Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Business of the house




Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (15:19): What an honour it is to stand here today as the Leader of the House of the third-term Andrews Labor government and to advise the house that we are hitting the ground running with a great agenda and indeed a full program of business.

The SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask the Leader of the House to move the government business motion.

Mary-Anne THOMAS: 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 5 pm on 9 February 2023:

Building and Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022.

As I said, in the excitement of getting back here in 2023 and delivering a legislative program and a government business program here in this house, as you noted, Speaker, a few of us may have forgotten some of the forms that we use in the house over the summer break, but we intend to get on with a very busy business program.

As noted, we will be debating both the Building and Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 and the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022. These two bills build on our agenda of the last term in government and extend our work improving the efficiency of Victoria’s building and planning systems as well as ensuring that we protect both the wellbeing and the life, indeed, of racegoers and horses as a consequence of unauthorised access to racetracks here in Victoria, and I know that members in the house will look forward to making a contribution to that debate.

The other matter of course that we gather together for at this time is to hear the inaugural speeches of so many of our new members. I know that those of us that have been in this place now for some time reflect on the significance of that moment and the trepidation that is quite normal to feel, everyone. But once you have got up and you have made your speech, you will be up in your seat regularly, and we look forward to hearing all of your contributions from all sides of the house. Indeed I know that other members would join me in saying how we appreciate it when all members listen to our inaugural speeches too and cheer one another on in what can be quite an intimidating environment on a day that is so special to so many members and indeed for their families.

We will also be shortly having a debate on the sessional orders, and as indicated by my earlier motion – and I thank the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Brighton, for granting leave on that motion – it is our intention now, after two parliamentary sessions, to look to make some more permanent changes to the standing orders, reflecting of course that here in Victoria we want to be a modern Parliament, one that better represents the people that we exist here to serve. In doing so, it is really important that we stay attuned to changes to people’s expectations and that we work to deliver working hours that ensure that particularly those with parental responsibilities are able to fully participate in not only everything here in Parliament but also their lives and to be there with their children, something that I am sure everyone will agree was denied to so many previous members of Parliament. And one would also obviously observe that in previous times most of those members of Parliament were blokes – no surprises there – so we will be having that debate. It is all about ensuring the smooth operation of our Parliament and ensuring that we maximise the participation of all members and indeed that we have an efficient Parliament as well. I am sure when we go to that debate later we will hear a little bit about some of the inefficiencies that may have occurred under previous standing orders that saw people sitting until very late in the evening.

Once again, it is great to be here in the first sitting week of 2023, the third term of the Andrews Labor government, to have a really terrific government business program to be able to present to the house. I look forward to joining colleagues in listening to the inaugural speeches, perhaps a shorter question time over the next couple of days – who knows, we will see how we go – and of course debating bills on Thursday before we head back to our electorates, where so much of our really important work happens.

James NEWBURY (Brighton) (15:25): I would like to start on a point of unity and concur with the comments from the Leader of the House. It is so incredibly awing as you walk into this place, as you walk into the building and the surrounds, and you know that your community has elected you and offered you the incredible privilege to represent your community in this place. And as you walk in you meet and see the wonderful staff in this place; they are the first thing you see as you come into this building. You interact with the incredible staff. I know that it is something the new members have spoken to me about, and I remember myself coming in as a new member, meeting the staff as they greet you on the way in and as you work through your position in this place, the various departments and areas, the advice they give you, or as you come across people who look after the offices and look after the corridors of this building. When the chamber sleeps, when the Parliament is not sitting, they are here, and it was incredible not only to walk into this building but also to reconnect with those parliamentary staff members who have been here over summer making sure this place works and making sure that our offices, for those that have been privileged enough to return, are ready. These things do not just happen, and I put on record our thanks to the staff of this place.

But also to meet the new members of this place and talk to them about their perspectives on both sides of the chamber, all sides of the chamber, their communities’ wants and wishes – it is an incredible honour to talk to the new members about that. As the Leader of the House said, we will have the great privilege of hearing their first thoughts, their first contributions in this place, and I would certainly encourage all of this place and my colleagues especially to come in and listen to the new members of all parties, to hear their perspective, the perspective of their community, because it is a humbling privilege. I remember very, very well, as I stood up in the back corner and gave my first speech, the honour of talking about the wants and wishes of my community in this place.

