, and we have a plethora of people working their tails off to keep us safe. I will not go too far on that, because that is another speech. I actually thought the member for Ferntree Gully might have brought the wrong one for the first 2 minutes, but he did come back to it.


This government believes in the future of our state, and we understand that infrastructure is a big part of that and it is an expensive part of that. You can see that by sequential budgets where we have had incredibly large investments in infrastructure, and when I talk to people in my patch about this government and the things we have done as a government—including me in the last two years and the rest of my colleagues for the four years before that—the one thing that comes back over and over again is, ‘You’re doing a lot of work’. As the member for Cranbourne rightly said, there is a lot of high-vis going on, and this builds confidence. This builds confidence for people that we are going in the right direction, and confidence is very important. Obviously the last 12 months have shaken confidence. A worldwide pandemic shakes confidence. So continuing with the Big Build and continuing with the belief in Victoria’s recovery and rebuilding is confidence, and yes, we are doing that at the same time as we are dealing with the pandemic.


I think back to December 1981 and a special train service that took passengers on the first journey around Melbourne’s city circle, the city loop. Although only Museum station, which is now called Melbourne Central, of course—mind you I still call it Museum station, but I am sure, Deputy Speaker, you are way too young to think that it would be called anything like that—was the only operational station at that time, it was heralded as the beginning of a new era and changing the way people travelled around the CBD. Even though I was in, I think, year 7 at the time, I knew all about the city loop. It was a big deal. I remember in my later years travelling around the stations for the first time. We all take it for granted now, but it was a big deal then and it was belief from, I think it was Premier Cain of the day, that got all that rolling. It was another Labor build. Now nearly four decades later we are in the middle of the Metro Tunnel being dug, which is going to be a massive boost for this state, but we do not stop there.


Obviously around my patch in the east we have got the Suburban Rail Loop, for which we are gearing up for construction and works have been beginning. Now, there are some who say, ‘It’s not real, it’s never coming’—you know, the naysayers. Look, I am happy to prove you wrong. Watch this space, okay?


Ms Britnell interjected.


Mr FREGON: Good. I am glad that the member is going to watch this space, because we will prove you wrong. As the Premier has said, we will not finish that project. That project will take a long time, but we will get it started. My challenge to the opposition is: get on board, because not backing it would be at your peril.


We are Australia’s fastest-growing city, and a project such as the Suburban Rail Loop, and the investment it attracts, gives a unique opportunity to plan for services, amenity and infrastructure Melbourne will need outside the CBD to maintain its reputation as one of the world’s most livable cities. I think there was an article—I cannot remember the paper now; you could go and check Facebook, but apparently that is not there anymore—about how we will be getting an influx of people investing in property at the moment because of the way this country has dealt with the pandemic, amongst other things. So we are still a growing city. We will be a growing city as we get over this pandemic as vaccinations go through.


The rail loop does more than just get people from Cheltenham to Box Hill in its first phase, because what it does is also make other transport options available for those that do not even live inside that corridor. I am lucky; in the seat of Mount Waverley we are smack bang in the middle of it. It is a very exciting thing for us, but the member for Ferntree Gully also said he does not see how it benefits his people in Ferntree Gully. Well, I grew up in Ferntree Gully, as he well knows. I can tell him. If I went to Monash Uni—or Deakin, as I did go to—and I lived in the gully, I could have gotten on a train at Boronia or Baysie or Ferntree Gully and I could have gotten off at Box Hill and swapped, and then I would end up at Deakin or I could go to Monash. In phase 2, when we go from Box Hill around towards the airport, then my sister, who spent four, five years driving from Ferntree Gully to La Trobe every day, could get on at the same stations, at Baysie or Boronia, change at Box Hill and get off at La Trobe. That is four years of one person not being on the roads. That is what we are providing not for me and not for my sister, that is what we are providing for my kids and the next generation.


And yes, it is going to take time to build, and it is going to take a lot of money to build. But just like the city loop back in 1981, not until it is there will everyone understand the benefits of it, and then 30, 40 years later we will all be taking it for granted. So we have the arguments now, and in 30, 40 years all of the arguments will be forgotten; it will be a part of Melbourne that is just taken for granted, like the London Underground or Tokyo or any of the other grown-up cities in the world that have underground suburban networks that marry with their others. $2.2 billion is a lot of money, but that is what we are putting into the initial and early works of stage 1 of this project in the state budget. This is a huge boost for every area along the road, but as I said, it will also lay this starting step for the rest of greater Melbourne.


I am running out of time and I have not even gotten past the first page of my notes, because I get a bit passionate about the old rail loop, but I also want to quickly talk about our level crossings. As I have said before in this house, the Mount Waverley district does not have level crossings; we have had sky rail at Blackburn Road and Huntingdale Road since 1964, and I do not think we have ever complained about it. But what we do benefit from is all of the other level crossing removals, especially the one in Clayton. I relay this story time and time again to people, but I spoke to the CEO of Monash hospital about 18 months ago or so. I said, ‘Look, the level crossing removals, obviously people like them. What does it mean for you?’, and his short answer was, ‘Well, Matt, we’re not delivering babies in ambulances anymore’.


And so all of this infrastructure, whether it be Suburban Rail Loop, level crossings, the North East Link—if you are in my part of town and you have ever tried to get to Faulkner, it is actually quicker for me in Mount Waverley to go all the way to the Western Ring Road and turn back than it is to go up the back way through Camberwell and maybe up Sydney Road; the North East Link, another fantastic project, will completely change that—these projects will set this state up for decades to come, and just like our investments in early childhood and education and health and everything else we do, it is an investment in the people of Victoria. It is not just us and it is not just my kids, but it is theirs as well.