Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Address to Parliament

Governor’s speech


Address to Parliament

Governor’s speech


Debate resumed.

Nick STAIKOS (Bentleigh) (14:51): It is a pleasure to continue my address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech. I have been privileged over the last eight years to have been a member of this house, since the time that the Andrews government was elected. It does give you cause, upon the election for a third term, to reflect on the first term. The first term was all about kicking off the Big Build level crossing removals, and my electorate was certainly a significant early beneficiary of the level crossing removal program. Now 110 level crossings are to be removed – I think 67 have been removed so far – but there is also the Metro Tunnel, which is going to transform Melbourne. It was also about that historic Royal Commission into Family Violence, and the government has just announced that we have now implemented each and every single one of those recommendations. It was also a time when we – again in an Australian first – legislated nurse-to-patient ratios. It was because this side of the house genuinely cares about the public health system. It was also a time when – at least at that time – we achieved the best possible ambulance response times on record, following a war on our paramedics that was declared by the former Liberal government.

We then of course moved on to the second term, and a lot happened in the second term as well. We continued the Big Build by commencing the Suburban Rail Loop, the Big Housing Build and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. But what the second term will be remembered for is the pandemic. At this point I want to thank each and every one of Victoria’s healthcare workers, who provided the ballast that held our state up during this period, and we are still going through the pandemic. I have spoken to many nurses from my electorate; lots and lots of nurses live in my electorate. Certainly in the first year of the pandemic nurses would tell me that they were frightened by what was to come; by the second year of the pandemic they expressed how burnt out they were. Every day we need to thank our nurses for really doing the heavy lifting during this difficult period – and our doctors too. I want to give a shout-out to my Aunty Dora, a doctor with Monash Health but who in 2020 spent a year at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. While during that time some people were aggrieved that they could not attend certain events like the grand prix, at that time my aunty was treating COVID patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Sometimes it is easy to forget that it was during that exact same period of time that places around the world like New York, for instance, were using refrigerated trucks as morgues as the body count built up. We seem to forget that this was a global pandemic. This was and continues to be a virus that killed millions upon millions of people throughout the world.

I think the pandemic really did call upon leaders and politicians to bring out the best of politics, and certainly the pandemic demonstrated the best and the worst of politics. Certainly the best of politics really is being prepared to work with other governments of a different political hue to get through this pandemic. It is about listening to actual experts, not self-appointed experts – and we have encountered many self-appointed experts over the last few years. The best of politics during a pandemic is being prepared to front up every day and explain the decisions that are being made and communicating with the public. As the Premier said on election night, the best of politics is being prepared to do what is right, not always doing what is popular, and it is fair to say we did not always see the best of politics.

What we saw from those opposite I think was in many ways the worst of politics, and sometimes I would sit in this place in disbelief at what was going on. What got the other side out of bed each and every day during the pandemic was how they could undermine the public health response to the pandemic. That was very clear during that last term. Every announcement and every decision that was being made with the benefit of expert advice during that time, because it was made by a Labor government, they were going to oppose, they were going to undermine. They behaved differently to every other opposition in this country at the time. Other oppositions worked constructively with those who were in power – not this lot. When the population was vaccinated for the most part, when a lot of our restrictions were eased off, suddenly the opposition changed tack and pretended to care about the public health system. The same party that closed hospitals – they have closed more hospitals than they have actually opened in government, this mob – the same mob who sacked thousands of nurses when they had the chance, the same mob who continuously, consistently undermined the public health message suddenly wanted Victorians to believe that they cared about the public health system. Well, nobody believed them. That is the reality: nobody believed them.

I think they reached peak Trump in this place when we were debating the pandemic legislation here in this house – and I remember it well – in 2021. It was really a difficult time in this Parliament. Protesters surrounded the building, some of them wheeled out gallows and waved nooses around outside on the front steps of Parliament, and those opposite fraternised with those people as though the people who assembled out the front of this Parliament were mainstream Victoria. Well, they were not mainstream Victoria, and this party is no longer a mainstream political party. They demonstrated that very clearly at the last election, and that is why in this third-term government they are in such low numbers.

But I said before that they reached peak Trump, and there is something very concerning taking place in our politics in this state. Standing on pre-poll during this last election, like all of us, I would stand there handing out our how-to-vote cards for 11 days straight and would be listening to Liberal Party candidates and volunteers. As they hand out the how-to-vote card they recite a slogan, usually something like ‘Sack Dan’ or ‘Fix the health system’, but at one point toward the end of the pre-poll period I heard the words from a Liberal volunteer to a voter, ‘Lock him up’. Where have we heard that before? We have heard that before because Trumpism unfortunately has started to infect that side of politics. I raise that today because it is something that we have to nip in the bud. Earlier today the member for South-West Coast, who I sometimes agree with, said something that I absolutely agree with in her address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech. She said that we are really lucky to live in a country with a strong democracy and we should do everything we can to preserve it. I absolutely believe everything the member said in that regard, but unfortunately we have seen such behaviour over the last few years that has done the exact opposite.

It is important also in the time that I have got left to reflect on the role that the media played in the last election, and in doing so reflect on social media, which really does mean that everyone has a platform. It can be used for good and bad, but it also makes it easy to propagate things that are untrue, and in many cases conspiracy theories. We have seen where blatant lies can be presented as the truth, especially if they are repeated often enough, and the pandemic compounded this problem because it gave conspiracy theorists and figures on the hard right more material to work with. For the most part the mainstream media ignored these conspiracy theorists, but I think we do need to talk a bit about the Herald Sun. I do not think anyone could claim that it is unbiased. Many of us on the left side of politics used to say about the Herald Sun, ‘Well, look, it’s right-wing propaganda. It doesn’t change a vote’, and I think even they have accepted that they do not influence elections anymore. If they did, we would not have won in 2014, 2018 and 2022. But what they do now in many ways is far worse, and during this campaign I was sickened when I saw some of the front pages, where they actually reached into the darkest corners of the internet and tried to legitimise some very, very sick conspiracy theories – the sorts of conspiracy theories that you would find in the same parts of the internet as conspiracy theories about the Port Arthur massacre. This is what we are talking about. These are the sorts of crazy ideas that were put out there and were legitimised by something that was meant to be one of the biggest newspapers in the country.

I raise all of this because there was a time when both sides used to be grateful that our politics was not the politics of America, but I tell you what, we are on a slow march to American politics, and it really is up to politicians from both sides of the aisle, but also up to the media, to ensure that we do not get there, and I hope that we do not.

I also just want to briefly talk about a few of the important things that we committed to in the Bentleigh electorate during this campaign: rebuilding Cheltenham Secondary College, rebuilding McKinnon Secondary College, a new oval for Ormond Primary School and completely rebuilding the sports pavilion at Mackie Road Reserve. I am proud of our record of achievement in the Bentleigh electorate over the last eight years, and I am looking forward to that continuing.

Members applauded.

David SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (15:03): It is a privilege to rise and make some comments in my address-in-reply. Can I begin by thanking my constituents of Caulfield that have given me the privilege and honour to serve another term here in the Parliament of Victoria. For those who watched the election, particularly on election night and in the lead-up to it, it was certainly a tight race. It started tight before the election even began, with me, before the redistribution, only holding Caulfield by a couple of hundred votes but notionally it being a Labor-held seat going into the election with the redivision. So it was always going to be a tough election. We did see the Labor Party and the teals, but particularly the Labor Party, throw absolutely everything at Caulfield. I say to every minister, including the Premier, who I think visited Caulfield on three occasions, ‘Welcome to Caulfield. Thank you for visiting. You’re welcome back. This time I will buy the bagels – I will buy the food – and also show you the things that need to be done in Caulfield, following on from the promises that were made in the visits that you had, but also some of the deficiencies that we have had over a number of years that have been neglected.’

Can I say even during this election, where if there was any opportunity for the Labor Party to win Caulfield, this would have been the time, there were still a number of key areas that were neglected, which I want to refer to, that the government really needs to pick up, one being education. If I look at education particularly, we have schools over a hundred years old in my electorate, and many of them have hardly seen a lick of paint. We have pushed and pushed, and we had a candidate promise a whole range of things and talk to a whole lot of various principals and parents about fixing things. I am pleased to say that after we promised an $11 million upgrade to Caulfield South Primary School, the government then followed a week or so afterwards and matched that promise. I look forward to being able to effectively deliver that upgrade for Caulfield South Primary School, and I will be pushing to ensure that that gets done in a timely manner.

I have raised in this Parliament that it is not just about school buildings but about the teaching that happens in those buildings, and we have seen the deficiency in terms of that teaching and the underfunded resourcing of schools that desperately needs to be tackled. Just on Caulfield South Primary School, because I made that part of my first adjournment in this chamber, we see a school at the moment that has an acting principal and that has a principal on stress leave. We have a board that has raised a whole lot of issues in that school that have not been resolved, and we have parents that are up in arms in terms of the safety and the financial activities that go on within that school. So can I say right up-front I look forward to those buildings and the $11 million being spent on the upgrade of that school at Caulfield South, but I also look forward to seeing a new principal in that school in a timely manner and the quality of teaching restored in that school. In Caulfield Primary School, which we made a promise for, in Caulfield Junior College, which we made a promise towards, in Ripponlea Primary School – none of those schools received any funding. None of those schools received any support, except for Ripponlea Primary, which did have a ramp promised. But all of those schools need that support.

I was pleased to see that Gardenvale Primary School, which is in the electorate of my good friend the member for Brighton, did receive some upgraded funding, and the candidate for Caulfield rushed out and made that announcement outside of Caulfield in Gardenvale. I think for a brief moment he forgot where the boundaries were, but that did ensure, with the years of advocacy that I know the member for Brighton has been pushing for that upgrade, that we have made that happen and the Gardenvale Primary School will receive that upgrade.

It is not just about education. We have heard in this Parliament, and we have heard certainly during the lead-up in opposition, talk about the health crisis that we all face. This government will lead you to believe that it is all about the pandemic and nothing else. The pandemic has highlighted the deficiencies in our health system. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, shut down Victoria, locked down Victoria, longer than any other place in the world, and part of the reason for doing that was to get our health system right so that when we did open up we would not have the crisis that we now have. So he messed it up big time, and Victorians are still feeling the pain because of an incompetent government. Having a thousand people on a waiting list is just simply not good enough. We made a commitment as an opposition that we would halve the waiting list and we would hold the government to account to get that waiting list down, to get patient care, to get ambulances in a timely manner so they are not being ramped, to get our hospital system working again and to get people able to see a doctor. Health is an absolutely key responsibility of any government, and this government has failed at every turn.

Locally, we promised a new hospital at Caulfield, $500 million. I am going to keep pushing for that at each and every opportunity, because we have a hospital there that, again, was built during wartime to repatriate 18,000 soldiers and, unfortunately, has hardly had a dollar spent on it, and we have seen some of the basic hydrotherapy pools and the like shut for years because the government has not funded basic maintenance and upgrades of that hospital. It is in desperate need of repair. It is the kind of hospital that could do a whole lot of allied health and other services and really pick up the slack for Victoria, and we are going to push the government on doing that.

Can I also just say more particularly and more generally that we see this government that has come in thinking to themselves: how good are we? They are skiting, they are arrogant, they are back to their usual selves, but I have got to say that this government did not win an election without second preferences. This is a second-preference government – that is all it is. They are a second-preference government for their mates, the Greens – because that is why they are here – and again some of the independents that they had. That is why they are here. This is the lowest primary vote that Labor has had since 2014. I am absolutely happy to call out the fact that we on our side, and the Liberal Party, have got work to do, and we will do that each and every day to ensure that we are listening to Victorians and that we are relevant to the needs of each and every Victorian and we are delivering for each and every Victorian, no matter who they are and no matter where they live. I compare and contrast that to the Labor Party, who only care about their mates. They divide and conquer, and they are all about self-interest.

There is no room for being arrogant. Victorians have had enough, quite frankly, of both major political parties, and it is time for change. If this government wants to keep on being arrogant, this government will learn pretty quickly that Victorians have had enough, and we saw that on many, many different occasions. We have seen Victorians being absolutely wrecked. We have seen small businesses being absolutely wrecked – shut down. Go to Melbourne’s CBD; it still has not recovered – it is so far away. Go to have a look at regional Victoria – and we have seen some of our new members talk about regional Victoria – that was locked down. They still have not recovered. The arrogance, again, of the government – it is not prepared to listen about what it did to each and every Victorian.

Members interjecting.

David SOUTHWICK: I am happy for the government to interject. I am happy for this government to continue to be arrogant, because I am going to say that on our side of the house we will not be doing that. We will be listening. We will be standing up for each and every Victorian. We will be bringing into the chamber the issues that matter for each and every Victorian, and we will be relevant and we will be absolutely transparent. We will not have the integrity issues that go with this government time and time again. Let me say every person has their day, and ultimately this government will be found wanting for the arrogance, the corruption, the integrity issues, the spend and the blowouts – all of the things that this government has had.

In the address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech one of the key issues that was not mentioned was debt. We have a state that is in massive debt and will continue to have debt rise. Victoria’s debt will be and is the largest debt of any other state – New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined. That is something that was not in the Governor’s speech and has not been in the government’s narrative, because they do not want people to know that this debt will lead to continued cost-of-living pressures – housing affordability, people being able to put food on the table, people being able to pay their energy bills, all the issues that matter to Victorians – and that is what we care about. That is absolutely what we care about. This government talk the big game when they talk about caring and having a heart, but they have absolutely no care about what Victorians are dealing with right now. They are dealing with these issues each and every day. They are struggling to put food on the table each and every day. Big plans, no detail. We saw that with the SEC; there was no detail around any of that.

But what lengths will the government go to to try and scare, to cause fear, to do all kinds of things? We had the member for Bentleigh talk up all the things that he saw in terms of the campaign and how it was a tough campaign. I wish the member for Bentleigh had visited Caulfield and seen the truck spitting out all kinds of diesel fuels driving every day from 8 o’clock in the morning till 6 o’clock at night during my pre-poll, talking about that we were going to bring back fracking. I mean, for heaven’s sake, what mistruths will this government tell? They will stop at nothing to say that we are going to frack the state again. The only fracking licences that have ever been awarded have been from the Labor Party, from the Labor government. The government turned around and said we are going to do this and we are the party that loves coal when we had such an ambitious renewable energy target and a very, very strong narrative around what we would do in terms of transitioning, including using gas as part of the transition, which Alan Finkel again has said is really, really important to ensure we get affordability and a sensible transition. We had a good narrative. The government is full of spin.

I want to come back to where I started, to thank the people of Caulfield. We ran a fantastic campaign, and I am very proud of it, because the Labor Party threw everything at it – a whole lot of promises, a whole lot of commitments. We had six out of seven candidates who had a Jewish background. We had particularly the Labor Party try and do everything and throw money at the Jewish community. I tell you what, that is fantastic, because what it shows me is that I have not been doing my work for 5 minutes but ever since I was elected: standing up for members of the Jewish community that have not had the support that they needed. It included things like funding for combating antisemitism and things like a Holocaust memorial in the city and Community Security Group funding. All of this is really important – the banning of the Nazi symbol as well, which the government followed up on. All of this stuff I am very proud of.

But can I also say that Caulfield – as important as the Jewish community is to it, and as somebody of Jewish faith who absolutely wears his faith on his heart and wears the community on his heart, as you in this chamber well know – is also bigger than just the Jewish community. That is what the Labor Party forgot when they did not go to Elsternwick and they did not talk to the broader community and when they did not look at the overdevelopment that is crowding many parts of Elsternwick and crowding many parts of our suburbs. They did not look at some of the issues in Glen Huntly in terms of some of the shopfronts and upgrades that are desperately needed in those areas. They did not listen, and I come back to where I started: this has to be a government for all people – not picking winners and losers, not trying to pick up a vote where they think it might work. Our community saw right through this government, right through them. Daniel Andrews and the Minister for Environment and Climate Action went down to Pawfield Park in Caulfield and they were heckled and booed in their first announcement about parks. I invite the minister for energy to come back to Caulfield, because she has been twice. When she comes back, the minister for energy can also deliver some money for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, because the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve, which was set up in terms of a trust, is almost bankrupt. If they do not get funding, as they were promised by this government, that trust will be bankrupt and there will be no money to even pay for the directors in the trust, let alone deliver the open space in the middle of the racecourse. The government talks a big game but it failed to deliver for the constituents and people in all electorates, including mine in Caulfield. They will be held to account. We do not pick winners and losers. We stand up for all people.

Again, the government turned up to a synagogue; the Premier turned up to a synagogue. He was heckled at that synagogue because of what he did leading up to it – again because of picking winners and picking losers; that is what it is. You do not buy votes, and I am very, very proud that I won Caulfield because I stuck up for all people in Caulfield – all constituents. When we had a teal run against us and when we had the Labor Party run hard, I was very, very proud that we won.

I will finish where I started: you are all welcome to Caulfield, especially the minister and the Premier, because we need to deliver important infrastructure, important spend and important community engagement. I welcome those ministers to join me. I will buy the food. You ensure you deliver the projects that are desperately needed in our great electorate of Caulfield.

Members applauded.

Iwan WALTERS (Greenvale) (15:18): I am deeply grateful to the residents of Greenvale for the opportunity to represent them here and to contribute to this debate. I acknowledge the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people, traditional owners of the land over which the district of Greenvale’s boundaries have been drawn. I pay respect to their elders and to the continuous history and enduring presence of Indigenous people and culture throughout the 60 square kilometres of the electorate. The newly created district of Greenvale takes its name from the eponymous reservoir and suburb in Melbourne’s north and includes other communities, such as Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Attwood, Westmeadows, Meadow Heights and the important industrial precinct of Somerton.

Prior to the advent of residential development in the 1980s, Greenvale was a rural farming area. Originally called Yuroke, the area became Greenvale in 1868 with the establishment of the first public school and post office. In an instance of history repeating itself, most of the electorate was, until recently, contained within the Yuroke district and represented by the Minister for Community Sport and Minister for Suburban Development. Thank you, Minister, for your support and your outstanding advocacy for our community. Your legacy of delivery is evident everywhere you turn throughout the electorate, from new schools, more trains and better bus services to upgraded roads and fantastic new sporting and recreation facilities. Meadow Heights and parts of Roxburgh Park were formerly part of the Broadmeadows district, and I thank former member Frank McGuire for his passionate representation of those communities and for being so generous with his time and advice.

The new district is characterised by an extraordinary physical diversity. Thanks to the preservation of the natural environment in Woodlands Historic Park and the Sunbury green wedge, the electorate’s west retains much of its original character despite the incremental outward growth of Melbourne and the nearby presence of our international airport. Waterways, including the Moonee Ponds, Yuroke, Aitken and Merri creeks, trace out Greenvale’s borders, and at the district’s heart lies Greenvale Reservoir, providing water to western Melbourne since the 1970s. Where there is water there is life, and while the reservoir feeds the taps of modern Melbourne, the creeks that ring Greenvale were important parts of the world’s oldest living culture, rich in the plant and wildlife resources upon which Indigenous populations depended.

In preserved environments like Woodlands Park there is an abundance of evidence describing the life of Indigenous communities which moved through the area, from scarred trees to occupation sites. Across Greenvale Creek, in the east of Woodlands, is another site of profound importance for many Indigenous Victorians today, the Weeroona Aboriginal Cemetery. It is a beautiful and lightly wooded area where kangaroos graze amid the last resting places of local Indigenous people and those whose remains have finally been repatriated from museums around the world. It adds a particular poignancy to the term ‘traditional ownership’ and emphasises the enduring connection of Victoria’s Indigenous people with the lands we all represent.