I also would like to note the comments and speak to the motion moved by the Leader of the House in relation to standing orders and adopting sessional orders. I know that we will have a more substantive debate later in the afternoon, but it is true that we need to look at the standing orders and sessional orders of this place and say, ‘Could we do it better? Could we represent the communities better in the way that this house operates? Are there ways that we can do things differently, that we can modernise, while keeping the traditions of this great place? Can we do that?’ I welcome the government’s moving for an inquiry into these issues. I think it is important for this place to consider, and I think it is important to consider some of the findings of some of the committees over time on how this house operates. I know there have been some wonderful suggestions put by committees that have not been picked up. They would enable this place to connect better with the community and allow greater debate and opportunities for different types of debate, and you need only look at parliaments around Australia to see the other ways that you can do things.

So I finish where I started by saying that we welcome the opportunity for new members to deliver their inaugural speeches and to hear what they have to say on behalf of those communities, and the opposition will not be opposing the government business program.

Sarah CONNOLLY (Laverton) (15:29): It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise to speak for really the first time in 2023 and speak on the government business program. Before I start I do want to say to you, Deputy Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure to see you in that chair and be able to refer to you not just as Acting Speaker in the last term of Parliament but now as Deputy Speaker. Congratulations to you.

I think it is pretty clear that this is a really new Parliament. There are so many new faces in this chamber and in the other place. I feel like there is a bit of a buzz and a hum that happens in the first sitting weeks of the first term of a brand new Parliament, the 60th Parliament. Usually that hum and energy that is happening is from a lot of new colleagues, new MPs, on this side of the house and on the other side of the house who are nervously awaiting the moment that they are invited to deliver their inaugural speech. I am very much looking forward to hearing inaugural speeches here this week. It is a really important part of discovering who a new colleague really is, regardless of what side of the house they are sitting on, but also getting to know colleagues who are part of your own party and getting to know why they decided to run, what they stand for and a bit about their background and their history.

I know it is a time when people who have been here for a while are sitting and listening intently as newbies talk about the trials and tribulations and sometimes the tragedies, loss and triumph that really have made them a whole person as they begin to talk about their life and what led them to run for the Victorian state Parliament. I know it can be a time for tears. There can be lots of laughs, and it will be great to listen to some of those this week. I do want to wish all of the new members, particularly those making their inaugural speeches and delivering them this week, the best of luck. As I tell my children and I tell kids at school when they have to get up and do public speaking and are unsure what to say: when in doubt, just breathe out. I think it is a good one to remember. So for any of those newbies listening on the screen: when in doubt, breathe out.

As part of the new Andrews Labor government and the 60th Victorian Parliament, we are not wasting a day. It is an absolute honour to be re-elected as the government of the day, and we are going to just get on and deliver all the wonderful things that we promised as part of the 2022 election. I have no doubt that this term of government will see, again, a very ambitious, meaty legislative agenda full of legislative reform to go ahead and make Victoria a much more equitable, fairer society for all Victorians.

Of course we are kicking off by debating two bills this week. They were introduced in this place at the end of last year. The Building and Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 – I am going to be speaking on that. I am very much looking forward to having that debate. People in my electorate are consistently talking to me about issues around building and planning, and I love making those contributions. We are also going to be debating the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022. Having recently spoken to the Minister for Racing, I know he is indeed very excited about the bill being debated here in the house this week.

I would also like to acknowledge that we have just heard the condolence motion for the Honourable John Landy, former Governor of Victoria. I join my parliamentary colleagues in paying my respects to Mr Landy and his family. I know they will miss him very much and so will all Victorians. He leaves behind a wonderful legacy as that champion athlete we heard so many contributions refer to today and as Governor for this great state. Indeed as the member for Eildon pointed out – and it stuck with me because my father was a milkman and used to deliver milk to people’s homes many years ago – I am sure the milkman that John followed or ran with as he did the milk run would have been absolutely honoured. I know my father would have loved the company of someone like John at 3 o’clock in the morning when he delivered milk to people’s homes.

This is a great first government business program as we kick off a really big year for 2023. I wholeheartedly commend the program to this house.

