Thank you, and goodbye!

Legislative Assembly 20 September 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (16:38): On 20 December 2006 I stood up in this house to make my inaugural remarks, and I stand at the same microphone, from the same seat, to make what I expect will be my penultimate remarks in this house some 16 years later. There were 88 members on the roll in December 2006, as there are now, but of those 88 I think there are about 22 left. Sixty-six have gone, and by my calculations at least another nine will not be returning for the 60th Parliament—that is, those who are going voluntarily or who are at least leaving at the end of this session.

On the surface not much has changed in this Parliament, but there are a few things that I think are probably worth commenting on. The one that is probably most obvious is the fact that in 2006 this was a very paper-driven organisation. Not only was the Parliament driven by paper, our electorate offices were driven by paper. Something like 80 per cent of the correspondence that came into my office in 2007 was in fact paper, and of course we now work very, very differently. That opens up all sorts of opportunities for the way we work.

The related change, I guess, is the accommodation. No-one is up over the dome anymore. We are all down in relatively comfortable offices. We all actually can get some work done when we come in here, and that is a big change as well.

While the working conditions have improved and while this is a far more efficient place, a change that perhaps is not so welcome is the fact that I think over these 16 years the relevance of this house and the relevance of the Parliament in the context of Victorian democracy has been further diminished. It was not great in 2006. I think, sadly, it has further diminished.

This is not a partisan remark. This is neither the time nor place to be partisan, and I am not going to be, because both sides are guilty. Both sides have allowed this to happen. It is not good for democracy. There has been a serious decline. There are lots of examples I can give, and I am sure most people in this chamber now have heard me rant about the budget process and how that has so diminished over the years.

The fact is that I do not think at the moment we have the capacity to hold the government to account. We do not have the capacity to hold the Victorian public service to account, and we need to do something about that. We still have the tools to do it, but the current practices do not permit it to occur.

We have a culture of questions but not answers. We have a veneer of politeness in our standing orders that prevents us from calling out untruths, whether it be untruths coming from people in this chamber on very rare occasions or whether it be the far more frequent thing we all encounter—lots of untruths from outside, and we do not have the capacity to call that out. We have, as the member for Shepparton frequently reminds us, no private members business.

We have, frankly, reduced access to public servants. I was in a bill briefing not that long ago—I cannot remember what the briefing was, and the briefing itself was perfectly adequate—and the people doing the briefing were entirely ministerial advisers. There was not a public servant in the virtual meeting, so we did not have the opportunity to query with the public service issues in terms of more broad Victorian public policy, issues of implementation or to discuss the actual legislation with the people that were responsible for preparing the drafting instructions, and I do not think that is a good thing.

The third point I want to make on this is the culture in the chamber. We have a highly partisan culture in this chamber, and I think personally that is a good thing as long as you are talking about policy, as long as you are talking about ideas, as long as you are talking about legislation. When it becomes partisan and personal, then the capacity for us to have serious discussion is diminished immediately.

Too often, and certainly sitting in the Speaker’s chair, you notice it again and again, the contributions to the second-reading debates are formulaic. They are points you have heard 17 times before. We have also developed a culture of the use of points of order to shut people down, and I know I have called that out a few times as well. If you do not agree with what someone is saying in debate, do not try and shout them down, do not take a point of order. Put your hand up, stand up next, argue your case, put the rebuttal and participate in the debate.

That is the only way we can keep this chamber as a living, breathing organ that has an impact. If it becomes formulaic, if it just becomes process driven, it may as well not be here; it does become a rubber stamp. I think frankly no-one in this place wants it to become a rubber stamp. No-one wants to lose what we have got.

Too often in this house division is fabricated where truly none exists—far too often. Courtesy in debate is not a sign of weakness. Working together for the good of our communities is not a sign of weakness. The ability to compromise should be seen as a sign of strength—to get a solution. Surely that is what we are all here for, to get a solution, not to say, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to engage because I can’t get everything I want’.

As a community we have got to stop shouting at one another. Perhaps it is part of social media, and it is certainly a worldwide phenomenon, but we have got to get people to engage again. You cannot get things done, you cannot have a cohesive society, if we allow this practice of just shouting at one another to go on, and I am not talking about question time in here; I am talking about wider public debate.

