Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Business of the house




Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (12:32): 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 18 May 2023:

Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023

Gambling Taxation Bill 2023.

It is good to be back in the house for another week of important government business. Of course the Andrews Labor government, as our community expects, has hit the ground running. We are bringing to this place a number of very important bills to be debated. I want to take the opportunity to talk you through the bills that will be debated this week.

The Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023 makes important changes to the structure of wagering and betting and will provide flexibility for government in awarding future wagering and betting licences in order to yield the greatest benefit for the state. The current wagering and betting licence was awarded in 2011 and is due to expire on 15 August of next year. The process for awarding a wagering and betting licence to operate from 15 August 2024 is underway. At present only one wagering and betting licence can be in operation at a time. This restricts the options that the state can present to the market to attract greater interest in a wagering and betting licence. The bill introduces an approach to increase competition for the 2024 wagering and betting licence or licences, and the bill will amend the act to enable the minister to determine the number of wagering and betting licences and any exclusivity periods for future licensing processes.

The bill also repeals the ‘no less favourable’ racing industry funding requirement for issuing a new wagering and betting licence. These changes are reflective of the changing wagering and betting environment with the proliferation of online wagering, and all of this, of course, will contribute to a more effective licensing process and a greater financial benefit for the state. I am taking the opportunity just to outline the bill which we will be debating, and I look forward to all of the fulsome contributions from those on the other side of the house, especially all of those who constantly complain about the opportunities to debate bills in this place. We do look forward to a full debating list from those on the other side in relation to the gambling taxation bill. It is another important part of our government’s agenda, and this bill of course acquits several recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. I want to commend the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation on the speedy way in which she acted in relation to the very significant issues that were raised in relation to the operation of Crown Casino. The report of the royal commission, which was released back in 2021, found Crown Melbourne improperly claimed deductions from gaming revenue to reduce its tax bill. We know that it was found to have underpaid millions of dollars in casino tax to the state, and this bill acquits the royal commission’s recommendation to introduce an enhanced taxation framework for Crown Melbourne.

I might also let the house know that it is this government’s intention to debate the Education State motion, which is on the notice paper, and that is a motion that will give the house an opportunity to recognise the fantastic work that this government continues to progress in relation to realising our ambition for Victoria to be the Education State. On three occasions now we have gone to the people of Victoria with an agenda that has put education at the heart of all that we do. The vast improvements in our public school education system and indeed the many reforms that we have made that have also rolled over and been available to low fee paying and Catholic schools have been well recognised throughout the community. There will be an opportunity to discuss these and other matters, including making kinder free, putting over 70 courses on the free TAFE list, implementing One VCE, delivering hundreds of new schools and school upgrades and supporting student wellbeing.

As always, I look forward to the positive contributions from everyone on this side of the house, who I know will relish the opportunity to get up and talk about the delivery of the Education State in this house. And I look forward to the contributions from those on the other side, because this is a government that governs for all Victorians and makes sure that we deliver. I commend this motion to the house.

James NEWBURY (Brighton) (12:37): We have seen today proof positive that the government business program is nothing more than high farce. For the fourth week in a row, the government has been exposed as having no business and no legislative program and is having to effectively filibuster and waste the Parliament’s time because it cannot get its act together. We saw that when the Leader of the House stood to speak on her own motion and had to read verbatim the talking points of one of the bills that is going to be debated this week. She had to read the government’s talking points because there was so little to say about what the government is doing this week in the Parliament. The Leader of the House was reading the talking points and effectively debating the talking points of the bill because there is so little being done. This is the fourth week in a row where the government has run out of anything to do and is filling the Parliament’s time with sledge motions, and we have gone from one sledge motion a week to now two. I mean, how long is it going to take? We have got two new bills introduced today, but how long will it take before this house is convened to just debate the government’s sledge motions? We know that the government has not got any work to do. You could complete the work for what the government is proposing in a day. You could easily move the guillotine from Thursday, and that is something the house should consider. Should the house consider amending the government business program and moving the debate? Effectively what the government is doing is filling the Parliament’s time because it has run out of anything to do, and it is using particular parliamentary tactics to cover that fact. Today we have seen two bills introduced, which will fill an entire week – two bills –

Juliana Addison interjected.

