Mr M O'BRIEN (Malvern—Leader of the Opposition): I am pleased to speak on the address-in-reply. I thank her Excellency the Governor for her speech and for her continuing service to the people of Victoria. Speaker, I congratulate you and the Deputy Speaker on your election to high office. I rise to speak on this address-in-reply; this is the fourth occasion I have had to do so since 2006, and that is thanks to the good graces of the people of Malvern, who four times have decided to send me to this place. I never take for granted the trust that my electorate have placed in me to represent them, to speak up for their cares and their concerns and to work hard as a local member as much as I do in any other role that I have in this place.
I would like to thank the Victorian Electoral Commission officials who conducted the election, particularly in my district of Malvern. I would also like to congratulate the other candidates in Malvern District who participated in the election in a competitive spirit but a very civil one and one which I think is a good example of how elections should be conducted.
I would like to particularly thank my Liberal Party members who helped me with the running of my local campaign, and particularly Sujay Capoor, who was my campaign manager and did an outstanding job in making sure all the logistics were completely taken care of and I could worry about my other work, and also Trish McCann, who stoically organised and often staffed the pre-poll, which seems to get longer and longer every single year. And I do thank all the volunteers from all the parties
who do staff the pre-poll. It is one of the difficult challenges of elections these days, but it is very important given how many extra people choose to vote early. Can I also take this opportunity to thank my electorate staff at the time, Sophie Clarke, Amelia Jalland and Lauren Pearson for all their great, hard work—I should also mention Andrew O’Shea—in supporting me in my role as the member for Malvern and helping me deal with the many constituent inquiries that I get from day to day.
I would also be remiss and also in trouble if I did not thank my family: my wife, Michelle, and my children, Eleanor and Reagan, for everything that they have done to support me, to put up with my absences and, sometimes, to put up with my presence. I do appreciate their love and support, and I think all members in this place know that they could not do what they do in this place it were not for the support of their loved ones, so I certainly put on record my thanks and love for my own family.
So what does the re-election of the Andrews Labor government mean for the people of my electorate?
On early indications it means more taxes and fewer services. It also means—we have just found out— we get sky rail, which the government never actually talked about before the election but very quickly after the election decided to put in place.
This is not something which my local community has an appetite for. Everyone agrees that the level crossing should be removed. There is no political contention about that. The question is: how do you do it? What is the best way to do it? Do you cut corners? Do you cut costs? Do you take a short-term view, or do you actually make the proper investment for the long-term benefit of the community?
To think we will be getting sky rail on Toorak Road, when not that far up the road you can look at Burke Road, where the former Liberal-Nationals government funded and designed the removal of the level crossing. There you can see an example of a level crossing removed properly, a level crossing removed and replaced with rail under road, a level crossing removed with a view to the future, not just short-term ideas.
The people of my electorate are not best pleased with the government. Notwithstanding the arguments over sky rail itself, there are a number of serious questions that remain to be answered about how this will actually work. How will the pedestrians and cyclists, many of whom are children, cross Toorak Road? How are they going to get across Toorak Road under a sky rail project? We keep hearing this mantra from the government that level crossing removal is all about removing dangerous and
congested level crossings. Can I just say that if the Labor government’s design leads to greater risk to children accessing the sporting ovals at Kooyong, then the government will be the one to pay a very heavy price. If the government is to be true to its word that removing level crossings is about removing dangerous level crossings and making them safer for pedestrians, motorists and others, they had better deliver on that for the people of my electorate as well.
I would like to thank my predecessor as Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bulleen. Matthew is a great friend of mine. He was a great leader. He was hardworking, and he was a committed Liberal. In fact he and I were involved in Liberal student politics together many, many years ago, so I have known Matthew for many years and I have worked with him for years. It was an honour to serve in his shadow cabinet. In many ways when you look at the totality of what we took to the election, I would say Matthew was visionary.
I still think that our vision for the decentralisation of this state and high-speed regional passenger rail was a vision which stands up to this day. While we did not receive the endorsement that we sought at the ballot box, and we accept that, a good idea does not necessarily die because of an election loss— it just means that its time has not yet come. The member for Bulleen deserves the great credit, not just of the Liberal and National MPs here but also, I think, of Victorians because he worked hard and he led a committed and united team. In a democratic system we need a very strong opposition, and he provided that. I place on the record my thanks to Matthew, my thanks to Renae, my thanks to their three boys and my best wishes for his continuing service in this place.
Mr T Smith interjected.
Mr M O'BRIEN: It is his birthday today—you are quite right, member for Kew. I place on the record my wishes for a happy birthday to the member for Bulleen and also to former Premier Napthine, who shares a 6 March birthday.
I would like to thank all of our candidates who did not quite make it. It is not easy to put yourselfforward as a candidate in an election, but our candidates did so with great energy. They flew the flag, they did so proudly and they made all of us proud. I am sorry for them that they did not manage to get across the line in terms of election, but they should be nonetheless proud of their efforts.
