Matters of Public Importance - Liberal Party

Wednesday 9th August 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to speak on the matter of public importance. When I think about the matter of public importance before the house today I think of the old saying that if you sleep with dogs, you catch fleas, and I must say that there are a lot of people on the other side of the house that are doing a hell of a lot of scratching lately. This motion would be true if you just took out the words ‘Liberal Party’ and put in the words ‘Labor Party’. It is so true when it comes to country Victoria, because when it comes to country Victoria the Labor Party is ‘financially, morally and policy bankrupt’. A lot of people in country Victoria say that you should add to that list ‘corrupt’, because Labor are morally corrupt when it comes to country Victoria and they are financially corrupt when it comes to country Victoria. They are just corrupt in general.

The first example of that would be the Country Fire Authority issue. What has Peter Marshall got on the Premier and the Deputy Premier of this state for them to trash the reputation of 60 000 volunteers, that they would throw 60 000 volunteers under the bus just to appease Peter Marshall? What has he got on those two for them to do what they are doing to the CFA here in Victoria? They are destroying the CFA. If you think about it, it is Peter Marshall’s way or the highway when it comes to the CFA. The former Minister for Emergency Services, Jane Garrett, and Lucinda Nolan were both sent down the highway. The Premier and Peter Marshall obviously have an issue with dealing with strong women. It is no wonder that there is this cultural issue within the firefighting service, because if you do not do what Peter Marshall says, you are out, and that was particularly the case for those two women.

The chair of the CFA and the board of the CFA were sent out. They did not agree with the Premier and Peter Marshall. Joe Buffone and Peter Rau were told, ‘Out! On your bikes, down the road, because Peter Marshall said that you should get out’. Those are the issues that make this government morally corrupt when it comes to country Victoria and to the protection those volunteers give country Victoria in the event of a fire or anything else that happens. It is absolute treachery and duplicitous action that is happening to the CFA, and this state will be the poorer because of those particularly issues.

Talking about who associates with who, it is interesting to go back and get a copy of the Australian of 29 August 2002, which states:

The extraordinary police record of John Setka, one of the nation’s most powerful unionists, finally has been laid bare, with 60 charges leading to dozens of convictions and fines including for theft, assault by kicking, criminal damage and assaulting police.

This is one of the people that the Premier associates with regularly and one of the unions that makes substantial donations to the Labor Party every year, year in and year out. Those on the other side should not cry crocodile tears when they are guilty, guilty, guilty of associating with these people. The article continues:

The Australian can reveal that Mr Setka, 48 next month —

back when this article was written —

was charged 60 times with serious offences between 1982 and 1991 in a violent battle with the law during unprecedented turmoil in the construction industry.

It goes on to say:

… Mr Setka was found guilty multiple times for indecent language, assault by kicking, assaulting police and wilful trespass.

But what makes it even worse — or better — is that when he was interviewed for this article he was sitting with Melbourne identity Mick Gatto at a wine bar opposite Parliament House. He must have been up there for a meeting with the now Premier. Mr Setka said he was:

… under legal instruction not to talk to the Australian but added that many of the offences were committed in the name of protecting workers.

It is obviously all right to break the law if you are protecting workers, but the rest of the state has to go by the law. When it comes to the matter that is before the house, it is the Labor Party that is morally corrupt on these particular issues.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr WALSH — And morally bankrupt, to echo the interjection. Think about what this government has and has not done for country Victoria. I am glad the Minister for Water is at the table, because we can look at some of the water issues in northern Victoria and what is going on there effectively destroying Goulburn‑Murray Water and making it impossible for the irrigators of northern Victoria to function. If you think about what is happening with that particular project, you see that the minister has made a great fanfare of the resetting of the Connections Project. That reset is going to cost irrigators a lot of money in the future. It may be on time and on budget for that specific part of the project, but it will cost irrigators more money in the long run.

Ms Neville interjected.

Mr WALSH — The minister, for the record, is betting that it will not. I will take up that bet that in five years time, after this is finished, Goulburn‑Murray Water and particularly the irrigators will be worse off because of this particular project. They are going to have to pay more for their water.

Ms Neville — Ask the irrigators.

Mr WALSH — The minister interjects, ‘Ask the irrigators’. In my office I have a long list of people to ask as a result of constantly working with Goulburn‑Murray Water to get their legacy issues fixed. The minister recently made a trip to northern Victorian and visited two or three of those people, and that is all. Because of the reset there is a long list of people whose issues are not getting resolved.

If you think about the water policy issues where the government is destroying northern Victoria, it is now proven that carryover rules are disadvantaging irrigators and actually causing more spill events. Irrigators are getting less allocations now than they did before because of the carryover rules — a matter that the minister will not address. These rules were put in place by the previous Labor government. They were partly fixed, and they need more fixing, but the minister will not do anything about that.

If you look at the issues around the fixed charges that irrigators have to pay to get access to the channel, there is no review of that. People are effectively going broke because of the fixed charges of Goulburn‑Murray Water as they are having to pay for the high cost of the Connections Project, which will be a huge project in the future. The minister is just continuing the work that John Thwaites and Tim Holding — we remember those two ministers — began. They started out with an agenda to effectively destroy irrigation because they have a philosophical dislike of farmers and irrigation. They set out a process that was gradually going to undermine the viability of the water industry in northern Victoria, and the current minister is continuing the work that John Thwaites and Tim Holding started at that time. If you think about people in country Victoria, they are far worse off under this government than they have been for a long time.

Ms Neville interjected.

Mr WALSH — I am happy to do a survey.

The last one I would like to finish off on is energy costs. In talking about policy settings, the policy settings of this government have led to the closure of Hazelwood. Although the Premier said power prices were only going to go up by 4 per cent with the closure of Hazelwood, power prices are going up 200 and 300 per cent because of the policy settings of this government. I am working with a group of food processers in northern Victoria who represent 10 000 jobs and $3.2 billion in turnover, and what they are saying to me is that with the power prices, including gas prices, going up, they are not going to be in business for very long. That whole argument can be replicated around other parts of Victoria. If you talk about being policy bankrupt, this government is actually bankrupting businesses because of its policy. There is a real risk that we are going to lose a substantial number of jobs in regional and urban Victoria because of the energy settings of this government.

The last thing is law and order. Law and order is not just a city issue. The fact is that people no longer feel safe in country communities. One of the things you could pride yourself on in a country community was that you could pull up in the street and go into a shop without having to lock your car and you could go out without having to lock your house. That is not the case anymore; you have to lock your car as soon as you leave it and you have to lock your house because houses are being burgled and broken into all the time. This government is absolutely financially, morally and policy bankrupt when it comes to country Victoria. As I said at the start, I will add to that that they are also financially, morally and policy corrupt when it comes to country Victoria.


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