Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Business of the house
That, under standing order 94(2), the orders of the day, government business, relating to the following bills be considered and completed by 5.00 pm on Thursday, 23 June 2022:
Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Local Government Legislation Amendment (Rating and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022
Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022.
In presenting this government business program motion to the house I am delighted to see what a cracking government agenda we are setting over the course of this week, with five bills available to the house for debate and consideration, and they are all, each in their own different way, important bills that contain policy reform but significant social reform as well. I will come back to that element of one of the bills in a moment.
Just for completeness sake, for the house’s attention, I am aware that there may be a motion coming to us to support a joint sitting of the two chambers of the Parliament to enable the filling of a casual vacancy that is held in the upper house by the Liberal Democrats, and I can advise the house pre-emptively that we will be facilitating that joint sitting and that will take place in the usual way at 6.15 tomorrow afternoon, pending of course the upper house sending us that message in those terms.
I would also like to draw the house’s attention to a bill that has just been first read by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health. The mental health minister has just introduced a bill that, as he has indicated, introduces significant reform to the Mental Health Act 2014. This was a recommendation out of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, and the mental health minister and Deputy Premier has moved very, very quickly—with his department and officials and across government and, importantly too, in consultation with the sector—to bring this bill to the Parliament during this sitting week. It is a big bill, and it is appropriate that it be second read this week and then lay over the winter break to enable there to be further consideration of what is significant reform—reform that is needed and reform that was called for through the royal commission and is going to be part of the overhauling of the system in a way that makes sure that it works for Victorians, be they people suffering from mental illness or their carers.
I am making this point because I want to advise the house that all of the bills that have been introduced today will be second read on Thursday, and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2022 is a bill that the Deputy Premier, the mental health minister, will be formally reading rather than incorporating into Hansard. It is the old-fashioned way, for those of us who remember what it used to be like in the past, of bills being second read. But it is an important landmark piece of reform that no doubt will attract the interest of people outside of this place, and it is appropriate that the moment is marked in this way by the Deputy Premier and mental health minister.
I also want to draw the house’s attention to the arrangements that were put in place last sitting week via a motion through this house to have the co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly come and be part of the second-reading process for the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. The arrangements are in place, and can I thank you, Speaker, and the clerks and other officers of the Parliament for working with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and other officials to facilitate these arrangements. A lot of very careful thought has gone into welcoming the co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly into this place. That will take place tomorrow morning and be immediately followed by the second-reading debate on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022.
As I said, it is a very, very big week of landmark reform, appropriate acknowledgement of our First Peoples and further demonstration of how the Andrews Labor government is not wasting one single day in doing what we said we would deliver for the Victorian community and, most importantly, delivering important reform for the future.
Ms STALEY (Ripon) (12:20): I rise to speak on the government business program, the final government business program before we go on the final break for this Parliament. I can advise that the Liberals and The Nationals on this occasion will not be opposing the government business program. As the Leader of the House has noted, there are five bills on the government business program today. I might take issue with her that they are all doing deep reform and really getting on with it. Some of them I think are very much tidying-up-at-the-edges bills, but that is not true of a couple of the bills on the government business program.
I note that, as the Leader of the House has said, we will be going into the second-reading debate on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022, and before we do that there will be an opportunity for the co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly to come onto the floor of the Parliament and address the Parliament in both English and Aboriginal languages and to introduce to the Assembly the members of the First Peoples’ Assembly. We will then move to debate on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022, and I can advise, as the Leader of The Nationals—the shadow minister for this bill—has already said, the Liberals and The Nationals will be supporting this bill through the Parliament, so we look forward to that debate beginning on Wednesday.
The other bill that I particularly wanted to note, which I will be speaking on amongst others, is the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022. I would expect that this bill will have a range of views put to the Parliament. This is one that is close to my heart, as we have timber harvesting in the seat of Ripon, and I am always of the view that timber harvesters should be allowed to get on with their lawful business without being harassed as they do so.
As the Leader of the House has indicated, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2022 that the minister has just first read will be second read on Thursday, and no doubt he will have plenty to say, as he is choosing to go back to the old-fashioned way of saying it to the house rather than incorporating his statement.
I note for the sake of completeness that we will be facilitating the joint sitting if that motion comes through from the Council. We also will support, I believe, Mr Limbrick to come back into the Council.
This week is the matter of public importance from the member for Morwell, and we look forward to debating that. With those brief remarks I can confirm that we will not be opposing the government business program.
Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:24): I also rise in support and acknowledge the bipartisan nature of the support of the government business program. It is always a pleasure to hear from the opposition when they are supporting our legislation. As the Leader of the House has already said, it is going to be a very special moment for us all when the co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly address us tomorrow. I think it is absolutely fitting given that we all—or at least I would hope all of us—accept that for the treaty process with Indigenous Victorians to work it must be led by Indigenous Victorians. So I look forward to being a part of that, and I hope we have a full house in the Assembly to be part of that process.
Another bill I am looking forward to speaking on, while it is a bit technical in nature, is the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. This is sort of putting a bookend to the announcement that we made as a government just the other day on Best Start, Best Life. Education really is from cradle to grave these days. It has been a long time since you could put the books away when you left school. To borrow a line from my friend the member for Broadmeadows, it really is lifelong learning, as he would say. With those brief comments, I think I will leave it there. Let us crack on with it.
Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (12:26): I will be very brief.
Mr Battin: Hear, hear.
Mr D O’BRIEN: It is always great to have support from your own side. Thank you, member for Gembrook. The government business program is quite a busy program this week, which is quite a change from recent months when we have been lucky to have two bills to debate. Obviously we are getting towards the end-of-term rush and we are now getting quite a number of bills. I agree, though, that there are some very important bills on the agenda this week.