The varied physical environment of Greenvale, from the grasslands of the green wedge to the growing suburbs, whose streets emerge like etchings on a page week by week, is matched only by its richly diverse human geography. The communities that comprise the electorate are truly multicultural. Nearly 45 per cent of Greenvale’s residents were born overseas, over 80 per cent profess a faith, and 60 per cent of the community speaks a language other than English at home. These are not abstract statistics; they explain the essence of our community in Greenvale, which reflects Victoria’s broader multicultural tradition at its best.

I recently had the pleasure to see 147 local residents become Australian citizens, surrounded by proud family and friends. All were visibly enthused to formally join our country and to contribute their talents and their cultural inheritance, which will become part of our national story. For some who became citizens that day, the mere expression of often intertwined history, language, values, faith and identity once resulted in unjust repression and tyranny – the prompts for their journey to our country as refugees. The experiences that led them to join our nation give a particular salience to the principles that underpin debates in this place: our shared commitment to democracy; to the rule of law; to freedom of speech, religion and association; and to a society in which all people are equal and valued.

Witnessing the joy of families when they took their pledge of citizenship reminded me of the excitement I felt when I became an Australian with my family a quarter of a century ago. Then, as now, I am filled with gratitude to have become a Victorian and an Australian and for all of the opportunities being part of this state and this country has afforded me. I am also eternally grateful for the risks and sacrifices my parents made in bringing four children around the world and then adding one more for good measure. Thanks, Mum and Dad, for your constant support and love. Your commitment to justice and the demonstration of your principles through your contributions to public health and community in so many ways, especially to L’Arche and people with a disability, have inspired all of your children and shaped my commitment to public service.

Education and its enabling role in connecting people with jobs and opportunity has been core to my purpose in life and in each of the roles I held before coming to this place. I became a teacher because of my commitment to Victoria’s public education system, the public good it represents and the broad benefits it delivers. I loved being in the classroom, learning from committed colleagues and contributing to the learning and growth of my students. Along the way I gained a much better understanding of relationships between government policy, frontline service delivery and socio-economic outcomes. I am so grateful for the generous and collegial support of many, including Jim, Rodney and Peter. It increased my impact with students, and I am delighted that one of them can be here today in his first week as a graduate doctor 10 years on.

I had the opportunity to become a teacher because of reforming Labor governments – in this place under Premier John Brumby and in Canberra, where then education minister and later Prime Minister Gillard gave expression to her vision of a country where every child could receive a great education. As a teacher in rural Victoria and part of a small community, I saw firsthand that talent and ability are not defined by postcode or geography but that opportunities to realise them too often could be. I am proud to be joining a government which has made it a central mission to confront that challenge. Tens of billions of dollars have helped build the Education State, not just through world-class infrastructure in every Victorian school but in growing the capacity of school leaders and teachers to focus on the interventions that yield the greatest impact with their students. Our investment in education is positioning Victoria for future success through its impact on workforce participation and the productivity of that workforce. These are the long-run generators of economic growth and higher living standards.

One of the great privileges of an election campaign is the chance to pitch up, unsolicited, to thousands of homes, to chat with residents about the issues of importance to them and to listen. Several issues were recurrent across Greenvale: schools, roads and jobs. Productivity reform is often perceived as an abstraction, but it is really about the improvements to services and infrastructure that people across Greenvale told me matter most to them – upgrading Mickleham Road so it can serve 21st century suburbs while saving time and lives; delivering this government’s record investment in our schools so that every student, regardless of their background or the school their parents chose for them, receives great teaching in first-rate buildings, including at the new Greenvale Secondary College; working with business and enabling them to grow and create jobs while equipping Victorians with the skills and training they need to access those jobs and thrive at every stage of life. These are not arcane concepts; they matter enormously to people’s lived experience of community, and they are part of this government’s record of delivery. Incremental productivity improvements are key drivers of better living standards, and that is why I will work every day for the people of Greenvale to continue delivering the services and reforms that matter most to them.

The Andrews government’s Education State reforms, including the introduction of free kinder, are not just about providing foundational building blocks upon which life chances can depend; they are transformational economic and productivity reforms. But this government also understands the importance of lifelong learning. Training and TAFE are the keys to stronger productivity, enablers of higher participation in the labour market and the basis of a fairer economy, which can deliver improved standards of living for the people we all represent. Across two parliaments and now into a third, the Andrews government has rebuilt TAFE as the engine of new jobs in our economy and contributed to a genuine parity of esteem within our tertiary system. Because of these reforms and our investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure across our state, Victoria’s prospects for growth are strong. The structural and technological changes which have driven growth in recent decades and which are likely to spur the next wave, however, leave some Victorians concerned the disruption associated with this change may not benefit them. That is why there is an economic and a moral imperative to this government’s investment in TAFE and training.

What Schumpeter called ‘creative destruction’ does bring great reward for some and smaller gains for many, but the downside risks have too often not been shared equitably. As the economic history of Melbourne’s north shows, the effects of economic change, global integration and technological shifts include loss, uncertainty and trauma – not just cheaper consumer goods. In past decades those impacted by change too often experienced redundancy, leading to long-term unemployment with traumatic and scarring effects on people and their community. Support, upskilling and training were patchy at best, and comparable jobs were hard to come by. For those who found work, it may have been in service industries offering lower rates of pay with irregular hours and poorer conditions, contributing to structural increases in underemployment. Just pointing to headline increases in growth or even per capita improvements in income and purchasing power does not mean much to households that lose livelihoods, opportunities and futures as part of a transition. A Rawlsian veil of ignorance informs our perspective on managing catastrophic harm in other realms and led to Labor’s creation of large risk-pooling mechanisms, including our social security system, Medicare and the NDIS. Yet when it comes to damage wrought on families and communities by structural forces over which they have got no control, it can be met with a shrug of the shoulders or an odd sense that nothing should interfere with the vagaries of a market that will sort the so-called lifters from the leaners.

Instead, as a social democrat I believe it is a role of government to help smooth risk and protect individuals from the buffeting impacts of structural change. I believe in the power of markets to increase living standards and prosperity, but for markets to deliver optimal outcomes for citizens and society they must be functioning, fair and effectively regulated. The untrammelled market does not magically provide skills and capabilities. A belief in a better approach – one that values individuals, invests in communities and provides them with the opportunities they need to thrive across their lives – is why I am proud to be a member of the Australian Labor Party, humbled to be part of this government and part of this caucus, and honoured to represent the people of Greenvale, for whom I will work every day to deliver those opportunities.

To Ella and the magnificent Greenvale campaign team: thank you for your unstinting hard work and logistical brilliance and for being with me on doorsteps in all weather. I am so glad so many of you can be here today. Thank you to the literally hundreds of volunteers and local Labor members who supported our Greenvale campaign and helped me speak with voters across pre-poll and on election day. You are Labor’s heart, and I deeply appreciate your solidarity – not just with me but, much more importantly, with our collective movement and the values we hold. I am grateful beyond words.

Thank you to Liam Moloney, Jack, Tilly, Liam Hickey, Hannah, Mark, Alice, Dan, Sean, Tom, Seamus, Yannick, Daniel, the O’Kane clan and all the friends who have always been there to challenge, spar and generally support. To family here, around Australia and overseas, and to the beloved members who have left us: I love our idiosyncratic team, the connections we forged with this country and the close bonds we share with each other. Thank you Catryn and Peter, Tomos and Kate, Megan and Justin, David, all of my wonderful nieces and nephews, and Ann, Rob, Pat and Jill.

I am grateful to the mighty labour movement for its support and its tireless effort to ensure a fair deal and a just economy that delivers for all. Thank you in particular to Michael Donovan, state secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, assistant state secretary to the SDA Mauro Moretta, Dean D’Angelo and all of the trade unionists who work hard to secure fair pay and conditions for the essential workers in retail and distribution, who keep our economy moving and society fed and clothed – so many of whom live and work in Greenvale and across Melbourne’s north.

Thank you to my caucus colleagues, and especially my northern Labor neighbours in this house and Sheena Watt in the other place, for your collegiality and shared commitment to our region. Thanks to Maria Vamvakinou, who represents us in Canberra with vigour, passion and a deep knowledge of community. Thank you to both the Deputy Leader of the Government in the other place and the Minister for Corrections; your commitment to Labor values and impactful policy reforms is inspiring. Thank you to my federal Labor colleague Daniel Mulino. I have learned so much from your dedicated and principled public service, intelligence and policy rigour. I am also grateful for the counsel and friendship of Hasan Erdogan, Chris Campbell and Debbie Dalmau.

Finally, and not lastly, thank you Row for your love, partnership and endless support and for accommodating the many extra challenges that I manage to create for our shared life with incredible forbearance. The commitment you have to your patients at the Royal Children’s and Peter Mac and their families is astonishing and inspiring. So too is your ceaseless love and care for your own family and friends. The most meaningful undertaking I could ever give to my constituents is to seek to work as hard as you do and with as much care, empathy and grace. Thanks, too, for saying yes. I love you and respect you, and I am excited about the future. I thank the house.

Members applauded.

David HODGETT (Croydon) (15:37): Thank you, Speaker, and congratulations on your elevation to high office. I look forward to you presiding over this chamber, which is code for ‘Kick me out last in question time’. Can I welcome new members to this place from all parties and from both sides of the house. Congratulations on your election. I encourage you not to waste a minute of your time as an MP, and I wish you well in your service. This is not my inaugural speech; it is the fifth time I have contributed to address-in-reply motions, having been elected in the 56th Parliament and now serving in the 60th Parliament. I wanted to commence by actually doing my thankyous and commence by thanking the people of the electorate of Croydon for showing their faith and confidence in returning me to this place. I never take my seat for granted, and I will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of Croydon to deliver changes, improvements and a better community in which we live, work and enjoy. As I said, I will continue with my thankyous and then I will turn my attention to some of the things that I will be working hard on and advocating for in my electorate, which I will try to achieve over the next four years.

Can I start by thanking all those involved in my re-election campaign. Election campaigns, as we all know, are an enormous logistical exercise, with much planning, organising, hard work and allocation and management of tasks. No one person can do it alone, and I cannot thank my team enough for their support, assistance, encouragement, advice and participation in on-the-ground activities in the lead-up to the election and on election day. I wish to express my gratitude and thanks to my campaign team, who met many times to coordinate and plan campaign activities and organise the resources required to put us in the best position to win the seat of Croydon. This campaign by far was the best we have run. We raised the necessary financial resources to give us flexibility and options with our campaign activities. We had the best signage program we have ever run. We rolled out a very good mail program. Our digital presence was second to none. We engaged radio and cinema advertising and hired a mobile billboard in the final week of the campaign. Our community engagement through doorknocking, our listening posts and local festivals and events was first class. I am pleased and proud of the campaign we ran, and I put on record my sincere thanks for the hard work, dedication and efforts of the campaign team.

I also wish to acknowledge and recognise the incredible work of all those volunteers who assisted in handing out how-to-vote cards at the two early voting centres and at the polling booths on election day. Staffing the pre-poll centres, two on this occasion, for the two weeks prior to election day and ensuring they run smoothly is a monumental exercise, and I cannot thank enough everyone involved in my campaign for the time they gave standing in the rain, the hail, the wind and the sunshine from morning to night to make sure that every person that entered to vote was given the option of a ‘David Hodgett, Liberal for Croydon’ how-to-vote card. Without their assistance and help, we would never be able to put ourselves into a winning position, so I thank all of you who gave your time so generously over those two weeks of the pre-poll. To the many people who assisted me with our doorknocking program, our listening posts and at shopping centres, street corners, railway stations and local festivals and events, having a strong presence at these community engagements and events showed we were strong and keen, wanted to win this election and were putting in the hard work required to get the result we were working towards, so thank you to everyone who assisted and invested their time in these important activities.

To my staff, I am grateful for the energy, the drive, the dedication, the professionalism and the commitment that they have all shown over the journey in the electorate office. The number of times at pre-poll or indeed on election day that someone stopped me to make a comment on how they were assisted by my staff and gave an account of the positive experience they received from my staff at the office made me proud of your efforts, and you no doubt put me in a positive light with many in the local community. So thank you for your ongoing support, assistance, enthusiasm and loyalty.

To my family, I thank them for their support and encouragement, backing, kindness and belief in allowing me to pursue what I love doing: representing our local area in the Parliament of Victoria. As many of us say in this place, and as I have said before, I am a volunteer for my role but my family are conscripts, so I place on record my love, thanks and appreciation for all that you do to support me in my role as a member of Parliament. And to each and every volunteer, to everyone who assisted, everyone that gave their time and helped me with this election campaign, I thank you and I am truly grateful for your support and friendship.

I wanted to use the balance of my time to talk about a number of things that we advocated for in the lead-up to the election for Croydon. Just because you advocate for them in the lead-up to the election, it does not mean that they are not required, whether you have the opportunity or are fortunate enough to form government or not, and I will continue to invest my time in this place in working cooperatively and constructively with the government and with ministers to try and get some of these projects delivered in our local community.

There were a number of sporting commitments, one being the revamping of Glen Park for the Bayswater North community. They required $1.5 million towards improvements at Glen Park, Bayswater North, including an upgrade to the lighting system and improving the facilities for residents over in Bayswater North. We know that for welcoming outdoor spaces for locals, from dog walkers to aspiring footy players, we need to invest in those sorts of facilities, and delivering an upgraded lighting system will mean local clubs like the East Ringwood Junior Football Club and the South Croydon Cricket Club can expand their training and competition hours into the evening and grow their player bases. The park is a wonderful community asset, and I will be, as I say, working to advocate to the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events or indeed the Minister for Community Sport to try and get the funding to deliver that upgrade.

Likewise for East Croydon Kilsyth Tennis Club. The club has nearly 200 members of all ages, abilities and diverse backgrounds. They serve as an important part of the community. There are 250 kids competing in development and coaching programs every week, and an additional 12 adult and seven junior teams. They were after about $365,000 to upgrade facilities at the club, including converting two of the existing en-tout-cas courts across to synthetic courts, two new additional synthetic courts on top of that to be built to keep up with the growing membership, and the upgrading of existing lighting to cost-efficient LED.

Eastfield Eagles – that is a BMX track. There are plenty of sports that, with all due respect to them, are not often thought of as mainstream sports like your crickets, netballs, footies and those sorts of things. The Eastfield BMX Club is an important club in our local electorate. They are just after $40,000 for a new starting gate. They have 55 members across all ages. They have 60 per cent of members who are under 12. The club has strong female membership. I will be advocating that it is important to continue to invest in grassroots sporting clubs like the Eastfield Eagles. It in fact has produced a Commonwealth Games participant and Olympian in those sports.

The Mooroolbark Heights Reserve clubrooms were constructed in 1970. They are used by both Mooroolbark football and cricket club and desperately need an investment of some $2.5 million. I will be working with both our federal counterparts and the state government to try and secure that funding so that we can build brand new, fully accessible facilities, including men’s, women’s and umpires’ change rooms, game-day toilets and a multi-use community social space. Women do not have access to the change rooms within the current building, so they have to go to a temporary offsite building, which is just not acceptable in this day and age. If the men’s team is playing, the women have to change separately over there. This investment is, again, an investment in grassroots sports and would provide local residents and families with facilities that they are proud of.

There were a number of community groups that we supported that, like all of us, have groups that carry out much-needed work in our communities. The Chin community – we will be seeking additional funding for them to continue with their festivals and events. I note that during the Australia Day celebrations this year the Chin National Day festival was awarded Community Event of the Year by the Maroondah City Council at their Australia Day awards. I congratulate them for that award. We would be encouraging the government to continue to invest in those festivals and events. Also, the Karen community has a huge presence in my community. They have been part of the community since 2006 and have grown from two Karen families to more than 400 families in the Maroondah area. They also need investment and funding to allow the community to hold cultural events in order to help re-engage their younger members, who often feel disconnected, particularly after the COVID lockdowns.

Many might have heard of SALT – Sport and Life Training. It is a terrific program that is run by David Burt and his team at SALT. They are after significant funding to allow them to continue their work. They provide local communities and clubs with programs for those that are struggling under mental health and wellbeing pressures and give them the long-term support they need. They are into suicide prevention and support for mental health. They go throughout Victoria, running these programs, to all clubs and all sports – males and females, all ages. Again, I will be continuing to advocate on behalf of SALT – David Burt and his team – to get some funding there.

There is the Dining Room Mission in Croydon. They are only after $25,000 to help them continue. They provide ongoing support to the most vulnerable people in and around the Croydon area. People travel on a Tuesday night to the Dining Room. Sometimes that is the only hot meal they get that day. With a small amount of money, they could continue to provide those much-needed services. Similarly, the Babes Project provide support programs, helping women who face a crisis pregnancy by providing them with prenatal parenting information, first-aid classes, cooking and nutrition classes, budgeting classes, and helping them to gain practical knowledge about childbirth and parenting. Without funding they are at the risk of closing. They have a presence in both Croydon and Frankston and provide much-needed services that are not provided by other organisations.

Elisha Care perform some terrific work. Geoff Marsh has himself gone through a recovery journey and built his not-for-profit organisation, Elisha Care, into a truly meaningful organisation. They deserve funding to continue their amazing work. They service the local area – not just Croydon but surrounding areas – offering rehabilitation services for those impacted by drug and alcohol addiction and providing transitional housing, employment pathways and regular catch-ups. Again, I will be working with the government to try and get them supported so they can continue the terrific work that they do in and around the area.

ADRA Community Care Croydon, similarly, is after small amounts of money. ADRA delivers a wide range of critical supports for vulnerable and socially isolated members of the community, including a successful food program. Each Thursday their Vive cafe serves approximately 100 free healthy three-course meals, and they also give out about 3500 food hampers to families in need each year, providing education, nutrition et cetera. Again, they are worthy of support, but they desperately need that support to continue those services.

Hope City Mission is another one we supported by calling for funding. Hope City Mission was established in 2004. It provides a safe space for those experiencing financial hardship to receive support and education about managing their situation as well as offering a range of additional services, including Foodbank, to get them back on their feet. Hope City Mission were looking at funding to upgrade a learning portal, and I will continue to work on that for them. Yarrunga Community Centre were after an elevated balcony. It is a community centre that offers health and wellbeing programs – a whole range of programs – which is a great asset for the local community. They really benefit from the Yarrunga Community Centre, who provide significant programs to all members of the community.

Then schools: Yarra Road Primary School – they have got several portable classrooms at Yarra Road in desperate need of replacement with a more permanent structure, so I would be inviting the minister to come out and visit the school there and look at those needs; St Peter Julian Eymard, of the Catholic Church, is after funding, and I will look to secure some funding from that block funding that was given to the non-government schools; and Melba College. I am pleased to say that we went out and announced the stage 3 funding that they have been after for quite some time. That was matched by the government, the only thing in my electorate that was, so I am pleased that they are actually going to get that delivered and be able to finish the school off. No school wants to be held in limbo and get two-thirds done, or two stages done and not the third. So they can finally get that finished off.

Funding to back Mooroolbark and Croydon shopping strips – again, they have gone through a difficult time over the COVID years. They seek funding to invest in their streetscapes with Yarra Ranges and Maroondah; we will continue that fight. It is not in my electorate but certainly my electorate benefits from the announcement for Maroondah Hospital – one that we announced, and then the government hastily went out and announced the next day. So I will be looking forward to seeing that delivered. That provides much-needed healthcare services to all of our local community.

I am glad to be back. I thank again the people of Croydon for having the confidence and faith in me, and I will continue to work hard on all those needs for the local community.

Members applauded.

