Tuesday, 20 December 2022
The Clerk: The house will now elect a President. If you wish to nominate a candidate, please approach the microphone at the table after I have given you the call. Are there any nominations?
Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (11:21): I would like to nominate Mr Shaun Leane.
The Clerk: Is there a seconder for the nomination?
Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (11:21): I second the nomination.
The Clerk: Mr Leane, do you accept the nomination?
The Clerk: Are there any further nominations? There being no further nominations, I declare Mr Leane to be elected President.
The PRESIDENT (Shaun Leane) took the chair, read the prayer and made an acknowledgement of country.
The PRESIDENT (11:23): If people do not mind, I will take licence to make some brief comments. Do not worry, it is big writing. There are a number of pages, but I will be brief. I just personally want to acknowledge the traditional owners of all the lands in our great state of Victoria and pay my respects to their elders past and present, and also of course the elders that are participating today in what is a very important day. It is of great significance that they have been prepared to support us.
I wish to acknowledge the past President, Nazih Elasmar. He had this role I think during a very difficult time, and I wish to acknowledge the work that he did in this role.
I want to thank the chamber for electing me again. I also acknowledge the Premier for asking me to nominate to be the President. The Presiding Officers are very important positions, and I intend to take it seriously.
On a personal note, I want to acknowledge the support of Paula, who I believe is my eternal soulmate. Eternity is a long time, so there is stuff that goes with that. Like sometimes, particularly when we are shopping, I walk too closely behind her and I kind of step on the back of the heel of her shoe, and that can be annoying. But other than that, it is just fantastic.
My kids Jacqui and Moni are just fantastic people, and we are so lucky to have them. They have got a couple of great blokes, Tim and Mathew, as well. Our grandkids Jules, Winnie, Sam and Ben – anyone who is as old as me and has got grandkids knows how much joy they bring you; they just bring you so much joy.
I want to acknowledge the recent squad that I worked with, Vicki, Kirsten, Pete, Hannah, Nat, Clint and Zoe. They are fantastic at what they do and what they did but on top of that are just really quality human beings. I say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I know that I can improve my contribution as President compared to the last time. I have thought about this, and I know I can be a better President, not just in the chamber, where I believe I can improve, but also in the important role that the President plays outside of this chamber.
At the start of the term, the Presiding Officers and department heads determine a bit of a mission statement for that term of Parliament, and I was fortunate enough to be in that discussion in the last term of Parliament. There was a lot of discussion that I think I and Colin Brooks did not understand about the roles of Presiding Officers and departments in defending the institution of Parliament. I did not really understand how we do that, so I actually said that the Presiding Officers’ and the parliamentary departments’ roles should centre around making sure that we assist MPs in every way we can to be the best representatives of the people they represent. I would like to change that a little bit. I would like to change it so that the Presiding Officers’ and the parliamentary departments’ roles should be to do everything we can to assist the members of Parliament and their staff to be the best representatives of the people they represent.
The electorate office staff, as we all know, do not get anywhere near the acknowledgement and the credit that they deserve. When we think about those staff, particularly those of the members that have come back from the last term and previous terms, the role they had to play in this last term was absolutely enormous and a credit to them. I would like to give a shout-out to my electorate officers James, Alex, Cathy and Adam, but I also want to give a shout-out to every MP’s electorate officers for the last term for the amazing work they did under what I believe – and some of you may agree – was great stress, great duress. They should be applauded.
I will finish on two things. Firstly, my President digital trading cards will be available online in the next couple of weeks. That was a joke. But on a very serious note, for us as MPs, new and old: this is our workplace. We come here every couple of weeks, and this is our workplace. It is also the workplace of hundreds of other workers – hundreds of other workers. If we are unfortunate to have a late-night sitting and you have supper out there – think of when you were a kid, when for supper you used to hold a cup with two hands and have cocoa; well, it is kind of like that but worse – you will see hundreds of people queueing up at 2 am that support us in our work. We are not better than them. They deserve our friendship, they deserve our respect, and I think we should expect that from each other.