Roma BRITNELL (South-West Coast) (15:34:454:): I too am pleased to rise to talk on the business program today, this being probably the first time I have spoken in the 60th Parliament – I actually cannot remember the 20th of December last year – and certainly in 2023. There is always a lot to do in the Parliament. There are always unintended consequences when bills get shaken up so they are a better fit for today’s world or when there are new things that we have to address. It is very pleasing to be here to be able to start that program for the 60th Parliament. I do take this opportunity to say welcome back to everyone who is here again and welcome to everyone who is new. It is a great honour to represent our communities and one that is certainly not lost on me. After three elections now, I am back here to represent my community in the role of being their voice – their strong voice – so that people understand the value that we contribute to Victoria from south-west Victoria, in our people and our production. It is just a great part of the world.

It is a very busy program this week with many inaugural speeches, which are a wonderful part of the program because we do get to know our colleagues and understand their values, their intent and what they would like to see occur for their electorates. I look forward to that and wish them well with their inaugural speeches.

There are also two bills that will be debated this week in the Parliament. These are two bills that actually lapsed in the 59th Parliament and have been reintroduced in the 60th Parliament. One of those bills is the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022, which I look forward to speaking on, given that racing is a huge part of my electorate’s history and given that in the next few weeks we will be celebrating in Warrnambool the 150th year of the Warrnambool Racing Club. I look forward to talking on that bill and expressing the importance of racing to my part of the world. There is also the Building and Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which again was one of the bills that lapsed in the 59th Parliament. I am sure there will be lots of points that will be made, because this is an area which does cause many people grief and it is very important that we get these things right.

It is a pity that we only have 16 weeks of sitting over the next 12 months on the sitting calendar, because that is why we see bills lapse – with the Parliament not finishing those of the 59th before the 60th. We could sit some more, and it does seem a bit of a shame that there are only 16 sittings. I think there were 17 last year, and there were lots of comments in the media around how that was not as many as there had been in the past. There seem to be less and less sitting weeks. Maybe the government thinks they do not need to have debate in the Parliament. Maybe they think they do not need for us to go back and consult with our constituents, like I do in South-West Coast. Maybe we will see more of what we saw in the last Parliament, which was no opportunity, because often we were not given time to actually consult properly. It is something I hope we will see less of, and I urge the government to be more transparent with our opportunity to debate.

That brings into my memory the fact that during the last Parliament we had to beg for consideration in detail to take place. In fact up until about the third year I think we had only been into consideration in detail once. Finally, towards the end of the four-year term we got a second bill where we were able to go into consideration in detail. It is so important that this chamber uses the opportunity to debate and thoroughly engage in understanding what the consequences will be of legislation. So I urge the government to take the opportunity to be very transparent, far more than I have seen in the seven years to date, and please – please – let us go to consideration in detail when we need the opportunity to do so to make sure, with the legislation that we are bringing in for the community to have to embrace and take on and live with, that we do not get unintended consequences that we do not want simply because we could not really debate it effectively.

I look forward to a Parliament over the next four years that is inclusive and considerate. I sincerely hope that during the debate this afternoon, if it takes place, we set some changes to the sessional orders that will see more understanding of the way our current community operates and how we can find ways to be able to consult with them more effectively. I welcome the opportunity for us to have an inquiry into doing that, and I look forward to today’s debate.

Darren CHEESEMAN (South Barwon) (15:39): Thank you, Deputy Speaker. It is fantastic to see you in the chair today, and I wish you congratulations on becoming the Deputy Speaker. It is a hard-earned honour, and I look forward to working with you in that capacity.

Today’s government business program, in my view, has really five significant components. The first was some fantastic condolence speeches earlier today for John Landy, a magnificent Victorian who contributed in so many different ways to the state of Victoria. I must say that often condolence motions bring the very, very best out of the Parliament of Victoria, and I certainly very much enjoyed every one of those contributions as we grieved for our loss – the loss of John Landy to the state of Victoria and of course to his loved ones.

We also, as one of the first sitting weeks of this Parliament, have that great opportunity to hear so many inaugural speeches delivered by people across this chamber and indeed in the other chamber as well. I certainly find those inaugural speeches a real insight into the individual and their story and their journey to this place. It certainly is a great way for them to put their stake in the ground about their values and what helped shape their values and their journey to this place, and I certainly look forward to hearing some of those fantastic contributions from those individuals as we all come together and listen to their inaugural speech, and of course the new energy that new members inevitably bring to the Parliament.