Emma VULIN (Pakenham) (15:52): I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet here at Parliament House and in my electorate of Pakenham, the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people of the Kulin nation, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. As I look around I feel the full significance of being here in this place on a site where traditional owners once gathered – high overlooking the Yarra – and a meeting place for the Kulin for tens of thousands of years. This is also a place where many men and women have been before me. I am humbled and honoured to represent my community alongside you all today as the first female and the first ALP member to represent the seat called Pakenham.

The people of the Pakenham district have given me this privilege to represent them here in Spring Street and to be a voice on their behalf. It is an honour, and one I do not take lightly. My electorate is made up of Pakenham, Pakenham South, Pakenham Upper, Officer, Officer South, Rythdale, Dewhurst and parts of Upper Beaconsfield, Nar Nar Goon North and Cardinia. It is a diverse area made up of a growth corridor and surrounded with semi-rural and rural properties on the edges – some on the flat, some in the hills – a varied and beautiful landscape and an even better mix of people. Our community is as diverse as our terrain – home to families with deep roots, tracing their connection all the way back to when Pakenham was largely just a pub and a post office. And then there are those who have chosen to make it their own – families who have come from countries all over the world looking for a new start and a brighter future for themselves and their children.

My family is one of them. We moved from the UK when I was 18 months old. My father, Ivan, was born in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a small island in the Caribbean. He lived in a one-bedroom mudbrick house, which was not an easy feat for my grandparents and their 12 children. His family moved to England, also looking for opportunities, and at age 13 this became his new home. He later married my mother, Pat. They had my big sister Ceri and I before deciding to move to Australia, where they hoped to find a better education system and more opportunities, particularly for their daughters.

Like generations of migrants to Australia, our first home was a migrant centre in Springvale. Later we moved to Frankston, and to put it plainly, there is no avoiding politics when you grow up living next door to future federal MP and Minister Alan Griffin. Mum struggled with a back injury, which meant my father was the sole breadwinner, working long hours as a mechanic to support his family. During this time Alan’s parents, Marj and Alby, did lots to help with my sister and me, so much so that we adopted them as our Australian grandparents. Once she recovered from her injury, my Mum trained to be a secretary, and after she qualified she went to work for the late Jane Hill MP, member for Frankston North. Jane was an inspiration to me, even at that young age. I will never forget coming to this very place in the late 1980s. I could not have been more ecstatic: dining in Strangers and looking up to this trailblazing woman who was so passionate about her community. I remember Daryl Somers from Hey Hey It’s Saturday was there too. It was an exciting evening for a girl in the 1980s.

Following Alan’s election to federal Parliament, Mum went to work for Alan in his electorate office as his office manager, managing people like our Premier, Gabrielle Williams, Lee Tarlamis, Julian Hill, Juliana Addison, Mat Hilakari and former member for Altona Jill Hennessy, just to name a few. My sister and I often spent our school holidays in the office and helped in almost every state and federal election from a young age. I remember going to watch Alan’s maiden speech in Canberra and the excitement of joining the ALP when I turned 16. Mum knew I loved the ALP, but she did think it was odd that I had posters of Bob Hawke on my bedroom wall.

Whilst I was proud of the Labor movement, I had never had a lifelong ambition to run for Parliament. I watched people like Jane Hill, Alan Griffin, Jill Hennessy, Gavin Jennings and of course our greatest Premier, Daniel Andrews – maybe I am a little bit biased – and was proud of everything they achieved for our country and our state. But ultimately what motivated me to put my hand up was experiencing firsthand what it means to make a difference. Before coming to this place I worked in various jobs: retail, administration, as a vet nurse and also as an electorate officer. Working as an electorate officer gave me an up-close understanding of what good governments can do to help people – people living their everyday lives, many who have never reached out to their local member of Parliament before but who need help and who are often at their lowest moments. It is an experience that has shaped me and given me the drive to put up my hand so I too can be that voice for my community. May I take this opportunity to thank people like Barb and Helen, among many other colleagues, who have taught me what it is to serve your community. And to my own electorate staff: I know how hard you work – I have been there before – and I appreciate your dedication.

When I think about what this government has already achieved for my electorate locally, I am proud – things like new schools for our growing area, level crossing removals, new train stations on the way, a new community hospital, just to name a few. I am proud that we have promised Pakenham Secondary College a well-deserved upgrade, and a special mention to Jordan Crugnale for also being so passionate about this one. I am even more proud to see what this government has achieved for this state: the voluntary assisted dying reforms, firefighter presumptive cancer laws, progress towards treaty with our First Peoples and of course our commitment to bring back the SEC.

The work of government is by its nature deeply personal. It is why I would like to make mention of a number of policies that mean a lot to me and the people that I love. In 2016 I suffered a significant stroke. At the age of 36 it was a huge shock. I did eight months of rehabilitation to learn to walk, talk, eat and drive again. Our incredible healthcare workers were the key to my recovery, as was the incredible support of my family and friends. I am proud this government has backed health and healthcare workers, including funding a second stroke ambulance in the south-east, but there is always more to be done. Stroke awareness and the support and care needed for rehabilitation require and deserve our ongoing focus. It is an issue I am very passionate about and will be a fierce advocate for.

Another thing I am passionate about is the government’s commitment to the prevention of family violence. My sister and my five beautiful nephews, who are here today, have been the victims of family violence. I would like to thank them for allowing me to share their experience. To be so close to this kind of violence gives a real insight into the pain and suffering it causes families for life. Family violence is not okay. It is prevalent in far too many families, and it is debilitating to not only victims but communities as a whole. There is far more work to do, but the royal commission was an important start. I am grateful to have been at the opening of the Orange Door last year in Pakenham and wish to thank all our support workers and police, who do the toughest of jobs. My message to victim-survivors is: this government hears you, I hear you, and I will continue to be a voice for you here in this place.

Finally, our support for people who make our communities strong. I joined the Upper Beaconsfield fire brigade as a volunteer in 2014, and they have been like a second family to me. I have held the roles of community safety coordinator and lieutenant and have the privilege of serving not only our community but also others in need. Deployments with my Cardinia group brigades, fighting both fires interstate and campaign fires in Bunyip and East Gippsland, were very tough but also very rewarding. All the men and women from my local brigade are selfless and dedicated to our local community. One of them, though, deserves a special mention. She is a woman who I have always admired, a woman who is two weeks shy of 95 and is still active in non-operational duties, a woman we can all aspire to be like – a humble, quietly spoken woman who works hard for her community and never seeks or expects acknowledgement. Surprise, surprise, she is also a woman who wishes not to be named here today. It is a privilege to recognise her contributions in this place.

Volunteers are the backbone of every community, and the Pakenham district is no different. Our CFA, SES, multicultural and multifaith groups, sports clubs, seniors clubs and youth groups are among many. Our Sikh community, for example, go above and beyond not only in times of crisis but regularly, offering support to many in our area. I am deeply grateful to all the volunteers not only in the Pakenham electorate but across our great state, and it is to them I offer my first thankyou. Thank you for the difference you make each and every day.

I would also like to thank Alan Griffin, who gave me that first opportunity to learn, a man who has been someone I have looked up to from an early age. Julian Hill, Lee Tarlamis, Pauline Richards and Ray De Witt have also been instrumental in my growth into this role and have supported me throughout this journey. Ray has been my mentor for decades – a man we call family. The time, advice and support you have shown me from an early age I can never thank you enough for.

During my campaign I worked hard, almost as hard as my campaign manager Harriet Leadbetter and my number one volunteer Lachlan Duncan, both of whom I am very grateful for. He never complained and only fell asleep a couple of times. During the latter stages of the campaign, I had what I called ‘Team Harriet’; I had both Harriet Leadbetter and Harriet Shing encouraging me to work a little bit harder, a little bit harder, a little bit harder. I love my Team Harriet, but gee, they were persistent. Pakenham was a close seat – in fact it was very close, so I am lucky I had them to push me. Harriets – plural – I love you both and sincerely appreciate your friendship and guidance. Harriet Shing, I sincerely thank you for all your wisdom and ongoing support. You mean the world to me. Speaking of close results, this is a good time to thank all my scrutineers, particularly Kitty and the eagle-eyed Dilhan. I would like to acknowledge the other candidates that worked so hard.

During the campaign it was such an experience to meet so many people and attend so many events where I learned so much. I met people from all walks of life and of all different ages and attended ceremonies and tasted food I had never had the pleasure of knowing. I gained friends that I will have for life and will be forever grateful for the encounters. It is an experience I will never forget.

Obviously a campaign is not just a small group of volunteers – I had so many I could not possibly name them all, but my father-in-law Charlie letterboxed almost the entire electorate more than once. And thank you to Frances, Kelly, Eamon, Simon, Jan, Abi, Sue, John, Nissar and my Afghan crew and of course my friend for decades Rahimi – the list goes on. Thank you to each and every one of you who came to help, attended a fundraiser or gave moral support.

Another woman worthy of a mention is Mandy Ramshaw, my godmother from the UK. When I called her during the last six weeks to ask if she would come and help me during the busiest time of my life, she came. Amongst other things, she made sure I ate food every day. It is a job anyone who has ever been on the campaign trail appreciates deeply, and I am so grateful you could extend your trip to be here today.

I know I have big shoes to fill. Jordan Crugnale, the member for Bass, has done an incredible job for the parts of Pakenham she represented under the previous electorate boundaries. She is well loved by the community, and I am reminded of this regularly. I am so grateful to have you as a friend and mentor and appreciate all you have done to guide me. Brad Battin, member for Berwick, I would also like to thank you for previously representing the other part of now Pakenham electorate. Although we often have differing views on many things, I do appreciate the mutual respect and friendship we have had for many years, and thank you for your service to the community.

We have great people at Victorian Labor and EMILY’s List, and I am grateful to all of you. I am sorry if I drove you insane. Kat Hardy, Mat Hilakari and the Socialist Left, thank you for your friendship and support for many, many years. There are so many people to thank and so little time. To my fellow members from all sides of the house and to our incredible parliamentary staff, who assist us no end, I want to say thank you. The kindness and knowledge from everyone are greatly appreciated.

The future of Pakenham is bright, and I will work hard to ensure we keep up with the services and infrastructure we need as we grow. There is a lot happening for our local area: new roads, new schools, removal of level crossings, creating new local jobs, and the investment we have seen is creating a better future with even more to come. Once again to the people of Pakenham district, thank you. I hope I do you proud, fight when I need to fight and be there to listen always. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I will work hard each and every day.

Lastly, my family. My parents, Mum and Dad, I am so lucky to have you both as role models. My dad has been one of my biggest fans, and I could see the pride in his chest from the beginning of this journey. My mum, I have always adored you, as do many others, including in this room. You are the person I call almost every morning, someone I can cry to and whinge to, and you always love me and are there to listen. I love you both so much. My dear big sister Ceri and my very handsome and funny nephews Kelsey, Cy, Taues, Vah and TK, a strong, close-knit family led by my very passionate and extraordinary sister, I love you all. To my ex-husband Dragan, whom I am so grateful for, you are the best father any child could have. I appreciate everything you do for me and the support and strength that you give to me, Matt, Mum, the kids and even Maisie the dog. I sincerely thank you. My dear partner Matt, the smartest and calmest person I know, I could not do life without you. If the internet ever goes down, you are my Google. You do so much for me and the children, and you are a wealth of knowledge and my best friend. Thank you. I love you. Also thank you to Gavin and Margaret for being here today.

I have saved the very, very best for last: my incredible, intelligent, kind, magnificent children Sienna and Sage, and I left you both until the end in the hope I could hold back the tears. You two are my everything. You have sacrificed so much during the last 12 months to let me be here. You were there to encourage me when I was scared. You never doubted once that I would make it here today, even if I and others did. I am going to miss you when you take your adventures to the west coast of Australia with Dad, but I do hope you learn and savour this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will be here waiting for you and looking forward to the updates along the way. I love you both more than you can possibly imagine.

Members applauded.

Brad ROWSWELL (Sandringham) (16:13): I am grateful also to contribute to the address-in-reply. At the start of my second term I fully expect that my contribution to the address-in-reply will not have as much fanfare, celebration and audience as those members making their inaugural speeches, but at the start of a second term there are still important things to say. I do want to congratulate those colleagues across the aisle who are making their inaugural speeches during the course of these weeks. It is a defining moment in your entry to public life. It is an opportunity to talk not just about your own story, your reason for being and reason for acting, but also your vision for a better community and a better Victoria. I wish those who make their speeches all the very best in the coming days and coming weeks.

I want to use this opportunity to address a couple of things. I think, far too often thanks are left for the end, but I wanted to commence by thanking all of those people who contributed to a successful campaign in the Sandringham district during the 2022 election. Those of you who operate in this chamber, who are members of this chamber, will know that the thing that motivates and drives me – those in my community who know me will know the things that motivate and drive me – is just a good outcome. It is a good community benefit. It is to better a community, to improve a community. Seldom do I make things political, because frankly I think politics for the sake of politics simply leads to more politics and is unproductive.

It is in that spirit that I wish to thank a number of people – firstly the some 46,000 electors of the Sandringham district. I was quietly pleased, humbled, by the support that our campaign received in the Sandringham district. The swing towards me and the party I represent, the Liberal Party, was around 5 per cent. In the course of the 2022 election, that is a reasonable achievement. I would like to thank my electorate chair Jennifer O’Brien and my electorate executive, the former member for Sandringham Murray Thompson. I would like to thank those community leaders who saw that my purpose was not political but to do everything I could to advocate to the government, to fight for good ideas and to fight for good outcomes. To all those community members from cricket club presidents, soccer club presidents, footy club presidents, school principals, community leaders right across the Sandringham district too numerous to name, I am grateful for their collaboration and for their recognition that my purpose was for the betterment of our community.

I would also like to thank my family: my wife Kate and my children Abigail and Charles. Abby was here earlier today for a portion of the day and enjoys coming with her daddy to work. Perhaps conscripts to the cause at some time, but I seriously could not do it without them. Their sacrifice is something which I am not sure I will ever be able to repay, so I think that is important to mention too.

I think that there was huge support in the Sandringham district for the campaign that we ran, because it was a comprehensive campaign with a comprehensive plan for our community. There were commitments made and recognition given to the needs of our community across a number of different areas – firstly, our Sandringham Hospital. Those members who have been here for some time will know that I was born in Sandringham Hospital, so I declare that interest up-front. But it is the caring heart of our community; it really is. It is part of Alfred Health, and my concern is that as it is part of a larger health system and the needs of the Prahran campus of the Alfred are so great, Sandringham Hospital may very well get forgotten in that equation. So I see this as an opportunity for me as the local member to advocate for the needs of Sandringham Hospital. I am grateful not only to those community members who work at the hospital, volunteer at the hospital, raise money for the hospital and are also patients at the hospital but to the professional staff of the hospital as well. My commitment for a $25 million investment in the Sandringham Hospital would have gone a long way. I will declare my cards now: I will continue to advocate for the needs of Sandringham Hospital in this term of Parliament. It is not just the right thing to do, but people would expect me to do that not only in this place but in our community as well. I will continue to do that. I look forward to an ongoing fruitful conversation with those at Alfred Health in relation to the needs of the Sandringham Hospital.

Of course it was the Liberal–Nationals who first committed to removing the level crossings at both Highett Road and Wickham Road, and that was after an almost five-year campaign, a community campaign, where we sought to engage not only community members in and around Highett but also Highett businesses and local government as well, both the Bayside council and the Kingston council. My strong preference, as expressed in that announcement, was for rail under road. I think sky rail, which is the government’s plan, at the Highett Road and Wickham Road level crossings will divide our community. I dare say that that is the view of the large majority of our community as well. My preference, our community’s preference, is for rail under road. I received an email about that matter just a few hours ago.

When the government announced that they were ridding the Frankston line of every level crossing, perhaps what was not as clear from that headline was the fact that the government decided to not remove but close the Latrobe Street level crossing, which is between Mentone and Cheltenham stations. Now, there is an issue with that, the issue being that if you close that crossing it forces more traffic to busy Mentone and busy Cheltenham. My commitment ahead of the last election was to keep the Latrobe Street crossing open. You see, I just do not think that the government decision-making on this particular matter – made, I dare say, far removed from the reality of my community – understands deeply the circumstance of my community.

When the government made that announcement I went to the community; I surveyed 1500 households. Of the 400 or so responses that I got within a week, some 98 per cent of respondents said that they were not asked by the government about their view on this matter before the government made an announcement, and close to 90 per cent of those respondents said they wanted that level crossing left open – and for very good reason. Within a short period of time after that announcement I went to my community, I asked my community what their view was, I formulated a view and I formulated a response and a commitment that we would keep that level crossing open.

Now, in a recent adjournment matter I raised this for the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, the Honourable Jacinta Allan, and in her response she said to me that the government is at the early planning stage of the closure of the Latrobe Street crossing and the removal of the Highett Road and Wickham Road level crossings. That to me means that there is opportunity. There is opportunity for the government to not only hear but deeply listen to the needs of my community – at Latrobe Street to keep that level crossing open and at Highett Road and Wickham Road for there to be a rail-under-road solution at both of those level crossings – and I will be campaigning for that end.

I was the only candidate in my district to advocate for the needs of Sandringham College. Ten million dollars is being committed to Sandringham College for stage 1 of their redevelopments. Sandringham College is over two campuses. Ten million dollars, frankly, in this world does not buy you much. To effectively rebuild both campuses the price tag is closer to $40 million or $50 million. Now, that first $10 million commitment for stage 1 was made a couple of budgets ago, and a commitment was given by the former education minister and the former member for Monbulk when he visited the school that once one funding envelope of $10 million was made, once that commitment was made, more would be coming. Well, we are a couple of budgets on, and that commitment has not been made.

I was disappointed that during the course of the election the Labor government did not commit the second lot of $10 million to Sandringham College, because what they effectively said to the Sandringham College community was during the term of this Parliament there is not the second stage funding for that school. As we know, when we make commitments during the courses of election campaigns they do not need to be delivered in the first year of government; they could be delivered in the second, the third or the fourth year of government. The needs of Sandringham College are great. I mean, by some measure the place is crumbling down around the kids. The teaching and learning are fantastic. It is great. The culture of the staff is great. The educational leadership of the principal and the leadership team at Sandringham College is impressive. But the buildings do not match what they seek to achieve, and that must be addressed.

Of course I made commitments also to Beaumaris North Primary School, Beaumaris Primary School, Stella Maris Primary School and Sacred Heart Primary School, and those are all very important commitments as well. I will continue to advocate for the needs of those primary schools during the course of this term. We made a commitment to upgrade the Trevor Barker Beach Oval to improve change room facilities and to cater for women’s and girls football there. We made a commitment to reinstate neighbourhood residential zones to give clarity for development within the Bayside and Kingston municipalities – two dwellings maximum on a title site and a mandatory height limit of 8 metres or two storeys.

We made a commitment to preserving the vast majority of the Gas and Fuel land, 6.3 hectares of land on Nepean Highway in Highett, and we also made a commitment to better protecting our area’s greatest environmental and ecological asset, in the Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary. These were just some of the commitments that we made during the course of the election campaign, and as I said earlier, I am certain that the result that was delivered to me and to the Liberal Party in the Sandringham district was as a result of the work that was undertaken not just in the last 12 months and not just in the last four weeks of an election year but over the four-year term: to engage with community members on issues that were important to them, to advocate for them and to fight for them, for their needs, for their interests and for a better community.

Since the election has taken place, the newly elected Leader of the Opposition, the member for Hawthorn, has asked me to step up and into a shadow cabinet role, and I was humbled to accept his invitation to be Victoria’s Shadow Treasurer. In the time since I was appointed at the end of last year there have been a number of things that have come across my desk which are of deep concern to me. I will mention just a couple in the time that I have remaining.

