Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Business of the house




Ms BLANDTHORN (Pascoe Vale—Leader of the House, Minister for Planning) (12:14): I move:

That, under standing order 94(2), the orders of the day, government business, relating to the following bills be considered and completed by 7.00 pm on Wednesday, 21 September 2022:

Disability Amendment Bill 2022

Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022.

I am very pleased to be able to speak this morning in relation to the final government business program of this Parliament in what is our final sitting before the Parliament expires. We certainly look forward as a government to finishing this term on a strong note with these important bills that we have for discussion and, I note, consideration today. I have noted here that last sitting week my use of the word ‘consider’ seemed to cause some consternation in terms of what exactly ‘consideration’ means. My team have looked very carefully at this and tell me that it does indeed mean ‘to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision’ and ‘to look attentively at something’, so I do think that ‘consider’ and ‘consideration’ are the appropriate terms when we look at today’s government business program.

I do hope that those opposite take the time to consider the bills that we have before us. The Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022 seeks to discourage unauthorised entry to a racetrack area during the running of horseraces at Victorian racecourses. It is a particularly important bill in terms of the protection and safety of both people and animals. In recent years there have been several instances of spectators running onto the tracks at race meetings in Victoria as well as in other states and in New Zealand. In Victoria incidents have occurred at Cranbourne, Moonee Valley and Penshurst. While the frequency of these incidents is relatively low, the potential for serious consequences is very high, so this is a particularly important bill in terms of our paramount obligation to both the welfare of people at the racetrack and the welfare of the animals at the racetrack.

We also have the Disability Amendment Bill 2022. This bill ensures that disability legislation is contemporary and that it is fit for purpose. The bill will bring about critical reforms that will improve the delivery of disability services across our state and enhance safeguards for Victorians living with a disability. The bill is one of the key outcomes of the Disability Act 2006 review, which has been underway since 2018. It is a priority government reform aimed at ensuring our legislative frameworks are fit for purpose, that they are contemporary, that they are meaningful and that first and foremost they go to the protection of human dignity.

It is also not lost on all of us, I am sure, that this is the final sitting week for this term. I think it is important to note that we will have another opportunity, by leave, as the Manager of Opposition Business and I have discussed, to provide some thankyous at the start of the adjournment debate tomorrow evening. But I just would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker for your contributions over the past few weeks and certainly in your previous roles over the past few years. Can I also acknowledge the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services for his service to this Parliament as Speaker as well. To our whip, who has worked tirelessly with me over the past four weeks while we have both been in these respective roles, I am very grateful to you and to your assistant for the work that you do. I acknowledge the clerks of the Parliament, including Andrew Young in the other place, who is obviously retiring. I know personally Andrew’s commitment to the Parliament, and the wise counsel and advice that he provides to many of us will indeed be missed. His contribution to this place has been huge and I am sure will in some other ways continue. I put my appreciation of Andrew and his team in the other place on the record, and also of our own Clerk of this house, who will become the first female Clerk of the Parliaments, which is a massive achievement and one that should be duly recognised after so long in this place.

There are many other people that I am sure both the Manager of Opposition Business and I will have an opportunity to thank tomorrow evening. To all the parliamentary staff, the security staff, the hospitality staff and the cleaners, particularly during what has been a very difficult Parliament—the issues that this Parliament had to deal with, particularly in a security sense but also in terms of managing staffing and other matters across the last few years mean it has certainly been a difficult time. As always, to the clerks of the Parliament as well as the staff of the Parliament—from those working in here with us to those who help keep us secure—it has certainly been a big effort all round. Their efforts, their time and their contribution to the work that we all do here is very greatly appreciated. I know I look forward, like the Manager of Opposition Business, to providing a more fulsome thankyou tomorrow evening.

Ms STALEY (Ripon) (12:20): I rise to speak on the government business program motion in the name of the Leader of the House. I can advise the house that on this occasion we will not be opposing this program. The Leader of the House has just noted that there are two bills on the government business program today, including the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022, which the Leader of the House described as a ‘particularly important bill’. It prevents unauthorised entry of people that could compromise the safety of people and horses at racing meets. Then also there is the Disability Amendment Bill 2022, which the Leader of the House has described as part of the ‘critical reforms’ in the disability sector, and it is a key outcome of the review of the Disability Act 2006. She notes that this is a ‘priority government reform’.

