No confidence in government

21 August 2018


If the Minister for Industry and Employment's defence is the best that those opposite have got on this motion, then I think they should be very, very afraid. I rise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, a motion of no confidence in this government, because the people that I represent have lost faith. I hear that day in and day out.

I am very mindful in speaking to this motion that we come here not as individuals but each as one elected voice representing 44 000 or so people. As I move around my electorate, those people tell me that they have had enough. They have had enough of the corruption and the lies that they have seen from the Premier and the Labor Party over the last four years, and Labor's record says it all. Consider these words:

The right to govern is a privilege and it must never be taken for granted. Governments must also be honest and transparent. Respect for the Victorian people starts with respect for our democracy. Decisions shouldn't be made in the shadows, communities should always be consulted and the powers of the Parliament and the government should never be abused.

Who said that? That was stated by the Victorian Labor Party in their 2014 election platform. Now we have had four years of lying and rorting, and those words are completely incongruous with the MPs who now occupy the government benches.

Labor has taken its right to govern in this state for granted. It has lied repeatedly to Victorians. It has made decisions behind closed doors with no consideration for the people, the Victorians that we serve, and it has abused time and time again the power of the Parliament and the honour of government. It might come as no surprise that those words have now disappeared from Labor's 2018 platform. They have vanished into thin air because they are empty words. In fact there is virtually no mention whatsoever of standards. There is virtually no mention whatsoever of transparency or of honesty.

When you think about it, this government is characterised — its term is bookended — by police investigations. When they went to the election in 2014 they were under investigation by the police for theft of a dictaphone. The now Premier's office was interviewed. There were recordings of private conversations that were lost, perhaps stolen, at a Labor Party state conference that miraculously turned up in the public domain. We have got to think about the red shirts rort now which hangs over their heads. We have 21 MPs, including six ministers, sitting on the opposite side of this house or in the upper house who are under investigation by the fraud and extortion squad.

They have stolen almost $400 000 of taxpayer money for party campaigners, and the Premier claims that he did not know. That does not wash with a single person outside of this place. Everybody knows that the Premier could not have been oblivious to that scheme. Those MPs falsified time sheets. They claimed staff were working in their offices when in fact they were campaigning in other seats. The Ombudsman has described it as an artifice. She has said it was wrong. She has also said that the Labor Party is the only party that had such arrangements. Now we have a Minister for Police who was a beneficiary of that scheme, and we have the Attorney-General, who is at the table, who misused those parliamentary resources — the first law officer of the state — and despite our questions today he denies that that causes a fundamental conflict with his role as the first law officer of this state.

Whether MPs are named by the Ombudsman or not, every government MP is now implicated in this rort because every government MP, whether they are named or not, has voted to block the Ombudsman's investigation. You have blocked and obfuscated at every single turn. You have wasted more than $1 million of taxpayer funds in fighting the Ombudsman right through from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal to the High Court. More than $1 million of taxpayer funds has been expended in trying to defend your grubby, grubby theft.

I would like to reflect again for the benefit of this house on the statements made in Labor's 2014 election platform, including that the powers of the Parliament and the government should never be abused. That was clearly advice that none of the four Presiding Officers who stepped down took. We have had four actually. In fact they only occupied three of the positions available, yet there have been four Presiding Officers who were forced to step down from their postings.

The office of the Speaker, of the Deputy President and of the Deputy Speaker are supposed to be held to a high standard in this place, and yet we have the member for Melton, who rorted $174 000 by putting a caravan by the sea. When he was caught out he said, 'Well, it's my home; I'm claiming it'. There was not a single indication of contrition. The PwC report, commissioned by the Parliament, called it opportunistic. Well, Victorians might call it something else. They might call it theft. The former Speaker claimed almost $40 000 to live in Queenscliff so he could have a second residence in the city. It is interesting, isn't it, that both the former Speaker and former Deputy Speaker chose to base their homes in the electorate of Bellarine, where the Minister for Police herself does not live. The Treasurer's response to that was that there is always a way around the rules. Labor continues to rely on the member for Melton's vote.

Let us go back to the platform, which says that governments must be honest. Khalil Eideh, the former Deputy President in the upper house, is under active investigation by IBAC for rorting his printing allowance. There is the allegation that he spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money from his printing budget in order to buy false Labor Party memberships, and of course the outcome in that investigation is still pending.

