Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Questions without notice

State Electricity Commission

Michaela SETTLE, Mary-Anne THOMAS

State Electricity Commission

Michaela SETTLE (Eureka) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Health, representing the Minister for Regional Development. Minister, the history of the SEC is embedded in regional Victoria. How will the creation of the SEC support regional Victorians?

Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (14:50): Can I thank the member for Eureka for her question. It was a great honour to serve in this government as Minister for Regional Development and to be one of the many, many Labor MPs that represent regional Victoria. Indeed it was fantastic at the recent election to see yet another member for regional Victoria join our ranks, and that of course is the member for Ripon. As the member for Eureka knows, the SEC has touched so many families across rural and regional Victoria and is and has been a much-loved institution – indeed definitely in the Latrobe Valley, but I have got a bit more to say about that in my response. I want to say this: I know that all members of the house, each and every one of you, heard a lot about the SEC on pre-poll, and I am sure those on the other side might regret how popular it was. We on this side of the house look forward to delivering on our commitment to the people of Victoria to put the power back in the hands of the people, where it belongs.

This is great, but I want to talk particularly about the impact for regional Victoria, and in doing so I want to share a story from my own family. I have talked about the way in which the SEC touched so many people. My brother was a trainee distribution officer with the SEC quite some time ago, and that was seen for young men predominantly at that time as a great career pathway for a school leaver. Can I tell you that during his time as a trainee distribution officer he had the opportunity to work in Tallangatta, Myrtleford, Kyneton, Sunbury – where is my good friend; there he is – Hamilton and Wangaratta. So he had the opportunity to work right across rural Victoria until Jeff Kennett, who cruelly sold off the SEC, abandoned the people of the Latrobe Valley and the very many young people right across Victoria who had chosen this career pathway. All the young people who had chosen –

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume her seat.

Mary-Anne THOMAS: this career pathway were cut off at the knees by the former Kennett government.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume her seat! I think everyone is deaf in here today.

Peter Walsh: On a point of order, Speaker, on the issue of relevance, the minister keeps pointing to the member for Gippsland South as being the Latrobe Valley. Could I remind the minister that it is actually the member for Morwell, who is sitting behind me, who is the member for that area.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! If members are going to raise a point of order, make it a point of order. That is not a point of order.

Mary-Anne THOMAS: Thank you very much, Speaker. As I was saying, the SEC has played such an important, vital role in rural and regional Victoria, and it will do so again, and it will do so under the Andrews Labor government. Indeed the people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley will benefit from our government’s investments in re-establishing the SEC in the Latrobe Valley, where the power of this state has always come from. We are putting in $20 million to support and prepare the SEC to establish its new home in Morwell. This is an initiative that we are very proud to be working on. I congratulate the Minister for the State Electricity Commission on the delivery of this really once-in-a-century reform that could only ever be delivered by a Labor government. We look forward to the many career opportunities, job opportunities, that will be there for young people in rural and regional Victoria. All those offices I mentioned before – will I list them all again? I will not, but let me just say, right across rural and regional Victoria the previous Liberal government, led by Jeff Kennett, closed every single one of those offices and cut short –

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, this is not an opportunity to debate the question. At nearly 6 minutes in, this is just getting ridiculous. This is embarrassing from the Leader of the House. It is embarrassing from the Leader of the House.

The SPEAKER: Order! I would ask members to keep their points of order succinct. The minister to continue. She is being relevant.

Mary-Anne THOMAS: Thank you very much, Speaker. I will conclude by saying that the people of Victoria look forward to our government delivering on its commitments, as it always does, with power back to the people, led by our fantastic minister for the SEC and our Andrews Labor government.