Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Address to Parliament

Governor’s speech


Address to Parliament

Governor’s speech


Debate resumed on motion of Michael Galea:

That this house agrees to the following address to the Governor in reply to the Governor’s opening speech:


We, the Legislative Council of Victoria assembled in Parliament, express our loyalty to Australia and the people of Victoria, and thank you for the speech which you have made to the Parliament.

We declare that we will faithfully carry out the important duties entrusted to us by the people of Victoria, to advance the best interests of all sections of the community.

Ryan BATCHELOR (Southern Metropolitan) (14:56): President, I am so very grateful to the people of the Southern Metropolitan Region for giving me the honour of representing them in this place, and I look forward to working with you and all members serving the people of Victoria.

Importantly, and firstly, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on here today and the traditional owners of the lands that now comprise the Southern Metropolitan Region: the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the eastern Kulin nation. I would like to pay my deepest respects to their elders past and present.

As a member of the Victorian Parliament I also accept and acknowledge the role that this institution has played in the systematic dispossession of Aboriginal people from their lands. The qualification for election to this place for much of its history was based on a franchise of land ownership, the same land curated and nurtured for thousands of years by its traditional owners – a franchise enabled by forcible dispossession. The laws that were then made here furthered that dispossession, the incarceration and the removal of children from their families. They are failures of the past and failures of the present and failures we must fix, and I commit as a new member of this place to use the power placed in my hands by the people to work together with Aboriginal Victorians to remedy the injustices of the past and empower them as part of creating a better future together, working with their voice to treaties and truth, here in Victoria and then leading the nation.

All of us come here shaped by the experiences of our lives, and those experiences will in turn shape our actions as representatives. Melbourne’s Southern Metropolitan Region is where I grew up and went to school, and I know it so very, very well. My mum grew up in South Melbourne with her family and my dad with his in Beaumaris. They met and married and bought a house in a bayside suburb at a time, believe it or not, when a trade union official and a typist could afford to do so. It is the house I was raised in and where Mum still lives today. My childhood was spent ranging across these suburbs. I moved to and from my grandparents in Cheltenham and in Ormond. I remember board games being played in the front room of my cousin’s house to the background clanging of the boom gates at the now-removed North Road level crossing. Sadly, there are some childhood memories we can never relive.

In short, it was the best kind of an upbringing that a kid in the suburbs could ask for, and it is the same essential reason that hundreds of thousands of families call this part of Melbourne home – for its great schools, its parklands and beaches, for its libraries, cultural centres and community hubs, for its art and for its music. It is a great place to raise a family. I am very grateful for the opportunity to represent them and will work to keep improving the services and infrastructure that make their lives better.

We all need to listen to what the people tell us at elections. In reflecting on 2022, with elections of significance for our nation and for our state, it is I hope an inflection point that might underscore the importance of purpose in politics. People want governments who do things, and voters will reward governing and especially governing well. They will forgive an occasional misstep and are sick of being told that problems are beyond our ability to control or are someone else’s responsibility. We must not be afraid to tackle the challenges we confront, and we must govern with purpose.

There has been a disturbing tonal shift in the broader political debate in this state. I think that is undeniable. And to me what the last election shows is that we need to be listening more to the hundreds of thousands of quiet Victorians who care more about the quality of the services they receive, about the infrastructure they rely upon and about having a job than being distracted by the braying voices of a few.

In all that noise, however, we must not miss the signals that are being sent our way. For some, the vulnerability created by our current economic and labour market structures makes their experience of precariousness a fertile receptor to messages of fear and division. Harnessing the power of government to strengthen their economic security is our best response. Creating secure jobs, reliable transport, renewable energy, good schools and health care whenever needed is what restores their trust in politics, in government and in us. And with the confidence of the community, we as legislators and policymakers can lead our state forward to even greater things.

Many people worked very hard to see this Labor government re-elected for a third term, and I would like to pay tribute to their efforts. They were ably led of course by the Premier and Deputy Premier. But I would especially like to thank the lower house Labor candidates across the 11 districts in the Southern Metro Region, more of whom were unsuccessful than not but all of whom worked incredibly hard, and the hard work of their campaign teams and each and every booth volunteer who stood through those hours and days of wind and rain and sun – that was the same day! That is the reason the Labor ticket secured my election, so thank you.

The grind of campaigning is well known to my family because ours is a Labor family. In fact it has been 100 years since my great-grandmother Isabel Gwynne was a stalwart in the Granville and Parramatta ALP branches in western Sydney. Thanks to the glory of the national archives I recently discovered a newspaper clipping from the wonderfully named Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate from 1923 that delves into great detail about an intra-branch preselection dispute in which it seems she was involved. So for Labor and the Labor family it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

But of course my father Peter – and I am very grateful he is here today – was a member of this Parliament in the other place for 20 years, and he made an enormous contribution to the Parliament, to the people of Victoria, to politics and to the Labor Party through his lifetime of tireless work for the causes he believed in. If I can replicate just some of that contribution, it will be an achievement that I can be proud of, because I am very proud of him.

For many, my connection to the Labor family is mostly what they know about me – they often do not look far past my surname – but today is an opportunity to tell a bit more of that story, and in doing so there is no more important person to understand me and my life than my mother. This is going to be tough. Alice Reilly was a working-class kid who grew up in church-owned housing in South Melbourne, the daughter of post-war Scottish migrants. Her dad was a linesman for the SEC and her mum was a cleaner. She left school at 15 and went to work in a typing pool, often shouldering the responsibility of looking after her brothers and sister as her mum left the house to clean offices in the city, returning late at night. Her piercing blue eyes and sharp brain set her apart. She was tenacious and smart and worked incredibly hard. She lives her life with epilepsy, and with that have come good days and bad, but nothing has ever stopped her, and woe betide anything that tries.

She is also the most courageous person I know – a woman who took the very difficult decision, especially for a girl brought up in the Catholic Church, to end her marriage and set out on her own with a three-year-old son, me, because it turns out life around politics and the Labor Party just was not her cup of tea. She had her own path to forge. She also, though, had a young kid, no formal education and a house with a mortgage to pay. But she knew and instilled in me over my life that education matters most. She knew she needed more of it, at least in a formal sense, and so she set out on a special entry pathway for early school leavers to get a university degree. So reading and learning were, to her, the most important things that I could do. So I did, a lot – and I loved it.

