Health Tradition of Parliament

Sessional Orders

6 August 2015 Business of the House

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to make a contribution to the debate on this motion. I start by suggesting to the Leader of the House, after the appalling contribution from the member for Bundoora, that the government might like to go out into the vestibule of the Parliament and read what is written in the circle on the floor. It says:

Where no counsel is the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

This Parliament is supposed to work together, look at things and make value judgements about what should happen. What has been lost in this debate is the fact that previously a lot of work has gone into trying to modernise sessional orders over a number of parliaments.

If we go back to Speaker Madigan’s time, there was a working group that the member for Brighton and I were part of. I think the member for Bendigo East was on it as well. The government of the day chose not to do anything. There was a working group in the last Parliament, and again those three people were on it, and the opposition chose not to support the government in making some changes at that time.

We are now making changes again. They have been done out of the blue without any discussion with the other people in the house and particularly without any discussion or thought for the staff who run this place.

An honourable member — Arrogant.

Mr WALSH — Yes, arrogant. The two speakers on the other side displayed arrogance, particularly the member for Bundoora, who talked only about his lunchtime and his meetings and what he wants to do. He did not spare a thought for or even mention the staff who run this place. This place functions because of the people behind the scenes and those who sit at the clerks table who have missed out badly because of the changes brought in in haste at the start of this Parliament. They are the ones who have suffered. It is not about the member for Bundoora’s lunch or whether he has caviar, chicken sandwiches or whatever; it is actually about the people in here who do the work and make this place function.

I point out to the member for Bundoora that he could show a bit of humility, as the manager of opposition business said. A bit of humility for the people who work in here would be good. The government purports to represent the workers of this state, and yet it has done nothing but slag them off and make disparaging comments. That is the way the member for Bundoora treated this debate, and it is a bloody disgrace.

I suggest to the Leader of the House that in talking about continuous improvement it is very easy to improve when you are starting from a very low base. As the Leader of the House, I think she has a lot to learn. If we think back to other leaders of the house, we recognise that they had a greater ability to work with both sides of the house to get the house to function better. The house functions best on behalf of the people who sent us here if everyone works together rather than arbitrary decisions being made, and that is the important thing here. I note we are going to debate the next motion in relation to a reference to the Standing Orders Committee for further examination of the issues. Why was that not done right at the start, before the changes were made?

There is a lot of room for continuous improvement. There has been a lot of rewriting of history from the other side — even though the history is only six months old — and talk about how these changes will supposedly improve things in the future. If those on the other side of the house actually believe that Dorothy Dixers have been removed, they are absolutely delusional, because they have not been removed. If you ask anyone in the press gallery, you will learn that they do not think Dorothy Dixers have been removed.

Ministers statements are just a chance for a minister to get up for a 2‑minute rant in between each question. It is just a rant; it is boring. As we have seen in some rulings from the Chair, it is no longer about new government initiatives; it is just about whatever they on that side of the house want to rant about. They are delusional if they think Dorothy Dixers have been removed. Ministers statements are not doing what they were intended to do; they have drifted into being rants.

The Leader of the House made comments about Queen’s Hall being available for functions and so on. We pointed out those concerns in the debate about this issue earlier this year. Queen’s Hall is something we should be using as much as we can. The more people who come to Parliament House and see how we work and what goes on, the better for the democracy of the state.

As the Leader of the House said, many MPs have used Queen’s Hall for community and industry groups to have functions in. I remember having representatives of the timber industry come in for a fantastic event. They brought their furniture — all the things they make and that sort of stuff. I know members on the other side of the house do not like the timber industry — they would like to shut it down — but it was an opportunity for the industry to show both sides of the house the fantastic industry it is in this state.

While we are in the process of continuous improvement, there is an opportunity for the Leader of the House to look at sitting days. The other major problem we have this year, because things were done in haste at the start of this term of the Parliament, is that this house will be sitting on Remembrance Day. It is an absolute disgrace.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr WALSH — No, we did not.

I suggest that if the Leader of the House wants to not just talk about continuous improvement but actually do something about it, she might like to re‑examine the sitting days for this year so that we are not sitting on Remembrance Day. I remember that in a previous Parliament when the Labor Party was in government it made some changes to start Parliament a little bit later so members could go to Remembrance Day services in their electorates. That was fine for city MPs, but when you live 4 hours away from Parliament House it is pretty hard to go to home for a local Remembrance Day service and get back here for a slightly later start. While we are talking about continuous improvement, one of the first jobs for the Standing Orders Committee might be to look at how we can change those sitting days so that we can all have an opportunity to attend Remembrance Day services in our electorates.

As the manager of opposition business said, we will not be opposing these changes, but reinforce the point that the things that are now being said are what we said would happen. It would be good to have an apology from the Leader of the House. It would be good to have an acknowledgement that what people on this side said was right, rather than the comments of abuse that have come from the other side of the house about lunchtimes and so on. As I said, the lunchbreak is very much about the people who work here. It is not about us. We can go out and have lunch if we want to; they cannot. They are stuck in here running the place. With that, I finish my contribution.


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