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My Opinion Pieces

Herald Sun: We're way behind Sydney and the gap in increasing

   Friday, 2 October 2015

Herald Sun 2 October 2015

VICTORIA'S economy is beginning to be afflicted by the chaos that constantly distracts the Andrews Government.

Victoria has lost 7800 full-time jobs since Labor took office. Our natural rival, New South Wales, has resurgent confidence and a strong balance sheet. A recent CommSec report ranked it as the nation's best-performing economy.

NSW has a Premier in Mike Baird with the will and the knowledge to drive growth. What we have in Victoria is a Premier who is anti-business and derides hardworking small business men and women as "those business types".

Let's be frank, our Premier hasn't worked outside politics and has little idea how the real economy works. His Government has been beset since May by internal divisions, distractions and factional infighting. Whether it is today's Grand Final eve holiday absurdity, transport strikes, outrageous costs on our construction sites, or no pipeline of infrastructure projects, Andrews appears to lack the leadership and knowledge to generate confidence in our economy.

Everyone knows, from Collins St to the local milk bar, that today's public holiday is illogical and perfidious to the interests of our state. The regulatory impact statement by my former employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, estimated the cost to the local economy to be about $850 million.

Yet the Premier's answer was: "There are some people who don't like any holidays and they don't like any penalty rates and if that's their view they ought to have the courage to come out and say it and stop using an election commitment we made in good faith as a stalking horse for a broader commentary that perhaps some of them are a bit afraid to run." Andrews constantly overplays his hand. We all like holidays, they are a necessary aspect of a productive economy, and we all need time with our families and loved ones. But business has been quite clear - we do not need further impediments to growth.

It is always dangerous before elections for politicians to make jobs pledges. Daniel Andrews promised 100,000 new full-time jobs within two years. Nine months in and he is miles behind where he needs to be to meet that goal.

He's cancelled the 3700 jobs that would have resulted from the East West Link stage one and his two signature projects, the Metro Rail tunnel and Western/West Gate Distributor are unfunded and still in the preparatory stages.

Let's look at what's happening north of us. Mike Baird is building the 33km WestConnex road corridor creating 10,000 jobs and the 9km NorthConnex tunnel creating 8700 jobs. He is also building the 36km Sydney Metro Northwest rail link and the 12km CBD and South East Light rail.

Before the NSW state election, Baird promised 150,000 jobs would be created in four years. Jobs have surged in NSW by 67,400 since he was re-elected. It's a bit of a difference to Melbourne, isn't it?

In the construction sector, Labor does nothing to combat CFMEU militancy and the resulting increase in construction costs. A recent Deloitte-Access Economics report showed construction workers such as "unionised carpenters are earning on average of $141,224 a year, while unskilled labourers are earning $130,859". It also showed that "Victorian construction workers have been given 27 per cent more than average workers in pay rises over the past 15 years".

While the Government dithered, we had our first public transport strikes in decades, further eroding confidence and our reputation as a can-do, 21st century economy. The industrial action by the RTBU was a humiliation for the Government, which saw an ALP-affiliated, Socialist Left faction-aligned union, hold our city to ransom.

This weekend marks 23 years since the election of the Kennett government, which inherited a broken economy from the last Leftwing Labor government. Kennett and his team restored pride and confidence, particularly in the economy. That didn't change much under subsequent governments of both colours - until now.

It's time for the Andrews Government to get working for all of us - not taking more days off.