Mr NORTHE (Morwell) (10:25): I rise to speak on the Report on the 2019–20 Budget Estimates of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) and particularly on the hearing on 13 June in relation to the Minister for Ambulance Services. I wish to initially just pick up some points that the minister raised in her contribution to the committee, where she said:
The 2019–20 … budget provides $108.8 million over four years with a specific focus on additional paramedic resources across rural and regional Victoria, fully funding our election commitment.
I, firstly, take the opportunity to acknowledge the fantastic work that our paramedics do. I can certainly speak on behalf of my community, where we have some amazing paramedics who do an incredible job. Their dedication, commitment and skill are absolutely amazing. Knowing many of them as friends, I know that they are there to serve our community, and they do that with aplomb.
In the transcript the minister also said that new and additional paramedic resources will be deployed in a number of areas. One of those mentioned that is of interest to me is Churchill. Now this is an interesting comment, because Churchill actually does not have an ambulance station as such. It is certainly a community that is serviced by neighbouring stations, whether that be in Morwell, Traralgon or Moe, but in terms of the minister’s contribution at PAEC, and noting Churchill, it is unknown at this stage what actual services or resources will be provided to Churchill, what those additional resources are or if they have been implemented. That is certainly something we would like the minister to take up further.
The minister also in her contribution talks about capital investment. I wish to turn to the commitment by the government, and indeed the minister and previous ministers, about ambulance station upgrades within my community. If you go back and have a look at the 2017–18 Public Accounts and Estimates Committee presentation by the then Minister for Ambulance Services, it notes on a very good graph that a number of ambulance stations in my region were due to receive upgrades. It actually says ‘funded ambulance station upgrades’. Moe and Warragul were due for those upgrades in 2016–17, and Traralgon and Morwell in 2015–16.
I congratulate the government because the Traralgon ambulance station has been built, but the Morwell ambulance station, which was committed to in PAEC back in 2015–16, still sits idle. I have an article from the Latrobe Valley Express of 22 October 2018—12 months ago—under the headline ‘Sign points to station’. This article says:
The state government has chosen an empty paddock in English Street, Morwell, as the site for a new ambulance station to be built by the end of next year.
There is actually a photo from 12 months ago, a big sign saying, ‘your new Morwell ambulance branch—opening 2019’. But the reality is this site is still vacant. The sign has been removed. Residents have expressed some concern about the locality of the site. The facts are that we have no information as a community as to what is happening with this Morwell ambulance station now. As I said, the site is still vacant, the sign has been removed, and we really need some information from the minister in regard to that.
As I said, the minister notes in her testimony at PAEC that new and additional paramedic services are due for Churchill. We really need to understand what that actually means, given they do not have an ambulance station. In terms of the capital investment I congratulate the government for building the new Traralgon ambulance station, but we really need to know what is happening with the Morwell and Moe ambulance stations which were committed to as far back as 2015–16.