Business of the House - Program

7th March 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to support the manager of opposition business in his opposition to the government business program. In doing that, can I say the most urgent issue before this house is dealing with the rorting by the previous Speaker and previous Deputy Speaker. Leave was refused for a motion to do with that, but that is the most urgent issue before this house. That is what this house should be dealing with this week. We have had a systematic rorting of the system here in Victoria by a number of Labor MPs now, and I think it is time that those issues were actually given a full airing in this house.

There is a very good saying that a fish rots from the head down, and that is what we have in this place now. We have the situation where the Premier is now in the High Court of Australia trying to stop the Ombudsman looking at the red shirt issue and the rorting that was done at that particular time. There has been a sequence of events, and this house should be spending time looking at those issues. You have got the red shirt issue. You had the rorting of a government-funded car and chauffeur to cart two dogs around — to cart Patch and Ted to Trentham and back. Again, it just does not pass the sensible test. It does not pass the pub test, let alone pass any rules in this place. This chamber should be spending its time debating the motion that has now been tabled by the Leader of the Opposition to be included on the notice paper tomorrow. That is what this house should be spending its time on.

We had the issue of how the former Government Whip in the upper house sold out his members in a deal with Clean Event when he was the secretary of the Australian Workers Union here in Victoria. So there is this systematic rorting — —

Mr McGuire — On a point of order, Speaker, we have drifted well from the government business program in making such assertions. I would raise the issue of relevance and ask you to draw the Leader of The Nationals back to the government business program.

Mr Pesutto — On the point of order, Speaker, what the Leader of The Nationals is clearly doing is placing in context the importance of the probity issues and the rorting. Clearly what took place in terms of Mr Melhem in the other place and the Australian Workers Union, where workers were comprehensively sold out, is another example of the rorting that goes on inside this government.

Mr Noonan — On the point of order, Speaker, I think it is very clear from the rulings you made in relation to the member for Burwood in response to the member for Broadmeadows’ contribution that this is a very narrow scope motion. I would suggest very strongly that the Leader of The Nationals has drifted very far and wide from this particular motion, and I would ask you to draw him back.

Mr Watt — On the point of order, Speaker, the minister at the table, the Minister for Industry and Employment, has just talked about your previous rulings. Your previous rulings were to do with anticipating debate. This is not about anticipating debate. The argument that the Leader of The Nationals is putting forward is that the reason we are not agreeing with the government business program is there are other issues that we actually do need to get on and debate and that the things the people of Victoria actually care about are things like the rorting member for Melton and the rorting member for Tarneit. These are issues that are important and these are issues that need to be debated, and the member is simply saying that we should get on to these things.

We need to make sure that we have room to debate this issue because rorting is a serious issue. We found that out in the last Parliament when the member for Mulgrave stood up and told us how important rorting is. He stood here and talked about $1800 worth of rorting, and now he refuses to talk about over $150 000 of rorting. It is a disgrace!

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Burwood will resume his seat. I think it is appropriate for members, during this debate, to be able to reflect on items they think should be on the government business program ahead of items that are on the business program, but I would suggest that members should only make passing references to those issues, as opposed to spending all of their contributions and all of their time on those matters. I would ask the Leader of The Nationals to come back to the specific business program that has been put forward by the Leader of the House.

Mr WALSH — The crocodile tears from the other side are going to drown us soon. They supposedly stick up for workers, but all they do is rort the system. On the government business program, the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017 is another bill where there is a clear broken promise from the other side of the house. There was a commitment — the Premier put his hand on his heart on the news the night before the election and said that there would be no new taxes here in Victoria, and we are going to be debating a bill about putting a new tax on every taxi trip here in Victoria.

I have had significant representation from taxidrivers in my electorate who are absolutely angry about the fact that there is going to be a $2 tax on every taxi trip that they do. Every pensioner who wants to go to the doctor or wants to go to the supermarket to do their shopping is going to be charged $2 more to go and they are going to pay $2 more to come home. They are the people in society who can least afford those $4 per return trip. If you talk about some of the people in our community who have severe disabilities and who use taxis regularly, that $2 for each of those trips has to come out of their pension.

To make it even worse, there is a very strong view, which I support, held by country taxi operators that the small amount of money for their compensation will be raised in the first six to eight months of this legislation, if it is passed, and then they will be sending $2 from every trip down to Melbourne to pay the government, whatever
they do with that money. We are going to be debating that bill, and I would like to see the Leader of the House dedicate time so we can actually go into consideration in detail on that bill, because from a country member’s point of view what is being put forward is something that country people find absolutely offensive.

On one hand we are going to charge a pensioner who does not have a lot of money $2 to go to the doctor and $2 to come home, but on the other hand we are not prepared to debate the issue that the member for Melton can rort more than $100 000 from this Parliament by allegedly not living in a caravan at Ocean Grove. I think the double standards in this place at the moment are just rank hypocrisy: we will not talk about the big issues but we will talk about how we are going to tax pensioners in the future when they want to go to the doctor or they want to go to the supermarket to buy their groceries. They can ill afford that.

I would urge this house to oppose the government business program so it can be amended and so we can actually debate the motion put on the notice paper by the Leader of the Opposition. We can then give these issues a big, clear airing so Victorians can have confidence in this place again in the future.

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