Yesterday the Reserve Bank of Australia made a decision to raise interest rates in this state. I am certain that there will be home owners right around this state – mums and dads trying to put food on the table, to make ends meet, to pay their school bills, to pay their power bills, to pay their mortgage – who will find that an interest rate rise will not be in their favour. It will make making ends meet all that more difficult. But something we should also remember is the fact that the state of Victoria is also subjected to interest rate rises. Yesterday’s interest rate rise of 0.25 per cent will result in an additional $390 million in net debt by 2025–26 for the state of Victoria. We talk in millions and we talk in billions. Let me put that into context: $390 million could fund over 4000 maternity nurses, 1860 public housing units, 39 breast cancer centres or more than 5600 classroom teachers. We have a debt problem in this state; we really do, and frankly I am not convinced by the government’s plan or lack of plan to deal with that particular issue.

I look forward to contributing more broadly during the course of this term of Parliament and advocating for the needs of my community.

Members applauded.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call the member Geelong I would just like to acknowledge in the gallery former Speaker Judy Maddigan – any tips are well received, thank you – and Christine Campbell, former minister and member for Pascoe Vale.

Chris COUZENS (Geelong) (16:28): I am delighted and feel very privileged to be rising today as the re-elected member for Geelong. Geelong is on Wathaurong country. Wathaurong people have taken care of that land for more than 65,000 years, and I do want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the elders past and present and the work that they do in the Geelong community and how important that is to my community along with myself and others.

The people of Geelong voted for the Andrews government because we did what we said we were going to do. The people of Geelong have seen over the past eight years the work that this government has done. Geelong is booming. Geelong is really excited about what we have done, about what is in the pipeline and about what is to come. Our population growth is booming, and we have 2.1 per cent unemployment – things that we have not seen for a very, very, very long time.

But first there are a lot of thankyous that I want to do. To my campaign team, headed up by Michael Tate, Connor Parker and Elaine Carbines – huge thanks to them. To all the volunteers that were involved in that campaign committee – a huge thankyou to them, because they are the ones that get us over the line, which is so important. To my staff Michael, Georgia, Christian, Isabella, Jeannie and Joe – without them I would not be standing here today, so I do want to thank all of them.

To the many ALP supporters and ALP members who worked tirelessly right across the Geelong region – so not just in my electorate of Geelong but in Lara, Bellarine, South Barwon and of course the Western District – I pay tribute, because as a collective we have been able to turn the Geelong region completely Labor, which we are all very proud of, and we have been able to continue to do that. I do want to congratulate the member for Lara and the member for Bellarine, who are new members to this place, because they have had to work really hard to step into big shoes. Lisa Neville, the past member for Bellarine, and John Eren, the past member for Lara – theirs are big shoes to fill. They worked tirelessly to get over the line and win those seats, so I pay tribute to them, because having been there myself in 2014 I know what it is like.

I do want to also congratulate all the new members who have made their inaugural speeches today and in the previous sitting in December, because it shows us the calibre of people who are entering this Parliament and the importance of that. But of course the number of women that are coming into this Parliament is fantastic as well, particularly in the regions.

I also do want to thank the union movement and the mighty Geelong Trades Hall for all their support for all of us across the region. Those workers, delegates and union officials support us to get over the line so that we can deliver for working people in the Geelong region, so I do appreciate their support.

Thank you to the Victorian ALP campaign team, the caucus communications unit and the ministers for all the work that they have done – but of course a huge thankyou to the Premier, who was just tireless in the work that he did throughout this campaign and put up with a lot of crap as well. As I said, I am really pleased that Geelong is now completely a sea of red, and it has continued to be that after this election.

I do want to thank the people of Geelong for giving me the opportunity to represent them in the 60th Parliament. It really is a great privilege to represent my community, to listen to them, to find out what the issues are and to visit schools and different community organisations, listening to them and then coming back and working with this amazing government to deliver on what we need. And of course during the 59th Parliament we were able to deliver so much for Geelong, which is obviously the reason why they supported us at the 2022 election.

In the health space, particularly during the pandemic, which was so challenging for all of us, to nurses, doctors, support staff, cleaners, caterers, attendants in our hospitals, paramedics and aged care and nursing home and disability support staff I say thank you for all the work that you have done. But they have also said thankyou to us by giving us the great privilege of representing them again in the 60th Parliament.

All the Aboriginal leaders and the many organisations in our community during COVID really stepped up and worked hard to ensure that their community was kept safe. To the multicultural organisations and groups, teachers and staff in schools, kinders and child care, retail staff and the many more that we relied on during that difficult time during the pandemic, a huge thankyou for what they have done and again a thankyou for putting their trust in us to represent them again in this 60th Parliament.

In Geelong there has been a huge boost in a whole range of things, including our schools. We rebuilt the Gordon TAFE over the last eight years, and during the last term we rebuilt the culinary school – a state-of-the-art culinary school has been delivered – the Kitjarra Aboriginal education centre, which I am so proud of, and made the announcement of the first-ever Indigenous culinary school, which will be established in this term, which is just fantastic. I do want to give a special thanks to Gayle Tierney in the other place, who ensured that those things were funded and that we looked after the TAFE students.

Of course free TAFE has made a huge difference in my community. I have the opportunity to move around my community and talk to people. I often say good governments change lives, good policy changes lives – and that is exactly what we have done. I have heard that time and time again everywhere I go from people who have been TAFE students. They have completed it and have now got a career pathway. For many of those people their families never had that opportunity, and free TAFE is actually now providing that opportunity so that they can get a career. It addresses some of the issues around poverty that we know are out there in our community. So free TAFE has made a huge difference in many people’s lives.

We have rolled out solar panels in schools, mental health practitioners, major upgrades to Newcomb Secondary College and Barwon Valley School and free kinder. The feedback from parents about free kinder has been extraordinary. I get emails and people stopping me at different events thanking this government for what they have done, because that free kinder makes such a huge difference for so many families. The commencement of the women’s and children’s hospital is another fantastic thing for the people of Geelong. Again, in talking to many families, they often say to me that it will save them having to travel to Melbourne to the Royal Children’s Hospital, having those facilities on their doorstep, and they are very grateful for that.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System delivered a huge number of recommendations, but Geelong was a big focus. The mental health drug and alcohol hub is currently being built in Moorabool Street in Geelong and is due to be finished this year. That will make an enormous difference to people who are experiencing mental health issues. They can walk in off the street and get the support that they need – something that we heard during the royal commission was a huge failing in our system. The youth mental health beds – that building will start this year. It will make a huge difference for young people in our community. Many young people have to go to Melbourne because there are just not the beds in Geelong to accommodate their needs. The acute mental health facility that was opened a few months ago has now been completed. People are now using that facility, and that makes a huge difference in the community of Geelong.

The early parenting centre is underway – it is coming out of the ground as we speak – which will make a huge difference for people across the Geelong region. Parents that are struggling with newborn babies or little people that need that additional support will be able to go there, stay for a couple of nights, a week – whatever it might take – and get the expert support that they will need. The children’s emergency department is incredible. It is about to begin. We released the designs only last week. That will make a huge difference to the demands on our emergency department services in Geelong. We know that there are issues for children being in that environment, so to have a specific children’s emergency department is going to be huge.

The Ngarrimili Aboriginal centre fit-out that we funded for First Peoples employment will make a huge difference. I am so proud that we were able to fund that fit-out. That will open later this year and will be there as a shining light during the Commonwealth Games as well, which is really exciting. The convention and exhibition centre is well underway. I know we copped heaps of criticism from those opposite and from one particular federal senator, but I can assure the house that that is well underway. We are really excited about what that is going to bring for my community of Geelong.

The green spine and the laneways projects in the revitalisation process of Geelong are booming. People are loving it. They are seeing the difference.

There is the dog park in Belmont – and I know dog parks are only a small sort of project, but they make a huge difference to people in my community. They were celebrating the fact that we had a dog park open in Belmont. Of course there is the redevelopment of the Geelong Arts Centre, which is a very well loved centre in our Geelong community – the fact that we are now doing the second stage of that, which is looking extraordinary. So if you ever get the opportunity, drive through Little Malop Street in Geelong and have a look at the Geelong Arts Centre. It is a state-of-the-art facility.

The incorporation of Aboriginal culture has been absolutely incredible for the Geelong community as well as for First Peoples in my community. Changing Places facilities – the hoist on a new platform at Barwon River so people with disabilities can use a hoist to get into canoes and boats – is very well accepted by the Geelong community. Major events have included White Night, the Foo Fighters concert that we have all heard about numerous times in this place, the Cadel Evans race and the Festival of Sails. All those big events really promote Geelong but also give people a sense of pride in the community.

The safe spaces, Pride games and a Rainbow road map with the LGBTQI+ community have been very welcomed in Geelong, but we still have a lot to deliver. The SEC – we have heard a bit about that this week in this place. That was just such an exciting announcement and very much welcomed by my community. The Geelong East Primary School upgrade, the Bannockburn SES new facility, the Bannockburn scout hall, the winter reserve upgrade for the Belmont Lions – there is so much, along with the Commonwealth Games legacy, that will be left in my community of Geelong. It is very exciting what we have done and what we are now looking forward to, but I know there is a lot more to do, and I am working with my community and listening to what they have got to say, as I have already mentioned.

I feel proud and privileged to be part of the Andrews Labor government in this 60th Parliament, with its great leadership and a commitment to all Victorians, including regional Victoria. Those on the other side carp about regional Victoria not getting its fair share. Well, let me tell you, just drive down through the streets of Geelong and you will find we are certainly getting our fair share, because equity is at the heart of what we do. That is the important thing for all of us on this side of the house. Everything we do is around equity. It is about inclusion. It is about accessibility. It is about providing our communities with what they need – and big projects that we are not too scared to deliver on. We are delivering and we are getting on with it. So it is a great privilege to be back here again, and I am looking forward to the next four years.

Members applauded.

Emma KEALY (Lowan) (16:43): It is of course fabulous to be able to return to this place and offer my address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech. I am thankful also that I am able to follow the member for Geelong’s contribution, where she spoke about how much the Labor government invests in regional Victoria because ‘you only need to walk through the streets of Geelong’. It may surprise the government that there is actually an enormous amount of Victoria further west of Geelong. In fact my electorate, which has now expanded, represents about 19 per cent of the state – all of it west of Geelong. The amount that Labor allocated as election commitments to my part of the state was absolutely at paltry levels. It certainly did not show the level of equity that the member for Geelong just said the Labor government holds at its heart. In fact this is probably representative of what we hear from the Andrews Labor government time and time again. We hear these words, we hear these promises and we hear these commitments, but when it comes to looking at what the outcomes are, they are hollow words. That is what we have seen over the last four years.

I am in my third term of Parliament – I am in opposition yet again – but I know that it is a very, very important role, because if we do not have a strong opposition, we do not have a strong government. It is our role as opposition members to hold the government to account, and when they make vast statements which are along the lines of ‘We’re delivering for all Victorians’, it is up to people like me to stand up and say, ‘No, you’re not’. You are not delivering the healthcare outcomes for the people in our local communities that make it fair and equitable. You are letting down our community by not fixing our roads, by allowing them to continue to degrade and crumble while we see budget cut after budget cut in consecutive years. We are seeing lives lost on our roads because there is not any action – because there is not a specific fund for our local councils to dip into to help them to manage their roads rather than lifting the rates over and over again. Our schools are being left to decline, and our hospitals urgently need upgrades. They urgently need support to be able to attract more medical professionals – more nurses, more allied health professionals – and yet they see more and more cuts and money shifted from our smallest communities into larger regional centres. In my instance in Lowan all the money, all the focus, is going to Ballarat. It is our local people that are missing out. They are Victorian, just as you are Victorian if you live in Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong. Our people are important. They contribute greatly to this state. I believe in them, and that is why I put my hand up at the 2022 election to again represent the good people of Lowan.

In my address-in-reply I would like to specifically mention the newest members of the National Party room, because I think we have all been awestruck and inspired by just how talented these people who are brand new to politics are and how they are already proving that they are going to be a very, very strong voice for rural and regional Victoria. It is fabulous to see that the Nationals are now again representing the regions of Mildura. We have got the Nationals member for Mildura here in the chamber, the Nationals member for Shepparton here in the chamber and the Nationals member for Morwell here in the chamber –

Brad Battin interjected.

Emma KEALY: We will be happy to give you a membership form, Brad. We have also of course got in the upper house our new member for Northern Victoria Gaelle Broad, who gave an excellent inaugural speech yesterday. And we have had the transition of the seat of Euroa. Steph Ryan did a fabulous job representing the Nationals and representing her electorate and all rural and regional people across the past eight years. We all miss Steph greatly. We are thankful for her amazing contribution to the party and to her people, but we also have to welcome Annabelle Cleeland, the new Nationals member for Euroa, who I think showed today that she absolutely will be a fierce advocate for her region. She was enormously brave in sharing her own story about how she had been let down by Victoria’s healthcare system in rural and regional Victoria. She will take local community members’ stories right to the public. She will shine a light on those issues, and she will be another strong voice for rural and regional Victorians and make sure we are never, ever forgotten.

I would like to make a special mention also of the continuing members of the National Party. We did not lose any seats. The member for Ovens Valley is in the chamber. We have also got the members for Gippsland South and Gippsland East and the member for Murray Plains – I had better not forget the boss. We have got Melina Bath, member for Eastern Victoria, as well in the other place. Everybody worked tirelessly over the election campaign. We all own a little bit of the success of having an additional four in number in the party room, and I thank and congratulate everybody who assisted us to achieve that bigger party room. I will admit that I was a little bit teary when we had our first party room meeting, seeing not just the numbers but the talent we have got. We have got a fierce voice in Parliament. We will fight for rural and regional Victoria as the Nationals always have.

In the electorate of Lowan I am so enormously appreciative of the support that I receive, not just from the voters. I am so thankful. I do not care whether I got one vote over the 50 per cent or whether I got an enormous margin. The margin does not matter to me; it is all about being able to continue being a strong voice for the people of Lowan. I am thankful in particular for the support of the newer regions in my electorate of Stawell, Great Western, Mortlake and Caramut. My electorate has grown by about 5000 square kilometres since the last time I stood in this place. I do proudly declare that biggest is best, and while there is an enormous amount of empty space in my electorate – our population is spread out quite thinly across the region – we certainly are worth our weight in gold when it comes to providing food for our region and when we provide wool for our region and dairy products for our region. Even things like berries we grow profusely. We have got enormous things to offer for the state. We create a lot of wealth for the state – we just ask for that to come back in a fair and equitable way.

To all of those people who provided support to me – whether it was at the ballot box with their first or second or last preference, I do not really mind – thank you so much for participating in the democratic process. To the other candidates who put their hand up, thank you so much for providing a choice and putting an option on the table. Thank you so much to the National Party membership, the people who turned out to hand out how-to-vote cards, the people who put their hand in their pocket to financially support the campaign and the people who were just out there sharing Facebook messages, sending out emails and chatting to their mates about Emma not being a bad rep and ‘We should vote for her’. I really appreciate whatever you did in whatever way. I owe my next four years to you, and I will give back as much as I possibly can and fight for what you need every inch of the way.

I also want to pass on my thanks to my fabulous staff because, while it is ‘Emma Kealy MP’ in the media releases and at the events and that is the signage on the office, I would not have nearly the number of successes I have and enjoy if I did not have an amazingly strong team around me. So thank you so much to Carly, Wendy, Helen and Sara – and Arlene, who just started last week – and also to Suzanne, Kym, Kelsey, Christine and Angela. You are kind and considerate. You listen and you always deliver for people who are in contact with our office, and I cannot thank you enough for all you contribute for the people of Lowan. You are the unsung heroes of the region. You mean a lot to me and I thank you, not just for your support and for all the work you do but also for your friendship. If I can give a special shout-out and thankyou to Carly, because she recently gave birth to a darling little boy, Teddy, who made a visit to the office a couple of weeks ago. He is a gorgeous little boy, a lovely addition to their family. So congratulations Aaron, Carly, Bonnie, Louis and the newest little member of the family, Teddy.

We are a fabulous party. We fight for the people that live in rural and regional Victoria, and it is very disappointing to see when you read through the Governor’s address the little focus that is on regional Victoria in the targets for the government. And let us be clear: the Governor does not write this address. They do not write the speech, it is the government that writes the speech for the Governor, so when we look at that, there is an extraordinarily limited amount of things in there that local people need in my community.

I would like to put on the record – and I excuse, because it is a long list – all of the projects that we made a financial commitment to over the election campaign. The reason I want to put this on the record is because we did not see election commitments in any depth from other parties, including from the government. So I really want to make sure that there is a level of apolitical activity around this. Labor do not have the resources to put someone on the ground in the electorate of Lowan, and so I am more than happy – and I have written to all of the ministers responsible for these projects – to ensure that in the lead-up to the budget they understand that these projects were not selected for political reasons or to win votes. They are legitimate projects that need to see investment this year to be able to be delivered for these communities.

In education we had funding commitments for St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Stawell, St Brigid’s College in Horsham, Kaniva College, Casterton Primary School and also for childcare facilities. I do note that the government has since announced funding for the Dunmunkle childcare centre. We know that we have childcare deserts all throughout my electorate, and so I would love to see a greater focus by this government on developing infrastructure for child care but also training up more people to work in child care, because we simply are not seeing that flow at the moment. Hamilton and Dunkeld are facing a critical issue when it comes to access to child care at the moment. I urge the government, as their next step, to focus on investment in that area.

In health care, something where it is essential to attract people to live in our regions and fill our jobs, because we have got so many job vacancies, and also to stay, because people want access to high-quality health care, we made commitments of $6.65 million to Mortlake Community Health Centre –well-needed funding – that hospital desperately needs redevelopment. The Hamilton campus of Western District Health Service desperately need $17 million to upgrade their ICU and emergency department. It is absolutely disgusting, the conditions that are there. It is not fair for the staff, it is not fair for the patients and people who present there, and it is not fair for the paramedics. We desperately need to see that allocation of funding in this year’s budget. Also Willaura hospital – it is one of only three commitments that I made in 2018 that have not yet been delivered. I will continue to fight for that investment of $7 million in that facility.

In relation to sports, which is the lifeblood, really, of our networking and fitness in our region, we committed to Horsham’s city oval; Warracknabeal’s Anzac Park; Horsham’s Coughlin Park tennis courts; the Dimboola Bowling Club, who have had their green absolutely scarified by corellas, and I do urge the government to urgently release their corella management plan; Balmoral Bowling Club; the Stawell Central Park new electronic scoreboard – of course this is the home of the Stawell Gift; we want to see an allocation of funding for the Stawell Gift in the long term; and also the Neil Davis park. It has fallen through the gaps of election results on many occasions over the past few years, between state and federal commitments. Please fund the Neil Davis park. They need the investment. They deserve the investment. It is an excellent case.

Also in terms of regional development, there are really good ideas that are supported by the community that will be transformational for our region. Horsham aerodrome needs to have an investment so that we can upgrade the facility and get it up to standard so it can receive domestic flights, because we will need to have a domestic airline in place when the mineral sands opportunities are realised in the coming years. If we do not start developing now, we are not going to have access to an immediate opportunity to put in place a domestic airline, which will also support people who already live in the local community. We wanted to put in place a master plan to finally look at properly returning passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton and just see what the feasibility is and what is the best way to go about that. We need to develop the Pomonal tunnel track. There is a water tunnel that runs through the Grampians National Park. It could be converted into an everyday walkway, which would attract tourists from around the world. Who would think you could walk through a mountain in western Victoria? Let us see some investment to develop that.