We cannot have a situation where you allow the loud, noisy minority to dominate the majority. You cannot have a situation where this place is used to pass laws to further the agenda of a minority, regardless of how big or small that minority is, at the expense of the majority. I think that is a real threat for this institution, and I only make these comments because, as most people know, I do really care about the institution of the Parliament.

While I do have some concerns about the way the Parliament operates, I have also had the privilege of being part of some terrific debates in this chamber, and of course those debates particularly are the ones where the Labor members get a conscience vote and people on this side get a free vote. It is also the most exhausting way you can pass legislation.

I am not suggesting we should ever go back to a free vote on everything or consideration in detail on every single bill, but on those bills, when they come up—I do not think we have had one in this Parliament—you see this house working in the best possible way. You really do see the Parliament at its best and, as I said, its most exhausting.

Personally it has been quite challenging. Whether it has been the stem cell legislation, the Relationships Act 2008, the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 or the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017, the least I can say from my perspective is that it has been character building. When you have got to make the decision in a physical division to walk around there and sit on that side and you are looking back—I have got a picture of me sitting in, I think, the seat where the Assistant Treasurer is—at a sea of Liberal and National members of Parliament and there are two or three of you on the other side, it can be character building.

I want to make two observations on that. The first is that those decisions were not taken lightly. They were taken after a lot of consideration of the legislation concerned, and I would not change any of those decisions.

The second point I want to make on that is to say thankyou to all of my Liberal and Nationals colleagues past and present, who have never to my face, and I do not think much behind my back, if at all, been critical of the decisions I took in regard to those bills. I certainly appreciate that support. I talked about the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017, walked outside, sat down and had a beer with the Leader of the Opposition, who had a diametrically different view to me. I think the way the party has operated in the last few years internally has been terrific. I cannot say the same for many of the party outside—they are not quite as tolerant. But to my colleagues in here: I very much appreciate the way we have operated in that regard.

Sixteen years as a member of the house, 7½ years in local government—it is probably almost enough. I have had the great luck to serve not on the Treasury bench but as a shadow minister for seven years and as a parliamentary secretary or shadow parliamentary secretary for another eight years, so very little time in fact on the backbench in a metaphoric sense.

The other aspect I want to touch on is the importance of our committee system. I have had the great good luck to be involved with a number of committees, mostly as deputy chair or chair. The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee is of course very, very political, but most other committees in this place, including the Privileges Committee, I think make a genuine contribution either to public policy or to the way we run the Parliament. That is something I certainly was not expecting to be involved with when I came in, and it is something I have very much enjoyed.

I was talking about Robin Cooper at the start of the year and his 12 years on the Privileges Committee. I find at the end of this Parliament that I have clocked up 12 years on the Privileges Committee and eight years as deputy chair, so I am hoping wherever he is that I will not have another meeting of the Privileges Committee between now and the Parliament expiring.

It has also been a great ride in terms of local politics. I had the privilege of winning this seat on primaries four times straight. The best I achieved was 60.5 per cent, which was not quite the postwar record for a Liberal candidate in Mornington. That was 65 per cent in 1955 for the seat of Mornington, but in that election the Liberal candidate was not opposed by a Labor candidate, so I think I can probably take credit for almost the best result.

Of course we cannot do these things by ourselves. I want to thank a number of groups of people: my current office staff, Kimberley and Andrew, and James, who works a day a week; and former office staff Jack; Sara; Max; Dan; Robbie—unfortunately now deceased; Debbie; Sharon and Jeremy.

I particularly want to acknowledge my office manager, Raeleigh Speedie, of 13½ years service, who has always been a source of great advice and encouragement and, most importantly, has run the office like clockwork and allowed me to do other things, so I do thank her very much for that.

I also want to acknowledge that I have had great support in terms of the Mornington electorate conference and the Liberal Party in the electorate throughout the journey. In the past I have thanked pretty much everyone involved in those former campaigns.

I want to acknowledge now, today, the outgoing executive of the Mornington electorate conference, many of whom are sitting up in the gallery there: the chair, Reagan Barry; Dr Alice Hill; Cr Steve Holland; George-Ann Sullivan, the long-serving secretary; Matthew Wilson; James Woodland; Bree Ambry; Linda Morris—and there will be a little bit more of that in a sec; and Peter Angelico, not a member of the executive, but a great contributor. I do not have time, I am afraid, to thank you all individually and recognise your contributions, but I do certainly value your support and value the opportunity to work with a younger group of very keen Liberals who certainly put their stamp on the electorate in the time we worked together.

