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Grievance Debate

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
27 November 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to contribute to the grievance debate. For those in the gallery or those watching online, the grievance debate is great tradition — it is a 2-hour airing of grievances that occurs every third Wednesday in this house. It is close to the holiday season but it is not Festivus. Frank Costanza is not here, although I reckon he would acquit himself very well, possibly in talking about infestation. There are no feats of strength, no aluminium pole. We are not going to be using this time to debate a private members bill or motions; nothing substantive will come of this debate, but it is our turn and I will contribute because I know how much those opposite enjoy hearing the Greens speak in this place.

It has been a year almost to the day since the state election and the election of the member for Melbourne. I had to wait a bit longer before I knew I had the privilege of representing the people of Prahran. The fact that this house spends 2 hours every week on these debates or so-called matters of public importance, when it is generally a very important matter to slag off either the current government or the previous government, is just another example of what a farce the process of this Legislative Assembly has become.

It is a lovely building. If it were not such a lovely building, I swear we should knock it down and start again because this Parliament should not just be used as an arm of the government of the day. It is a place where the government of the day and ministers should be held accountable. We have a complete lack of responsibility by ministers. They do not even have to read their second-reading speech when introducing a bill; they just incorporate it into Hansard. We can read it later. We may as well do Parliament by correspondence.

We have a refusal of ministers to attend the adjournment debate and respond in person. Instead we get a written response that is not even included in Hansard.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — The member makes a good point, we still have an outdated practice of a Lord's Prayer that starts our Parliament each day. We have a refusal to go into consideration in detail of bills despite the clear election promise to do so. We had a promise that Dorothy Dixers would be gone, but they have just been replaced by ministers statements. We see it in the use of the legislative guillotine to limit debate on critical bills, and then on minor technical bills they filibuster to take up time. It is clear that parliaments work best, not when there is a majority government, but when there is a minority government, just like there was in the last federal Parliament.

On government performance, you would have to say that when it comes to this government it is clear it is a divided government. We have seen it with the factional wars in just the first year of government — the influence of the right-wing SDA, and that private school funding bill which went against the principles of Gonski and essentially was a 25 per cent tax on the funding of public schools. We have seen it in the leaks and we have seen it with the conflict; it is the sort of stuff you would expect from a party languishing in opposition, not from a first-term government. It seems that fighting over the spoils of government was worth more than actually being in government. But if there is one thing that the Greens can help the government with, it is unity. I am sure that there is nothing more that unites the warring factions than their opposition to the Greens, because there is no point fighting over the spoils if there are no spoils to fight over.

There is a cloud hanging over this government, with the allegations of rorting staff entitlements to fund its election campaign. We have the continued influence of property and gambling industry donations and the refusal of this government to do anything about it, despite the Ombudsman's report tabled today with the recommendation that the Victorian government consider the issues raised in the report, in particular whether there should be restrictions on donations to candidates and political parties by property developers and whether details of all donations to a candidate or political party should be required to be published on a publicly available register within 30 days of a relevant election.

There is a cloud hanging over this government, but on a positive note it is good to see that in many respects instead of Labor engaging in a race to the bottom with the Liberal Party, as has so often been the case with politics, it is engaging in a race to the top with the Greens. We welcome those steps in the right direction, given the reversing of some of the worst coalition policies of the previous government. But if you want to join us in a race to the top, you have to catch up, because as I said in my contribution to the debate on the budget, this is a government that says a lot about what it wants to do to Victoria but it is not taking the necessary steps to make it happen.

It is a government that says it wants to save TAFE, but it will not abandon the failed market contestability model that is destroying it that Labor implemented. The government says it wants to become the education state but walks away from the principles of Gonski and needs-based funding. It says it wants to support clean energy but it does not even have a plan for the phasing out of our dirtiest power stations or a permanent ban on coal seam gas. The government says it wants to protect the environment, but it will not commit to creating the Great Forest National Park and is continuing to allow logging in our native forests. The government says it wants to create better public transport, but it will not commit to building Doncaster, Rowville or airport rail. The government says it wants to support equality but it is still leaving in blanket exemptions for religious organisations and schools to discriminate. It says it wants to improve integrity but it is still happy to accept donations from developers and is refusing to do anything about political donations reform

When raising these issues, we get the typical response from the government. It says, 'We're just meeting our election commitments'. That is a worthy goal, given the litany of broken promises from previous governments. But it is very easy to keep your promises on areas like the environment and clean energy when you do not actually make any. It is very easy to keep your promises on political donations when you do not actually make any. This government needs to step up and deliver a bolder, better vision for Victoria.

Of course there are other areas where this government is on the wrong track. For example, its bizarre shutting down of sustainable commercial fishing; its bizarre attack on local governments and lifting funds out of their budgets with rate capping; its obsession with costly road projects, funded through public-private partnerships, letting Transurban set our transport priorities; the port sale which will damage our economy, particularly rural economies; and its refusal to take advantage of record low interest rates to fund infrastructure.