She worked nights waiting tables at the local hotel to make sure we had enough money to pay the bills and got jobs on campus working in administration, all while studying and being a single mum. Everyone helped – family, friends, the succession of boarders we had renting out the spare room – and the support network she made during those years was so strong it has sustained to this day. She was always loyal, and people were loyal to her. She graduated university when I was eight, setting up her next career phase in office administration, and in the late 1980s she was learning about computers and automation and helping others adjust to the nascent technological revolution. She knew how rapidly the world was changing and why we all needed to be ready to learn and adapt. She did get a break from me every second weekend. I spent that with my dad, and she deserved every moment’s rest. All the time I was learning about hard work and about her never stopping, being resilient and caring and thinking about others and the world around us. She worried about the planet long before it was front-page news, and she taught me to stand up for what was important.

Mum cannot be with us in the gallery today. These days her body just is not well enough, but she is watching at home with her partner Greg – so hi, Mum. And importantly, she is here, in me, and she is the reason I am who I am. Her values shaped me, and I hope you will get to see me with those values during my time in this chamber.

While today I am less of a hands-on rabble-rouser than I was in the mid to late 1990s – while I was finding my own voice protesting as a schoolkid against Pacific nuclear testing and education cuts – my passion for and commitment to achieving change remains, because we should all be here to change things. I have had unparalleled opportunities as a researcher, as a public servant and as a policy adviser to witness good governments changing people’s lives. I know the power of good public policy. What I have also learned is that the task of policy reform is never done. There are always new challenges to confront, and we cannot rest on our laurels or be zealously uncritical of work already done.

I worked during the last federal Labor government to help set up the national disability insurance scheme, and it is one of the things that I am professionally proudest of – supporting the Prime Minister as she signed agreements with premiers to deliver the scheme. But I know that the NDIS has its challenges and is far from the promise that we hoped to deliver. Reform is never done. So we can defend universal health care while acknowledging the system can improve its patient outcomes. We can support our public schools while admitting our kids need to be better taught basic reading and writing and maths.

As a policy wonk I am incredibly excited about the government’s Best Start, Best Life reforms – like, do not start me. Kinder for three-year-olds, more pre-prep for four-year-olds – it will transform lives. Fifteen years ago I had the absolute privilege of working with Jenny Macklin and Kevin Rudd to write the then federal Labor opposition’s first policy document to deliver 15 hours of universal preschool for four-year-olds, but Victoria’s efforts today show us that that was nowhere near ambitious enough. There is always more to be done.

There are many lessons to learn about how to be an effective activist and policy agitator, and there is one that I learned from the late Dorothy Reading, my father’s long-term partner and my brother’s mother and, it is fair to say to those who knew her, a force of nature in politics, policy and public health advocacy. Faced with a choice between expressing sentiment and taking action, Dorothy would always insist on the latter. Dorothy’s work helped Victoria be a global leader in tobacco control, which has delivered us enormous public health dividends, but 30 years of sustained efforts are at risk with the rise of vaping in our community. Five years ago the rates of young people starting smoking cigarettes were negligible, and today youth vaping rates are exploding, as is the related harm. So much has changed so fast.

Children are calling the Quitline addicted to nicotine. They are vaping in class. And if our regulatory model allows this to happen, then it is broken and needs to be fixed. We know that inhaling substances into our lungs is dangerous. Whether it is nicotine or asbestos or silica dust, it kills, and we do not have the luxury of time to wait and see. We must act. Vaping products are dangerous and should be treated as such, and I believe federal and state governments must act quickly and decisively. This is a crisis, I believe, that must be resolved before the Parliament contemplates any further progress on drug law reform.

As parliamentarians we do not achieve change ourselves. Yes, we can pass laws, but change is created by movements, and none have had more of an impact on positive change for people in this country than the trade union movement. Unions have always been a big part of my life, both personally and professionally. I remember as a kid with my Uncle Dave marching with what was then known as the Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association of Australasia against Kennett’s cuts in 1992. We were with the Maritime Union of Australia on the waterfront in 1998, and I remember listening to and learning from the WA metalworkers during my uni days in Perth. Professionally as an adviser and researcher while in Canberra I worked with the ASU on equal pay, with the ACTU on paid parental leave and the then United Voice on better pay for early childhood educators – and most recently here with Trades Hall on safety for young apprentices. So across the movement, comrades, you continue to inspire, and I will continue to work side by side with you from this place.

Walking across the entry to Parliament from Spring Street we are reminded by the floor that there is safety in a multitude of counsellors, and I am fortunate to have many whose counsel I can rely upon. There are many who have given me support over many years in politics, and I cannot mention them all, but I especially want to thank Paul Erickson, Susie Byers, Andrew Giles and Linda White for their constant wisdom and advice. To those members and ministers who have employed me along the journey, starting with Alan Carpenter, Jenny Macklin, Julia Gillard and Anthony Albanese, the opportunities that you gave me were priceless and the lessons you taught me about being a good representative, about remembering why we are here and who we are here for, will guide me in this place. Importantly, to the brilliant staff that I worked alongside in those offices and who remain my good friends, when we did our jobs well our efforts were unseen and achievements unnoticed by many, but it all added up to Labor governments changing people’s lives for the better. Those ex-staffers are an unparalleled network of whip-smart strategic thinkers, and I know their phones are always on, so I will be calling.

At the end of it all, though, there is nothing without our family. I have already spoken – and blubbed – about what my mum means to me, how I would not be who I am without her, but I would not be here today if not for the love, the support and a fair amount of forbearance from my partner Rosie. Her intellect and achievements in her field of medicine are astounding, but it is her passion for what she believes in that helps sustain me and reminds me constantly of what matters: yes, our family, of course, but there must always be more than just us. There is injustice to address, systemic disadvantage to overcome and constantly thinking about how to improve the services our community relies upon. There is definitely something bigger that we are trying to achieve. And, Rosie, each in our own way, we will achieve it together.

But I want to end the speech with our two kids, just over there, Lewis and Clement. The joy and wonder they constantly bring to our lives is invigorating. Their thirst for learning and knowledge is an inspiration. And I know that it is not always easy growing up around politics. You get well practised at hanging around that boring stuff waiting to do something fun. But I hope they know that those meetings and phone calls and late nights are all for a purpose, because the future will pass on to them and their generation, and we have an obligation to make that future better. So let us get on with it.