I will finish there. Once again, thank you for your support. Let us do some really good work this term.
Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (11:29): President, as Leader of the Government I would like to express my congratulations and warm welcome for your return to the chair. As you know, President, a lot has happened in the four years since you first took this chair, and I think you have touched on some of that in your contribution. I think it is almost four years to the day that you were here. I reflect on some comments that were made at that time by the former Leader of the Government, who reflected on your ability to make him cry, and the reason that you are able to do that is your kindness, your empathy and the passion that you bring towards your job and the way you talk about it. I am not afraid to admit that on occasion you have made me cry, and I am sure you will again. No-one needs reminding of the challenges of the past four years, and you have touched on some of those. I would like to just concentrate on some of the highlights, the positives. You have talked about the incredible work of the staff, particularly electorate officers. But, Mr Leane, I want to reflect on your time, particularly in your previous occupation of this chair, and how you used that.
Mr Leane was President from December 2018 to June 2020, which coincided with the arrival of the global pandemic. A lot changed. There were a lot of challenges, but Mr Leane took the opportunity to partner with charitable organisations, including the Salvos, run by his best mate Brendan Nottle, to stand up the parliamentary kitchens to make more than 4000 meals a day to meet the growing demand of clients in our city but importantly, as he reflected on, to provide ongoing employment to the many people that worked here in the kitchens of Parliament.
Mr Leane was also the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Suburban Development from June 2020 to June 2021, and his efforts to get out and meet local councils were noted on numerous occasions. As other members who represent Northern Victoria know, it is a really large electorate, but he got around and had councils reflect on the fact that he had made the effort to go to places, up to the Shire of Towong and the like, and say, ‘What a great bloke. He made us feel like not just one council out of 79 councils but really important in terms of our particular region and the people that live there.’
As a son of a World War II veteran I know that you brought a very special personal perspective to the role of Minister for Veterans, and along with the Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy I am sure you will bring elements of these portfolios to your role – again, roles that really involved people and your ability to focus on them and their needs.
This is a chamber of 50 per cent new people, which is pretty incredible, so welcome to the new members. But that is 20 people who have the great pleasure of soon coming to know our President’s humour, kindness and fairness, and a former electrician who brings so much joy to this chamber. As he helps to guide our contributions and a high standard of debate, as I am sure he will do, I am sure you will become a friend of Mr Leane.
We are all here to do our very best for our constituents and the communities we represent, and, Mr Leane, in this regard you are a fine example. I also would like to join you in acknowledging former President Mr Elasmar, the man who has the great privilege of being in the hall in between two photos of Mr Leane. I also join you in thanking the staff and welcoming everyone here to the 60th Parliament. I would like to congratulate you, and I look forward to working with you in your role as President. Congratulations.
Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (11:33): President, can I extend congratulations on behalf of the opposition and also echo some of those words that the Leader of the Government has said about the role you previously played in this place. You know, having been President, how important this role is for the functioning of this chamber. With that comes responsibility, and I have no doubt that you will execute the duties of this place with fairness, impartiality and propriety. Together we will work effectively, and I look forward to doing that. On behalf of the opposition I would like to also acknowledge and extend those congratulations to former President Mr Elasmar. I know that Mr Atkinson is in the house today too, and he has also had this prestigious role. So, Mr Leane, on behalf of the opposition, congratulations again, and we do look forward to working with you over this term.
Samantha RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (11:34): Thank you, President. On behalf of the Greens I too would like to offer my congratulations on your appointment to the role of President once again. It is with confidence that we can all enter this term of Parliament with you at the helm. I would like to echo the sentiments of both the government and the opposition in terms of your track record already in this role and welcome your commitment to the work you want to expand on in this term of Parliament. There is some really important work that we as a chamber and as a Parliament can do this term, and the way we do it will be just as important as what we achieve together. So on behalf of the Victorian Greens we look forward to working with you and everyone in this chamber to make this place as democratic and as inclusive as possible to reflect the will of all Victorians as much as we possibly can.