I acknowledge very quickly the parliamentary staff, particularly the clerks. We have a great team here. We are very, very lucky—and I think probably enough said on that—we have a great team in all divisions of the Parliament.

One final thankyou. In my inaugural speech I mentioned that my wife, Linda—I think the words were something like—had worked tirelessly every day of the 22-month campaign. Many members of course know Linda now, and I am sure they will not be surprised when I say that that 22 months is now almost 18 years. And it has been constant. It has been total support and it has been hard work—and it has not just been for me but it has been for a number of other Liberal candidates, including Sharn Coombes, the candidate for Dunkley, who is sitting up in the gallery, and also Tim Wilson, the former two-term member for Goldstein, who has also benefited from his mother’s hard work.

I am so thankful for Linda’s support. She is a real dynamo. She is a great person to have in your corner, and I am so grateful for that support and the fact it is still ongoing, I have got to say. Whether it survives the end of Parliament, who knows. I say that in jest, but I have no doubt we have a great partnership, and I very much do appreciate that. While I intend to leave politics entirely, I am not sure Linda has quite got that plan yet—not on my behalf, on her behalf—so we will see where that goes. But her support has been central to my success over the past 18 years, and I do thank her for it very, very much.

I also want to say thankyou to all current and former members of this place. It has been an absolute pleasure serving with you. I am proud to say I have got friends right across the spectrum; I will not name and shame. But for all the vitriol that we can hurl at one another—and it is vitriol sometimes—across the chamber, I think in many instances we still have the capacity to do good work together. I sometimes think it is a shame that the public do not see that.

I certainly want to finish by wishing the Leader of the Opposition and the team every success in the coming election. I wish you all success, but I think Bob Cameron said something like ‘I wish you all well and some of you more well than others’, or words to that effect. I guess that is the sentiment here. It has been an absolute privilege, Speaker. It has been an absolute pleasure to serve the people of Mornington for four successive terms. Thank you, and goodbye.

Apartment Standards – Opportunities for improvement

Legislative Assembly 21 September 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (10:34): It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to make some comments on the Environment and Planning Committee report into apartment design standards. I thought I was not going to get this opportunity, but I am delighted that it has arrived.

The report was tabled around about 2 August. The committee, exactly a year before in August 2021, was tasked with looking at current apartment living standards in Victoria; considering improvements that could be made, focusing on liveability, the development of apartment buildings themselves as well as communal areas; and then looking at what people are doing in other states, nations and jurisdictions across the world in terms of apartment design standards.

In response to those terms of reference, the committee made 66 findings and some 35 recommendations, and I will come back to a couple of those towards the end.

I did want to make the point, though, that this hearing was conducted in part during the COVID lockdown, but we were very lucky that conditions eased in February and we were able to go back and talk to a number of witnesses face to face. We had some public hearings over at St Andrews Place. We were able to get out and look at apartments, and obviously that physical inspection is critically important in a task like this.

I did want to make the point for future committees: if you feel like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to drive to Shepparton, we’ll do it online’, resist that temptation because you do not get the reaction from the people you are talking to—you do not see the body language, you do not necessarily get to pick up on the facial expressions—and you do not get to see things on the ground.

Can I suggest that while it might be easier and allegedly more efficient you do not get the input that you need. From being able to actually see things on the ground, to interact with the community you get a much broader picture of whatever the issue is you are addressing and see how the particular subject plays out in a range of scenarios across the state. So I do make that point.

I acknowledge the members of the committee, my colleagues the members for Eildon and Ovens Valley and, I think briefly in this inquiry, the member for Evelyn, and I also want to acknowledge the member for Burwood, the member for Yan Yean, the member for Box Hill and of course the chair, the member for Tarneit. She made some kind observations about my work on the committee, and I want to acknowledge those and thank her for them.

I also want to recognise the secretariat. I think the member for Wendouree actually read out a few of the names that I am going to read out, which indicates the fluid nature of the committee staff, particularly during the pandemic. During the period of this inquiry we had two committee managers: Igor Dosen from late February and Nathan Bunt in the run-up to the end of January. Aimee Weir came on board with the committee on 4 April. Raylene D’Cruz also came on board on 4 April. Katie Helme was on board until 1 April and then moved across to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee. Helen Ross-Soden has been with the committee for the four years; she has been there for the whole journey—the only member of the committee staff that made it through. I just want to acknowledge all of those people. It is not easy to pick up an inquiry halfway through, when the inquiry phase is done, and then try and come up with a report, and I think the committee has managed to do that quite effectively.