Members applauded.

Gaelle BROAD (Northern Victoria) (15:16): I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we govern and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Sir Peter Cosgrove was once asked to define an Australian, and he said, ‘Anyone who feels a connection with this land, whether they have just arrived and intend to stay or their ancestry dates back 60,000 years.’ That connection with the land and its people reflects our strong Indigenous history, and it unites us here today.

I first came to this place as a parliamentary intern 28 years ago. I stood in the vestibule and read Proverbs 11:14 inscribed in the mosaic tiles on the floor: ‘Where no counsel is the people fall but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.’ And I am sincerely grateful to the people of Northern Victoria for electing me to this chamber to represent our region in Victoria’s 60th Parliament. I feel a very strong connection to Northern Victoria. It is a region that spans over 100,000 square kilometres and covers nearly half of the state. It stretches from Mildura to the snowfields down to the outskirts of Melbourne, from broadacre farms to busy shopping centres.

I grew up on a third-generation berry, fruit and flower farm in the stunning Yarra Valley, and I spent my school holidays picking, planting and packing. My grandparents lived just up the road, and whenever I dropped in Grandma Stone would make a strong pot of tea and share some family history. Her grandfather owned an agency of Cobb and Co coaches in New South Wales, but times changed with the introduction of motor vehicles, and without work they had to move and start again. Grandpa’s story was similar. His family owned a large clothing manufacturing business that closed during the Great Depression. They started with just a small parcel of land and learned how to farm. My grandparents met at a local dance, were happily married over 60 years and argued every single day.

Growing up in the Great Depression my grandparents knew hard times, and together with my parents they encouraged me to work hard, get a good education, love my family and make the most of every opportunity. When I was 17 I wanted to go on a cultural exchange program to Russia, and my family helped me raise the funds to go. We made chocolate-coated snowballs to sell at the local markets, and we hosted an old-time movie night at the local public hall. I lived with a host family, endured minus 28 degrees and received my VCE results by telegram. I experienced firsthand what life was like after a Communist regime. My host sister and her mum shared a one-bedroom flat, people queued to get eggs, there was no bread on the shelves and the black market was thriving. I learned that we live in the best country in the world and that our democracy is worth protecting.

I arrived home to a family wearing T-shirts at the airport that said ‘Welcome home, Gaelle’. They were my first campaign team, and they have supported me all the way. It is great to have my mum Annette, Aunty Sharyn and sisters Merryn and Laura here with me today.

I studied at Monash and went on to complete a graduate diploma in communications before undertaking a master of public policy at the University of Melbourne. I joined a local theatre group and presented a program on radio. Grandpa Budge enjoyed connecting with people around the world via ham radio, and he would tune in every week to provide feedback and count the number of ums. He was pleased that I chose to study politics and equally proud of the connection to his second cousin Sir Henry Bolte, a Liberal and still the longest serving Victorian Premier – for over 17 years.

In 1999 a referendum was held to decide if Australia should become a republic. I organised a public forum and invited speakers from both sides of the debate, including the late Governor of Victoria Sir Richard McGarvie. I used a timer that looked like a traffic light, gave the panel equal time to present their views and then opened the floor to questions. Over 400 people attended, eager to listen. As we approach the coming referendum, let us encourage respectful and informed public debate in politics as well as the media.

That same year I met a young man from Kerang. Grandma was quick to contact her friends in the region, and from all reports the Broads were a good family. As well as being tall, dark and handsome, Dale worked for World Vision. We shared the same values, and he enjoyed tennis as much as I did. I met his family and discovered their passion for football and politics and their strong connection with the local community. I am very grateful to Arthur, Heather, Robin, Deirdre and Amanda for their love and support and proud to be part of the Broad family tree. Dale and I were both working in Melbourne. On our way to Kerang we would drive through Bendigo, and I fell in love with the city in a forest. We moved to central Victoria 20 years ago and have never looked back.

With the discovery of gold in 1851, people came to Bendigo from all across the world. It is a place where George Lansell walked by foot to the goldfields, first starting as a candle maker before investing in mining. He worked hard, overcame setbacks, expanded his knowledge and became known as Australia’s quartz king and one of the wealthiest people in Australia. He built a stunning 40-room mansion in Bendigo called Fortuna, which still exists today, and he was known for his charitable endeavours and contributed much to the local community. After he returned to England, the people of Bendigo signed a petition asking him to come home.

Today Bendigo has grown into a regional city. Without any direct water supply, it still relies on a gravity-fed water channel built in the 1870s. Sacred Heart Cathedral dominates the skyline, a church designed in 1897 and finished nearly 100 years later. It is the home of Bendigo Bank, which started from humble beginnings and now employs over 7000 people.

Regional Victoria is a place of opportunity where people feel a strong connection to the land and to each other, a place where people come with nothing but determination and resilience and build not just a home for their family but a vibrant local community. At the Bendigo town hall on Australia Day it was great to see nearly 70 people become Australian citizens from over 20 countries, and they have chosen to live in regional Victoria. These personal stories have shaped our history, and they will continue to shape our future.

That connection with regional Victoria is why I chose the Nationals. It is a party with commonsense politics that balances social, environmental and economic interests and that values democracy, freedom and equal opportunity regardless of your background or postcode. It is a party with a long history and a bright future that now represents regional Victoria from border to border and has a majority of women in this Parliament based on merit and not quotas.

I am grateful to Nationals branch members across the state, including Daniel, Elaine, Lindsay, Emma and Bill, for their contributions to a great result and would especially like to acknowledge our local branch, including Murray and Nola, Jim and Cathy, Dan and Simon, and my friends Ellie and Michelle, for their support over many years.

It is an honour to be part of a strong Nationals team under the experienced leadership of Peter Walsh and to join Melina Bath and my colleagues in the other chamber. They all reflect the authenticity and heart that people want to see in politics. But this is not my first attempt at being elected. I have stood as a candidate before, and I remember being outside a supermarket when a man came up to me and said, ‘Gaelle, don’t do it. It’s not too late – don’t go into politics.’ Well, he is not alone. Politics is a dirty word. A friend of mine in business said, ‘I have no interest in politics, but I am glad you do.’ For me, politics is about connecting people and building community. It is about listening, researching, making informed decisions and having a vision for the future.