We also want to see the end of the gas monopoly in our region. I know that this government wants to shut down gas as a source of energy, but it is still very, very important that our people are not ripped off when it comes to getting these ever-increasing price hikes because there is only one supplier of gas to the local area.

The Casterton rail trail down to Sandford needs some funding – and the Natimuk weir and also our roads of course. The Western Highway duplication – the federal government again kicked the funding for that down the road. Lives are being lost on that road nearly every few weeks. We need to see that finalised sooner rather than later. And the Coleraine-Edenhope Road, near Coleraine, I think should be renamed Gus’s Hill rather than the Big Dipper –

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will pause for a moment. If conversations need to be had, they need to be had outside.

Emma KEALY: because Gus McCure did an excellent job in advocating for funding for that, and we have finally seen works done on that just last week.

There is a lot that we want to achieve over the next four years. There is everything that I will do: I will stand side by side with my community to make sure we do deliver for regional Victoria. I will give local people a strong voice in this place. I will always stand by their side, and every single day I have over the coming four years I will fight for my electorate for a fair deal and make sure that local people’s voices are heard.

Members applauded.

Anthony CIANFLONE (Pascoe Vale) (16:58): Thank you, Deputy Speaker, and congratulations to you on your appointment and elevation. I congratulate the Speaker on her appointment for this term as well.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, and recognise their continued custodianship and connection to land, water and country. I particularly acknowledge the co-chairs of Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart. Here in Victoria we are delivering on the Uluru Statement from the Heart through voice, treaty and truth.

I extend my congratulations to the Premier, the ministry and all Labor members on being elected for a historic third term of the Andrews Labor government, which I am so grateful to be a part of. I commend the Leader of the Opposition on his appointment and extend my very best wishes to all parliamentarians from all sides, who I look forward to working with, particularly the class of 2022.

It is the greatest honour of my life to be standing here in this chamber as the new member for Pascoe Vale, Coburg and parts of Brunswick West. As the son of migrant parents and as a lifelong local of these suburbs, where my wife Anna and I are now raising our own family, it is truly humbling to have been chosen as the community’s representative. As the new local member, first and foremost my priority will be to serve the whole community – every constituent – as best I can, regardless of their political persuasion, background or circumstance. I will be striving to make Pascoe Vale an even better and fairer place to live, learn, work, raise a family and retire in. I am grateful to the local Labor members and the electorate of Pascoe Vale, and I am so proud of the positive local campaign that we ran that brought the community together.

Labor achieved a swing towards us in primary votes at the ballot box, including the highest primary vote across 20 of the 23 election booths. I thank the Victorian Labor Party, which I have been a member of for many years, and the local members for their ongoing support – without you I would not be here. Rarely before has a Victorian Labor government received such a comprehensive third-term endorsement, and even rarer still is it to have so many Labor members sitting on this side of the chamber as well as on that side of the house. This is a rare gift which we must never, ever take for granted and work harder than ever before to build on.

In being elected as the sixth Labor member for Pascoe Vale, I am cognisant of the immense contribution of my predecessors. From the most recent member Lizzie Blandthorn to Christine Campbell and Kelvin Thomson, who all graciously served our community, I thank you for your ongoing counsel and support. To previous members who have represented parts of the area as well – Carlo Carli, Peter Gavin, Tim Read, Tom Roper – thank you all for your service.

It gives me immense pride to represent the suburbs of Pascoe Vale, Coburg and Brunswick West, which have a deep and diverse history. Located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, situated between the Moonee Ponds Creek and Merri Creek from Boundary Road to Hope Street, the Pascoe Vale electorate is nestled in the heart of Melbourne’s vibrant northern suburbs. The community has a rich First Nations, multicultural, manufacturing, working-class, industrial, creative, activist history that has helped shape the identity of modern-day Victoria. Just like the bluestone-lined streets, our people are as hardworking and resilient as they come, yet as empathetic as can be.

First settled by migrants seeking refuge from hard times in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales from 1837, the area went on to grow around what has become known as Pentridge prison, an institution older than this state and indeed this Parliament. Since then the area has evolved to capture the very best of what our state has to offer – multiculturalism – with generations of migrants calling Pascoe Vale home, including many of Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Turkish and Maltese heritage. Today almost 50 per cent of local residents have parents who were born overseas. We have a large second-generation community of families, including both my wife and me, and we continue to welcome new generations of migrants from India, China, Nepal, Pakistan and many, many other places.

I became involved in politics because I have long believed that we all play a role in building a better future. I joined Labor because it is the party that fosters aspirations, leaving no-one behind, the party with fairness and equality at its very core, the light on the hill. It has been the policies of Labor governments that have given my family and me the opportunity to be standing in this chamber.

My mum was born in 1946, growing up in the small town of Pianopoli in the province of Catanzaro in Calabria – as was the member for Mill Park – and graduated from primary school, the highest level expected for girls in those days in southern Italy. My dad Pietro was born not far away in Nicastro. Answering the calls originally put out by then Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley and immigration minister Arthur Calwell, my family migrated to Australia aboard the ships the Galileo Galilei and the Angelina Lauro. Like so many other post-World War II migrants, including my mother-in-law Pauline Owens, who departed Northern Ireland to flee the troubles, or my father-in-law Andreas Chrysanthou, who left his homeland of Cyprus, migrants of that era came with nothing but a suitcase on their backs: a suitcase that was filled with dreams – dreams for a better future, not just for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren. They came with very little in their pockets but a whole lot in their hearts to give to their new country, which was willing to embrace them so enthusiastically.

Over their working lives my parents held numerous blue-collar jobs across the north. My mum sewed and packed dusters, made belts and women’s trousers and served surgeons of the day in the old doctors dining room just around the corner from here at St Vincent’s Hospital. My dad worked as a packer and a bus tyre repair man, followed by stints at Visy and Ford whilst waiting in the evening. My godfather Pietro Pera worked an incredible 40 years at the Ford factory in Broadmeadows.

We were raised in a very modest California bungalow in Jamieson Street, Coburg, where we largely grew up speaking Italian, with very few luxuries but with plenty of love and plenty of homemade pasta sauce. We were as working class as you could get. Along with the support of my parents, it was the safety net sustained by successive Labor governments that provided us with the opportunities we needed to aspire. I was the beneficiary of a good public education, attending Coburg West Primary and Northcote High School, and I was taught by the wonderful teachers who are here in the gallery today: Agatha Blatti, my grade 4 teacher, Helen Anderton and Gary Israel, my former principal.

Whitlam’s and Hawke’s reforms to education gave me the chance to be the first of my family to complete year 12 and then go on to graduate from university at RMIT. When I started my first job in hospitality it was the minimum wage standards and conditions that helped me to stand on my own two feet. When my parents fell on tough times work-wise, and there were plenty, it was the social safety net that provided us the support to get to the next pay cheque. When we got sick it was Medicare that kept us healthy.

Growing up in the northern suburbs during the 1990s I also learned the experience about not having Labor governments in place. As Jeff Kennett pursued the ‘Victoria – on the move’ agenda it was the northern suburbs that wrote the cheque and paid the price through school closures, cuts and sell-offs we will never forget. It was through these experiences that I was inspired to become politically active and community minded. So when our area did not have a dedicated youth hub, I had the opportunity to lead the Oxygen youth centre project, opening Merri-bek’s then first-ever co-located youth centre with youth services. When the Robinson Reserve and Reynard Street Neighbourhood House were experiencing challenges, I had the opportunity to become chair and help revitalise the house to put it back on track. With our community campaign to reopen a years 7 to 12 high school in Coburg – thanks to Cate Hall, who is in the gallery today too – as well as to save Edgars Creek, to stand up for pensioners or to maintain the curfew at Essendon Airport, I had the opportunity to support locals to secure these outcomes.

Work-wise, I have had the privilege to work across all three levels of government, beginning as Kelvin Thomson’s electorate officer and adviser for trade and schools during his parliamentary secretary days. I was then the senior adviser to the former Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Minister for Sport and Minister for Veterans, John Eren, otherwise known as the minister for everything. I also had the pleasure of working in senior advocacy roles at Brimbank council, CPR Communications and Darebin City Council.

But this is also not the first time that I have proudly put up my hand to serve the state. Growing up I was also called on to be the goalkeeper for the Victorian football team – or soccer team in those days – and yes, for the record, before you hear it from anyone else, I was also the 2005 junior Mr Victoria bodybuilding champion. I always knew I would be back to serve the state. Through every role I have gained valuable insights, all of which provide me with the foundations, I hope, to be an effective local member. I am committed to helping build a better community through delivering on job, education, transport, health and social justice outcomes. I have been elected to be a champion for the community.

Every Victorian deserves the security of a job with a decent wage. Victorian Labor has prioritised job creation since 2014, with almost 600,000 new jobs now created and with statewide unemployment now at historically low levels. However, according to North Link’s The Future Workforce: Melbourne’s North report our region will require at least another 182,000 local jobs by 2031 to close the gap between local jobs and resident workers. Despite Merri-bek’s employment, skill and education outcomes having continued to improve over time, around 15 per cent of employed people actually live and work locally – one of the lowest employment self-sufficiency rates for any LGA. I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address these challenges by working towards making Coburg a jobs hub for Melbourne’s north. With Labor’s new world-class stations at Coburg and Moreland, the $17 million new science and tech hub at Coburg High, the $6 million redevelopment of Coburg City Oval and the transformation of Pentridge into a visitor destination, we now have the catalyst projects to begin realising this vision.

As I mentioned, I am the proud product of our local education system, and as a local dad I know just how importantly families value the quality of local kinders and schools. I am very much looking forward to the rollout of free kinder in my community, which is being accompanied by a $10 million investment to upgrade 11 local kinders. I am also very much looking forward to working through the development of a new Merri-bek education plan for the north. This plan will help to ensure we continue to meet the future needs of local secondary students and families, building on the $150 million that Labor has invested into upgrading every local school since 2014.

I am a firm believer that all Victorians deserve access to safe and sustainable transport networks. In this regard I am also proud that it has been a Labor government that has finally removed the dangerous level crossings in Coburg – thank you, Minister – at Moreland, Reynard Street, Munro Street and Bell Street, and that Labor is building the Metro rail tunnel, which will increase the capacity for both the Upfield line and the Craigieburn line. I also welcome the opportunity to advocate, however, for further transport improvements across the community, firstly on the Upfield railway line. While we have committed to the removal of a further eight crossings through Brunswick, opportunities exist for additional improvements along the line which if fully realised can actually become the economic development spine for the whole of the northern corridor. Advocating for improvements along the Craigieburn line will also be a priority of mine. Thirdly, the commissioning of Melbourne’s northern bus review will help us to improve local bus routes and patronage. Fourth, with many young families and elderly residents now living in the area, opportunities to improve road and pedestrian safety as well as accessibility for all commuters will remain a priority. And lastly, as a proud Transport Workers Union member, I will also be focused on ensuring that we as a state continue to elevate our role in how we support and recognise transport, the gig economy and aviation workers.

Our health and wellbeing is paramount. Regardless of the age, background or circumstance, everyone in our community deserves access to quality health care. It is health and community workers that make up the biggest industry that local residents in my area are employed in – almost 14 per cent. Many of these workers are the backbone of our hospitals, social services and med tech sectors across Melbourne. I have doorknocked many of them.

At a local level there are significant opportunities to improve jobs and services for health workers as well as patients, which I welcome the chance to pursue through the delivery of the new Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s hospitals, upgrades of the Northern and Austin hospitals, and our plans for a new mental health hub in Coburg – finally – partnering with Merri community health. The proposed Coburg health precinct project will create 1000 jobs, and there will be the rollout of free nursing and health studies. Along with more health services our local sporting clubs will also play a big role in preventative health outcomes. Whether it is through the rollout of female-friendly change rooms or other projects, I look forward to working with them.

The environment is fundamental to all life on earth, and real action on the environment is necessary if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Bringing back the SEC will help us to transition our economy to net zero emissions whilst keeping the lights on, businesses going and workers in jobs. Locally I look forward to working on a whole number of opportunities, including protecting and enhancing the Moonee Ponds Creek, Merri Creek and Edgars Creek, improving tree canopy cover across the north and progressing opportunities around the circular economy and recycling as well as incentivising local residents to transition away from gas and support the take-up of electric-powered households, buses and vehicles. I will be committed to building a fairer and more socially just community through all of these and many other priorities. Whether it is mental health, cost of living or family violence, I will always be standing with people.

My journey to this place has been made possible by a village of people over so many years. Firstly I extend my eternal, heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the people of Pascoe Vale for entrusting me to be their local representative. Thank you to the dedicated Labor Pascoe Vale team and the hundreds of local Labor Party members, true believers and volunteers. While there are so many to mention, I would like to give a special thanks to Wayne Swan, Richard Marles, Jana Stewart and John Eren for launching my campaign events. To the La Trobe University and Young Labor activists, to the de facto member for Wills, Mimi Tamburrino, and the many other campaign volunteers, I say thank you. Thank you to the sporting clubs and multicultural community members. A special mention, though, to the Persian Iranian community: your support is appreciated, and I am proud to stand in solidarity with you as you fight for freedom in Iran.

My thanks to the Victorian/Tasmanian branch of the Transport Workers Union, in particular former secretary John Berger, current secretary Mike McNess and assistant secretary Mem Suleyman. Thank you for your friendship and all that you do.

Thank you to all across the Labor movement who have continued to help and support me over the years, including past and current colleagues and community organisations, but namely, Senator Raff Ciccone, Michael Donovan, Sam Rae, Rob Mitchell, Anthony Carbines, Nat Suleyman, Matt Fregon, Sarah Connolly, Ella George, Kelvin Thomson, Christine Campbell, Judy Maddigan, Stephen Conroy, Phil Dalidakis, Maria Vamvakinou and so many others – thank you.

A special thanks of course to my wife and best friend Anna and our daughters Raffaella and Cleopatra for their love and support as I dedicated myself to the campaign and to now serving the community. Thank you for your sacrifices. I love each and every one of you beyond words. Anna is also a successful small business woman in her own right, and she truly inspires me every day. To my parents for all their hard work and sacrifices, to Lorenza, Roberto and Gianluca, and to all of my extended family and friends, many of whom are here or watching online – you know who you are, and I thank you for your lifetime support. And to those who are no longer with us but are watching from the other side of the stars, including my brother-in-law Tom Owens, Senator Mehmet Tillem and others who left us far too soon.

In conclusion, as members of Parliament we are given an honourable opportunity by the people of our electorates to work for the betterment of those that reside in our suburbs – the small business owners, the workers, the families, children, young people, the elderly and the disadvantaged. I thank the people of Pascoe Vale for placing their confidence in me, and I will work every day as hard as I can to do justice to that trust. Now let’s do this, Pascoe Vale!

Members applauded.

Michael O’BRIEN (Malvern) (17:20): It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on the address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech for the 60th Parliament. My congratulations, Speaker, to you on your election to this high office and also to all members. Having been first elected in 2006 myself, it makes me a little bit sentimental when I hear the new members of the house give their inaugural speeches. It takes me back 16 years, because it is a great honour which our communities have entrusted us with, to represent them, to serve them, to be their voice in this chamber.

I would like to thank the people of Malvern. They have elected me for a fifth time. They have done so with an increased majority, which is always pleasing, and it is certainly something that I never, ever take for granted. I live in my electorate. I love it, I am passionate about it, and it is the honour of my professional life to be their voice and their representative in this chamber. It is something I will never, ever take for granted, and I commit to serving them with just as much vigour and energy now as I did when I was first elected to represent them 16 years ago.

I would like to thank the other candidates and their teams: Darren Natale from the ALP, Mitchell Fuller from the Greens, Amelia Natoli from Animal Justice, Judy Schmidt from Family First and Steve Stefanopoulos. We had a very strongly contested, willing campaign, but it was one that was done with great courtesy, one that was done in the right spirit, which is the way democracy should be – yes, hard fought, yes, chasing down every vote, but done in the right way with the right spirit. I think it was a credit not just to the candidates and their teams but also to our democracy, so I would like to thank all those candidates and their teams for their efforts. I would like to thank the Victorian Electoral Commission staff, who undertake a difficult challenge with great professionalism.

To my campaign committee and to my campaign director, Jack Cook – Jack was just a revelation. He has worked for me previously, when I was Leader of the Opposition. He worked in my electorate office for a period. But as my campaign director, he was outstanding. Nothing got past him. Everything was done. It is probably the first time I have been able to – not relax, because I worked harder on this campaign than I think I have worked on any campaign, but to have that confidence that somebody is in charge who just knows what they are doing was just outstanding. I am very grateful to Jack for all of his effort. To my Malvern electorate chairman Mark Stretton, who has been just an outstanding chairman for me; to my vice-chairs Julie Osborne and Stewart Stribling; to Jacquie Blackwell and Sujay Capoor and Holly Byrne – they have all been part of my campaign committee, they have all done outstanding jobs. I think we all know as candidates that while it might be our face on the corflute and it may be our name on the ballot paper, we really represent a team. We could not do it without those teams, and I am here to say thank you so much to my team.

Can I also note and thank my volunteer coordinator, Margaret Harrison. Sometimes getting the volunteers out to work on those pre-polls, to put up the signs in the front yards, is not always easy, but Margaret just did an outstanding job, ably assisted by Marg Hawker. It would be remiss of me not to thank the queen of pre-poll in the Malvern electorate, Trish McCann. Trish is a legend of the Liberal Party in my part of the world. No matter how early I was there at pre-poll, Trish always beat me. No matter how late I left, Trish was always there after me. We had to actually send her home at times, because she would have worked 24/7 if we had allowed her to do it. So to Trish: thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and to your daughter Simone. Simone was also just outstanding. Both of them were great supporters and really embodied the spirit of the volunteer. That is, I think, what we want to see and we want to see more of in our society in Victoria. We want to see people who are passionate about things and put their time and effort into it to contribute to a greater good. Whether it is through political parties or through community organisations like Rotary or whether it is through junior sporting clubs or conservation groups, we have all got an opportunity to contribute, and we should do more to recognise and thank volunteers, because they really are the heart and soul of what we do.

Can I thank all of my Liberal Party members and supporters in Malvern who helped me. Can I be unfashionable and also thank Liberal Party secretariat staff. I know that secretariat staff do not often get praised, particularly after an election loss, but can I just say I would like to place on record my thanks for all the work that they put in, because even for an unsuccessful campaign an enormous amount of work goes in. I would like to thank the staff who helped there, and last but certainly not least my electorate office staff, Annette Turnbull and Justin Huels. I was in my office when another member giving an address-in-reply made a similar comment, but the amount of people on the line in early voting who said to me that they had been helped by my staff was just fantastic. I have always said to my staff, ‘You are my ambassadors when I am not in the office.’ My staff just do a fantastic job, and I am very proud of the work they do and how they represent me and how they assist me to be the member for Malvern. So thank you very much, Annette and Justin.

To my family, to my wife Michelle who puts up with a lot, including me, and has done for many years, thank you so much for all your love and support. And to my two children Eleanor and Reagan. Eleanor was a year 12 student last year, so it was a very stress-free year in the O’Brien household, being an election year and a year 12 year! She turned 18 in time to be able to vote. We went along to the polling booth together and were there side by side in the polling booth, and she very proudly said ‘Yes, Dad, I did vote for you’– because there have been a few times where it might have been an issue. What I have not told her and what she is only finding out now is that I knew she had voted for me because I had already peeked over her shoulder. But I am very grateful for the love and support of my kids Eleanor and Reagan. They have been just outstanding, and I am very, very proud of them. To my mum Toni, to my brother Conor, my sister-in-law Nadine and young Tom O’Brien, who was just born in January last year, so it is his very first election but I am sure not his last – he has got a few years to go yet before we can get him on a polling booth.