Of course we looked at overseas jurisdictions, as I mentioned; we looked very much at what was happening in Melbourne and did a literature review in terms of other jurisdictions across Australia. We focused on dwelling amenity, building amenity and performance, and external amenity as well.

We have a great opportunity in this state it comes to urban consolidation, but it is something that has been a battle for the entire time I have spent in public life.

We really need to do something about the amenity of multi-dwelling developments. We need to protect the amenity, but equally we have got to protect agricultural land. We cannot just keep expanding and expanding, but we should not be achieving that consolidation at the expense of amenity.

People should not be asked to sacrifice amenity simply to stop that urban expansion. Some clear minimum standards I think are required. We have identified those in the report. We need to encourage smarter development.

We need to encourage development that is a genuine alternative to detached housing. I think there is a lot of good work going on. We need to do more. I commend the report.

Casino Legislation – Tight Regulation Essential

Legislative Assembly 9 June 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:27): I am pleased to have the opportunity to join this debate on the Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022.

Of course, as page 1 tells us, we are amending the Casino Control Act 1991, the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 and the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission Act 2011.

I should also, before I go on, declare an interest as a director of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, appointed by the Parliament. But I did want to make the point, in terms of a disclaimer at least, that my comments today do not in any way reflect necessarily the views of the board of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. They are entirely my own comments.

Mr Wynne: You’re not conflicted, though.

Mr MORRIS: I agree. The minister says I am not conflicted. I am not conflicted, but I think it is important to make the declaration just to put those comments in context.

I do welcome the reforms proposed, and you have only got to go back to the comments of the casino royal commissioner, where he said in his opening remarks:

Within a very short time, the Commission discovered that for many years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful. This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.

He went on to talk about the regulator being bullied and how the manner in which Crown responded to various investigations was behaviour that was not expected of a regulated entity, including providing false and misleading information, delaying the investigation and so on.

He also went on to talk about the impact on vulnerable people who have a gambling problem and made the point quite rightly that the cost to the community of problem gambling is enormous. And it is not just the person with the problem that suffers of course, it is those around them and those beyond them.

There is also then some commentary around the unsuitability or otherwise of Crown to hold a licence.

The point is that this was a complete failure in terms of the regulator—a complete and absolute failure. I know the member for Euroa talked about the resourcing of the regulator, and I think that that is a significant part of the issue. But the regulation failed.

While I do welcome the reforms that are proposed here, as I said, hopefully this is not an exercise of rearranging the deckchairs, because this new commission has to be properly resourced.

The regulation of liquor and of gambling has been an ongoing problem for decades, but when you come to the second-reading speech, the bulk of the speech is about, effectively, the casino, whereas when you look at the bill, the bulk of the bill is in fact about regulating liquor—perhaps rewriting, not reinventing the legislation around the administration of the liquor system but simply remaking that legislation with a different agency overseeing it. So I am not convinced that we have got this right.

I am not convinced that we have got the administration or regulation of liquor right, and I am not convinced that we have got the regulation of gambling right.

When you look at the participation rate, it is critical that we do get that right because at least 70 per cent of Victorians, or 69 per cent of Victorians, engage in one gambling activity each year. Forty-four per cent engage in TattsLotto and 37 per cent in buying raffle tickets and things, but playing pokies or electronic gaming machines (EGMs), 14.1 per cent, and in the casino, 6.1 per cent.

Those are significant numbers of Victorians, and it is important that we get it right.

As others have commented, I am certainly not a wowser. Yes, I do gamble. Mostly it is TattsLotto, but if I go to the races, I will put 10 bucks on a horse. That is about the extent of it; frankly it does not excite me in the slightest. But I know for others it can be very addictive.

But the reality is that prohibition does not work. People choose to gamble. They should be able to choose to gamble, and I certainly do not have a problem with that. But I also recognise that these are very big businesses.

Quite rightly, in the time that we have had the casino operating and in the run-up to its opening, we have had a focus on organised crime, and that is entirely reasonable, particularly given the huge amounts of cash that wash through the system.