If you knew my parents, you would understand my motivation. I grew up with a mum and dad committed to serving the local community. My dad Clive Stone was a man of faith, hardworking, intelligent, compassionate and generous. He worked on a farm and earned a badge at the markets for 40 years of service. He was an expert in his field and inspired many to grow berries in their own backyards as the author of The Australian Berry Book. He used the funds from the sale of water to build an orphanage, and he travelled to India to help farmers install irrigation. And if he saw a pothole, he would take his tractor to fix it. Dad gave me the courage to stand, and I hope that my service will honour his legacy.

My mum shares that same commitment to serving others. Together they helped to start Mountain District Christian School. With just over 100 students from prep to year 10, I learned to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds, to care for the world we live in and to value people for who they are and not what they do. Mum worked as a teacher and continues to be actively involved in the local community with the Country Women’s Association and Quilts for Orphans, and I hope to bring some of her creativity and fun to this chamber.

My parents were married for 45 years, but like the Bendigo cathedral, which started as a vision that others saw built, some people plant a seed and may never see it grow. After past disappointments my friend Bec said, ‘It’s not if but when you get into politics.’ I held on to those words even after she passed away from cancer, just like my dad, several years ago.

My contribution in this place will be influenced by my experience outside of politics and the people I meet along the way: people like Alec, the 16-year-old I met as a mentor for disadvantaged youth, who was homeless and needed the support of local services to help him find his feet; people like Miriam, who called me on the day I was elected to tell me about her son, who started using marijuana at age 29. He stole money from her, and she learned to speak in code with friends when he lived in her home. Now at 36 he is in a psychiatric centre for the fourth time after suffering mental health breakdowns. And there is the couple I met from Karook, whose home, like many, was insured for everything except floods. They spent six weeks out of home, sold half their cattle and fed those remaining by hand. In Rochester, supermarkets, schools and nearly every home were flooded. The community have rallied together to continue the recovery efforts, and they need our support.

As a volunteer for different groups I have seen the benefits of working together to build community and I have learned that the more you contribute to your local community, the more you care about its future. As I look back at the experiences I have had in government, business and the media, I am grateful to those who have given me opportunities along the way: Murray Thompson, who served with integrity as the member for Sandringham in this Parliament for 26 years, who first gave me an opportunity as a parliamentary intern and later encouraged me to consider a future in politics; and former federal treasurer Peter Costello for the effective combination of good policymaking and strong leadership. I worked in his office when the GST was first introduced, and I remember it well because I was answering the phone calls. Jonathan Ridnell, a presenter on ABC radio for nearly 25 years, gave me the opportunity to sit behind the microphone and experience the responsibility and privilege of sharing people’s stories. I thank Victorian Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie for being a passionate advocate for regional Victoria and helping me see that what started as a farmers party now embraces all those who live and work in regional Victoria, and Carol Schwartz and the team at the Pathways to Politics Program for Women for sharing the tools and inspiring more women to stand.

In recent years I have been a manager in one of Australia’s largest regional banks, and I have learned from true professionals like Stephen Brown. I had the privilege of leading a great team and managing programs across regional Victoria. I am grateful for the opportunity to have helped people impacted by drought, bushfires, COVID and the recent floods and to better understand the challenges that regional communities face.

I am interested in state government because the policies that become law in this place impact our daily lives. During the pandemic government policies divided our state. People lost their jobs, families were unable to grieve together, businesses closed their doors and kids dropped out of school. People were led by fear, and to move forward we need hope. In this chamber we have a shared responsibility to uphold democracy, advocate for our regions, ensure accountability and transparency in government and contribute to informed public debate.

Regional Victoria is home to 25 per cent of our state’s population, but we only received 13 per cent of infrastructure spending in Labor’s last budget. Mildura, Swan Hill, Wodonga, Shepparton and Bendigo are growing, and we need significant investment in our roads, schools, hospitals and rail to help keep pace with population growth and provide the infrastructure that our region needs. We need greater equity in government funding to decentralise Victoria, to build a state of cities and not a city-state. We need to curb our spiralling state debt and reduce the cost-of-living pressures on families. We need better access to child care and mental health services, reduced surgery waiting lists and to make it easier for people to find a home.

Despite these challenges, regional Victoria keeps moving forward. There are job opportunities in health care, construction, retail, education and manufacturing, and if you move to regional Victoria, you will never look back. There are great local communities right across the region. I invite you to explore northern Victoria, from the beautiful Macedon Ranges to the mighty Murray, from the goldfields to the High Country.

We are looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2026, and our athletes are already in training. To represent our country at the highest level requires dedication, hard work and sacrifice, and we should apply that same effort in politics. But just like sport, it takes a team to perform at your best, and in this role I am very grateful for the support of my family and friends. I especially want to thank my husband Dale, who has been part of this journey from the start, and our three amazing kids Aaron, Lydia and Nathan. Watching you grow up has been the greatest joy of my life.

I wake up every day grateful for this opportunity and pray that my service in this Parliament will honour all those who have supported me and that my contribution, however short or long it may be, will benefit the people of the Northern Victoria for many years to come.

Members applauded.

Sitting suspended 3:37 pm until 3:54 pm.

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (15:55): President, I congratulate you on your election. It is a role I know you will discharge with fairness, professionalism and good humour.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging, and I record that sovereignty has never been ceded.

I thank the voters of the Western Metropolitan Region, who have bestowed upon me the honour of representing them in this Legislative Council. I will strive daily to reward their faith in electing me. The Western Metropolitan Region is an area of great cultural diversity and richness and also extraordinary growth and challenges. I will return to this issue.

I wish to sincerely thank the many volunteers and candidates who worked so hard to secure the first two Legalise Cannabis members of this Parliament. My special thanks to Craig Ellis, our campaign director; our federal management committee; my colleague Rachel Payne, who worked so hard to pull the party and the campaign together; my running mate, the nuclear-powered Raffaela Menta; and the indomitable Tony Verde, who daily refuses to let his Parkinson’s define his life and inspires us all. I would also like to express my appreciation to Fiona Patten, who blazed a reformist trail over the past eight years and has been incredibly generous in sharing her time, passion and wisdom.

