Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Business of the house



Business of the house


Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (12:22): I move:

That, under standing order 94(2), the orders of the day, government business, relating to the following bills be considered and completed by 5 pm on 9 March 2023:

Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-Determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023

Heritage Amendment Bill 2023.

Once again we find ourselves with a busy program of important reform led by the Andrews Labor government, and we are delighted to be here as members of that government to make contributions to these important bills this week. But before I talk a little bit more about those bills, as we have heard, this is also a significant week, with International Women’s Day falling tomorrow. As a notice of motion has already outlined, this year we acknowledge 100 years since some women were able to stand for Parliament, and it is important that I make that point about ‘some women’ because, as always, we need to recognise that First Nations women were left behind in these reforms. When we focus on the history of this place, it is very significant and important that we all take the time to acknowledge that some of those gains that were made by women were for some women only and that Aboriginal women were excluded. We will be looking forward to debating that motion tomorrow. I might point out that if my accounting is correct, we will have some 30 women here to make contributions on that motion, and we look forward to the women of the Liberal Party and National Party also contributing, in somewhat smaller numbers – it is just a fact.

The Heritage Amendment Bill will deliver a more efficient, practical and effective heritage system for Victoria, and I want to congratulate the Minister for Planning for the work that she has done on bringing this bill to the house. It includes provisions to allow for heritage documents and hearings to move online. That is progress, and we are always for progress. It will allow for agencies to identify heritage significance early on in their project phases, lowering the risk of disruptions down the track. For a government such as ours, which is known for getting on and delivering, which is known for its signature Big Build program and which is known for creating jobs and opportunities for all Victorians no matter where they live, it is very important that legislation such as this is brought before the house. It will assist ultimately to deliver projects that Victorians voted for sooner and with more robust protections for our important heritage features. And of course, I suppose, it is important to reflect that the Andrews Labor government did receive the endorsement of the people of Victoria to get on with our job-creating agenda.

We will also be debating the children and health legislation amendment. This bill acts on the government’s commitment to Aboriginal self-determination. Our commitment to First Peoples and the work that this government has done – nation-leading work, I might say – on treaties with our First Nations people, on working to ensure that self-determination, truth, justice and treaties are at the heart of our work for and with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, is very important to us. We know that the single biggest factor in improving health and social outcomes for Aboriginal people is achieved through Aboriginal self-determination. This is a principle that we hold exceedingly dear, and we look forward to that debate as well. This bill provides significant reform opportunities to achieve self-determination and self-management for Aboriginal people and to strengthen provisions that uphold the importance of culture for the safety of Aboriginal children.

Finally, there are two final inaugural speeches from this side of the house. We look forward to hearing from the member for Preston and the member for Broadmeadows, which will round out all of the inaugurals on this side of the house. We are so proud of the Labor members that were elected at the 2022 election. Their speeches so far have clearly demonstrated that they have so much to give to public life, and we look forward to hearing those last two inaugurals of those members later. I commend the government business program to the house.

James NEWBURY (Brighton) (12:27): It was a great shock when we received the government business program this week, when it was sent out to the opposition and crossbench parties on Thursday afternoon, as is the normal way. In addition to the bills described by the minister – and I will speak to them shortly – there was also a note on the program that the government intended to speak to and put motions listed on the notice paper. There was no detail as to what any of those motions would be, the substance of what would be debated, which I think runs contrary to the concept of the government business program in and of itself. And just before we started the debate on the government business program, the government moved a motion which I am sure many members of this place will want to speak to, and that is to acknowledge and support International Women’s Day this week. I am sure there are a number of speakers who will want to speak to that motion, on all sides of the chamber, and it was, frankly, disappointing to hear about the motion 1 minute before the government business program debate commenced. I would have thought that a government who intended to be apolitical in the way that the Parliament proceeds – putting our best foot forward in terms of speaking to issues of importance for our state – would at least have a conversation about what the government intends to do.

Although this motion is one that of course we wholeheartedly support and will speak to with gusto, there are other motions on the notice paper that have been put forward by the Leader of the House which are not in the same vein. I note that there is one particular motion on the notice paper that I internally call the Leader of the House’s sledge motion, which is frankly a grievance debate or matter of public importance –

A member: Irrelevant.

James NEWBURY: entirely relevant – which is just a sledge on the opposition. So when the government put forward what they intended to do this week, it would not have surprised anybody, I would have thought, that the opposition was concerned that there were not the details provided on what the government intended to do. Just simply saying ‘We will debate stuff’ is not good enough, especially when we know what the government is hiding on the notice paper. And though I know that the leader moved a motion just a moment ago in good faith – and we appreciate the substance of that motion – it was moved without any notice, any discussion.

