May 23, 2018  |  Matters of public importance

Electorate office budgets

Mr Howard (Buninyong) (15:43:10) — I am pleased to add my comments to this so-called matter of public importance (MPI). In starting I would like to note that here we have a so-called matter of public importance raised by the shadow Minister for Education. You would have thought that when the shadow Minister for Education had the opportunity to raise a matter of public importance it might have related to an issue that is important to the people of Victoria — that being education, the area that he has a shadow ministerial responsibility for. But no. We know why he did not choose to raise educational issues, because he knows there is a very stark contrast between this side, the Labor government, and his side of politics, which has no real interest in supporting state education — it never has. It treats it as a responsibility, like it does public transport. It is not interested in really supporting public transport or state education. They simply work for the fat cats on their side of politics and have lunches of lobster with mobsters.

Mr Morris — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the MPI debate is generally about the MPI, not about what is not in the MPI. I have been listening closely to the member for Buninyong, and his contribution so far has been entirely about what is not in the MPI. Perhaps you may draw him back to the subject matter under debate.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — I appreciate the member for Mornington has been listening attentively while I have been in discussion with the clerks. I will not uphold the point of order at this time, but I will certainly provide a reminder to the member for Buninyong to continue his contribution in relation to the MPI.

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Hit — They are simply opening comments to highlight perhaps the difference between this side of politics and that side of politics, whereby they raise, as a matter of public importance, an issue that relates to an Ombudsman’s report in which the Ombudsman did not recommend taking action against anyone involved. Instead of talking about issues that are of importance to the people of Victoria such as education and public transport or other important issues, they have simply tried to cry poor over the last election. Clearly they talked about the 2014 election. The member for Ringwood again decried that in her seat she only just won because Labor used electorate office staff — or whatever she is asserting — to fight against her. On the other side of the house they continue to want to say in this MPI debate, ‘We lost the election, and not because the Liberal coalition in the last government was a disastrous government and the people of Victoria voted us out’. They want to try and assert that there was something else happening, that because of this so-called issue with the red shirts they lost government. Well, they are simply not dealing with reality.

Over the last years I have been in office, and particularly in the lead-up to the 2014 election, I worked hard. I worked hard as a candidate to convince the people of my electorate as to why they should continue to vote for a Labor representative and to show them that they had received so little from the government that was elected in 2010. My margin increased from about 1.5 to 6.5 per cent not because of anything the opposition is trying to assert but because people saw that the Liberal-Nationals coalition led a disastrous government in the areas that are important to the people of my electorate, whether that be education, public transport or so many other areas like health, hospitals and so on. They knew they had seen very little from the Baillieu government and then the Napthine government that followed on when poor Ted Baillieu just could not govern any further as Premier. They knew that was a lost four years.

When I look at the schools across my electorate in the time under the Bracks and Brumby governments when I represented the people of Ballarat East, I think every one of my 30 primary schools received upgrades. In the term of the Liberal-Nationals coalition not one school in my electorate received anything in budget after budget, although there were still further upgrade works to be done, particularly in the secondary schools. There was nothing delivered in the Ballarat East electorate at all. So when Labor was re-elected in 2014 it was on the back of knowing that Ballarat Secondary College was going to receive substantial funding. Phoenix P–12, which came into my electorate then, was receiving further funding for a redevelopment, and so was Mount Clear —

Mr Paynter — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I have sat quietly listening for the last couple of minutes, but as far as I know the matter of public importance is about Labor Party rorting at the 2014 election —

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Hit interjected.

Mr Paynter — Sit down!

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Hit — There is no need to be so rude.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! The member for Bass will put his point of order.

Mr Paynter — He is talking about the funding of schools. This is about Labor Party rorting.

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Hit — On the point of order, Acting Speaker, the member would be aware that the Speaker also recognised that there was an opportunity within this debate to contrast, given that clearly the MPI brought forward is on a very political issue, trying to put a point of view from the Liberal Party. In contrasting it, I am simply trying to put a point from myself and representing the Labor government.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — The Speaker has made some comments and rulings in relation to these matters, and I take members to Rulings from the Chair, ‘Scope of debate — contrasts’, which states:

It is reasonable for contrasts to be made and alternative opinions expressed when debating the MPI.

In particular I draw members’ attention to the preamble in the MPI that relates to the 2014 election and the wider scope noted by the Speaker in Rulings from the Chair in relation to contrasts that are reasonable to be made, and I ask at this point the member for Buninyong to continue. He is in order.

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Hit — Thank you, Acting Speaker. Clearly at the last election people voted against the Liberal and National parties because they had let them down so badly, with four years of inept government, and they wanted to see a Labor government. So that is the story there.

The member for Bass wants me to talk about rorting. I am happy to talk about rorting. I seem to remember that the Leader of the Opposition, when his party was in government, had dealings at Ventnor. Clearly there are still some issues to come out there that the Ombudsman, as I understand, is still investigating. Suddenly land was zoned one way — against the advice of all of the planning department. Meetings were held behind closed doors with individuals, and then the zoning was suddenly changed. There was Supreme Court action, there were freedom of information requests and there were cover-ups. If ever there were a case of rorting, that was one.

If we want to talk about Fishermans Bend, we also know that the former planning minister, again without accepting the full advice of his planning department, overnight rezoned a whole area larger than the —

Mr Paynter — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, this is the heart of the problem with the Labor Party. It does not understand very clearly what is rorting. The member for Buninyong is comparing planning decisions with rorting. He is clearly misleading the Parliament. That is not rorting. Stealing parliamentary funds is rorting, and unless they get that very clear, is it any wonder that they are here debating this issue? They do not understand what rorting is. Very clearly it is rorting public funds, which the Labor Party has done, not planning decisions.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — The member for Bass will get his opportunity to explain and extrapolate his definition of the matter of public importance. At this point I will continue to hear the member for Buninyong.

Mr Previous HitHOWARDNext Document — In following on again from the comments from the member for Bass, he seems not to understand that if a certain planning decision is made, suddenly people who own the land associated with that planning decision stand to make millions and millions of dollars. Suddenly money goes into private hands as a result of a decision of a Minister for Planning. If he makes a decision behind closed doors against the advice of departmental staff, then clearly that is a significant case of rorting. These matters need to be properly investigated as opposed to issues of electorate staff that are continuously paid for by the people of Victoria, and no extra money is lost or gained by using them. In regard to the member for Kew —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — The member’s time has expired.