Second Reading

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (10:52): It is important that the house upholds the conventions and forms that it is used to operating under, and I find it somewhat perplexing that the minister who has just completed his answer has said that we did not uphold those in the other place so we do not have the opportunity to lecture, when the government is doing exactly the same and abusing the forms and conventions of the house. These forms, conventions, traditions, customs that we would normally have 14 days to consider any piece of legislation are not just there for tradition. We do not just do it because we think it is a nice idea and has been done for 150 years. We do it for very good reasons. We give the Parliament the opportunity to fully understand, to interrogate and to research any piece of legislation that comes forward—and not just the Parliament, as the member for Eildon said, but the community as well. It is critically important with any piece of legislation that we actually are given the appropriate amount of time, and over the years that has been settled as 14 days to give the Parliament and the people of Victoria the opportunity to really understand what any piece of legislation is about.

I think it is an important matter of respect for the Parliament. As I consider this motion, I think of a number of words: respect, inclusiveness, consultation. These are things that the government talks a lot about—it talks a lot about them in the broader scheme of things in our society, but when it comes to actually delivering them in the chamber we do not see that. I am very happy to acknowledge that whether we get 13 days or 14 days is not the biggest thing in the world. It is not the thing that is going to change many Victorians’ lives. But the problem is that if we give an inch on this, we know the government will take a mile, and we need to ensure that the traditions and conventions are upheld, because they are there for that good reason that I talked about earlier.

We have seen the government do this on a number of occasions. When it has something that it wants to be dealt with quickly it will abuse the conventions, forms and respect of the house. The member for Eildon also mentioned the pandemic legislation. It was in and done in literally three days through this chamber, and we did not have any time to consider it properly. Now, that was nothing like the Puffing Billy Railway legislation. It was far more significant and affected every single Victorian, and yet the government rammed it through. I remember sitting here listening to the Leader of the House comment that that bill had undergone ‘extensive consultation’. What she meant was that she had spoken to three members of the upper house, and they thought that they had the deal done. It was rushed through here so it could then be rushed through to the other place, and then all of a sudden the disrespect that the government had given to the Parliament came back to bite them when they realised that those three votes were not enough and indeed they did have to go back to undertake further consultation. So it is treating the Parliament with contempt, and it is an important part of our system.

The government, the executive, has significant power. It can pretty much do what it wants in this chamber, by definition. It has the numbers. That is why it is the government. But it is also the role of the opposition to ensure that it holds the government to account. Some might say, ‘Oh, it’s one day; what does it matter?’. Well, it actually does matter. It matters in making sure that the government does not just bully its way around using its numbers, and it is important that the community has that time to have its say.

I note on this bill in particular—I do not know a lot about the bill, obviously; we have only just seen it—this is a railway, an activity, that involves a lot of volunteers. This is not some sort of taxation legislation where those in the community who are interested in it will be well-resourced corporations, well-resourced industry associations, unions and the like, who have people to go through this. We are actually dealing with a whole lot of volunteers. I note further, briefly having had a look at the second-reading speech, this is in response to an Ombudsman’s report from 2018. It is four years since that Ombudsman’s report was handed down, and either the government has delayed and it can wait one extra day or it has botched this and wants to now rush it through. It does not stack up. So I do oppose the adjournment of this bill for only 13 days. It should be 14. The government knows our position on this, we have been very consistent with it and it does need to stop treating the Parliament with disrespect.

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