When the Leader of the House spoke to the busyness of this Parliament, I note that the Parliament has been so busy and the government has such a strong schedule of what it intends to do that last week when we debated a particular amendment to a motion a number of the ministers were wandering around the chamber cock-a-hoop saying they did not have enough to do so they were really happy to be having the debate – so I am not sure that that argument stands them in good stead. There are instances where we would seek to put bills into the consideration-in-detail stage and the government has not provided us with that opportunity, especially bills that are particularly detailed.

In terms of the substance of the week, I certainly want to mention the Heritage Amendment Bill 2023, and I am sure the chamber will have a debate on that bill. The issue of heritage is one that I think many members of this place have been touched by and have had constituents raise with them over very important issues and failures in the system, for want of a better term, in terms of protecting the properties and protecting the sites that we need to protect and that the current rules and regulations do not to the extent that they should.

There are a number of inaugural speeches that will be completed today, one of which will be by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. I feel very confident that the whole Parliament will look forward to hearing that contribution from someone who has just achieved enormous things by coming back into this place and who is now the Leader of the Opposition.

On the basis of the lack of detail, we will not be supporting the government business program for the reasons set out both in principle and also in substance. I would hope that in the future the government when they set out their government business program actually list on that program what they intend to do.

Will FOWLES (Ringwood) (12:32): It is my pleasure for the first time in the 60th Parliament to be making a contribution on the government business program, and it is of course terrific to be doing that from the government side of the house. I want to pick up a couple of the matters that the Manager of Opposition Business raised, the first of those being the somewhat curious attribution of the member for Hawthorn’s address-in-reply as being an inaugural speech. I am not quite sure how that holds. If I recall correctly, he was in fact a member of the 58th Parliament, so it might be a re-inaugural at best – but I certainly would not characterise it as an inaugural speech. I would similarly take issue with the Manager of Opposition Business’s characterisation of the member for Hawthorn’s contribution in the last few months as being substantial. It is early days, and I think it is fair to say the jury is still out on those matters.

There will be further addresses-in-reply to the Governor’s speech and they will include the genuine inaugural speeches of the members for Broadmeadows and Preston. I look forward very much to hearing those contributions. The contributions from those on this side of the chamber right throughout that particular debate, the first contributions, have been absolutely outstanding. I want to congratulate all those members who have given their inaugural contributions right across the chamber, but in particular those members on this side, all of whom have made terrific contributions over the course of the first few sitting weeks of this, the 60th Parliament.

I read a document once which was ‘20 objections to any proposal’, and right at the top of that list of things you can object to about any proposal is process. Have a big sook about process and you can object to just about anything, and that is exactly what we had from the Manager of Opposition Business in his dissertation on the inclusion of a motion about International Women’s Day. I do not think it is a particularly complicated motion. I do not think it is particularly controversial and I just do not know that the objection around process necessarily holds. That motion references 100 years since women won the right to stand for election in the Victorian Parliament and says that for many years First Nations women did not have the same political rights as other Victorians. They are entirely appropriate matters for this Parliament to have an opportunity to reflect on, and I know that the very sizeable women’s caucus within the government parties –

Members interjecting.

Will FOWLES: There are four, and we have got like 30, but nonetheless the very sizeable – both proportionally and in number – women’s caucus of the Australian Labor Party members of this Parliament will, I am sure, make terrific contributions around International Women’s Day. If you want to talk about how many women you have in the caucus, probably the first thing you could do is not have a sook about the debate around the motion itself. But there is a great opportunity for the member for Gippsland South to perhaps differentiate the Nationals’ position on that motion from that of his Liberal colleagues.

The Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023 is again an opportunity for the government to demonstrate all that has been done in this space, and it comes at a time when there are political leaders federally who are seeking to undermine one of the three processes that came out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. They were around voice, truth and treaty. In Victoria we are delivering on all three already: for Voice to Parliament, we have got the First Peoples’ Assembly; for truth, we have established the truth and justice commission; and treaty is underway. And as much as other political parties in other jurisdictions might seek to undermine the opportunity for a voice to the federal Parliament, what we say here in the Victorian Parliament is that those three things matter, that the Uluru Statement from the Heart matters and provides an excellent pathway for jurisdictions right across the nation, state or federal, to engage properly with the many extraordinary difficulties that have faced First Nations people since the time of European settlement.

The Heritage Amendment Bill 2023 is also up for debate this week. It is another example of the government getting on and making sure that we deliver a planning system that is fair, that is balanced, that is reasonable and that reflects the modern planning environment here in the great state of Victoria. I am very pleased to support the government’s motion, and I look forward to contributions from members following also in support.