To my friends, and I do not tend to mention my friends – I am not going to go into names – but to those who I have lunch with, to those I go to the footy with, to those I am on various WhatsApp groups with and to those who keep me sane, who keep me grounded, who are very quick to tell me if I am getting ahead of myself, thank you. Thank you for everything you do just to help me be hopefully a decent person. To those I play golf with – and on that note I do look forward to the annual Mooseters tournament to be played in a couple of weeks time. I will be seeing some of my colleagues down around Inverloch and we will be spending some money in regional Victoria and hacking up some golf courses, so that will be fun as well.

I think one of the reasons why I was able to secure an increased majority this time around was the really strong local campaign that we ran, particularly on local issues that matter to the people of my electorate. We used to have five level crossings in the Malvern electorate. When I was Treasurer back in the 2014–15 budget we funded the removal of the Burke Road one, and that was one of the worst in Melbourne. That was done. I think the current government got to cut the ribbon, but it was done, it was funded and it was organised by the former Liberal–Nationals government. And it was done rail under road. We consulted with the community. The community said, ‘We want rail under road.’ They said, ‘We don’t mind some development around the station. If you’re going to rebuild the station that’s fine and if you want to do some sensible development to offset some of the costs.’ They were fine with that, and we listened to the community and we gave them what they wanted, and it is fantastic.

Now, the current government removed the Toorak Road level crossing, and unfortunately they chose sky rail. Everyone is delighted the level crossing is gone, but really sky rail was suboptimal, to put it mildly, and particularly for those people who live right along that corridor. They are still feeling the effects of that.

We have got three more level crossings. We have got Tooronga Road in Malvern, we have got High Street in Glen Iris – which, Deputy Speaker, I am sure you are only too familiar with, given it borders your electorate too – and Glenferrie Road, Kooyong. Now, there is an independent, objective assessment of how bad these level crossings are. It is called the Australian level crossing assessment model, or ALCAM, and ALCAM lists the Tooronga Road level crossing as the 39th worst in Victoria – but this government has no plans to remove it. High Street, Glen Iris, is the 53rd worst in Victoria – again, not on Labor’s list. Glenferrie Road, Kooyong, is the 71st worst in Victoria. Not only is it not on Labor’s list but the former federal Liberal government offered $260 million. They actually put it on the table and said, ‘We’ll help you get rid of this’, and the Premier said, ‘No, thank you’. And now the federal Labor government has taken that money back, while the federal Labor MP for Higgins Michelle Ananda-Rajah has said nothing about $260 million being ripped out of my community that could have been used to remove a dangerous and deadly level crossing. So my plea here is: when is the government going to stop playing politics with infrastructure? The government says, ‘We’re removing 130 level crossings.’ Well, these have been independently assessed as being the 39th, 53rd and 71st worst in Victoria. Why aren’t they on the list? They should have been three of the first 130 to be removed. I will continue to fight so that my community does not miss out. It is time for this government to stop playing politics with infrastructure and to look at merit instead of political margins when it is making decisions about what gets funded and where it gets funded.

We also proposed to extend the number 3 tram, which currently ends right outside my office, on the corner of Waverley Road and Darling Road, and move it almost a couple of kilometres down the road – not even a couple of kilometres down the road – to link up with East Malvern station. Again, this is common sense. If we want to get people out of cars and if we want to link up public transport and get our trams and trains connected, this is an easy win. It is something that can be done, it is something that should be done, and it is something that I will continue to campaign for in this Parliament, whichever side of the chamber I am on.

Also can we please do something about our 40-kilometre zones. We have got a number of them in Malvern. There are two separate ones on Waverley Road, East Malvern. There is one in High Street; there is one in Malvern Road. Monday to Friday they start at either 7 am or 8 am, and they end at either 7 pm, 8 pm or 9 pm. On Saturday they start at 9 am or 8 am, and they finish at 1 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm or 9 pm, depending on which one it is. On Sunday they either do not operate at all or they start at 8 am and finish at 5 pm, 8 pm or 9 pm. Can you imagine the confusion? This is not a level crossing removal, this is just common sense. Can we please just get some common sense in there and keep Malvern moving? It was part of my campaign and is something that I am committed to doing. We have got a great area, but we need to keep it moving, and there are some very easy fixes that I want to see done in this term to do that.

I want to fight for a fair share. My constituents, they pay their taxes. They pay more than their fair share of taxes, but they do not get a fair return on investment. Our local state schools are not getting the love they need, they are not getting the support they need, and I will be a very strong voice for that to happen. It is Lloyd Street school’s 100th anniversary this year.

James Newbury: Hear, hear! It’s a good school.

Michael O’BRIEN: A great school, member for Brighton. I want to see Lloyd Street get some support. I think it would be a very nice and warranted birthday present for Lloyd Street to receive a 100th birthday celebration present of some upgrades, because they need it. It is a big school, but it needs some love. The parents do a great job fundraising, but it should not all be on the parents. They are state schools, they are entitled to state investment, and I will be arguing for that as well.

I am grateful to the member for Hawthorn, the Leader of the Opposition, for appointing me as Shadow Attorney-General. While our mutual friend Michael Corleone has said, ‘You should keep your friends close and your enemies closer’, I prefer to keep my friends closer. I am grateful to John for the trust that he has placed in me, and I look forward to working to hold the government to account to fix the crisis in our legal system. We have the worst backlogs in the country. Over 25,000 criminal cases in the Magistrates Court have been waiting for more than a year, and the government’s answer is to appoint one new magistrate this year. It is not going to cut it.

We have got issues with integrity. We know there are at least four IBAC investigations that this government is currently involved in. We need to clean up politics. If we want to restore faith in democracy, that starts with our conduct in this place, and that starts with making sure that integrity is put first.

It is a great honour to be returned to this place. It was a long four years. For some of that period I was opposition leader. Some days went quickly, some days dragged, but I never lose sight of the fact that I am not here to serve anybody but the people of my electorate. I am very pleased to do so with the support of my party. I think that we have an opportunity in this term to tackle some of the real problems of this state, and we need to. Whether you want to look at our debt, whether you want to look at our cost of living or whether you want to look at our health system and our mental health system, there are so many issues here, so many challenges. It is on all of us to make sure that we leave this state a better place than we found it. I look forward to working with members here to do that in the 60th Parliament.

Members applauded.

Alison MARCHANT (Bellarine) (17:35): It is an honour to speak for the first time in this chamber as the member for Bellarine. I would like to acknowledge the First Nations people of this state and pay my respects to elders past and present while also acknowledging the Wadawurrung people, the traditional owners of the Bellarine region. The Bellarine Peninsula is known as Bella Wiyn in Wadawurrung language, which means ‘recline on the elbow by a fire’, a resting place. And what a magnificent resting place it is. It is a deep privilege to stand in this place and make my commitment to support our First Nations people in their self-determined journey to treaty in this state.

The Bellarine is a magical place, a landscape of rolling agricultural hills, beaches and unique townships, each having their own character and charm. In her valedictory speech, the former member for Bellarine Lisa Neville highlighted this:

Bellarine has a diverse group of communities … with very different needs and voices. They all required investment in different services and infrastructure …

Lisa was an incredible member for 20 years and leaves a lasting legacy across the Bellarine and Victoria. I thank Lisa for her service and her support, and I wish her all the best of life after politics. As I penned this speech, I reflected on Lisa’s significant contributions and my own journey to this place. Lisa’s service and success were underpinned by something that I know is integral to this job and something that is also imperative to me: that community is at the heart of any decision-making. I believe that understanding the community comes from being involved in the community, and whilst I have always been one to put my hand up to help, there was a time I did not fully appreciate the power of change that comes when a community works together, nor did I fully appreciate the worth of my own contributions. However, I now know, after 42 years and some key moments in my life, I will be a strong representative for the Bellarine.

The Bellarine has changed a lot over time. I was born and grew up in the small rural town of Leopold, now with a population of around 14,000 residents. I remember riding my bike to school through empty paddocks and walking with my sister to the milk bar for a 20-cent bag of lollies. My world was simple and friendly, where everyone would look out for each other. I know that this small-town upbringing and my parents’ commitment to community are the reasons why I feel so deeply about giving back. My mum, a former prep teacher, now follows her passion for local history and genealogy and has volunteered at the Geelong Heritage Centre for now over 40 years. My dad worked in manufacturing and construction, where he specialised in planning. With a passion for the environment, he spent much of his time planting thousands of Indigenous plants with the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail. Volunteers are an integral part of our community, and volunteering was fundamentally a part of my own upbringing.

After secondary school I studied teaching and became a primary school teacher, and with the help of wonderful, supportive teachers around me, I found my joy of teaching. At the start of my career I was not sure if it was for me – it is a tough job – but never underestimate the power of a wonderful school community. On that note, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our dedicated teachers working across the state. I understand and appreciate the impact you have on our young people, and I will do everything I can in this place to continue to support the work you do. But I would like to also acknowledge the work of teachers and support staff for those students who just need that little bit of extra help.

With permission from my son Noah, I would also like to share some of the teacher/mum guilt that is with me right now. I wish I had picked up on my son’s dyslexia earlier. I have learned so much in the past year, mainly from parents and experts from the Dyslexia Victoria Support group. I am deeply committed to learning more and doing what I can in this place to support students, parents and teachers that may lie awake at night wondering what else could be done differently. I have cried with my son as his schoolwork becomes challenging, and I continue to have that nagging feeling that as a teacher I should have known, but I did not. We must continue to review teacher training and professional development to ensure our schools are resourced to manage complex learning difficulties such as dyslexia. I do commend the recent Labor policy that will require every grade 1 student to have their early literacy skills, including phonics, assessed, but this should just be the starting point to tackling a damning trend that tens of thousands of Australian kids are failing to meet literacy and numeracy standards. We must never give up on our future and strive for better outcomes.

It did not surprise me when my husband also became an educator. His calm and nurturing disposition is a perfect fit for the TAFE classroom. He is a proud product of TAFE, having studied and now teaching at TAFE. Naturally I am super proud of him, but I also want him to know this: Damien, you are changing lives. I listen to you as you speak passionately about your job, and I have witnessed the joy you have when your students pass their exams. You guide young people not only to a career, but you gently steer them in life. I know you care deeply about what TAFE offers, and you are a perfect example of the power of a TAFE education – and thanks to the investment of this Labor government, TAFE education is back. It offers pathways to rewarding jobs and life-changing opportunities.

After teaching and travelling around Australia, Damien and I thought we would start our own family. Today here I have my wonderful children Noah and Natalie. They are the most kind, funny and creative kids. Our family is like a jigsaw; it just fits together, but we are missing a piece. Our first child Georgia was born sleeping. Going into early labour she was too small to stay with us. It was a shock and a loss of what would be. Time heals the rawness of it all, but I do call this moment in my life ‘the before and after Alison’. The before Alison lived with rose-coloured glasses on. The after Alison discovered a community she did not know existed and an organisation in Geelong called Hope Bereavement Care. They support families that have lost a baby or child. I learned from other bereaved parents that sharing the pain with others that get it can and does help. The after Alison was probably always there, but it was Georgia who showed me my inner strength. Hope Bereavement Care is supported through generous community foundations, an important and vital community service I am really proud to support.

My own childhood was filled with a large extended family, and visiting my grandparents’ farm was a highlight – memories of busy shearing sheds, moving cattle and hay carting in the scorching heat. Being the sixth-generation farmer now, agriculture is in my blood, and it is actually the catalyst for why I am here today.

I would like to take you back to 2012. In small country towns across Victoria communities were learning about the very real risk of fracking, a dangerous process of drilling that fractures the ground to release gas. It carries risks to our water, productive agricultural land and overall community health. Environmentalists, First Nations peoples and farmers worried about the land and the towns being fractured and ultimately destroyed. There is no doubt that fracking would undo our proud Victorian clean and green agricultural sector. The stakes were high, but when you are faced with a challenge, you organise. With support from Friends of the Earth and the national Lock the Gate organisation I was proud to help build a grassroots movement like no other, and 75 Victorian towns declared themselves gas field free. We even had 2000 sheep move into formation in a paddock near Hamilton to spell out the words ‘Ban gas’ – they were very clever sheep. But as drone footage will show, unfortunately some of the viewers thought we were spelling ‘Bangas’, which unfortunately they might end up as. It was there that I found my passion for politics, and I learned from two amazing souls that I will forever remember as putting me on the path to community activism, namely Cam Walker and Chloe Aldenhoven. Thank you both for your guidance and the work you do.

After many years of fighting I am so proud to stand with a government that listened and put people first, leading the nation and legislating a ban on fracking. It was a community win, and to all that were involved, I know it was long and stressful. I know the fear you felt, but your advocacy and your resolve never wavered. The gas companies may have wanted to fracture our ground, but they were not able to fracture our united voice.

Having fought as a community advocate, I have had the privilege now of really witnessing the positive change that can be generated when community and government work together, and in this place as the member for Bellarine this is what I stand for: community at the heart of decision-making. Protecting what we love is also part of the Bellarine electorate’s DNA. We care deeply about the environment, and many volunteer their time and energy to community service. People are what make the Bellarine a special place to live, work and raise a family.

But the secret is out. In a survey titled ‘Leading Places: The 100 Most Loved Destinations around the World for 2021’ the Bellarine placed 25th in the world. It beat Bordeaux in France and Queenstown in New Zealand. It is hardly surprising when you consider the beauty of the Bellarine Peninsula. But as much as we love to showcase it to the world, those who live here know that the Bellarine was at risk of being loved to death by overdevelopment. Protection was needed. The former member for Bellarine Lisa Neville worked hard alongside the community to protect what we hold dear about the Bellarine and established the Bellarine Peninsula distinctive area and landscape. This 50-year policy for the Bellarine is important not only for our environment but to protect our unique historic townships. There are many reasons why we love the Bellarine, and it should be protected and enhanced, not degraded over time.

Arriving at this place does not happen without a village of support. I would like to thank some people who believed in me and put me onto this journey. To the Geelong Labor team – member for Geelong Christine Couzens, member for Lara Ella George, member for South Barwon Darren Cheeseman, member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney, member for Corangamite Libby Coker – thank you for your support. And to former members Lisa Neville and John Eren: thank you. I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Richard Marles, for his counsel and mentorship.

I would like to thank the unstoppable ALP Bellarine members. To my campaign committee, Tiffany McIntosh, Christian Bayfield, Annie Proctor, John Greenwood, Margaret and Taras Mikulin, Judith Brooks and Lena De Rosso; to Derek Costello and Alan G for their assistance with logistics; to the amazing doorknockers, phone bankers and those who volunteered at pre-poll and on election day, in particular Peter Deering, Athol Johnson, Ged Thompson, Drew English, Grant Marr, Ken Dodemaide, Jim and Phyllis Edmonstone, Lyn Mason, Yasmeen Zohdy, John Scott, Rieny Nieuwenhof, Ian Parsons, Grace Clissold and Michael Tracey; and to the effervescent Rachel Hynds, who led our volunteers with passion and determination, working incredibly hard to tell our Labor story, a massive thankyou. And to all the Labor family and volunteers, who know the importance of Labor governments, thank you for your work across the Bellarine.

To my family, my mum and dad and Damien’s parents, thank you for your unwavering support. To the Bellarine community, thank you for the privilege of representing you. I make it my commitment to work hard every day and deliver the representation you deserve. It is an honour to be the member for Bellarine, and I know my role comes with great responsibility. I hope I can shape solutions and do what is right for the people of the Bellarine based on the values of fairness, equality and compassion. My work will be guided by my commitment to making a positive difference in people’s lives and to seeing the Bellarine continue to thrive.

At the start of this speech I said there was a time when I did not fully appreciate the power of community or know the worth of my place in it. Well, I now know I have found it. I found it in community activism, I found it in the farmers that never give up, I found it in the families that have lost a baby, I found it in the teaching staffroom, I found it across the Bellarine, I found it in Stuart when he told me he needed public transport to get to his medical appointments, I found it in Claire when she worried about her child starting kinder and I found it when young Rose and I spoke about climate action. They will all continue to have a voice in this place, because community will always be at the heart of my decision-making.

Members applauded.

James NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:54): It is a great honour, an incredible honour in fact, to rise again on the address-in-reply. It reminds me of standing here in this place just over four years ago in the very back corner and saying strongly to my community, in the first words that I spoke in this chamber, that I had heard them – I had heard the message in my community, and the message they sent to me and to this Parliament was that they expected a representative who reflected their views and those of modern Victoria. I made a commitment that night to doing exactly that: to reflect their views and to represent modern Victoria. It is an incredible honour, four years later, after making that commitment, to be returned by the good people of Brighton, Brighton East, Elwood and Hampton, and now Hampton East – an incredible honour.

I will let you in on a little secret. When I was elected and I spoke those words I made a pact with myself that I would be a member with only four years in mind. I felt that too many members of Parliament had eyes on decades-long careers and not what they would do in that time. They were thinking more about what they could do over time in terms of their own career rather than what they could do for their community. So I made a pact with myself to represent my community for four years – I did want to put myself forward again, but to work with that in mind, to work to that four-year term, do everything I could and throw everything that I could at that four years. I hope that my community has felt that I have done that, and I do believe that in their returning me to this chamber I have been given the great honour of their believing that to be so.

It has meant that over time I have spoken up strongly on issues that have been difficult – difficult for the community, difficult for this Parliament and difficult for my party. When I stood in this chamber four years ago I said my party represented a quarter of this chamber, and as I stand here now I could say similar words – a proud party that has not increased its proportional share of the chamber and therefore the representation in the community. After the most recent election I spoke about what I believe to be an existential crisis facing the Liberal Party, especially following the federal election and a series of findings from the Australian National University which show that at the federal election one in four voters under the age of 40 voted coalition – and one in five people born after 1996; 32 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men voted for the coalition; and 16 per cent of women and 9 per cent of men voted for the Greens. Those are sobering facts for any party that was not successful in an election to consider but be honest about. After the last state election I felt that it was important to stand up for the things that my community wanted me to and for modern Victoria.

Over that term I spoke out strongly on issues and bills that came before this chamber, including gay rights and environmental policy, as the shadow minister. I believe that a number of our policies that were put forward at the last election were state-leading policies, and it is disappointing that though some of the elements were pinched by the government, not all elements were. One of them, being legislating elements of climate targets into legislation, I think is something that the government should consider, because the community expects it. The community expects transparency. They expect to know what is happening with policy, and one of the ways you can provide that to the community is through legislation to make it clear.

Other issues that I spoke about over the term were issues of animal welfare, and then, throughout COVID, two very difficult issues – the first being the mental health crisis facing children at that time, which was an extremely distressing issue. When I first started to speak about it there were difficulties in the Parliament in dealing with that issue, with it being raised – and I understand that. I raised the issue probably in a confrontational way. Because the children that were speaking to me in my community were doing so from such a point of distress and despair, I felt I owed it to them to follow their requests to speak out strongly on their behalf, and that is what I did.

The other issue that I want to mention is that of the deaths in the community from the delays in ambulance arrivals, especially amongst children, and I had the opportunity of raising that issue with the Premier at the end of the last term. That also was an extremely distressing issue. What I hoped in raising those matters was that even though they were raised by the opposition we could work together to deal with those matters, that we as a Parliament could work together, because one of the insights that I can provide to the Parliament is, having worked for such a long time in the federal Parliament, there is an incredible difference between the ways the federal Parliament and the state Parliament operate. The federal Parliament works collaboratively across the aisle, not only in public but in private. It does not mean that there is not politics in issues or policy matters. There is politics – there is always politics; we are in the business of politics – but when it comes to policy, members regularly talk and members regularly meet, not only to talk policy but to talk about the welfare of each other. I mean, these are issues that we should as a mature Parliament be doing. On behalf of Victorians we should be working together on those matters, which is something we do not do here. We do not do that here, not even remotely, which is so incredibly sad.

