Business of the House – Program

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (13:30): I get the pleasure as The Nationals Whip to get up here and do this in the government business program debate each sitting week, and each sitting week we have government members tell us what wonderful pieces of legislation are coming forward, generally from wonderful and competent ministers. So I ask the question of government members: why are they so scared about having a bit of debate about the bills? Why are they so scared about going into consideration in detail on these wonderful bills with their wonderful ministers every time we ask for the opportunity to actually do this. As the member for Ripon has outlined, part of the process of dealing with legislation in this place is actually getting into the clause-by-clause situations. If these bills are so good, if the ministers are so competent, what has the government got to hide? What is it so concerned about in bringing forward the opportunity for this place and the members on this side of the house—the opposition, the Greens, the Independents and anyone else who wants to get up and ask some questions—to actually deliver a bit of scrutiny on these so-called wonderful bills? Again this week we find we want to go into consideration in detail on the Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, and we get the pony clause again from the Leader of the House.

Members interjecting.

Mr D O’BRIEN: She hasn’t said anything. Righto. Well, it would be nice perhaps to even get the pony clause: ‘Can we have a pony? No. We’ll see. We’ll have a look and see whether you’ve been good or not’. But we still get no confirmation that we will go into it. As the member for Ripon has said, there are indications that this will be quite a different Thursday and potentially Friday this sitting week, so there will be good opportunities for us, I would think. It is those bills and that process that we want to see.

I want to highlight the fact that we have got four bills on the government business program: the Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021, the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 and the Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021. All of them were first read on one day and second read the next day. All of them are second read and then adjourned off generally for two weeks. Sometimes we have arguments in this place over whether it is for 13 days or six days, sometimes we do it by agreement. But the one bill—and the Leader of the House mentioned this bill—that was introduced last sitting week and is not on the agenda this week is the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021, because this government rammed it through. The Leader of the House also mentioned question time and the Premier talking in question time—wasn’t he cranky today, by the way? To my great surprise it seemed like he did not actually enjoy having an audience, which I am very surprised at. The Premier was quite angry. While the Premier was speaking the member for Altona commented on the pandemic bill and said it will be dealt with in, quote, ‘the usual way’, as she interjected. The usual way? Well, no. It is not, because if it was dealt with in the usual way, that pandemic bill, which has caused tens of thousands of protesters to be on the streets and has caused tens of thousands of emails that we are all getting from people who are angry and upset about this—

Mr Rowswell interjected.

Mr D O’BRIEN: Exactly. That is right, member for Sandringham. The government members will be getting them too, and I am sure probably deleting every one of them. It has caused the bar association, 60 prominent QCs and the Ombudsman to raise concerns about this legislation, but the government says all of that is rubbish and we should not worry about it. Well, one thing that the Leader of the Opposition has put in my mind lately—and it is absolutely true—is: do not look at what this government says, look at what they do. They keep telling us that this pandemic bill, which we are probably going to have to hang around extra time for this week, is just fine; the Ombudsman does not know what she is talking about and the bar association does not know what it is talking about. Well, then why did the government ram it through this house in two days? That is not what we are doing with these other bills on the government business program this week, where we had the opportunity for two weeks to go and see what the community thinks about them and to interrogate the legislation. No. This government rammed it through, and that speaks volumes about what the actual concern of the community is. The government knows that it has overstepped the mark with this pandemic legislation. I had to laugh, too. The Premier said that he did not know what the Ombudsman had said 3 hours after she had said it on statewide radio. The Premier has got 84 staff. What do they all do if they are not even telling him? This government hides from scrutiny, and it stands condemned for that.

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