The fourth is so long ago that I think most of us have forgotten about it, but what about Cesar Melhem in the Council? He was forced to resign after investigations by the trade union royal commission found that he cheated workers of more than $2 million in penalty rates. This is the party that claims to be for workers, the same party that is selling out timber workers across this state and the same party that has sold out those workers in Hazelwood. They are completely hypocritical.

Then there is Steve Herbert. This one particularly grates for me, because Steve Herbert, knowing that he would probably lose his seat in Eltham, actually made the shift to Northern Victoria Region despite never having lived there. When he got caught chauffeuring his dogs Patch and Ted around the state, as others have gone into extensively, between his bayside house and his holiday house in Trentham, most people in northern Victoria said, 'Steve who?', because we had never seen him. He was never in that electorate, and we had the Labor Party replacing him with yet another MP who is not from that area, Mark Gepp. I feel sympathetic towards Jaclyn. You know, you guys have rolled her for the number one spot. She got in by 88 votes. You rolled her, and she now —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I remind the member for Euroa to refer to members by their correct titles.

Ms RYAN — On that, Deputy Speaker, I think you will see that the Leader of the House earlier was actively referring to people by their first names. Those opposite prevented this member for Northern Victoria Region from making it into that number one spot in northern Victoria, despite the fact that she was actually born in the region, to install Mark Gepp, who, again, none of us had ever seen or ever heard from. That sense of entitlement that those opposite have with government resources really sticks with me — and that they would have a former member for Northern Victoria Region ferrying his dogs around in the car.

It is the same sense of entitlement that has been demonstrated in the last four years with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the government's wanton destruction of 60 000 CFA volunteers that they have spent four years systematically undermining. This government has been characterised by lies and deceit at every turn, and that is really, really frustrating to the people that I represent. My electorate is absolutely dismayed by the continuing lies of those opposite. They are so city-centric. We keep seeing them making commitments that they then wriggle out of and that they never deliver on.

Perhaps most classically in my electorate is the issue around the replacement of rolling stock in northern Victoria. The Premier in April 2017 stood in Wangaratta, and this is what he said:

Let's have the federal government provide the money for the track and my government will provide the money for the trains, and we will get on with making this service much, much better.

We stand ready once allocations are made to improve the track to fulfil our important obligations …

Well, Darren Chester did deliver that money from the federal government, and the Premier has been nowhere to be seen since. There has been no allocation of rolling stock in north-eastern Victoria, in stark contrast with those on this side of the house, who have been willing to put our money where our mouth is and who have committed to replacing all of the long-haul rolling stock on that line to the tune of $120 million. Not a cent has been invested by the Minister for Public Transport or by the Premier into that line.

Exactly the same goes for the Kilmore-Wallan bypass. The Minister for Roads and Road Safety trotted up there before the last election, and the Labor candidate talked about how that project would not proceed under a coalition government, despite the fact that we had fully budgeted for it and it was due to be completed by the end of 2017. After they had promised that they would allocate funding, that they would build it, we now have Jaclyn Symes — the one Labor MP that we occasionally see — coming out and telling us that the project is not even shovel-ready. They backtrack on absolutely everything. Seymour College is a similar story.

And then we have the funding from the lease of the port of Melbourne — $970 million that was supposed to be reinvested back into regional communities. We have not seen a cent of it. In fact we have had the roads budget cut. We have got potholes everywhere. We have had lots of money in wire rope barriers, but we have not seen a cent of that $970 million we were promised. Nor have we seen the $200 million that has vanished from the sale of Rural Finance. Those lies continue.

They continue with TAFE, and it was interesting to hear the Minister for Industry and Employment speak before on TAFE, where they promised that they would grow enrolments and promised an annual training budget of $1.2 billion. The Productivity Commission blew that out of the water earlier this year when they showed that just $568 million of the training budget was being spent in Victoria. Student numbers have declined from 460 000 students in 2014 to 314 000 in 2016.

This is a government that has been characterised by lies. It has failed to deliver on its own election platform, where it promised that it would be transparent and open with the Victorian public. Those Labor MPs have demonstrated breathtaking arrogance because they believe that government is their right, not something to be earned. They have lied and obfuscated, and the people that I represent have lost confidence in this government and confidence in Daniel Andrews as Premier.

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