Jade BENHAM (Mildura) (12:37): Let me just say with regard to the motion regarding International Women’s Day, which is tomorrow: the Nationals women outnumber men now in the party room, so all of the women on this side will be making contributions. And that is without quotas. What a surprise. How did we do that? It must be the quality of female candidates, and we will acknowledge each other in a respectful and appropriate way tomorrow.

The member for Ringwood said that the way to debate any proposal was to have a sook about process. I have said it before, and I will say it again: to not go into the consideration-in-detail stage with bills – any bill – and to not be able to consider each clause in detail is problematic. We are elected to do a job, and that is to represent our communities. We cannot do that with the inability to go through every clause and have our say on every clause. As the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out, we get the business program and it says we may tend to bills. That does not allow us time to prepare. We cannot just debate some stuff and some things. Surely in our work as the opposition in keeping the government accountable we can be gifted the knowledge of what will occur in this place. There is just not enough time to read and digest all of those things moving forward. Considering each bill in detail is obviously our job, and we will go back, read through it and consider it all overnight.

As for the ones that are being debated today, such as the Heritage Amendment Bill 2023, as the Manager of Opposition Business did say, heritage has touched a lot of our communities before – mine in particular many, many times – and even though Heritage Victoria do wonderful work, at times it can be problematic. I look forward to the contributions of my colleagues in debating that bill. Many of our members will be debating and contributing in other ways to the child health legislation. Again, something that I am looking forward to is hearing the contributions from my colleagues with respect to self-determination for First Nations people. It is a very important bill, and I look forward to listening to all of the contributions from my colleagues this week.

Back to International Women’s Day, it has been 100 years since women were afforded the vote, and now, like I said in the party room, we outnumber the men in the Nationals. The member for Gippsland South smiles but shakes his head. It has only taken 100 years. So I hope on International Women’s Day that there will be a sense of empowering other women rather than tearing one another down, really encouraging and wrapping your arms around your women colleagues regardless of side and celebrating all that women have contributed over the last 100 years and further back than that, and also what we will contribute into the future.

Nina TAYLOR (Albert Park) (12:41): I am certainly looking forward to seeing the motion on International Women’s Day debated tomorrow amongst the many other matters in the government business program, and I certainly hope non-government members will seek the opportunity as well. I know that this date has been known for some time; it is not an extraordinary surprise for the chamber. I think we are certainly up for it; I hope they will be as well. It seems like there is enthusiasm over there. I cannot really see the problem. I am sure they would not want to be antagonistic on such an important topic on the one hand celebrating extraordinary achievements by women, many before us, who led to us being in the chamber here at this moment in time. I feel a great sense of gratitude for that incredible work but also acknowledge there were some terrible injustices along the way, originally of course with women not being able to vote and then the delay for our First Peoples women in being able to vote, which now seems extraordinary when you think about it – it is galling. But it is important as part of the celebration to be really candid and honest about those things that were simply inappropriate and that were wrong but at the same time about all that has been achieved. I am extraordinarily proud of all the great work that has been done and continues to be done as part of our government, because we know we did not just rock up here today with these rights. They were hard fought for in order to achieve the level of equality that we have thus far. But there is much more to be done in this space, and we certainly welcome the challenge.

I did want to pick up the note on quotas, because I think that this can be used as a way of putting down those perhaps from the point of view of a woman being selected per a quota. It can be used as a put-down, where the presumption is that there would not be enough good women when you are using a quota to be selected for a particular activity – whether it is representation in government – when in fact the contrary is true. There are so many great women in Victoria who are aptly qualified to be members of Parliament and to be in all professions, can we say, across Victoria, and hence quotas have enabled the acceleration of representation of women along the way. So I would take care personally – just reflecting here – in putting down quotas, because you can see by the representation in our government what a magnificent outcome they have facilitated along the way. That is just a personal reflection, but certainly I think one should take care in putting down such methods which actually have driven some really important outcomes for the community, not only for current women in Parliament, but which also will lead to so many more women of future generations being able to run for Parliament, knowing it can happen, it is achievable, it is possible and it is thanks to all the good work that continues to be undertaken.

It has been mentioned also that we have a very important legislative program this week. We have the Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023. I can sense goodwill and determination to see this very important bill passed through the house, with particular emphasis on Aboriginal self-determination in health and child protection systems. Just a little shout-out to the member for Preston and the member for Broadmeadows: we are very much looking forward to your inaugurals tonight. I have enjoyed each and every one – and I do not think I am alone in that – from the government members who have delighted us with their inaugurals, and we certainly look forward to those this evening.

Bridget VALLENCE (Evelyn) (12:46): At the outset may I reiterate my colleague the member for Brighton’s remarks that we will be opposing the government business program today. It is only the third sitting week in this parliamentary term, and already we are experiencing from the Andrews Labor government a complete culture of a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. Insofar as talking about the motion on International Women’s Day I will get to that in a moment, but there has been just a lack of accountability and decency to extend a level of courtesy to the opposition and to the Parliament that this would be coming on.