I am advised that it is customary to share something of our lives and history at this time to illustrate some of the experiences and values we bring to this chamber, so here goes. My life fits neatly into roughly three 20-year parts. I was born into a very comfortable white middle-class household living here in Melbourne and abroad. At the age of 14, circumstances, litigational bastardry and shortfalls in the family law system at that time saw our fortunes reversed, and my mother, sister and I were introduced to a world of social disadvantage as we took shelter with my paternal grandmother in south-east Queensland. From this I learned a lifelong lesson: that the law can be used as a cudgel. It is neither accessible nor equitable for all, and one must never confuse the law with justice or fairness.

At 15 I started working part time at Coles, and I have worked continuously for the last 48 years. I was blessed to have two formidable matriarchs as my grandmothers. These women were born in poor working-class situations in Britain, migrated to Australia to find a better life and pretty much lived the Australian postwar dream. My maternal grandfather was a master bricklayer and a shop steward and life member of the building workers union. He was also an aspiring communist, but his ambition was frustrated by my grandmother, who would simply say, ‘Don’t be silly, Charles. That will never happen.’ I still remember fondly my grandfather covertly passing me political texts as though they were copies of Playboy with the words, ‘For God’s sake don’t tell your grandmother I gave you this.’ Throughout my life I have been blessed to have strong and intelligent women shape my thinking and my practices, and I am a better person for that.

My political puberty was during the reign of Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who led a profoundly corrupt and gerrymandered state government. In the late 1970s what started as a campaign opposing uranium mining evolved into the right-to-march struggle. Like many other activists at the time, I racked up a dozen arrests and a few thorough beatings at the hands of the Queensland police. Following in the wake of the Vietnam War movement and ongoing opposition to apartheid, these times forged a generation of activists. We learned firsthand about the coercive power of the state but more importantly about the power of people who organise and collaborate to resist and to achieve change. This shaped my next 20 years, with a decade in the Communist Party of Australia and two decades working in the trade union movement. The CPA introduced me to extraordinary people who had struggled to improve our society for decades, often against incredible odds but who fought on nonetheless. I will be forever grateful to those comrades who introduced me to the concepts of race, gender and class. They challenged me to think critically and strategically and to organise and to fight.

In the union movement, as either an industrial or an education officer, it was my privilege to work with members, reps and officials to preserve and advance the interests of working people across Queensland, the Northern Territory and here in Victoria. My life in the union movement generated both great highs and great challenges. In my heart of hearts I believe that the union movement remains an essential element of the democratic fabric of our society, and it is a part of my DNA.

For the last 20-something years I have been a partner in a small consulting firm, working primarily with not-for-profit aged care providers across Melbourne and regional Victoria and interstate. I would like to express my thanks to the many organisations with which we have partnered. I would also like to acknowledge all the aged and community care providers and peak bodies working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities and special needs groups. It has been an honour and, for me, an education to work and to collaborate with you.

These not-for-profit aged care and community service organisations are a critical part of our civil and our humane society. They tend to have a few things in common: voluntary boards with little or no support from the government who share their time and experience and often their own resources to ensure services are delivered to their communities. They have incredibly hardworking staff and management teams who day after day turn up and deliver great care and services. Across regional Victoria they are often among the largest employers and the economic and social backbone of their regional communities. This sector is under-resourced, under-recognised, underpaid and under enormous pressure. Huge demographic changes are underway that are reshaping our health, aged and community services sector. If we wish to retain our voluntary, religious and not-for-profit providers, we must address at both a state and a federal level critical resourcing and workforce issues or witness their collapse. I sincerely hope that over the next four years I can work with you to improve the situation in these sectors to improve the lives of service providers, carers and recipients.

I would like to thank my business partner of 20 years, Ken Ridgwell, and his wife Barb. Ken is a man of great intellect, integrity and humour. We have faced many challenges and confronting assignments, and it has been a privilege to work with him. Ken’s friendship and counsel will always be treasured. I would also like to express my thanks to long-time collaborators Kerri Rivett, Anna Aristotle and Michelle Penson.

Over the last 25 years I have also participated in multiple community organisations, most notably the Kensington Association, and many campaigns in the inner west. Most of these campaigns, some successful, others not so much, have been against inappropriate development or to enhance or protect local amenity and services. This included opposition to the development of the flood wall at the Flemington Racecourse and a constant rearguard action against excessive and poorly planned high-rise development. Other highlights have included the fight against the east–west tunnel, seven years on the community reference group for the redevelopment of the Kensington housing estate and a couple of years on the local police community consultative committee. I extend my appreciation to my many friends in the Kensington, Flemington and North Melbourne residents associations, and I also thank the councillors and officers of the cities of Melbourne and Moonee Valley with whom I have had the pleasure to work.

My experiences in community campaigning have taught me a lot about the need for considered and appropriate approaches to planning and development. I mentioned previously that the Western Metropolitan Region is rapidly expanding, with multiple growth corridors as well as major infill redevelopments. The rate of expansion across the west is startling. It has been put to me that if you stand still for too long in the Wyndham or Melton growth corridors, the tradies will just build over or around you. We all know that there is and has been for some time a critical shortage of affordable housing, but what is being developed on Melbourne’s fringes is often far short of what is necessary to create vibrant, sustainable and well-serviced communities.

Time and again developers and land bankers have made fools of governments from both sides. Time and again governments have capitulated to these developers under relentless pressure to deliver housing. Time and again we look back and lament opportunities forgone because of poor decisions and the prohibitive cost of correcting shortfalls that should have been addressed at the get-go. Further, much of the burden of compensating for poor planning and execution falls upon under-resourced and overworked local councils and community service providers.

I understand the government will say they are striving to address these shortfalls, and they are, but we keep on replicating the same problems in new developments. There must be a better way, and I am keen to work with you, my colleagues, to develop a better approach to planning and development, sustainable communities and increased housing. As the population of Melbourne continues to burgeon, I know the people of Western Metropolitan Region expect and deserve nothing less.

I would like to move to a few other issues that are close to my heart and which I hope I may have the opportunity to address over the term of the Parliament. Consistent with the traditions of the inaugural speech, I do not raise these issues to score points, and in making the following comments I would like to respectfully recognise the good work that has been already undertaken by this and previous governments and many members in both houses.

As parents we aspire to create a world and a set of circumstances for our children where they are happier, healthier, wealthier and safer and have greater opportunities than we ourselves experienced. For many Australians living in this country of extraordinary richness that ambition has been both an aspiration and a reality. But for many Australians the dream of ever greater abundance has been just that: a dream, and a dream disconnected from their lived reality.

