Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (13:08): I am pleased to rise to speak on the government business program, and as I do I just want to also acknowledge the timing this week. It is 11 years to the day, last week, when we were not sitting, since the parliamentary apology for past adoption practices – a very important day – by the then Premier Ted Baillieu, the Nationals leader my predecessor Peter Ryan and the then opposition leader Daniel Andrews. They gave that formal apology for practices that were ‘misguided, unwarranted and caused immeasurable pain’, and I want to acknowledge the work that continues in that sector, including from the government.
It is important I think this week, when there is not another opportunity, to acknowledge that, so I am doing it here in the government business program. And I acknowledge those mothers and those children who are still dealing with it, and particularly, in my case, Brenda Coughlan of Independent Regional Mothers, who continues to fight for her cohort and for herself. And I acknowledge the government’s decision last week on a redress scheme and acknowledge also that there is still a fight continuing on elements of that. I thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to raise some of that in the government business program, but I do think it is important that the house does acknowledge the anniversary of that apology, which meant so much to so many people.
On the government business program as proposed, I do find it amusing. Here we were two weeks ago being told that the transport legislation was so good that we had 13 days to get out and deal with it and to consult the community and we would have the opportunity to debate it when we came back. We asked to go into consideration in detail, to look at the bill in detail – the government members are so proud of this bill. What are we going to do? No, we cannot go into detail; we are not going to be able to ask questions on this bill. It is 171 pages long. It has at least 10 different reforms in it. I might add that I asked when we were debating that 13-day adjournment if any of the government members ever read a piece of legislation. Based on the member for Albert Park’s contribution just then, the answer is clearly no. I am not sure she understands what this legislation is about.
We hear the member for Albert Park say that the opposition’s tactics room just looks up and says no. Funnily enough, that is what we get every time from the government. When we ask the legitimate, democratic, transparent question of if we can go into consideration in detail, we just get no every time. Once upon a time, when the Premier was the manager of government business, we at least got the kiddies’ ice-cream response, which is ‘We’ll see’. We would say ‘Can we go into consideration in detail?’ and the then manager of government business would say ‘We’ll see’. We do not even get that now; we just get a straight-out no: ‘We don’t want to talk about our bills. We don’t have ministers who are competent and prepared to go into the detail of the bill and answer questions from the chamber about it.’
The transport legislation is one of those bills that has been subject to a 13-day turnaround. The government members are always telling us ‘Oh, you’ve got plenty of time to read it and to consult’. Again, I highlight that I do not think any of them have actually read the bill. Literally today I am still getting responses from stakeholders on that piece of legislation. They have got questions. They have got concerns. I would like to be able to raise those concerns with the minister at the table and have those clauses debated – to get to the nub of what the government is trying to do, whether it has consulted with the stakeholders in the community, whether it understands the implications of the various parts of that legislation that it will be implementing. But we just get the answer no.
It is a bit rich for government members like the member for Albert Park to say to us ‘Oh, you’re just the no people, because you oppose everything’. How about saying yes occasionally when the opposition, or even the Greens, ask to go into some debate about a piece of legislation? The government members all get up and say how proud they are of their legislation. Well, let us open it up for a bit of debate. You could actually answer some questions on the detail of it.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Through the Chair!
Danny O’BRIEN: This bill is 171 pages long, but they just want to get up and read their 10-minute speeches from the Premier’s office and all move on and use their numbers to just push stuff through without debate. That is why, member for Albert Park, we are continuing to say no, because we think this chamber should be a democratic chamber where people get the chance to debate issues, not just get up and give speeches. That is why we will continue to oppose the government business program when the government does not allow this chamber to function as a democracy.