Business of the House

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (10:33): I rise to assure the house that there is no-one in the chamber more excited than me to hear about the budget session, because from this point on, as members know, I spend the next four weeks locked down in this place.

Members interjecting.

Danny O’BRIEN: While the Leader of the House is being generous, she might like to congratulate me because it is my 10th anniversary this year. As I have said to my side, there are people who get less for murder than being on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee for 10 years. But what I am seeing here in this debate going on today, which I do not think we have ever debated before in my time in this chamber, is the padding. What we are seeing is a couple of ministers teaching the backbench how to pad. That is what I get used to in PAEC, because the government never actually wants to answer any questions; they just pad. To the extent of when the former minister Martin Foley was here –

James Newbury interjected.

Danny O’BRIEN: The member for Brighton remembers it well. I asked him one day what the time was, and he explained how the watch worked. Seriously, he would have to have been the slowest, most boring minister we have had before PAEC, and that is saying something.

A member: Have you met Gavin Jennings?

Danny O’BRIEN: The Beard was pretty good too actually. They do this to avoid scrutiny. They have got a few on the backbench who are there on the committee as well, and there are a few who used to be on the committee and they know what to do. They know just to sit there and read the question given to them by the Premier’s private office – ‘Don’t deviate from it, because you do what you’re told’. Then if the opposition looks at any stage like they are actually getting anywhere with a question, they quickly raise a point of order. Come in spinner, member for Yan Yean, because you are one of the best at it. Take a point of order and shut down the line of questioning so that Victorians do not find out what is actually in the details of the budget. I have had the pleasure –

Mary-Anne Thomas: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, on the topic of points of order, as much as we do enjoy the opportunity to be at PAEC with the member for Gippsland South, I do ask that you bring him back to the motion that is before the house, which as we all know is a narrow procedural motion. We do not really need a –

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, Leader of the House. I think it was relevance, and the member had strayed somewhat from the motion and could come back.

Danny O’BRIEN: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. While I never question your interpretation of things, this is not a procedural debate; this is a debate about what the Parliament will be doing in the next couple of weeks. It is not a procedural debate. If it was a procedural debate, we would be done by now.

A member interjected.

Danny O’BRIEN: We would have had 30 minutes. The Deputy Speaker is very much aware of that. That is why I have 10 minutes to speak now. We are talking about this motion that will set out the time frames, and the time frames include the budget hearings for the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

I might go to another issue here, again going to timing issues. Once again we are seeing the government-controlled committee reducing scrutiny by reducing the hours for the ministers that they want to protect.

A member interjected.

Danny O’BRIEN: It is absolutely true. We had a big debate this year because the time line allocated for the Deputy Premier, the Minister for Education, has been reduced by half an hour. We have 3 hours for the Treasurer, we have 2½ hours for the Premier, but for the second-biggest portfolio spend in the budget, we have an hour and a half. We had the hapless Labor members of the committee trying to argue, ‘Oh, it’s because he’s Deputy Premier; that’s why James Merlino had 2 hours’ –

Lauren Kathage: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I do not think the deliberations of the committee should be discussed in the chamber.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The point of order is? Committee discussions.

Lauren Kathage: Relevance.

James Newbury: Further on the point of order, Deputy Speaker, there was no point of order, other than the government are embarrassed that they have just been caught.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member to continue on the motion.

Danny O’BRIEN: On the motion, which sets out the structure of the budget arrangements for the next couple of weeks, including the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. We have got half an hour less for the education minister – and this is not deliberations, this is all on the public record. We have half an hour less for the Assistant Treasurer, so we are not doing that much on the Assistant Treasurer. We have half an hour less for the Minister for Skills and TAFE. We have got 15 minutes less for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, which I am very disappointed about. I could do 3 ‍hours on the Minister for Roads and Road Safety given the cuts there have been in that portfolio. We have had the Minister for Local Government, the same minister, also reduced by half an hour. Apparently she does not think there is enough to talk about in that portfolio. In total this year the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings will apply 3 hours less scrutiny to this government. Bearing in mind, though, 54 hours we have – like I said, you get less for murder – and more than half of it is applied to government members asking Dorothy Dixers. With the exception of perhaps Mrs McArthur in the other place, both of us having to come down from our regional electorates for this period of time, I would like to have more time to scrutinise the budget papers. Unfortunately this is the way the government does it, just like they have tried this week to shut non-government members down from even putting things on the record. We see time and again the government trying to shut us down.

This is a situation where what is being done in the budget in the next few weeks is of concern not only to all Victorians but of course to my electorate of Gippsland South. We want to see a whole range of things that we have been fighting for for a long time, such as a new Sale College – the government committed to the master plan in previous budgets, but where is the funding for a new Sale College? I must say I am not optimistic about some of these. A rebuild of Foster Primary School. Additional train services to and from Sale were promised by the government in the network development plan several years ago. As the member for Bulleen has indicated, the Regional Rail Revival was announced in 2017 as shovel ready and ready to go but has still not finished in Gippsland seven years later. We are still waiting for additional services to be announced in the budget, as reflected in the motion that we are talking about. We are waiting for new fire stations for Mirboo North and Foster. We want to see something done about kamikaze corner in Leongatha, the stage 2 of the alternative heavy vehicle route.

Colin Brooks: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I think you can anticipate my point of order, which is that the member is now running through his shopping list of budget items.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We have strayed a little again from the motion.

Danny O’BRIEN: As I indicated as I was running through the shopping list, it was related to the motion, which is when the budget is going to be delivered on 7 May. There are just two more: the Mirboo North gymnasium and local road improvements with a Toora overtaking lane, which the government has not committed to and we would like to see when the budget comes. We would also like to see a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee that can do its job and hold the government and the public service to account. I remind those opposite again: this is not just about the executive members of the Parliament, it is about holding the public service to account as well and getting the answers that Victorians deserve when the state budget is $178 billion in debt – and probably more after next week. Victorians deserve answers. They deserve the opportunity to have those questions answered.

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