The SPEAKER: The member for Wendouree!

James NEWBURY: Last sitting week we saw the government ram through one of its bills and only allow a 13-day community consultation, when we know that the Westminster system is built around a full consultation time, and that is a debate that this house had. How shameful it was to see the government ram through that bill and not allow the community the consultation that it deserved. The government is using parliamentary tactics to be tricky – to cover the fact that it does not have a full agenda.

We heard the Leader of the House refer to the fact that we will be debating two motions – two sledge motions – this week, one of them being an education motion. Let me tell you, I look forward to the opportunity to talk about how little funding is provided to Brighton. When you look at funding provided on the government’s own website, there is one big carve out in education funding to schools, and guess where that is? If you look at the map, there is a black swan on the map – a black swan area in the map of government funding – and that is in the electorate of Brighton. We have a school in my electorate of Brighton where kids with hearing deficiencies are being forced to learn in a demountable next to a train line because the government refuses to invest money in kids –

Members interjecting.

James NEWBURY: You were reading out direct notes, so please!

Mary-Anne Thomas: On a point of order, Speaker, I ask that you remind the Manager of Opposition Business that this is a procedural debate, and he is not to debate motions that are on the notice paper.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Eildon is not in her allocated seat. I remind members that this is a very narrow debate. I have allowed some expansion on that debate this afternoon, but I do ask members to speak to the government business program.

James NEWBURY: I understand why the government would be embarrassed by that point. The government business program is hiding the fact that the government does not have an agenda. It is using parliamentary tactics to be tricky and wasting the Parliament’s time with what are effectively sledge motions every week, and it is a disgrace. We will be opposing the program.

Tim RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) (12:42): I might just take things down a little bit; the member for Brighton is clearly a little audible. Putting forward opposition to a motion while also saying that he wants the opportunity to debate the motion is an interesting contradiction, a bit like the current state of their party. But the context that has been put forward, particularly by the new alliance of the Greens and the coalition today in their request for more time, more bills and more opportunities to debate, is interesting.

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, I share the Leader of the House’s concern about this being a tight debate. I would say to the member for Mordialloc that this is a tight debate, and we are straying somewhat from the motion.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mordialloc has just commenced his contribution. I remind all members that this is a narrow debate about the government business program.

Tim RICHARDSON: It is important context for what is requested to be part of government business and the bills and the quantum that is on the government business program. If that is not relevant to the terms of government business program, I do not know what is. But the member for Brighton gets a bit edgy and a bit excited about this. What is key is that the two bills that have been put forward here are similar to previous bills and contributions from members. When you are asking for more time to debate more bills you wonder what the history or record was of those contributions. So far in the month of May we have had 43 government members speak on bills on the government business program. That is a significant contribution. The Nationals, with nine members, have contributed 13 times to second-reading stages of bills. Disappointingly, the Liberals have contributed just six times and the Greens once.

Will Fowles: Six times?

Tim RICHARDSON: Six times. And when you count duplication from the member for Eildon and – the member for Eildon is carrying the team at the moment because she has made two contributions out of the six – when you look at that quantum –

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, the member is straying from the motion. This is not a third sledge motion for the week. The member is straying from the motion, and I would ask for him to be called back to the motion.

The SPEAKER: The member was speaking in relation to previous business of the house, which I will allow. But I do ask you to come back to the government business program.

Tim RICHARDSON: Thank you, Speaker. A consistent theme and discussion around the 60th Parliament has been the style the debate would take on and the level of bills, but the business program has been full, and it will be full again this week with these bills. So what we will be looking for this week is more contribution from all members of Parliament on these important bills. The Gambling Taxation Bill 2023 is a really important piece of legislation, underpinned by the journey that Crown has undertaken but also then streamlining the taxation levels across states and territories. That makes sense, and members of Parliament will have that ability to contribute. The Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023 as well changes arrangements that have been 12 years in the making to a more flexible system.