Of course I have no hesitation in supporting wholeheartedly a motion relating to women and women’s involvement in the democratic processes and in Parliament, and I will be celebrating International Women’s Day as I believe we all will in this Parliament. I remind the house that it was hard to get women the right to vote, but I also remind everyone in the house that the first female to become a member of the Victorian Parliament was in fact from this side of politics. Lady Millie Peacock was not Labor; she was from this side of politics. She was the first female to be elected to this place, to the Victorian Parliament, and it is something we should absolutely celebrate.

So really what we are concerned about is the lack of accountability and transparency from the government in relation to the government business program and the lack of courtesy that they extend to this side and to non-government members of Parliament in relation to what is on the government business program. An example is debating motions on the notice paper really without a level of information, and also the mere fact that the bills being debated in the last sitting week and in this sitting week are really recycled bills from the last Parliament, from the 59th Parliament. They are recycled bills that the Andrews Labor government failed to be able to negotiate through the 59th Parliament, and they are being recycled again to have another shot at them.

Something we are also concerned about is the mere fact that this government is so unaccountable and lacking in transparency that they dare not allow the opposition or non-government members to go into consideration in detail on bills. It is particularly –

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! Members, there is too much audible conversation in the chamber.

Bridget VALLENCE: It is particularly important – thank you, Speaker – when there are many complex matters within bills. In the bills that are before the Parliament this week are complex matters, but the reality is that this government fails to allow non-government members to go into consideration in detail on these bills, which would be particularly important to shed light on particular aspects of bills, particular clauses within bills, to enable opportunities to ask questions and perhaps, dare I say, even improve bills so that they best serve the people of Victoria.

But in terms of motions as well is the mere fact that this government say that they want to talk about motions, but only their motions. For example, a motion that I believe should be in the government business program this week is the member for Gippsland South’s motion to re-establish the joint standing committee on roads, road trauma and road safety. Now, in my community in Yarra Valley, on roads in Wandin, we have just had three deaths in the space of five weeks, which is terribly traumatic for my community in the Yarra Valley, but it just goes to show how dangerous roads are, how impactful road trauma is and precisely why it would be so important for us to debate the motion to re-establish the joint standing committee on roads, road trauma and road safety, something that I note the Andrews Labor government canned when it came to government. It just makes absolutely no sense to me why the Andrews Labor government would want to stop a committee investigating the important matter of road safety and minimising, to the best extent possible, road trauma.

Of course this week we also have the address-in-reply. Probably the only good part about the government business program this week is the address-in-reply. I very much look forward to the Leader of the Opposition the member for Hawthorn’s address-in-reply contribution. I also look forward to the member for Broadmeadows’ contribution. I have a longstanding association with the Broadmeadows community, where I spent a lot of my career before being an MP.

We oppose the government business program.

Assembly divided on motion:

Ayes (54): Juliana Addison, Jacinta Allan, Daniel Andrews, Colin Brooks, Josh Bull, Anthony Carbines, Ben Carroll, Darren Cheeseman, Anthony Cianflone, Sarah Connolly, Chris Couzens, Jordan Crugnale, Lily D’Ambrosio, Daniela De Martino, Steve Dimopoulos, Paul Edbrooke, Will Fowles, Matt Fregon, Ella George, Luba Grigorovitch, Bronwyn Halfpenny, Katie Hall, Paul Hamer, Martha Haylett, Mathew Hilakari, Melissa Horne, Natalie Hutchins, Lauren Kathage, Sonya Kilkenny, Nathan Lambert, Gary Maas, Alison Marchant, Kathleen Matthews-Ward, Steve McGhie, Paul Mercurio, John Mullahy, Tim Pallas, Danny Pearson, Pauline Richards, Michaela Settle, Ros Spence, Nick Staikos, Natalie Suleyman, Meng Heang Tak, Jackson Taylor, Nina Taylor, Kat Theophanous, Mary-Anne Thomas, Emma Vulin, Iwan Walters, Vicki Ward, Dylan Wight, Gabrielle Williams, Belinda Wilson

Noes (28): Brad Battin, Jade Benham, Roma Britnell, Tim Bull, Martin Cameron, Annabelle Cleeland, Chris Crewther, Wayne Farnham, Sam Groth, Matthew Guy, David Hodgett, Emma Kealy, Tim McCurdy, Cindy McLeish, James Newbury, Danny O’Brien, Michael O’Brien, Kim O’Keeffe, John Pesutto, Richard Riordan, Brad Rowswell, Ryan Smith, David Southwick, Bill Tilley, Bridget Vallence, Peter Walsh, Kim Wells, Jess Wilson

Motion agreed to.