We also have that opportunity to contribute to the sessional orders, and we saw the motion moved just a little while ago by the Leader of the House in this chamber. I think in so many ways our standing orders do need reform. That is why we have used that instrument of establishing sessional orders to make sure that we do have family-friendly arrangements in this chamber to enable people to be able to get back home and to make sure that we have hours of work that are safe so that people can safely go about their work and can safely then drive home to wherever they may live. Importantly, this chamber through the course of this week will debate two bills. I think they are important bills, particularly for regional Victorians, and I look forward to listening to, I hope, many great contributions from across the chamber on those bills, and I look forward to those bills passing this place indeed later on this week as we move through and debate these important bills. I very much look forward to hearing everyone’s contribution through the course of the week, and I commend the government business program to this chamber.

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (15:43): Congratulations, Deputy Speaker.

It is good to rise to speak for a brief moment on the government business program as we come into the serious business of the term, having got the official proceedings out of the way and the swearings in and everything done on 20 December last year. This elected government, now with a massive majority again, comes in with two bills that go –

Sorry, Hansard, you probably cannot really quote that, but there is not exactly a dynamic, reformist zeal coming up in the things that are on the agenda this week for the government.

Mary-Anne Thomas: That’s not fair.

Danny O’BRIEN: That is pretty fair, I think, Leader of the House. I mean you have plucked out the Racing Amendment (Unauthorised Access) Bill 2022, which was actually one that lapsed last term. It is good bill, and I look forward to debate on it. We have got the Building and Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which has a number of aspects to it. But neither of those are going to set the world on fire. Sometimes these sorts of things show what the government is going to be. They have come in and they have said, ‘These are all the wonderful things we’re going to do for Victorians.’ They bring a couple of things back from last term, and the biggest policy we have heard about today has been a policy from the 1920s. We are bringing back the State Electricity Commission – the 1920s. I remember hearing during the election campaign, when it was launched, that it was launched to a song called Sing It Back from 1998. So we have got songs from the 1990s and we have got policies from the 1920s that this government is bringing, and they are trying to say that they are reformist and bringing us forward.

Mary-Anne Thomas interjected.

Danny O’BRIEN: Oh, I am cheery. I am very cheery. The Nats have done very well over here. The Nats are very excited to be here. As the member for South Barwon said, I am looking forward to inaugural speeches because there are going to be some rippers this afternoon. I strongly encourage people to hang around. We have just heard a very good inaugural speech from Gaelle Broad in the other place. I was glad I could duck over and see that, and I thank the member for South-West Coast for stepping in for a moment so I could hear Gaelle’s speech. It was very good.

We have got the member for Kew coming up shortly, but I am particularly interested to hear from the member for Shepparton – tomorrow we have got the member for Euroa, who has replaced a former Nat, and the Nationals member for Shepparton – and particularly the Nationals member for Morwell. Morwell did not get a mention in all the debate about the SEC during question time, maybe because they realised that the member for Morwell was sitting on this side, not that side. So, the area that knew the SEC best did not buy the government’s SEC policy. I am very much looking forward to a blue-collar plumber from Morwell giving his inaugural speech shortly. I have got to say there is a little bit of personal interest there. I have known Marty Cameron, the member for Morwell, for a long time – since I was a little boy. He was a footy player, but he was also a plumber. He understands the trades, he understands the real world.

A member: Hello, excuse me, sparkie here.

Danny O’BRIEN: Yes, but he comes straight from the tools: Marty just got out of his hi-vis, put a suit on and walked in, literally about an hour ago. I am really looking forward to that because, as I said, I have known the member for Morwell for a long time. Member for Eastern Victoria in the other place Ms Bath and I were very focused on the Morwell campaign. Indeed, there was a photo of us when we got back here together after the election – there was a photo of the member for Morwell doing a little media conference and the member for Eastern Victoria on one side behind him and then me on the other side. We looked like doting parents; we were that excited to have the member for Morwell here. I am genuinely looking forward to his speech and those of the Nationals member for Shepparton and the Nationals member for Euroa. We have already had the Nationals member for Mildura’s, which was a ripper. Wasn’t that a great victory too?

But anyway, I digress. Those inaugural speeches – jokes aside – are important. I say to all members, to government members, to the member for Richmond, who has not done hers yet, I do not think, and to all the Nationals and Liberals as well: it is a very big privilege to be in this place, so when you get up and give that inaugural speech and you tell us a bit about yourself and a bit about your electorate, remember it, savour it, bring it out every couple of years and have a read of it to think what it was like before you got into politics. I look forward to those inaugural speeches, and I look forward to the business program going ahead this week.

Motion agreed to.