The reason I have quoted the Leader of the House on these remarks is because of course none of these bills, even though they will go to the guillotine tomorrow at 7 o’clock, will be passed by the Council in this term, and therefore if these bills are in fact as important as the Leader of the House has suggested, one would have thought the government would have brought them forward earlier so that they would have had an opportunity to go to the Council and then become law.

Of course the government could choose to sit the Council. I believe we would strongly support the Council sitting further into October, and it would give an opportunity for debate on these bills, which the Leader of the House has just suggested are important, using words like ‘critical’ and ‘priority government reform’.

Mr Walsh interjected.

Ms STALEY: It would have, as the Leader of The Nationals has just reminded me, also provided an opportunity for the tabling of annual reports which the government is once again seeking to hide from Victorians.

We will not be putting up very many speakers on these bills. There will not actually be very much time to debate them given that we have a large number of valedictory statements being given today and tomorrow. I would like to particularly mention that the members for Narracan, Mornington and Euroa will be giving valedictory statements from our side of the chamber. Having served with them over my time in this place—they have been here either as long or longer—I have enjoyed their company and all of their contributions. I am sure their valedictories will reflect the service they have given to their communities and the Parliament. For the sake of completeness, I should also note that the members for Hastings and Kew are also retiring at this coming election.

The final thing I just wanted to mention in this last government business program debate goes to the issue of the motion that the member for Shepparton attempts to move, I attempt to move and the Greens attempt to move every sitting week. Leave is always denied. I really do believe that when we come back after the election, whatever the make-up of this chamber is, we do need to look at our standing orders and our sessional orders, and we certainly need to do so in relation to opportunities for general business. We must, I believe, think about whether the MPI—the matter of public importance—and the grievance debate are still fit for purpose and whether they would be better replaced by an opportunity for non-government business or general business. I think there are also opportunities to put our current sitting arrangements—that is, going on the adjournment at 7.00 pm and then 5.00 pm on a Thursday—into the standing orders rather than having them constantly put through as sessional orders. So I would hope that in the new Parliament these things become a priority. I certainly will continue to push for these to be changes to our standing orders so that we can be a modern Parliament that fully represents the voices of all those that are elected to this Parliament.

Ms SETTLE (Buninyong) (12:25): I rise to speak on the government business program in this final week of the 59th Parliament of Victoria, and I would like to take a moment to acknowledge this moment with thanks and gratitude. As my first term in government comes to a close, I would like to personally thank the wonderful support staff in this place. As Government Whip, and on behalf of all of my colleagues, I would like to thank the clerks for their guidance and all of their support. Thank you to the Hansard team and the Speaker’s staff. This has been an extraordinary term by anyone’s measure, and each and every parliamentary staff member has shown great resilience and flexibility in helping to guide us through these unprecedented times.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the retirement of Andrew Young. As Clerk of the Parliaments Andrew has been the steady hand that has guided this place through both happy and turbulent times. As a member of a government which has made equal representation a reality, I am very pleased to congratulate Bridget Noonan on her pending appointment, which will see her become the first female Clerk of the Parliaments. Thank you to all of you who contribute to the smooth running of this place, including the catering staff, the cleaners and security staff, gardeners and reception staff.

I would also like to acknowledge the Opposition Whip for his collegiate approach to our duties. To all of those opposite, I thank you for the robust debates. I am proud of the agenda that this government has prosecuted throughout this term and continues to prosecute to this very day with important bills such as the Disability Amendment Bill 2022 and the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022.

Some of the more poignant moments of this week will belong to the valedictory speeches. Our retiring former ministers have left an extraordinary legacy and have shown so much support and encouragement to those that follow. Thank you to all retiring members for your contributions to our great state of Victoria. Today and every day I proudly support the government business program.

Mr McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (12:27): I rise to make a few brief comments on the business program for the last sitting week of the 59th Parliament. Like most Victorians, I am looking forward to the end of the financial mismanagement.

With the passing of the Queen, this is not a usual week for us, but nonetheless it is an important opportunity to get different issues on the record for local MPs. We have the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022, and racing is a massive economic driver in Victoria. We also have the Disability Amendment Bill 2022 in relation to an extremely important sector in the Victorian community for families and communities, and of course we have the valedictories. I am well aware that the Nationals member for Euroa, who has been an absolute game changer, a ray of sunshine and a workhorse for her community, will be doing her valedictory this week. She has certainly highlighted the needs of her community while juggling young children with a parliamentary workload. We wish her well in whatever comes next. I would also like to acknowledge the former Nationals Whip, the member for Gippsland South, who counted the numbers very well, and we thank him for his fine work over the term of the Parliament until I took over. Certainly his skills as a minister in the 60th Parliament will be well received.