For our First Nations people, colonisation, dispossession and racism have been that reality. Too often closing the gap has been no more than closing our eyes, our ears and our minds. In the Uluru Statement from the Heart First Nations people have offered the country a gift with clarity and generosity. It is incumbent upon us all to graciously accept and give life to the offer of voice, truth and treaty. These three elements will not miraculously rectify centuries of destruction, but embraced nationally they are potentially a fresh start for us all. In the immediate term that opportunity presents itself in the Voice to Parliament. It is incumbent upon us all to put aside partisanship and to seek meaningful reconciliation and restitution. I commend the Andrews government for its work to date to advance reconciliation. I look forward to contributing to this process in the future.

Our future aspirations are also clouded by the ever-increasing reality of climate change. Across this beautiful state Victorians know that climate change is a reality and that it is profoundly changing our environment and our lives. We need to move decisively to both radically reduce our production of greenhouse gases and protect and nurture our precious natural heritage. We must also commence the daunting process of adapting to the environmental changes that we have now irrevocably locked in for ourselves and for generations to come.

Victoria is the most socially progressive state in Australia. As such it is incumbent upon us to continually strive to improve the situation of those less fortunate. Many Victorians struggle with a disability, or poverty, or chronic illness, or homelessness, or systemic discrimination. For many happenstance can be unexpectedly cruel. One need only look at the growth of homelessness amongst women over the age of 55 to see not only a desperate need but also a confluence of gender discrimination with the failures of our social safety net. We must identify any and every opportunity, however modest or however bold, and hopefully we can – we should and we must – do better.

One of the lessons of the pandemic, and I think of the last election, is that most Victorians are socially progressive people. There is a pride in our state; there is a spirit of communitarianism that is in stark contrast to the angry individualism that pervades, for example, US politics. That community spirit was reflected in the response to COVID. We drew on good science, we had good leadership and as a community we recognised that we work together or we die apart.

Working in aged care, I saw firsthand that too many did die and continue to die. A large and rapidly growing cohort of people continue to struggle with long COVID. It is of great concern to me that the concept of ‘living with COVID’ is code for ‘Let’s pretend it’s over’. To the degree that there is some level of breathing space associated with the current less severe mutations, we are squandering the time and the opportunities to build community vaccination and to bolster our critical health system and our exhausted health workforce.

The pandemic also reinforced in the minds of the Victorian people the importance of good government and a robust and competent public service. Like many Victorians, I have watched with dismay successive governments of both persuasions continually slash our public services. Worse, we have watched functions of government, including the provision of fearless and forthright advice, privatised and contracted to large multinational consulting firms at exorbitant rates, often using ex-public servants who would have previously provided that advice at a fraction of the cost. Let us rebuild our public services to the benefit of our community, and if that involves resurrecting the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, let us debate that too.

On another matter, I would like to draw to the attention of the chamber the passing of a great Australian, Professor David Penington AC, on 6 January this year. Professor Penington was one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals and health experts. His legacy includes making Australia a world leader in HIV/AIDS public health strategy and changing community attitudes to alcohol and illicit drugs. A part of Professor Penington’s legacy is the Penington Institute, which aims to support cost-effective approaches that maximise community health and safety in relation to drugs. The institute’s patrons represent the cream of our health and legal leaders, and its board is chaired by Kathryn Greiner.

The Penington Institute has produced a two-volume report entitled Cannabis in Australia. It is a cracker of a read, and I commend it to the chamber. Yes, you were wondering when I was going to get to cannabis, weren’t you? Well, here we go, although I will endeavour to keep it relatively brief. The Penington report identifies that cannabis is currently consumed every year by up to 4 million people in Australia. This includes around 1 million Victorians annually. The current cannabis prohibition makes criminals of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens, particularly the most marginalised and vulnerable.

Breaking from the report for a minute, I wish to record that because of these laws I am a criminal and I have been committing criminal acts for over 40 years. Further, because of these antiquated laws, I regularly commit crimes, along with hundreds of thousands of other Victorians, and I intend to continue doing so until I pass away, I am incarcerated or these prohibition laws are reformed.

To return to the Penington report, they find that the prohibition model is both ineffective and inefficient. It fails to control supply, it creates an illicit market that is largely in the hands of organised criminals, who profit to the tune of around $8 billion per year, and it costs over $1.5 billion every year for largely ineffective law enforcement. Penington also noted that prohibition has prevented research into the potential benefits of cannabis and has distorted research into the negative consequences of its use. I will not keep reading from the Penington report; it only gets more critical of the current situation.

The cannabis prohibition has been in place in Victoria since 1928. That is a 95-year trial, and that is 95 years of demonstrable failure. As Einstein observed, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We need to demonstrate sanity and common sense, and we need action. We do not need a semantic debate about decriminalisation versus legalisation. We need a debate about an appropriate regulatory framework for the cannabis market. Like any market regulation, it needs to address both supply and demand. As the Penington Institute identifies, we also need to address questions of good public health policy, community education and harm minimisation.

And let us keep this in some perspective. When we look at the really difficult challenges that confront our society, some of which I have mentioned previously, cannabis reform is not one of them. While cannabis reform is a critically important issue to many, many people, it is a relatively simple exercise. We need to find common ground on how a staged process of reform, regulation and change can be implemented to the benefit of all Victorians. I commend the government for starting this change process by addressing medicinal cannabis and look forward to working with both the government and across the chamber to achieve reform. I will leave the cannabis issue there for the moment.

I would like to express my thanks to the many members from both chambers and from both sides of the house who have reached out and indicated their desire for change. We will be taking every opportunity to advance this issue in the future, and we will do whatever is required to achieve responsible change.

Finally, in closing, I would like to thank my family. My sister Kathy continues the familial tradition of strong women as embodied in our late and much-loved mother Daphne. To my son Charlie, I love you, and I am incredibly proud of your many achievements. And to my wife and companion of 38 years Dr Kate Kennedy, you are my inspiration. You mean everything to me, and I love you more now than ever.

President, I thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to working constructively with you over the term of this 60th Parliament. Thank you.

Members applauded.

The PRESIDENT: I probably should have mentioned at the start that I have changed the ruling so that during an inaugural speech people can take photos if they respect everyone else. Just respect other MLCs and other guests.

Georgie PURCELL (Northern Victoria) (16:22): Thank you, President, and I extend my congratulations to you.