I have talked about that in the chamber before and hope to continue talking about that, because we will only do our best as a Parliament if we work together, because there is no font of all wisdom. No executive is perfect. Every community has an insight into this state that is valuable, and the only way that any government can truly represent all Victorians is if that government works with all members of this place, and I hope to see one day a government and a Premier that is willing to do that. I do not say that as a way to slight the Premier. I do offer those words in the hope that he hears them and that we in this Parliament can do better at working together collaboratively.

Can I make a number of comments in relation to the community and give thanks to my community –and not only the members of my community who elected me. You have my assurance that I will continue to work on your behalf every day of the week. In fact one of the things that I committed to when I was first elected was doing every constituent-related matter myself. It does mean that I work seven days a week and my wife very rarely sees me and neither do my kids, but I think I owe that to the community. I do not let my staff deal with constituent matters, which sends them absolutely wild, but I owe it to every person in my community who contacts me to know that they are contacting me and that the response is from me. So I thank them with my whole heart, and they have my commitment to seven days a week from me for my entire term.

But we are not elected to this place on our own. We are elected following the incredible work of parts of our community, including our parties, in my case the Liberal Party, and I would like to place on record my overwhelming thanks to my local electorate conference in the Liberal Party for their support and to the hundreds – literally hundreds – of people in the Liberal Party who supported me through the campaign and the hundreds of members of the community that are now part of our local movement. We ran a local campaign, a very strong local campaign – one where, frankly speaking, after going through the federal election and watching the way that the teals campaigned, we learned, and I think anyone who is not willing to admit that is frankly a fool. You need to look at the campaigns around you. You need to look at the way people engage with the community and learn from that, so I made sure that my community was at the core of everything that I did in asking for their re-election, in the way that I spoke to them through advertising and materials sent out, but also as part of the on-the-ground campaign. So thank you to the hundreds of people that were involved in the party and in the community in helping with that. But a special thanks to Jean Hawkins, who my little kids call ‘spare Nanna’. So she is the spare nanna, and she is one of my dearest and closest friends. Also Phil Brown, who I met 25 years ago as a young teenager walking into my first branch meeting, has stayed with me for the full 25 years, which is extraordinary.

Also and obviously the most important is your family. Your family suffer greatly, incredibly greatly, when you choose this job. They do not ask for this job, and my kids were almost born into me being deeply involved in politics. My kids are the most important thing in my life bar nothing – bar nothing. I heard one of the new members speak earlier about love and the importance of love and the endlessness of love, and I think those words were profound words. We should all remember them in everything we do, everything we do in this place. So to my wife Suzanne and my children, Sofia and Eva, you are my world, and you suffer for this job. One of the candidates unfortunately during my election campaign harassed quite badly my family, including my little children. They suffer in a way that they should not, and my love goes to them incredibly.

There are a number of things that I do want to let my community know that I will be fighting for over the term, and that is continuing to advocate for our schools. One of the members earlier spoke about the fact that their electorate had changed hands and therefore the government would consider funding in that electorate. Well, unfortunately that is actually the case. There are electorates held by non-Labor members that are not receiving the funding they deserve. School funding is directed five-sixths of the time into government-held seats in Melbourne. Schools deserve equal funding. Children deserve funding no matter what school they are from, and Brighton Primary is an example of a historic school that is in desperate need of funding. Elwood College and Elwood Primary are in desperate need. I do acknowledge the government, through years of advocacy, has committed funding now to Hampton Primary and Gardenvale, and I appreciate that funding. It was timely.

But we also need to consider the lack of funding when it comes to protecting our community, and we have seen incredible crimes in my community. We have seen a rapid growth of home invasions. Only this week the police confirmed that in areas like Bayside and Port Phillip, 324 vehicles had been stolen over a four-month period. When these issues were first raised, the Premier said it was not happening and attacked a woman, a resident of my community, for raising it. He blamed her for raising it and said it was not happening. It has now been confirmed to be true. The coalition committed to a police station in our community, and I implore the government to consider the genuine crimes.

I will end where I started and say I have heard the community again, and I will continue to reflect modern Victoria in everything that I do and everything that I fight for in this chamber.

Members applauded.

Mathew HILAKARI (Point Cook) (18:09): I begin by of course acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to the elders past and present. It is a privilege to stand on the land of the oldest living culture, whose care for the land and the sea sustained their community for more than 60,000 years. I acknowledge the Boon Wurrung people, the traditional owners of the Point Cook electorate.

I join many others in congratulating you, Speaker, on your re-election. I hope you remember well my well wishes when you make rulings against me in this place.

I join a government of which I could not be prouder. To the people of Point Cook, I start by thanking you for the trust that you have given me. The best way that I can honour this trust is by working hard every day for you. I ran for Parliament because it is the single best way to better our community. There are many reasons and experiences that drove me to politics. I will reflect on just three here. Firstly, as a teenage volunteer in disability organisations, well before the NDIS, people with disability relied on volunteers to share the same life experiences as their peers. As a volunteer I could support one person. Governments can change the lives of millions.

Secondly, I grew up in the Kennett era, when both my parents’ jobs were at risk from another Liberal government. As a child it kept me up at night. My parents did not know at the time, but I feared for our future. Recently my dad said to me, in a moment of clarity, ‘When you were very young you would spend every single dollar you had.’ I was surprised I had so many dollars. But this changed overnight. Governments influence actions and how people feel much more than we can know.

Thirdly, in my first job as a cleaner at the MCG I cleaned the soggy pies and the cold chips, and I watched the power of employers over employees – casual workers who, if they did not get the work that night, they and their families would suffer in the week ahead. So of course these experiences led me to Labor, to want to be part of solutions to improve people’s lives.

I enter this Parliament with the hope that I can make a small contribution to the betterment of our state and the community that I represent. Victorians will be affected by the decisions that we make here and that we decide not to take, and that weighs heavily upon me, as I know it does on everybody else. But I have hope and optimism and confidence. I have these because I have watched the reforms of this government that have been waiting for generations to be taken up be taken up: truth telling and treaty, family violence reform, mental health reform, three-year-old kinder, rebuilding our public utilities like the SEC. These are making and will make the lives of Victorians better; however, the work of government is never complete.

I am confident that this Parliament, the 60th Parliament, can take on more of these reforms, especially with the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews and our extraordinary ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, to decide the actions and to take the actions for those who need government most – people in prison who with a bit of support can turn their lives around and those who should have never been there in the first place, people who need a roof over their head, people who miss out on so much of life because they never got the health and dental care that they needed. A lot of these things come down to luck – who your parents are and where you were born. This government can and is putting the odds back in favour of those people who need us most, and I commit to doing that every day.

I am the first member for Point Cook but not the first member to represent the suburbs of Altona Meadows, Point Cook and Seabrook, represented by Jill Hennessy previously, and Werribee South, represented by the Treasurer Tim Pallas previously. In Jill’s first speech she said:

I do not believe governments should always hold our hands, but they should not sit on their hands either.

Jill did not sit on her hands and has marked her place in the history of this state through her efforts on voluntary assisted dying through safe access zones, nurse-to-patient ratios, banning LGBTIQ+ conversion therapy and criminalising wage theft. We did this together, but it was she who led the fight.

The Treasurer’s fingerprints are all over every major decision of this government – and you give more than you get. You are following the advice of your father, who you mentioned in your first speech. The Treasurer also said in his first speech:

The most valuable things that we can build are the bridges between each other.

You will be happy to know that I have already begun advocating for more bridges in Point Cook. Point Cook was named for John M. Cooke, spelt with an E, who was the mate on His Majesty’s vessel, the Rattlesnake. The published narrative of the voyage of HMS Rattlesnake describes Melbourne in 1848 as follows:

The town (or city as it may, I believe, be termed) appeared to have wonderfully increased of late, and a quiet business-like air prevailed … there were few loungers … in the streets, nearly everyone seeming to have his time fully occupied.

It appeared to be the general and loudly expressed opinion, so far as we could judge, that the separation of the Port Phillip district from New South Wales, and its formation into an independent colony, would materially advance the interests and conduce to the prosperity of the former; and that the large surplus revenue which is annually transmitted to Sydney ought to be spent among the people who … raised it.

How true, how true. Point Cook is the birthplace of the Royal Australian Air Force and is Australia’s oldest RAAF base. It held the 13th Australian Grand Prix. It was held in Point Cook and 26 started the race. It was a stinking hot day and only 10 finished. A first-time competitor won, not dissimilar to the recent election in Point Cook. We have many natural and man-made wonders in the electorate. The saltworks on the site of the Ramsar-protected wetlands were productive for seven decades. They are productive again now as a place for migratory birds – 25 kilometres from Melbourne with the Point Cook Coastal Park and marine sanctuary alongside. These are of international significance. They are fed by the creeks Laverton and Skeleton. The colourful beach boxes of Campbells Cove may well be as good as Brighton. There is the safety of Wyndham Harbour, the heavily underrated Werribee South beach alongside the well-used boat ramps and jetties, the red cliffs of the Werribee River, the Werribee mansion, the Victoria State Rose Garden, the National Equestrian Centre and the expanding Werribee Open Range Zoo.

The Werribee South farmlands were shaped by Italian migrants from the 1920s onwards who turned the dairy farms into market gardens that still thrive today. On just 0.02 per cent of the land, they produce 10 per cent of Victoria’s vegetables – the broccoli, the cauliflower and the lettuces on your plate. It is a real asset to have productive farmland so close to our main population centres. The preservation of the green wedges is vitally important.

Point Cook the suburb has grown from 580 people in 1996 – 552 of whom lived on the RAAF base – to more than 66,000 in the last census. The growing pains of this community are real and affect the suburbs of Seabrook and Altona Meadows. The challenge must be met and can only be met by Labor. Point Cook the suburb is proudly the most multiculturally diverse in the country, and that means really, in reality, the world – a real point of pride, a real community strength. We might have different pasts, but we have a shared and common future together. All the communities across the electorate are welcoming, and I am thankful for the contributions that they make to the state every single day.

My family history will sound familiar to many from the community that I live in and the community here. My father and mother, Lauri and Jenny, were born in Finland and England respectively. Their parents came to Australia seeking better lives for themselves and their children. I am thankful for my late grandparents’ courage and their sacrifice, leaving their homes, their families and everything that was familiar. It is a story repeated across the electorate of Point Cook. It was an act of courage. Without that courage their children, their grandchildren and now their great-grandchildren would not have known the lives we would have missed here in Australia.

My parents instilled in me many things, the most important of which was a loving home. I was always loved, and sacrifices were always made for me and my brother, and they still are. Thank you, Mum and Dad. My most serious critique of our home life was the phenomenal amounts of sugar we ate. For years school lunches included sandwiches with hundreds and thousands on them – at my request, not theirs. This is not the only reason that I care passionately about dental care. Luke, you are the best brother for me. Where I have followed in your footsteps it is because you have made good choices. I would not be here without you. I thank Hayley, Aubrey and Rory for being there for Cassie and me in the hard times. To the extended Hilakari and Bullock families, I have not always made every single event; that is not going to change. I wish I could be there more, and I thank you for your love and support always. I want to acknowledge Uncle Michael, who would have loved to have been here so much today. To the Farley family – Shannon, Nicola, Niamh, Jemima, Jonah, Justin, Kate, Scarlett, Tom, Ethan – thank you for your support, but especially to Cathy, who went above and beyond and has so much love for her grandchildren. Like you, I miss Kevin, and I think about what he would have thought on this day – hopefully proud, but with an expectation that so much more must be done.

In Jill’s valedictory speech she said that working in Alan Griffin’s office had changed the trajectory of her life. Working for Alan has changed the trajectory of many lives. So, thank you, Alan. I am always grateful for your advice, no matter how robustly it may from time to time be delivered. But it was not Alan who gave me my first job in politics; for that I thank now member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region Lee Tarlamis from the other place. I got a call from him, and I gave notice to my boss that day. I worked for and with a multitude of MPs, and I thank them all for their generosity in employing me in a job that I loved and would have done for free. I thank the many who got me to do jobs for free. Your passion of course to serve your communities is what kept me coming back. I want to especially call out Julian Hill; Peta Murphy; Linda White; Jess Walsh; the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Gab Williams; the Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep from the other place, Ingrid Stitt; the MPs for Cranbourne and Frankston; and the Minister for Planning, Sonya Kilkenny.

To the many staffers who I have worked with over time, you are often the first point of call when things get really bad for people. You drive the policy, the change and the outcomes that truly make a difference in people’s lives. Thank you for your friendship, especially the new member for Pakenham – Emma Vulin, Alfonso, Barb, Daniel, Declan, Helen, Kara, Matt, Milissa, Pat, Ray, Sheridan and Stefan, to name a few.

To my most recent boss Tim O’Hallaron – progressive change is not only done in political offices, and you are a clear demonstration of that.

To my union, the ASU private sector branch, thank you. Secretary Imogen Sturni is a friend and a powerful leader. To Dave, Kristy, and all the team, my thanks. I want to thank my first union, the now United Workers Union, Jo Briskey and all the team, as well as the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Lisa Fitzpatrick and the ASU authorities and services branch, Lisa Darmanin, Leon Wiegard and Luke. I thank all the trade unions and a reinvigorated Trades Hall for working towards the betterment of our lives and the lives of their members.

Thank you to the office team, our dedicated Labor members, the Point Cook branch, ALP and SL members who supported the campaign. Connor, Alison and Abi, your efforts in the campaign went above and beyond, and I will be forever in your debt.

Abselom, Minister Andrew Giles, Binari, Casey, Catherine, Christine, Chris, Clancy, Dave, Ekta, Erik, Eve, Gaye, Hamish, Harry, Jason, Jas, Jay, Japinder, Jenna, Jess – halfway there – Joel, JB, Julian, Kapil, Kos, Lauren, Libby, Minister for Climate Action – Lily D’Ambrosio, Lori, Luke, Mark, Mita, Paul, Paddy, Dr Rattan, Sam, Sandy, Sheldon, Solly, Sudhir, Tony, Vidhi, Yassar, and especially my friend Kat Hardy. Thank you, while I name you here, you mean so much more to me than this. Without a strong Labor team in and supporting Point Cook, we just could not have done it.

Finally, to Cassie – we have always worked out, but not everything has worked out for us. I wanted to propose to you at a beach picnic in Italy. Between the swims it never quite happened. Instead, we got engaged watching the Godfather – you might say I am the original romantic. We waited too long to get married and then COVID happened, so we are happily still engaged. We want another child, and I carry three in my heart. It will work out. We are the luckiest parents in the world, with a perfect stomping, laughing, singing, talkative little man. It is impossible to express how much I love you both. You are the twin centres of my world.

I finish this speech where I started: thank you to the people of Point Cook. I will not waste a day.

Members applauded.

Luba GRIGOROVITCH (Kororoit) (18:33): Thank you for the opportunity to deliver my first speech as the member for Kororoit. It is a great honour that our community has given to me, and I am here because of you. I am here for you, and I promise that you can count on me to be your voice in Parliament House. Having a voice is powerful; it is a privilege. So many people do not have a voice when they should. Some communities have been fighting for too long to have a voice, none more so than our First Nations people.

I honour and I recognise the people of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of Victoria. I pay my respects to elders past, present and future who have continuous connection to the land and the waterways of our community. I am proud of the steps that both the Andrews and Albanese governments are making to create a Voice to Parliament for Indigenous people, to heal with truth-telling and with justice, and I look forward to making my own contributions to these incredible milestones.

The west is full of significant places for its people. As one of the most culturally diverse electorates in the state, Kororoit is often the first place that people born overseas call home. Our community is richly populated with new migrants from Asia, the subcontinent, Africa and Eastern Europe. During my months on the campaign trail I loved getting to know the cultural, faith and community groups in our region. These groups provided everything, from food to sport to advocacy, helping transition families into Australian life. They are essential to social cohesion and peaceful communities. Diversity is Kororoit’s and the west’s greatest strength. But at times it has also meant that it has been overlooked and under-resourced, especially when Labor is not in government. The Andrews government is changing that. Amongst the billions of dollars that have been invested in the west it has invested $14.8 million in multicultural communities. I plan to continue that trend in Kororoit, because I understand what it is like to have a name that no-one else can pronounce, to have a parent whose first language is not English and to feel ‘othered’ by cultural heritage, although I must say I am a deeply Aussie girl, I love my party pies and Vegemite and I am addicted to sport. Basketball is actually my sport of choice, and I was the captain of the senior Victorian Basketball League women’s team, the Altona Gators.

The truth is, though, my name has not always made things easy for me. However, I do think that it assisted with the development of my thick skin. Casual racism, monocultural leadership, subtle judging by name, colour and language – these are things that no Victorian should ever have to put up with, not on public transport, not on the sports field, not in our schools and not here in Parliament. Diversity matters here too, and it is incredibly important that our Parliament reflects the communities which we represent. I applaud the work that so many multicultural organisations do supporting our diverse peoples and communities. I want them to know that they have a friend here. The west of Melbourne has a friend here.

I am a lifelong westie. I was born and raised in Altona. I attended schools in the western suburbs and studied a double degree – a bachelor of arts and business – at Victoria University. My first jobs as a teenager were in small businesses in the west – family-run restaurants, retail and delivering local newspapers – and my first job in politics was working for the late Lynne Kosky in her Altona electorate office. I ran successfully for Hobsons Bay City Council, serving as the deputy mayor in the region, and I want to make mention of my many Hobsons Bay council colleagues who are here tonight and who have supported me along the journey. The west has been my life and is in my soul. Being able to represent the west is a lifelong dream.

My mum Robyn was very dedicated to charity work and was recognised for it with a Victorian of the Year nomination and an international peace award. But while she was working for peace and security in the community, at home things were far from safe. I am in awe of the strength that it took my mother to flee from a violent relationship with two kids in tow and to re-establish herself independently. Because of Mum’s bravery I did not have to live with family violence for long, but I know that this is not the case for so many women and children, and that is why the Andrews government’s full implementation of the 227 royal commission recommendations and the record $3 billion investment in family violence means so much to me. Thank you.

Mum raised me and my big brother Robbie in a small intergenerational home, including my Grandpa Beepa, who sadly is not with us today, and my gorgeous Uncle Ken. Mum poured everything into us. Robbie and I never wanted for anything. Mum was always a doer, volunteering at schools, at our basketball clubs and more. She did all of this whilst being the sole breadwinner for our family. It is my mum you can blame for introducing me to the Labor Party. She took me out on the campaign trail when I was only tiny. We were letterboxing, we were handing out on election day – you name it. One of my earliest memories as a child, however, was skipping home from Seaholme Primary School one day after Joan Kirner visited our school. I was only 12 years old at the time, but I was beyond impressed. With Joan I could see that she made a difference, and I wanted to make a difference in our community as well. I have got to say, I skipped home from school, I told my mum and she was thrilled.

I became very active as a young Labor member of the Altona branch. The branch president at the time, and still to this day in fact, was the mighty John Ballestrino – as I know him, JB. JB became a very close friend and someone who I unconditionally trust. He is one of those incredible male leaders in our party who enjoys seeing Labor women succeed – and working for them too. Through the Altona ALP branch I got the sense of that enormous family which I had been missing. JB, my mum and other volunteers would organise the big fundraiser that was the main event of the year, the Melbourne Cup Day ALP fundraiser. It would bring the entire Labor tribe together, and we loved it.