In particular I look forward to contributing on the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022, which is one good thing that this government has introduced to this Parliament with respect to the forestry industry. I look forward to debate on that, to welcoming the First Nations people to the chamber tomorrow as part of the debate on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022 and later tomorrow to welcoming Mr Limbrick back into the other place, as I understand the joint sitting is intended to do. With those short words, I will leave it at that.
Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (12:27): I am pleased also to rise to speak in favour of the government business program, following on from the Leader of the House and the member for Mount Waverley. It is welcome news that the opposition is not opposing the government business program this week. Just reflecting upon this government, it has a strong reform agenda, and we are continuing on with that reform agenda this week. We have not wasted a day in the last 3½ years, and we are getting on with the job of making Victoria an even better and fairer place to live, to work and to study. And it is even now a better place to raise children after the groundbreaking announcement made last week by the Premier, the Minister for Early Childhood and the Minister for Women to transform our approach to early education.
Ms Staley: On a point of order, Speaker, this is a narrow debate about the government business program. The member for Wendouree is so far off that topic in talking about what the Premier might have announced last week. It is not even a bill before the house.
A member interjected.
The SPEAKER: Order! I was distracted momentarily. I ask the member on her feet to make sure she is referring to the government business program.
Ms ADDISON: I am certainly talking about our great reform agenda, and that reform agenda is continuing this week with the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022 that is before the house. This week we will continue to bring about important and significant change with the introduction of the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. This is truly significant legislation that I will speak more to later in my contribution.
I would like to be able to just take a moment, though, to acknowledge that it is our last sitting before the winter recess and to thank the Speaker, as well as members of the Department of Parliamentary Services, for the great work that is being done running our Parliament and supporting all members. I would particularly like to thank the staff who work in the chamber, Hansard, security, catering, committees, the procedure office, the mailing and printing office and everyone else who contributes to make this place work. You are greatly appreciated. I would also like to send my best wishes to the Clerk, Bridget Noonan; the Assistant Clerk—Committees, Vaughn Koops; and the Assistant Clerk Procedure and Serjeant-at-Arms, Paul Groenewegen, who are away with COVID. I hope they have a full and speedy recovery.
As already mentioned, we do have a very, very busy sitting week with five pieces of legislation before the house. We have the Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition and Other Matters) Bill 2022. We have the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. We have the Local Government Legislation Amendment (Rating and Other Matters) Bill 2022. We have the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 and, as was previously mentioned, the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022.
The Andrews Labor government is clear that it wants to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, and we are united in our support for treaty and Aboriginal Victorians. We will not play politics with treaty and reconciliation. This is a historic step forward for all Victorians as we reset the relationship between the state and Victoria’s First Nations people, and it is one I am very proud to support. We know that the best outcomes for Aboriginal people come from Aboriginal people, and this bill is self-determination in action.
Tomorrow will be a great day in the history of Victoria, as the bill to allow the Treaty Authority to be established as a truly independent umpire to oversee negotiations between government and Aboriginal Victorians will be read for a second time. What a privilege it will be to be in the house and to welcome members from the other place to join us for this landmark day in the history of Victoria. And I note once again that we are leading the nation with our steps towards treaty. I welcome that we will have the co-chairs—Bangerang and Wiradjuri elder Geraldine Atkinson, elected co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, and Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation Marcus Stewart, elected co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly—also attend the house. I welcome that the visitors may carry possum skin cloaks, wooden message sticks, wooden digging sticks and other objects into the chamber and that this is a real sign of respect of this place for the cultures of our First Nations people. This is a very special time to be in the Parliament, and I am so proud to be here. I commend the government business program to the house.
Mr ROWSWELL (Sandringham) (12:32): When I say I intend to make a short contribution on this debate, I intend to deliver on my promise to deliver a short contribution. I am very fond of the member for Wendouree, but I was assured by the Government Whip that government members would be making short contributions to this debate. Well, the member for Wendouree took her full 5 minutes.
I am looking forward to the contributions by my colleagues the member for Croydon, who will be addressing the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022 shortly, and later today the Leader of The Nationals, leading the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022. The member for Lowan will take the reins on the Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition and Other Matters) Bill 2022, the member for Polwarth on the Local Government Legislation Amendment (Rating and Other Matters) Bill 2022 and again the Leader of The Nationals on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022 during the course of tomorrow.
As you know, Speaker, and as has been identified by the Manager of Opposition Business, we will not be opposing this government program. I will take this opportunity, however, just to mention that tomorrow is 22 June, the feast day of Saint Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians. Long may he watch over us and guide us, because people in this profession need all the help that they can get.
Dr READ (Brunswick) (12:33):(By leave) The Greens will not oppose the government business program this week. We strongly support the establishment of the Treaty Authority, and this is why we are not opposing the program. We also support the bills relating to adult and community education and to rate relief in local government and the Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition and Other Matters) Bill 2022.
However, we are deeply concerned about the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022. Masquerading as a worker safety bill, this is nothing of the sort. We have requested consideration in detail for this bill as we have many questions for the Minister for Agriculture about the government’s justification for the suppression of protest and of charter rights; about how this will affect citizens studying forests and the impact of logging; about the use of banning notices and how these will impact scientists, citizens and traditional owners; and about how the act may be used to ban the use of cameras, binoculars and other items used to gather important legal evidence. So if the government does not allow the house to proceed with consideration in detail of this bill, then it will be joining the Liberals and Nationals in ramming legislation through which limits the right to protest and movement—a fundamental right in a democracy, a right established in the Victorian charter of human rights.
Motion agreed to.