The notion that there is an issue or problem with important policy areas coming through in motions on various other discussions is a curious point to take when we are thinking about government business, because all the criticisms of the Greens and the Liberals and the Nationals about the ability to open up further debate are around the things that they say are of substance. So when you have holistic policy areas that you are bringing forward for discussion, there is never a better time than during the program of the week to contribute and to show your values. If you are opposed to the government’s particular motion or you are opposed to the substance of it, it is a chance to step up and speak. The only problem you have is that when the government members put their names down on the program, we outnumber those opposite sometimes 10 to one, and there is a consistent theme of members of Parliament not contributing and not stepping up on behalf of their community. When we swear an oath or an affirmation, we say that we will front up on behalf of our communities. Most of them are not doing anything at all.

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, this has turned into a third sledge motion for the week. I would ask you, in line with your previous ruling, to bring the member back to the motion currently before the house.

Tim RICHARDSON: On the point of order, Speaker, the member for Brighton literally said this was a sledge of the government’s, sledging the process and criticising the government business program. If he cannot respond to those things because it does not suit his agenda or he did not articulate it right and he wants to have his go again – that cannot be accepted. If the government business program and how it flows through the week –

The SPEAKER: Order! Member for Mordialloc –

James Newbury: What is this? Is this a debate?

The SPEAKER: Manager of Opposition Business, you will not question the Chair. Member for Mordialloc, that is not a point of order on the point of order, but I do ask you to come back to the motion that is before the house.

Tim RICHARDSON: There we are. (Time expired)

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (12:47): Thank you very much, Speaker. I am pleased to rise because the member for Ovens Valley, as the member for Mordialloc has indicated, is not doing his job and I am going to step in for him. That is a joke; the member for Ovens Valley is an excellent local member and is always speaking on bills.

I am pleased that the member for Mordialloc had that point of order for the last 30 seconds, because he had clearly run out of things to say, a bit like the government has more broadly, and that is why we are debating this here today and why the Manager of Opposition Business has indicated our opposition to the government business program. This is actually getting to be unprecedented. I have been in this place for 4000 or 5000 years, it seems – no, a bit over eight years now – and in the first two terms that I was here we never had motions put up as part of the government business program or simply to fill the week’s sitting of Parliament, because the government actually had an agenda. Very clearly we are seeing now a government that has got to its third term and has just completely run out of puff. It has blown the budget, it has got all sorts of problems happening with corruption, with IBAC reports coming out, and it now does not have –

Mary-Anne Thomas: On a point of order, Speaker, again I ask that you remind those opposite that this is a narrow procedural motion. It is not an opportunity to make a range of untrue allegations in relation to the government or indeed to cast aspersions on our intentions here in this place.

The SPEAKER: Order! A point of order needs to be succinct. The member for Gippsland South will come back to the motion before the house.

Danny O’BRIEN: Thank you, Speaker. The point remains that we are opposing this motion, the government business program, this week because the government is not focused on the things that will improve the lives of Victorians. It is putting up motions – as the Manager of Opposition Business calls them, ‘sledge motions’ – to play politics, to fill the Parliament’s time with playing politics.

We just had the Minister for the State Electricity Commission put up a motion about the federal opposition leader. What sort of government with a strong agenda has to talk about the federal opposition leader and what they are doing? Here is a government that has run out of ideas. They have run out of ideas so they are putting up motions like this, and we saw them. The irony of the Leader of the House raising a point of order before that the Manager of Opposition Business stay on the topic of this narrow procedural debate, when she spent half of her contribution speaking about the bills that are before us this week, is unbelievable.

I want to make a point also on the procedures of the house, which this is actually about, and the comments about the 13-day situation. The government again is unable to manage its legislative program to have bills ready to debate on a Tuesday, so it has to actually circumvent the traditions of the house and go to 13 days. With the two gambling bills this week, the minute they were introduced in the previous sitting week we were out consulting with stakeholders, but there are stakeholders who are still coming back to us this week. Not us – I do not want to hear anyone saying, ‘You’re lazy; you’re not getting your work done.’ There are stakeholders still assessing the impact of the legislation that the government has brought in. You might just say, ‘Oh, thirteen days – you haven’t got time to do it’, but it is the stakeholders, it is Victorians and it is people who are affected by legislation that need the opportunity to have as much time as possible to understand the issues that they are dealing with.