Before I begin, there are many people to thank for me being here today in this place: my parents, Brenden and Kirsty, who are probably completely unsurprised at my life course, when at nine years old I proudly wrote and sang a song to them called Polling Booth Rock during the 2001 federal election; my brother Jack and his partner Flick for supporting me, loving me and believing in me, and their gorgeous and confident daughter, my niece Livvy – I hope you know I will do all I can to create a better world for you; Linda and Reece, and of course Grant, who I wish was still here to be with us today; everyone at the Animal Justice Party, especially the Victorian committee convener Bronwyn Currie and state manager Ben Schultz, the other upper house candidates, all 88 lower house candidates, national president Angela Pollard, former national president Bruce Poon and the New South Wales crew, especially Louise Ward, Tess Vickery and MP Emma Hurst; and finally, my former boss and our first MP, Andy Meddick. I only wish we were seated beside one another today.

My office queens, Kelly, Aimee and Danni: there are few workplaces where you get to go to work each day and do what you love with friends, and I will be thankful for that every day for the next four years. Deb Tranter and everyone at Oscar’s Law, I will deeply miss working alongside you all. My Macedon Ranges family – Webs, Kyle, Kelly, Isa and Wolfgang –I cannot tell you how much Sunday night dinners without discussion of politics mean to me. My best friend Toni, who has made a one-day trip from New South Wales just to be here today, has been beside me for the best and worst moments of my life with her unwavering kindness, humour, solidarity and ability to see the bright side in everything.

Thank you to the team at Pathways to Politics for Women for encouraging me and equipping me with the skills to run for election, particularly Meredith, Carol and my Pathways mentor Jenna; Fiona and Andy from the Reason Party for paving the way for so many women in politics and all of the guidance you have so kindly provided me over the past four years; and my dear friends Nathan and Reed, who I can always rely on for feedback and an honest opinion. Juls and Abby, who convinced me I could in fact get admitted as a lawyer in 2020, almost five years after finishing my degree, I am so proud to know you. Clare, Kim and Amy – or the Angry Beavers – there is nothing better than checking into the group chat at the end of the day and hearing about your babies and your dogs. Most importantly, to Ward, who I met protesting on the steps of this very building as a 19-year-old, both with clear eyes and full hearts, ready to change the world for animals, thank you for coming with me on this journey with all of its twists and turns and for believing that I cannot lose.

I want to start by acknowledging the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Bunurong Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waterways which I live on and speak to you from today. The Macedon Ranges, where I live, are rich with Indigenous knowledge, history, culture and storytelling that date back at least 26,000 years. I acknowledge the true history of our significant Aboriginal sites, including Hanging Rock, Mount William and Mount Macedon, and recognise that Indigenous ecological knowledge has sustained life for tens of thousands of years. It will be fundamental to our ongoing protection of animals and the environment. I look forward to working together as an ally over the next four years. Indigenous sovereignty was never ceded. This means this was and always will be Aboriginal land.

It has been said that the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. I was just four years old when I locked eyes with a sow on a truck. Curious and newly obsessed with pigs after watching Babe, I asked my parents where she was going. They did not lie, and from that moment I declared, ‘I don’t want to do that anymore.’ It is safe to say as I stand here 26 years later, at 30 years old and as Victoria’s second Animal Justice Party MP, that it was not just a phase.

I grew up in Inverleigh, a small farming town in western Victoria, where I spent every spare moment I had with animals – my horses, my guinea pigs, my budgies, cats and dogs. The revelation of how animals in our state were treated, even as a young child, was a defining moment. Life is made up of those defining moments, and for me there have been many.

I studied a bachelor of laws and communications at university, and from there my adult working life has always been political, from my role as a digital campaigner in the union movement to advocating for the hard-earned retirement savings of working people at Industry Super Australia and as chief of staff to Andy Meddick. In 2016 I took a cleaner to meet the Premier. He had been in his job cleaning the Premier’s office since Dick Hamer, but he had never been able to take long service leave. Despite working for almost four decades in the same building, every time he was close to qualifying his entitlements would be erased with the arrival of a new contractor. A few years later this Parliament legislated portable long service leave, and it was then that I realised the profound impact that politics can have on our own lives and the lives of the most vulnerable. It was another one of those defining moments.

I felt this again when I was able to attend a Melbourne abortion clinic and make a legitimate medical decision over my own body without being harassed or intimidated after this Parliament legislated safe access zones. I feel it each and every time I receive treatment for my chronic illness, an often debilitating autoimmune disease, and I show my Medicare card. And I especially felt it as I sat in the gallery of this very chamber to watch Victoria become the first state to ban puppy factories after decades of campaigning from Oscar’s Law, an organisation I was so proud to be president of, up until my election.

Yet despite my passion for politics and the powerful tool it is for creating a kinder, fairer, more just society, becoming a politician was never part of my plan. I always felt that I belonged in the background. I was led to believe that women like me belonged in the engine room and not in public life. It is no secret I have a more colourful background than most politicians, but at one point in my life it was a secret, and it was a secret that was stolen from me. This defining moment was in the summer of 2012, when I was in my second year at Deakin University and working as a topless waitress and stripper. I did everything that I possibly could to protect my anonymity from my peers, but it did not work. My whole world stopped on the day that my phone pinged with a notification that I had been tagged in a post on Facebook. I froze, staring at a photo of myself on the screen and a thread of comments beneath. We know that university campuses have historically been a Petri dish for misogynistic behaviour, but at the same time for many men it is where they get their first taste of politics. While they get a short course in the tenets of power, women are delegitimised, and I had become one of them.

Being outed is the most severe of betrayals. Because of one person’s fleeting decision to take away my consent and my autonomy, I felt that my life was no longer worth living. They stole 10 years from me, with my past constantly hanging over my head like a dark cloud, living in fear every single day that it would resurface. But here I stand today, the youngest woman in this Parliament, owning my story, proud of my past and ready for my future. I now know that my experiences bring a unique perspective to this place and the ability to consider matters with kindness, empathy and compassion. What I once perceived as one of my biggest weaknesses I now know is one of my biggest strengths, and with a new generation of women coming into our parliaments, I hope they can look to me and see that their past will never define their future.

Despite my hesitancy to become a politician myself, I am driven by a passion that is much higher, representing a constituency that is so vulnerable and so often forgotten in this place. The decisions made in the halls and chambers of Parliament impact the lives of animals every day, yet they are so rarely considered. It is my job to change that.

