Retiring MPs reflect on parliament
31 October 2022
Seven of the 26 members not contesting the 2022 state election have taken time to candidly reflect on their careers in the Victorian Parliament.
While they all offered quite different perspectives, one thing remained consistent – the overwhelming admiration and appreciation they hold for the communities they have served.
Most have done it for several years, but some have done it for decades.
Elected to the Legislative Council in the shadows of the 20th century and at the age of just 25, Gordon Rich-Phillips has spent almost half of his life as a member of parliament.
'I entered parliament at a very unusual time because it was when the Kennett government was defeated in 1999,' he recalls.
'There was a month where it wasn't clear who was going to form government, so I actually spent my first month as a government backbencher in caretaker.'
After 23 years the departing South-Eastern Metropolitan MP hopes his legacy will be the contribution he’s made to the Upper House being a considered place of review.
Danielle Green says the lessons from her most difficult period during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires helped her cope with the recent challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
'I was a volunteer firefighter on the back of a fire truck. I was fighting fires in my electorate, and I was the parliamentary secretary for emergency services,' she says.
'There was no hiding from the responsibilities that I had then, and it was incredibly confronting.'
The retiring Member for Yan Yean has also witnessed the rise of women on Spring Street and leaves with fond memories of the diverse friendships she’s made.
Another recurring theme for many of the members was how technology has transformed the way they’ve worked.
The outgoing member for Mornington David Morris wasn’t even issued with a laptop when he was first elected to the parliament in 2006.
'When I started, probably 90% of the correspondence that came into my office came in through the post. Now we might get one letter every two weeks,' he said.
Morris also opened up on conscience votes in the Legislative Assembly and how they can be ‘character building’.
'When you're sitting on one side of the chamber and 90% of your colleagues are sitting on the other side when you're physically doing a division, it brings home very, very strongly the gravity of the situation. The importance of what you're doing,' he said.
Social media has transformed the political landscape and posed a challenge for some, including retiring Lara MP John Eren.
'People for example, ring me through Messenger through Facebook 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and expect me to answer the call. So, I think that's the challenging part about the new MP's coming through and they've got to manage that carefully,' he said.
Eren, who served in the Council before the introduction of proportional representation also talked about his health battles and declared one ministerial appointment in particular his biggest highlight.
'When a Turkish born MP of Turkish background becomes the Minister for Veterans in the year of the centenary for Gallipoli, (it) was significant,' he said.
As the first woman to hold a parliamentary leadership role within The Nationals, state of Federal, Steph Ryan had an ambitious schedule over the last eight years, even more so since becoming a mum.
'It is still very challenging, particularly for rural MPs with young children, to be able to manage that balance of caring for their kids and also doing their job when parliament doesn't sit on a regular schedule,' she said.
The departing Euroa MP said it took her a long time to get used to the argy-bargy on the floor of the Assembly chamber.
'My earliest memory of Parliament as an MP was sitting in question time for the first time and feeling like there was a physical wall of noise coming at me.'
Gary Blackwood believes standards in question time have dropped, however he’s still been able to forge good working relationships with Labor Government MPs despite spending most of his 16 years in opposition.
'The vast majority of our members of parliament are here for the right reasons. They're here to make a difference,' he said.
'They’re here to represent their community and they're here to try and address the needs of their community the best they can.'
As the eldest of 11 children and with six of his own, the outgoing Narracan MP is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and their 21 grandchildren.
The hard-working staff at the parliament haven’t been forgotten either, exiting Northern Victorian MP Mark Gepp acknowledged their contribution.
'Whether it's the IT people, the communications people, the tables office, the library, Hansard, wonderful people who give so much of their time and are absolutely professionals. I’ll miss working with those people,' he said.
Each of the videos, plus the valedictory speeches of other retiring members are available to watch in full on parliament’s YouTube.