I will touch on the performance of the opposition, because it is difficult being a first-term opposition. There are two terms I would use to describe the opposition — that is, negative and the same old Liberals — because we do not have a positive vision for Victoria from the Liberals, just an approach to tear down, to criticise, to complain without proposing any alternative, with no direction, no vision and no ambition for this state other than to squeeze back into government. We just have their same old policies.

Ms Victoria interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — They will get to policies when it comes time. That must be reassuring to the people of Victoria. We heard there was a big plan to combat the Greens in Liberal-held seats — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Prahran should not respond to interjections.

Mr HIBBINS — We heard that the Liberals were going to shine a light on Greens' policies. I welcome that and will return the favour because they have the same old policies — the same old $18-billion east–west link that the voters rejected. No party can ever have any credibility on public transport or finance if they still have a policy of building the $18-billion east–west link that we would be paying for for generations to come.

They still have the same old policy on TAFE — the disaster of the TAFE marketisation policy of the past two governments; the TAFE cuts from the previous government; the disasters, the campus closures, the courses cancelled, the financial pressures on our TAFE, the rise of dodgy private providers, the useless qualifications and the rorting of the taxpayer. Their policy is exactly the same as the one they held in government.

We heard that they did not get a good environment story during the election; however, they still have the same environment policy, which is essentially not to have one. They are still clinging to the old industries that are on the way out and being the roadblocks in the way of transition out of old industries — logging in our native forests, coal-fired power stations — to diverse, sustainable industries with a skilled workforce. We were promised that this would be a new socially progressive Liberal Party, with free votes and support for LGBTI equality, yet we have seen its members have a forced vote, compelled to block the achievement of adoption equality in full — though would a free vote have helped? It was telling that every single Liberal MP voted against adoption equality in full. It is the same conservative, far-right, look-after-your-mates Liberal Party that is out of touch with the mainstream, out of touch with progressive, forward-thinking Victorians.

Although at times over the year it has been quite antagonistic in the chamber, I have to say I have been pretty pleased with the compliment we constantly get from the government. I am not sure which genius decided it, that it was a great idea — a great insult of the Greens — to call us a 'political party'. It is great to have recognition from none other than the government of the day that the Greens are not a single-issue party, we are not a protest party, we are a genuine, fair-dinkum political party, and more and more voters are seeing that we are a genuine, fair-dinkum alternative to the old political parties in this place.

We were called I think at one stage a think tank by some commentators, but thanks to voters we are here elected as legislators. We hear from the government, 'The Greens can say all these things, but they will never achieve them'. Well, we put up a bill to end the FOI exemption for the Alcoa coal-fired power plant so that it could be held accountable for its mine rehabilitation — voted down by the government. We put forward a reference for a parliamentary inquiry into reforming political donations — voted down by the government. We put forward amendments to prevent cruelty to animals and to stop the use of sow stalls and battery cages for hens — voted down by the government.

What is the plan here? Are government members going to go to the next election and say, 'The Greens said they were going to do all these things. We stopped them from doing them, therefore vote for us, not them'? The Greens have two proposed private members bills, one from the member for Melbourne to ban developer donations to political parties and one from me to get rid of the religious exemptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. I would urge the government, 'Don't be a blocker. At the very least debate these bills, and pass them in the best interests of Victoria'.

We have a clear vision for this state, with a public transport system you can rely on, though the public transport system has been neglected by previous governments. We welcome the government's commitment to the Melbourne Metro project, but that has to be done in conjunction with expanding our rail network. South Yarra station has been one of the busiest stations, right next to the Forrest Hill area, but with all these billions of dollars South Yarra station has been completely ignored. That station needs an upgrade and investment in it.

Our tram system is overcrowded, yet the government's order for new trams is not enough to meet the demand from passengers. In the government's own words, the level of production from the tram factory in Dandenong will not change. It needs to double to create those jobs in high-skilled manufacturing following the closing down of the car industry.

The government is implementing a trial of high-speed signalling on the Sandringham line, but we cannot even get the basic questions answered, like how many trains are expected to run and what are the intended time frames and outcomes from the project. We do not want another myki on our hands. The government needs to be open and transparent about this project.

Our vision for Victoria is one where a state economy is powered by clean energy. There is so much potential to create jobs in manufacturing, research, development, engineering and trades, particularly across rural and regional Victoria, by transitioning to clean energy and phasing out dirty coal-fired power plants. This government, however, does not have a plan to do this. It is standing in the way of jobs and economic growth. It needs to support household solar, lift the renewable energy target, plan for transition and support jobs and workers, because this change is inevitable. You can either get in and get ahead of the game, or you can leave workers in the lurch.

Victoria is a great place to live — that is why we have so many people moving to this state — and we need to make sure we act now to implement a clear, bold vision for this state so we can keep it that way, with investment in public transport, clean energy, law reform to achieve equality and a political system with transparency and integrity to ensure that our state and our communities, which we love living in, such as Prahran and Melbourne, remain livable and get better.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
27 November 2015




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