Our lives are often full of firsts too. The first horse I saw die in a jumps race 10 years ago was named Fergus McIver. He was a beautiful bay gelding killed at the final hurdle, his life cut tragically short at just five years old for gambling profits. Dozens of horses have been killed in jumps races in Victoria since then, and with South Australia moving to outlaw jumps racing last year, we are now the only state left in the country to continue this cruel pastime. It is something we should be not only ashamed of but motivated to fix.

The first duck I ever scooped up into my arms was wounded, bleeding but still alive, and her little body was scattered with shotgun pellets. Victoria’s wetlands are peaceful sanctuaries for our native wildlife year-round, until the third weekend in March comes by and suddenly they become a bloodbath. Despite New South Wales and Queensland banning duck shooting decades ago and Western Australia before I was even born, Victoria, the so-called progressive state, still continues an annual recreational slaughter on our native waterbirds.

The first greyhound I met was named Blue. He was dorky and lovable but carried the trauma of the racing industry with him. We are only one month into 2023, yet our state is first place on the leaderboard for on-track deaths and injuries. So far this year six gentle, docile dogs have been killed with broken legs and broken spines on Victorian racetracks. In their final moments I am sure they knew nothing but confusion and fear. I would like to tell you about how many dogs and puppies die off the track in Victoria, but the truth is I do not know. Nobody knows. I have two rescue greyhounds in my office, and as lazy as they truly are, they are so good at their new roles, because now their job is changing hearts and minds about just how special and loving greyhounds are and just how much they deserve to be companions, not commodities. Pat them the wrong way and they will shake and scream, look them in the eyes and they will tell you exactly how they feel about their past.

You see, many people say that animals are voiceless, but that just is not the case. When the pig in a sow stall tries to make a nest for her piglets on nothing but concrete, she is speaking to us. When the hen in a battery cage attempts to dust bathe in her packed wire cage, she is speaking to us. When the bobby calf cries out for his mum on the way to the abattoir, he is speaking to us. And when the millions of newborn lambs shiver to death without shelter in freezing winter elements, they are speaking to us. They are all speaking to us, screaming out to us, asking us for help every minute of every day; we are just not listening to them.

To meet our growing population’s demand for protein, we are factory farming animals at a rate so rapid it is destroying our planet and wreaking havoc on our environment. When our state is not on fire, it is ravaged with floods, yet we focus on keeping the man-made machines that destroy our very home oiled instead of taking on the solutions that stare us in the face. Habitat is destroyed to build factory farms or to make way for introduced grazing animals, and we allow one of the biggest climate culprits – the animal agriculture industry – to produce more emissions than all forms of transport in the world combined, as we all look away.

Our insistence on treating animals as commodities sees them live a life of misery and of suffering until they pay the ultimate painful price with their lives. In fact since I began speaking today almost 140,000 animals have been slaughtered for food in Victoria. Their so-called protection under legislation is a myth. It is a great lie, with nothing but voluntary codes of practice, loopholes and exemptions that legally permit mutilation that would be illegal if done to our cats or our dogs. When it comes to the way we treat animals, their biggest threat is our own perception. Charles Magel said, ‘Ask experimenters why they test on animals and the answer is: because they are like us. Ask experimenters why it’s morally acceptable to test on animals and the answer is: because they are not like us.’

People love to ask me about my companion sheep. When they do, I say ‘Which one?’ because they are all so different but with one thing in common: the desire to just live. They wag their tails and they know their names. People say they are just like dogs, but they are not; they are like sheep.

For the past seven years I have called the beautiful Macedon Ranges my home. It is a community that I am now so proud to represent. There is a lot to love about Northern Victoria, and what is perhaps most special to me is the local wildlife. But each and every day their ability to survive becomes harder. It is the same story across the whole state. Their homes are being rapidly destroyed and cleared, leaving them to be dispersed onto roads and public places where they are killed or injured in the thousands. The tired volunteers left to care for or euthanise them are left traumatised, and their workload only increases by the day.

We are facing a dangerous narrative of our indigenous animals being seen as pests, despite being native to this state. Instead of learning to coexist with our wildlife, they are slaughtered en masse under commercial shooting programs under the cover of night or by private permits. We are in an extinction crisis, and if we do not act, there is nothing we can do to bring our precious native animals back. As Bradley Trevor Greive warned, for wildlife:

… we are … their greatest enemy and their only hope. These wonderful creatures will not argue their case. They will not put up a fight. They will not beg for reprieve. They will not say goodbye. They will not cry out. They will just vanish. And after they are gone, there will be silence … there will be stillness. And there will be empty places. And nothing you can say will change this.

But there is something we can do here in this place to change the course for animals in Victoria. In this place, words do matter. And while I speak each word with conviction here today, know that it is not my own legacy I plan to impress upon this place but rather a legacy that leaves behind a kinder Victoria for the dogs and cats in pounds that are killed when there is another option; for the pregnant ewes giving birth prematurely out of fear and stress on a truck to slaughter; for the displaced kangaroos who hop through the sunset looking for food, only to be shot at nightfall and have their babies legally bludgeoned on a tow bar; for the rabbits who through our folly are divided into groups of those we deem worthy of companionship as our pets and those we choose to lock up in laboratories or factory farms with zero protection under the law; and for the pigs, smarter than dogs, with a likeness to three-year-old children, that are being lowered into the gas chambers considered best practice by the pork industry before having their throats slit – to fight the secrecy, the legalised cruelty, the lack of morality and the belief they are here for us when they are really here with us.

Animal rights are intrinsically linked to human rights. By protecting them we are protecting all of us. I am here to change the idea that offering kindness to animals is somehow extreme. As Maya Angelou said, ‘It takes courage to be kind’. In politics many see kindness as weakness, but I think it is one of the most honourable and important traits for us all to possess. So to my colleagues in this chamber, I hope over the next four years we can all find it within ourselves to just be a bit more kind – to animals, to people, to the planet, to each other. And to the animals of Victoria, despite your suffering in the shadows, I see you. Despite speaking a different language, I hear you. As long as I have the honour and the privilege of being a member in this place, I will fight for you. And while your situation is so dire, with all of our supporters behind me, I am filled with hope for the future. Thank you.

Members applauded.

Lee TARLAMIS (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (16:45): I move:

That debate on this matter be adjourned until later this day.

Motion agreed to.