I take up the interjection and the comment from the member for Mordialloc before about those speakers and how wonderful the government backbench is because ‘We have 10 speakers to your one’. Well, it is pretty easy to do 10 speeches when the Premier’s private office has given it to you, isn’t it? We sit here all the time, and with due respect, we hear the same speech over and over and over again. It is like last term, where we would regularly, every week, ask to go into consideration in detail and the then Leader of the House would say, ‘We’ll see; we’ll see if we’ve got time’. We never had time because we had to hear the same speech 10 times from those opposite. It was just a lack of respect for the Parliament and for the ability to have all members, including non-government members, have their say.

The irony is that we have a government with no agenda having to put up motions to debate because it has not got the agenda and yet at the same time not allowing the Greens and not allowing the opposition to put forward private members business and have it debated. You can vote it down. You have got the numbers. You have apparently got some with wit and intelligence on that side who can debate against these bills –

The SPEAKER: Order! Through the Chair, member for Gippsland South.

Danny O’BRIEN: My apologies, Speaker.

The SPEAKER: I remind members not to say ‘you’; it is a reflection on the Chair.

Danny O’BRIEN: Thank you, Speaker. The government needs to get its act together.

Dylan WIGHT (Tarneit) (12:52): It is an absolute pleasure to rise today to speak on the government business program and indeed to speak on the Andrews Labor government’s positive plan and positive agenda. Contrary to the comments from those opposite, we are the only ones in this place with a positive agenda. We took a positive plan and a positive agenda to the election, and lo and behold, I think the Victorian public agreed with us. That is why there are 56 over here and not too many over there. As I said, it is an absolute joy to come here this week and to speak on the Andrews Labor government’s agenda.

We went to the election and said that we would not waste a minute, and this week is no different. This week we have two bills that we will introduce and debate in this place. Those two bills are the Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023 and the Gambling Taxation Bill 2023. These two bills work in tandem to provide the best outcome for the Victorian racing industry, which I will go to in a little bit more detail in a moment, as well as venue operators, licensees and community groups. The gambling regulation bill works to amend wagering –

The SPEAKER: Members are reminded that the government business program motion is not an opportunity to anticipate debate on a bill.

Dylan WIGHT: Indeed it is not. Sorry, Speaker. The Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill works to amend wagering and betting licences, amongst other things, and obviously solves some current limitations in the existing legislation. An incredibly important aspect of this bill is that it gives the Victorian racing industry – an industry that we absolutely love on this side of the house and that I think probably across this chamber is incredibly important to the electorates of so many people in this place – a greater share of the turnover that –

Ryan Smith: On a point of order, Speaker, just to restate your instruction to the member already that the member is anticipating debate on the bills that he is currently discussing.

The SPEAKER: I do ask the member to come back to the government business program.

Dylan WIGHT: Thank you, Speaker. Just to finish the point, as I said, it is incredibly important to the Victorian racing industry.

We are also, in tandem with that, introducing the Gambling Taxation Bill 2023. Both these pieces of legislation have gone through extensive consultation and obviously, as the Leader of the House says, we are picking up some of the recommendations from the recent Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence.

I would just briefly like to touch on the education motion that will be introduced into this house during the week as well. The Labor Party went to the 2014 election promising to make Victoria the Education State, and that is exactly what we did in the following years. Since 2014 we have rebuilt TAFE in this state after those opposite –

Ryan Smith: On a point of order, Speaker, just again to restate the points of order that have been made, the member is once again anticipating debate on the motion. This is a narrow procedural debate about the government business program.

The SPEAKER: I am aware of that, member for Warrandyte. Member for Tarneit, I have allowed other members some leeway. I have allowed you some leeway, but I do ask you to come back to the government business program.

Dylan WIGHT: No problem at all. Thank you, Speaker. I said I would speak briefly about the education motion, which I think I have already achieved. Like I said, it is an absolute privilege to be back in this place to speak on the Andrews Labor government’s positive agenda this week, and I look forward to the week ahead.

