Business of the House – Program

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (12:23): I will just say a few brief words on the government business program that we are not opposing this week, and I would also like to thank all the staff; the clerks; you, Speaker; and everyone else who has worked hard to get the session underway again and do it in a COVID-safe manner. I echo the comments of the member for Rowville and hope that this will be the last time we have to worry about COVID-safe measures here in the chamber. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be back to normal? We got there very briefly for a week or two about a month or so ago but unfortunately have had to resort to limited numbers, and that is not ideal, so hopefully that is the last of it.

I would also just like to acknowledge the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee team. It also has been a bit of a challenge. We literally had the first day of the PAEC budget hearings the day the Acting Premier announced us going into lockdown. Whilst we proceeded on that day, we did have to change things around a bit to accommodate some ministers, but also we were able to get on with it last week and yesterday as well. So these are difficult times for staff trying to manage things when the framework is constantly changing. We are lucky here, though, that we have got power, warmth and everything happening as normal, and I am very conscious that there are many people still around the state after the storms and floods that do not, including in my electorate. I think I have still got about eight people still offline in the Toora North-Mount Best area, and it has been a busy couple of weeks trying to assist people to get back to it.

I am sure we will give that a mention in the energy bill that is on the agenda for this week, the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. But we have also got the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Bill 2021 and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Other Acts Amendment (Federal Jurisdiction and Other Matters) Bill 2021 as well as, as has been noted, the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021, which is not formally part of the government business program—or at least not part of the guillotine for Thursday—but will be debated today. Once again it highlights that, despite the differences we have, the opposition is often prepared to work with the government on important matters like this when we need to get something through. I am also hopeful that there will be an opportunity to speak on the take-note motion on the budget. I note the Leader of the House is ever hopeful that it is because we have good things to say about it. I can assure her that after not only reading the budget but the last couple of weeks in the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings that is not the case for many of us, given what we have seen and some of the evidence that has been presented. This is a fairly straightforward week. I hope that, as I said, we will be able to come back to a completely normal Parliament in August, and may that be the case.

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