I would also like to particularly note our MPs on this side of the house who were not returned. I think I can use their names now because they are no longer MPs. The first is the member for Box Hill, Robert Clark. Robert was not just the father of the house. I think Robert was somebody who was greatly respected on all sides of the Parliament, not just for his length of service but also for his integrity. He is a loss to the Liberal Party, he is a loss to the coalition—moreover, he is a loss to this place. I would like to place on the record my great thanks to Robert for his many years of service to
the people of Balwyn initially and then to the people of Box Hill, his service as Minister for Finance and Attorney-General, and for his service as Manager of Opposition Business in the 58th Parliament.
I also acknowledge the wonderful service and friendship that not only I but many of us had with some of our other members who were sadly defeated. Dee Ryall, the former member for Mitcham and then Ringwood; Heidi Victoria, the former member for Bayswater; Graham Watt, the former member for Burwood; John Pesutto, the former member for Hawthorn; Brian Paynter, the former member for Bass; Andrew Katos, the former member for South Barwon; and Michael Gidley, the former member for Mount Waverley. I also note that we lost our coalition colleague Peter Crisp, the former member for Mildura, and in the other place we lost Josh Morris, Margaret Fitzherbert, Inga Peulich and Luke O’Sullivan.
Can I also thank my Liberal colleagues, who have given me the honour of leading them and therefore being Leader of the Opposition in this place. Every morning I wake up with that responsibility, which some would say is a burden. I see it as being a wonderful opportunity that my colleagues have given me to work with them to make sure that we do our job as an opposition in this 59th Parliament—that is, to hold this government accountable and to provide a better alternative at the next election in 2022.
I am a Liberal because fundamentally I believe that the best person to make a decision about an individual’s life is that individual. I think that the role of government is to do what individual citizens need to have done but cannot do by themselves. But in other matters, let people live their own lives. Let people make decisions about things that matter to them. Let decisions be made by those closest to the issue rather than those further away. Governments must work for the people, not the other way around.
I believe that the Liberal visions of opportunity—everyone having the opportunity to reach their full potential in life—of reward for effort, of environmental stewardship and of looking after the vulnerable are all strong Liberal values. These are all positive values. These are values which let everybody in our community, no matter who they are or where they are from, have the opportunity to live their best life when those values are brought into full flower. It will be my task and that of my colleagues over
the next three years and nine months to make sure that our Liberal values are on the agenda, that our Liberal values are discussed in the community and in this place, and that we bring together alternative policies and an alternative platform for government that reflect those fundamentally positive values.
By contrast, Labor do believe in the benign nature of government. They believe that government often does know better than the people it serves. There is a fundamentally different view between us on that. We do sometimes see, in this Labor government in particular, an arrogance that they know best, that they know better than anyone else. We particularly see this when it comes to taxes, because it is a
fundamental arrogance when the government says, ‘I know better how to spend your money than you do as the person who earned it’. This is why Victoria being the highest taxing state in the country is no badge of honour; it is a mark of shame, because it says that this government believes more than any other government in the country that it can spend Victorians’ money better than Victorians can. That is something that is a fundamentally different value between ourselves and the government.
We have a government that is now charging people for landfill when it is the government’s own incompetence that is destroying Victoria’s kerbside recycling scheme. We see land tax gouging small business people who have invested everything, all of their hard work, into a single property from which they are running their business and now being forced out of business because of the rapacious land tax
rates of this government. Just today we saw the government succeed, sadly, in defeating a motion to reject the outrageous CityLink stitch-up which will see CityLink users paying higher tolls for the next 20 years to pay for a different road. This is not user pays. This is saying the non-user has to pay. There is no fairness in that. There is no equity in that. There is absolutely no justice in that.
Already in the few months of this 59th Parliament we have seen clear signs of a government drunk on power and a Premier who thinks he has the right to rule Victoria, not to govern it. Talk about arrogance. What have been the priorities of this government in the few sitting weeks so far? We have seen the government push through a bill to gag IBAC, to gag the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption
Commission, to stop them from being able to hold public hearings in the way in which they see fit. Those are fundamentally the actions of a government that wants to hide in the shadows, fundamentally the actions of a government that does not believe in accountability or transparency.
We see this government seeking to abolish four joint parliamentary committees, parliamentary committees that have done amazing work in public policy on a bipartisan basis and that have led to some of the most progressive and far-reaching reforms in law of this state. The Premier likes to boast about Victoria being the most progressive state in the country. Well, it used to be said that we had the most progressive road safety laws in the country. What is the government doing? It is abolishing the road safety committee.
This is about a government seeking to shut down any form of accountability and checks and balances. We see a government trying to push through a bill attempting to give their own MPs massive pay rises. The other place had something to say about that, and thank goodness it did. It might be the one good thing for taxpayers to come out of this entire week, that amendment to clause 6. We also see this government rigging sessional orders to make their own ministers even less accountable in question
We see a government that is drunk on power, that has swept into this house with a large majority and has not seen that as being an opportunity to demonstrate it can responsibly use the power the electorate has given it. It sees that as an excuse to try and reduce the amount of transparency and accountability. When you combine political arrogance, economic recklessness and left-wing ideology, you get a toxic
cocktail that is just bad for Victoria. Victoria deserves better than that. We deserve much better than that, and I do look forward to leading the Liberal-Nationals opposition in this place to ensure that Victoria will have an option better than that. We will be a much better alternative for the people of Victoria at the next election in 2022.