Cindy McLEISH (Eildon) (12:57): I rise to support my colleagues in that we are not supporting the government business program today. If we have a look at the daily program, we can see that the items proposed for the government business program are pretty slim. We have got the Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2023 and the Gambling Taxation Bill 2023. Both of those items will be guillotined on Friday –

A member: Thursday.

Cindy McLEISH: Thursday, so we have got a bit of a pickle. The government have a bit of a pickle here. They have got to try and work out what they need to do this week to fill up their program. They have got a very flimsy legislative program, which I think is reflective of a government that is tired and that has run out of ideas – one that probably spent January on holidays rather than thinking about their legislative program, and perhaps Easter as well. They have got a lot of new ministers, and I thought they would be itching to come up here with legislation to show what they are doing and to make some changes, but we see that the legislative program today is flimsy indeed.

I try to put myself in the shoes of the Leader of the House. I am thinking, ‘What is the Leader of the House thinking as she’s putting the program together?’ And she is thinking, ‘Right, okay, so what tools do I have at my disposal? I have got legislation.’ Clearly not all the ministers have been working hard enough because we have only got two pieces of legislation, so she has to think. ‘Then what? We would have had nothing to debate today if they had given the customary 14 days, which is normally what would happen. They worked out if we do 13 days, that at least gives us something to talk about on Tuesday, the first day of the government business program.’

Last sitting week we saw them have to say that for the Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill they could only give 13 days notice. We have heard other members prosecute the fact that when we only have the 13 days, it affects the stakeholders coming back to us to contribute their thoughts so we can work out our position on the bills and on the government business program. We have had 13 days for one of the bills so at least they have got something to talk about today. What else are they going to do? Again, I am putting myself in the shoes of the Leader of the House, thinking, ‘We don’t have much of a program. We have got, you know, a tired government that have not got a lot of thoughts about what is going ahead. We have had the legislation, the 13 days, then what else? Let’s introduce a couple of back-up motions, because they don’t need to be guillotined and we can keep those moving on.’ Previously on the government business program we have had the address-in-reply that has been able to be dragged out for ages – filibustering, dragging it out as long as possible. We are going to have the budget next week, so that will fill up your business program. The Leader of the House’s business program will be very busy. On all sides, everybody in the house will be wanting to talk on the budget.

Then we have got the motions. They think, ‘We’ll introduce the motions.’ Some of these motions are what have been referred to as ‘sledge’ motions. We have got the SEC motion that I have started on – I am about a minute into my 10-minute contribution. They have had a look at ‘What can we do? Anywhere that we can have an attack on the opposition and sing our praises?’ So we can see that that is done with.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Eildon in silence.

Cindy McLEISH: Thank you, Speaker. I greatly appreciate your intervention there.

They have had to introduce a couple of bills, and they have the SEC motion. Government members have their prepared notes and will come out and say that the Liberals privatised the SEC, when clearly we know that is not the fact and that it was Joan Kirner’s Labor government. But again, the motion on the business program for the week and how the government will be filling their time will be an opportunity for them to sing their praises and for us to point out some realities. The other sledge motion is one about education. The government will use this opportunity to try and pull down the opposition rather than reflect on some of their failures in the education system.

James Newbury: In my electorate.

Cindy McLEISH: There are quite a number. The results are not good statewide, and I think the government should be having a good look at that rather than trying to filibuster and make up motions to just fill the time. The opposition will be opposing 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, Tim Richardson, 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, Belinda Wilson

Noes (31): Brad Battin, Jade Benham, Roma Britnell, Tim Bull, Martin Cameron, Annabelle Cleeland, Chris Crewther, Gabrielle de Vietri, Wayne Farnham, Sam Groth, Matthew Guy, Sam Hibbins, David Hodgett, Emma Kealy, Tim McCurdy, Cindy McLeish, James Newbury, Danny O’Brien, Michael O’Brien, Kim O’Keeffe, John Pesutto, Tim Read, Richard Riordan, Brad Rowswell, Ellen Sandell, Ryan Smith, David Southwick, Bill Tilley, Peter Walsh, Kim Wells, Jess Wilson

Motion agreed to.