I dearly loved giving back to the community, whether it was reading books to the elderly at St George’s nursing home, building facilities for Rotary’s disability-accessible Camp Getaway or cooking up a sausage storm at the local Bunnings. Community volunteering became a big part of my life when I was younger, so when I was preselected for Kororoit I hoped to bring that same community ethos and sense of family, which had been so welcoming to me as a young person, into the campaign. I have been blessed with the love and the support of the many Kororoit branch members, who really got behind the campaign. And they are here tonight – thank you. It makes me excited that our branch meetings are thriving. We had 72 at the last branch meeting – that does not happen normally. The Labor Party is not just about people who get elected to Parliament House; it is about our members and their love for our community. They keep members of Parliament honest and they remind us who we are working for, and I thank all of the branchies who are here tonight. I know you will keep me grounded and down-to-earth.

I know that I can also rely on this from my comrades in the trade union movement. Thriving branches and a strong, outspoken industrial wing make Labor strong. They ensure that we govern with honesty for working people. I am and I always will be a committed unionist. I was first employed by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in 2010 as the industrial and women’s officer. Secretary Trevor Dobbyn gave me my first gig in the union movement, and I will forever be grateful for Trev’s early support. Working for the union, though, is not for the faint-hearted. I was a young female organiser in a very male-dominated industry. One of my earliest memories was when I rolled up to E-gate, which is just off Dynon Road under the overpass. It was the middle of winter, it was freezing cold, it was 10 pm at night and it was very, very dark. The boys were about to start night shift, and they were gearing up to have their meeting outside. It started raining, so one of the guys suggested, ‘Hey, let’s meet in the men’s dunnies.’ I looked at my delegate and I said, ‘Rightio, into the men’s change rooms we go.’ So that is how I conducted my first meeting for the infrastructure division: in the men’s change rooms in front of 150 blue-collar blokey blokes, some of whom are here tonight.

When I was asked to nominate as the Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary, Darren Galea and Grant Wainwright, both of whom are here tonight, championed me. Thank you, guys, for your support, your encouragement and your ongoing solidarity. It will never be forgotten. I became the youngest state secretary of a trade union in Victorian history and the first woman secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. The support of my colleagues, delegates and members meant the world to me. My years at the Rail, Tram and Bus Union were transformative not only for me but also for the union. As some of you know, we did not hesitate to stop trains and trams to ensure that hardworking members got the recognition that they deserved, to secure improved amenities for staff or to support fairer working hours in infrastructure and maintenance. During this time I was proud to be recognised for my work alongside my team by winning the ACTU Jennie George Award and the Trades Hall Zelda D’Aprano Award. But always it was the recognition from the job – not the stuff that came with the shiny medal or the title – that meant the absolute most to me.

At times my pursuit of members’ best interests brought me into conflict with people in this house, but being a good union official is not always about making the government of the day feel comfortable, even when it is your party in office. I always knew that the decisions that I was making were in pursuit of the best outcome for our members and they were made with the backing of the collective. We won some and we lost some. We secured better pay and conditions for members, but the trains and the trams still remain in private hands. The privatisation of our rail networks, like the privatisation of our energy supply, has not been in the best interests of rail workers, the commuters or the state. Whether it is hospitals, whether it is schools, whether it is electricity or transport, I believe that when it comes to essentials the state really is the best and the most responsible service provider.

I have got plenty of scar tissue from my time in the union – it was tough – but it was also the making of me as an advocate and a leader. The RTBU is my extended family – thank you especially to Darren, Grant, Amedeo D’Aprano, Bryan Evans, Victor Moore, Caitlin Brown, Joe Dennis, Phil Altieri and Darren Lamont for always having my back then and now. To Vik Sharma, congratulations on your election. I am so thrilled and I cannot wait to see where you take the union next. Thank you to my national RTBU comrades, who got behind my leadership as the first female national president of the RTBU as well. Our national secretary, who has flown here from Sydney, Mark Diamond, is here tonight – thank you for all of your support as well, brother.

Working for the Rail, Tram and Bus Union also brought me into a cabal of fierce advocates from other unions. I would not be here without their support, friendship and loyalty. As anyone close to me knows, these things matter greatly to me. I am as solid and as good as my word, because at the end of the day that is all you have got. I am grateful to have found fellow travellers, so thank you to Johnny Setka – I think it is your first time in the gallery, is it not? – Christy Cain, the Myles brothers, Decca, Robbie, Elias, Elizabeth Doidge and all of the CFMEU delegates and young activists who got behind me in the Kororoit campaign. To Lloyd Williams, Paul Healey, Kate Marshall, James McWhinney and the entire Health and Community Services Union team; to Steve Howland and Nicole McPherson at the Finance Sector Union; to former secretary John Berger, Mike McNess and Mem Suleyman at the Transport Workers Union; and of course to Shane Stevens and the mighty Maritime Union of Australia, who literally worked tirelessly to see me elected. To all of the members of the Victorian Trades Hall Council in which I served as a former vice president as well as other unions that I have not mentioned tonight – I see Earl Setches and Michael Donovan – thank you for your support along the journey. To every trade union, please know that my door is always open to any union colleagues.

I also would not be here without the sisterhood. I have been lucky to have been supported by some incredible women: Joan Kirner of course went from being my hero to a friend and a champion and the late Lynne Kosky – two great Labor women, sadly both of them lost to cancer. There have been too many women in our ranks who have fallen victim to this disease, including my late, great friend Jane Garrett, and still more who have bravely battled it whilst holding office. While I am in this place I intend to dedicate time to supporting women’s health and the prevention of women’s cancers. Of course Labor’s sisterhood is more than the women who become members of Parliament. A huge shout-out to the EMILY’s angels, the incredible network of women dedicated to lifting women in politics up, and to my own Labor sisterhood, who gave me both time and money generously and helped out on the campaign: Lisa Zanetta, Trish and Amanda Crossin, Leonie Morgan, Maree Overall, Zeynep Yilhurst, Pamela Anderson, Kim Travers, and my local women from Kororoit, Jen, Jess, Cass and the Marlenes – the list does go on. Extra big kisses to Tanja Kovac, a true Labor feminist legend and gender equality warrior – thank you for reminding me of the power of women’s friendship in politics.

To the entire Kororoit campaign team and the campaign committee, thank you. You were all so welcoming, and there was no end to the hours that you put in. It literally took a village, and there are far too many of you to name. It was an organic campaign, a campaign team that came directly from the heart of Kororoit, and I know that you are all here tonight out in the hall. Thank you for all that you did. Our Kororoit volunteers spent hours putting up corflutes and signs around the area, doorknocking, street-stalling and pre-polling, and then of course there was election day.

To current and former members of Parliament who helped me on the campaign trail with fundraisers and office openings, thank you for your wisdom, your encouragement and your support.

My name, Luba, means love. I believe in the power of love in politics. Love and understanding move so much more in this world than hate and resentment. So to the big loves of my life: to my mother, thank you for your belief in me and your constant love. You made me the woman that I am today. To my big brother Robbie, it will always be you and me against the world. Your shoulders are so broad; so many rely on you. You are a rock to so many in tough times as you have been to me – you truly are a great man. To my sister-in-law Natalie, who has a heart of gold and love to give; to Uncle Ken the gentlest of all souls – after Nanna died Mum took over as your carer and champion, but the truth is while we gave you a home it was you who has always been healing us; and to my gorgeous girl gang outside of politics Becky, Jess and Tarryn, thank you for keeping me grounded, making me laugh and not letting me take myself too seriously.

Finally, to my husband Ben: I will forever be grateful for the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced us both to slow down in our busy lives – you running BGH and me a trade union. We were friends for a long time before becoming husband and wife, and I believe that this is the secret ingredient to our partnership. Thank you for literally making me packed lunches every day during pre-poll, for learning the words to Solidarity Forever, for making me a stepmum to your three beautiful children, who are here tonight, Audrey, Max and Chloe, and for always believing in me. You made me the happiest woman in the world a couple of weeks ago, marrying me before our family and friends.

People may be surprised about a leftie trade union official marrying the son of a formal Liberal Tasmanian Premier, but we both believe deeply in public service. Like Ben’s dad Robin, I want to devote my life to making the lives of Victorians – in his case Tasmanians – better. I respect everyone in this Parliament as I know that you all want to make Victoria the best place to live. We all have common ground. We need to work together to make lasting changes. That is what matters to the people of Victoria and especially Kororoit, to whom I give my biggest love. Thank you for the privilege and the honour that you have afforded me by electing me as the local member. Thank you for believing in our shared vision of a fairer, welcoming and thriving state. Let us work together to make this place a loving place to live, to work and to play.

Members applauded.

Tim McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (18:55): I am delighted to rise and make a contribution on the address-in-reply to the Governor and begin by thanking the people of the Ovens Valley, who put their faith in me for a fourth time to be their voice in Spring Street. From Cobram to Katamatite, from Yarrawonga to Yarroweyah, from Bundalong to Bright, from Myrtleford to Mount Beauty, from Dederang to Greta and from Glenrowan to Peechelba, the Ovens Valley is truly an electorate for all seasons and has something for everyone. We have the dairy industry, stone fruit orchards, broadacre cereal cropping, market gardens in Burramine and olives in Yarrawonga. From the snow-capped mountains of Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain to the peaks of Falls Creek and from the mighty Murray River to the tributaries of the Buffalo River, we have so much to be proud of and so many natural beautiful wonderlands – yet sadly the government for Melbourne cannot see much beyond Kalkallo. We get a few crumbs off the table while we see billions and billions being poured into holes in Melbourne.

While a health crisis exists in every country town, the government for Melbourne throws good money to win inner-city fights without a care in the world for our regions. Health care has been abandoned in regional Victoria. The health service is falling apart, and our hardworking staff have been neglected by this government. We heard today a story from our own member for Euroa, who told her story and her encounter with regional health. Health care in Cobram has been seriously overlooked. We do not have an ultrasound facility, and we have been denied a dialysis unit as well. If you look at the Bright health precinct, I have been fighting hard with other local MPs to get the government to provide the $40 million to perform a major overhaul and upgrade to provide the residents of Bright with the health care that they deserve. Bright is a major tourist destination, yet the hospital and aged care facilities are years past their upgrade dates – decades.

To further show how out of touch this government is, the Treasurer responded to one of my letters asking for this funding by talking about aged care in Cohuna and Camperdown, which are 300 kilometres and 500 kilometres away from Bright respectively. We want to keep residents who need aged care local, not ship them hundreds of kilometres away. Alpine Health, which is located in Bright, also lacks decent emergency room facilities, which means many urgent cases have to be sent to Wangaratta, Mansfield or Albury-Wodonga, yet this government still have the audacity to say that they care about the health of all Victorians. Bright is growing at an unprecedented rate. Tree changers, baby boomers and everyone in between are calling Bright home. Tourism is booming, especially cycling. Road cyclists, mountain bikers and family cyclists fill the streets, trails and tracks. But I urge: do not fall off and need medical attention, because the wait could be too long and too much to bear.

Wangaratta hospital is at breaking point, with staff members doing double shifts and nursing staff needing more assistance. Yarrawonga and Cobram need serious investment to keep pace with the population’s growth. Our country health facilities have held together, and their staff do an absolutely outstanding job, yet we still cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel to see how that will all pan out. I say again: the staff do an absolutely sensational job. I do not know where we would be without the brilliant and capable staff that we have, but this cannot continue. Ambulance wait times have ballooned, and again no end is in sight in the short term. Every week I am told more stories of residents within the Ovens Valley with tales of woe of ambulances that did not arrive or ambulances that were so late that people had to take their loved one to hospital in the family car.

This government has called Victoria the Education State. Well, it is fine to put a label on it and call it the Education State, but if you ask the people in Yarrawonga – the fastest growing township in regional Victoria; it is absolutely booming – after eight years of being the Education State Yarrawonga has not seen a single cent of capital works for the final stage of Yarrawonga P–12. The previous Baillieu–Napthine government funded the second stage, and we continue to hear crickets as we wait for the government to be fair. I will not give up on Yarrawonga, even if this government seems to have already done that. As Victoria’s education standards drop, Yarrawonga P–12 waits patiently. Our pristine environment, our wildlife –

Business interrupted under sessional orders.

Mary-Anne THOMAS: I move:

That the sitting be continued.

Motion agreed to.

Tim McCURDY: I was pleased to see a motion passed in the other place forcing the government to stop the shooting of brumbies and wild horses in our national parks. The stories I have been told about the treatment of brumbies are disgraceful. At the same time we have seen serial pest animal populations spiralling out of control – sambar deer, wild dogs, pigs, cats. They certainly need management.

Firewood collection is another major concern of mine. With the cost of living going through the roof, Victorians will continue to turn towards wood heating in the home; gas and electricity are simply too expensive for many. But firewood collection coupes must be accessible and must have available wood. Often we find we need to drive 150 kilometres or more to find the coupe and then find that coupe has been exhausted of decent wood. Opening up firewood collection coupes can genuinely offset cost-of-living increases.

Road maintenance budgets have been slashed under this government. They stopped the country roads and bridges program, and we are all feeling the pain. I see and hear every day from constituents in my electorate about another road, another pothole, another hard shoulder that is causing issues. Councils in regional Victoria have thousands of kilometres of roads to maintain, yet they have smaller budgets than their metropolitan counterparts. It is time for the government to do their job and fund our road maintenance, and not just slap a bandaid solution on it.

We released data from the Victoria’s worst roads campaign, and two of the top 10 roads are in my electorate – notably, number one, the Great Alpine Road, and number eight, the Murray Valley Highway, which are both state government responsibilities. But Singapore Road in Yarroweyah is a classic example. It is falling apart at the seams. It is a Moira shire responsibility, but again Moira shire simply do not have the funds – the cash – for the massive road network they have to maintain. They rely on support from the state government, and sadly, that has dried up. These are roads that I travel on every day, and I can say to those opposite that unlike the delusional members on the government benches – or some – the conditions of our roads are not imagined fantasies. They genuinely are very, very poor.

Agriculture remains the backbone for the local economy of the Ovens Valley, and the government for Melbourne again took the chainsaw to the agriculture budget in the last budget. We saw $87 million cut from the regional development budget and $47.8 million cut from the agriculture budget. Fruit fly funding was cut by $2.5 million, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the orchardists up around Cobram could lose everything if one piece of fruit gets to the wrong export market. Local landcare groups have also contacted me about this to help facilitate backyard fruit fly traps.

I want to turn to ambulance response times, although I mentioned them earlier. In this state, particularly regional Victoria, the Ovens Valley electorate has surprisingly good code 1 response times compared to shires in my colleagues’ electorates, such as the members for Benambra, Murray Plains, Ripon and Polwarth. ‘Good’ is of course a subjective term, because when I look at the data and see Alpine shire, 42.3 per cent; Moira shire, 47.6 per cent; and Wangaratta, 68 per cent, it really is not that good. In fact it is quite ordinary. Patients are dying waiting for ambulances, and they are being told by ESTA and the 000 operators to get a cab or get a friend to take them to hospital in the middle of the night. Where is the urgency to solve this crisis? I for one will not just accept substandard ambulance response times but will fight for the resources that we need.

Last year we saw flooding like we have never seen before and for many, many years from Maribyrnong here in Melbourne, Mildura, Shepparton, Rochester, Echuca, Thornton, Mansfield and other places all around the state. I have raised the prospect many times of building Big Buffalo, and I have raised the prospect of looking at the opportunities for hydro-electricity, for water storage for dry years. With the water that flowed through our state last year I cannot understand why the government will not consider looking at the potential and the opportunities that Big Buffalo would provide. Where is their vision?

We have got a vision – and that vision has been alive a long time, since the 1960s – about building Big Buffalo, extending the wall and looking at hydro-electricity. The land is owned by the government, so it is not as though it is a massive issue in trying to secure the land. That vision needs to take form. We have only got to see a year like last year with so much water going out of the state and ending up in the ocean – some of that water could have been captured and saved for a rainy day, or a non-rainy day so to speak. Every time I raise this in Parliament I get the same response from a government that refuses to look at dams for water security and renewable energy generation. If it is not in Melbourne, it does not seem to be important.

The Victorian government needs to work with the federal government and the local community on nation-building infrastructure projects. We own the land. The community is backing it. The money is there. All this government needs to do is refer it for a further study to the National Water Grid Authority to assess its feasibility, and the federal government will actually fund it. They have got the cash, so it is not as though we are looking for dollars to do this. The National Water Grid Authority will do a feasibility study while they are doing them around New South Wales and Queensland. We need to look at these opportunities because we know with energy prices that anything we can do with hydro would certainly make life a lot easier and offset some of those power needs.

We know a regular talking point for the government is how they are all about providing affordable and social housing and all about giving Victorians the chance to get into the housing market, and this is from the same government whose Premier told the Guardian:

We’re always talking about the great Australian dream, absolutely. But I get a sense … they’re much more focused on … living where they want to live and ownership is not such a big thing. They are happy to rent with secure terms.

That was a quote from the Premier. This to me shows how out of touch he is, certainly in regional Victoria and I suspect in Melbourne as well. We all still believe in the great Australian dream. People want their own house and not to be at the whim of their landlord, and if the government were serious about housing we could certainly be doing more. This includes a much-needed and long overdue reformation of the planning system in Victoria. I am certainly regularly hearing from mayors within the Ovens Valley about issues caused by the planning system and the red tape of this government, and this means they are unable to get their housing developments turned around in time to meet demand. We have a social and affordable housing development in Wangaratta tied up in red tape in VCAT due to the untenable regulations that the council has to jump through, and this is a 90-house development that Wangaratta needs now, not in two years time. I think all MPs in this place would have similar stories. This red tape has to be removed quicker to try and make sure that we can get this affordable housing in all of our communities. All across my electorate developments are being held up by bureaucrats in the planning department, and we cannot afford the delays. None of us can, and I think I speak for both sides of the house in saying how difficult it is for all of us. House prices have risen by over 50 per cent in the past year alone. Locals are being priced out of the market by migrants who are fleeing Melbourne, so many locals cannot afford to stay local anymore.

Finally, I just want to take a moment to reflect. As a 17-year-old I was a Rotary exchange student in Canada. I still have close friends over there, and I lived with four magnificent families. One such mentor was Roy ‘Turkey’ Gordon. That was his nickname, ‘Turkey’. He recently passed away, and he was the funniest bloke the world has ever seen. But he was a true leader, and he was a guy that taught me a lot. He always thought globally but acted locally and delivered locally. He was the mayor of a local town, in Bradford, and a bloke who taught me a lot about advocacy, how to support others and how making a team is not about being with people that you like or necessarily having the same skills but forming a team with others that have different skills to you. His family, Ann, Matt, Luke and Lori, will all miss him, and so will his community. Vale, Roy ‘Turkey’ Gordon.

I want to conclude by again thanking the people of the Ovens Valley, who put me in this place. Without their support, clearly I would not be here. To my family and friends who worked tirelessly standing on polling booths, doorknocking and assisting to get the Nationals elected in regional seats I am extremely grateful. Thank you to Jacinta and Noah, who are an amazing team in my office. I am very grateful for their commitment, the work that they do and their work ethic. Thank you very much to those two. The Nationals team is a family, and our family has grown for the 60th Parliament. I am extremely proud of what we will achieve together. Peter Walsh is an exceptional leader, and I am very grateful to him and his leadership. The Nationals are truly the voice for regional Victoria.

Members applauded.

Ros SPENCE (Kalkallo – Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Minister for Community Sport, Minister for Suburban Development) (19:09): I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned until later this day.