I would also like to thank the parliamentary staff who keep the wheels turning to keep this place going. We do appreciate the work that they do. With those brief comments, you know we are not opposing the business program.

Mr FOWLES (Burwood) (12:28): If the member for Euroa is the ray of sunshine, then I am pretty sure that the member for Ovens Valley is the cloudy day.

This government business program reflects the fact that this is the last sitting week of the 59th Parliament, and it is important that we take the opportunity to recognise the long and distinguished service of a great many members in this place. It is a very, very long list indeed, not one I am going to attempt to do from memory, but it is terrific that we are giving that opportunity to all of those retiring members. I will say to them in aggregate that we thank them for the service, whichever side of the aisle they come from. It has been my experience in this place over the life of this Parliament that the overwhelming majority of members, again from both sides of the aisle, are hardworking people who are trying to do good things for their communities. Some miss the mark a bit, but that is perhaps commentary for another day.

It is a great honour all of us have to serve in this place. Whether you have served for one term, as one of the valedictorians has, or you have served for five or six—I think it is—terms, we all know what sacrifices are required to be able to make that contribution to the life of this state. I want to thank all of them, and I am grateful that this government business program of course gives them all the room, the time and the space to be able to make their final comments as members of the 59th Parliament. In relation to the bills, they are important bills, despite the game-playing suggestions by the Manager of Opposition Business in her valedictory speech.

Mr McCurdy interjected.

Mr FOWLES: No, it is not. Make no mistake about that. No siree. It certainly is not. I think there are sweatier members than me in this place at the minute, do not worry about that. Without further ado, I think it is a very solid government business program. We look forward to getting those bills debated over the course of the week and spending some time in reflection as well.

Mr ROWSWELL (Sandringham) (12:31): I rise also to address the government business program for this week, the final sitting week of the 59th Parliament. In doing so, Speaker, I would like to thank you and your predecessor for your management of this chamber and for all you do out of hours and behind the scenes to keep this place moving and to represent it well. I would like to thank the newly elected Deputy Speaker as well. To the clerks, the attendants, those in Hansard and those in the broadcast team, often working early in the morning and late at night not just in this chamber but during committee hearings right across the state as well: thank you for all you do. Thank you to the catering staff; the security team; those who diligently and so very well clean this place, especially during these couple of years of the pandemic; those who keep the gardens looking just so wonderful; those who maintain this Parliament; and also the committee staff. I think it is important to acknowledge them. As a first-term MP, it has been a great learning opportunity for me as well. I am grateful to the committee staff for helping me and guiding me through what has been my first term.

I acknowledge the former Liberal Whip in this place, the member for Benambra, for the work he did in that role before me. I acknowledge the former Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Rowville, and the current Manager of Opposition Business, my colleague the member for Ripon. I acknowledge the member for Buninyong, who so wonderfully gave me the kiss of death, so I thought I would return the favour. The member for Buninyong should consider popping this on a DL flyer and distributing it in her community. I am grateful for the work that I have undertaken with her to make sure this place runs as a smoothly as it possibly can, frankly. I acknowledge her predecessor, the member for South Barwon, and the Deputy Government Whip, the member for Mount Waverley.

I also acknowledge my colleagues on this side, who will be delivering their valedictory speeches later today: the member for Euroa, the member for Narracan and the member for Mornington. The member for Hastings and the member for Kew will not be delivering valedictory speeches, but their time and their contributions in this place must also, in my view, be acknowledged and remembered. I also note the member for Broadmeadows, who is in the chamber, will be delivering a valedictory later on today. I acknowledge him and encourage him not to waste his 15-minute opportunity to get on the record everything that is true and good and right, and I am sure he will not. I acknowledge The Nationals whips—the member for Gippsland South, who I first worked with, and the member for Ovens Valley, who I work with now; the Greens whips—the member for Melbourne, who I worked with previously, and the member for Brunswick, who I work with now.

I think that it is important at this point, in the final sitting week of the 59th Parliament, to remember that we all come here with a duty, a responsibility—a happy responsibility—and a happy obligation to do our very best for the communities that we represent that send us here to do work on their behalf. I trust that for the remainder of this Parliament, for the next eight weeks, and into the next Parliament, for those who put their hand up for elected office that continues to guide them and inspire them, to motivate and sustain them. May that be our guiding principle for the remainder of this Parliament and into the next.

Motion agreed to.