But I think we also need to have a focus on the impact on consumers, because it is frankly not acceptable to have an industry of this nature that is not heavily regulated and that is not effectively regulated, because when you think about it, a licence to have electronic gaming machines is effectively a licence to make money. It is a lucrative licence. I know some have found it difficult to make a dollar, but the overwhelming majority do very well.

Similarly, with a casino, it is lucrative, but it is also a monopoly, so it has got to be heavily regulated and it has got to be effectively regulated.

I also think there is an argument to be had around how the proceeds of the activities from this industry are utilised. Frankly, if the outcomes from what is potentially a harmful activity are simply to generate profits for the providers, to generate significant revenue streams for the state, to generate jobs, either directly or indirectly—and all of those are good things—if those are the only outcomes, that is simply not good enough, because as I mentioned, I think the community has the right to participate but it has the right to participate on a level playing field.

This is a potentially harmful activity, so you have got to have support mechanisms in place to allow the activity to take place but to recognise that there are potentially harmful outcomes. You need the regulation. You need to provide the support.

We have an activity called ‘driving on the road’. We have the regulation: you cannot drive wherever you like, you have got to drive on the left-hand side. If the worst outcome happens and you have a collision, you have support services there—you have ambulances to come and get people who are injured, you have tow trucks to come and take away the cars. You have all those things, and then you have the ongoing support—and all of those things just happen as a matter of course. But we do not necessarily see that in terms of this industry.

To give you an example, if you look at the total media spend of the casino—the EGM providers, the operators, the various other opportunities for wagering and betting, the total money spent in those areas—and then compare it with the money spent for problem gambling service providers, for public education programs and for the impact of gambling, there just is no comparison. It is not a level playing field. It is way lopsided.

If you think about how effective—going back to the road analogy—the TAC program has been, there has been a lot of money spent, but it has been an excellent investment. Together with effective regulation and tools like speed cameras, as a society we have driven down the road toll, even as the number of cars on the road has been expanding significantly.

I think we really do need a similar campaign in terms of the gambling industry, but we need a well-resourced campaign. I am quite certain that the resources that are available at the moment—and maybe more resources will be available as a result of this bill going through—need to be boosted significantly.

I just want to conclude by referring very quickly to the impact of the pandemic.

Life shifted online for many people throughout the pandemic, and life gambling-wise shifted online for many people as well. That is an epidemic we still have to come.

Again, we need much better support for those services.

Peninsula Housing Crisis Continues

Legislative Assembly 7 June 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:53): Just under a month ago I raised the housing crisis that we have on the Mornington Peninsula.

At the time I made the point that we have the sixth-largest number of rough sleepers in the state and we have exceedingly low vacancy rates in terms of rental properties, and I highlighted not only the lack of action but the lack of even a commentary from the government on the issue.

I made the point that we need to utilise our housing assets far more effectively than we do now.

So I was interested to read an article in the Mornington News on 31 May.

They were talking about recently released data from CoreLogic on rental increases by postcode. Seven of the top eight postcodes—so, seven of the eight highest rental increases—were on the Mornington Peninsula, seven of eight.

We have got families being forced to sleep in cars, sleeping in tents on the foreshore—when it is 6, 7, 8 degrees in the morning they are in a tent on the foreshore. The council has had to open up camping areas that would normally be closed.

Also in the same article there was some commentary around the number of government properties that are empty, that are not available for these people. And just to cap it off, the number of new dwellings to be constructed under the Big Build is 26.

Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula have 2544 families on the waiting list, so the Big Build is one dwelling for every 98 families.

Spending Trebled,
Debt heading towards $170 billion,
another Labor Budget

Legislative Assembly 25 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:19): It is great to have the opportunity to join this debate on the Appropriation (2022–2023) Bill 2022 and Appropriation (Parliament 2022–2023) Bill 2022. This is my 16th budget, and it most certainly will be my last.

Of course for eight of those budgets I was associated with the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), along with the minister who spoke just a minute ago for four of those years. Six of those years were either as chair of the committee or as deputy chair of the committee. And frankly I think that is probably enough exposure to the budget and the budget process for anyone. Probably Treasurers and Assistant Treasurers have more exposure, but for ordinary members of the Assembly that is more than enough.

I think it also needs to be said, though, that the landscape has changed enormously since 2006.

2007 was of course John Brumby’s final budget as Treasurer before he was moved up the ladder and became Premier later on that year. It was probably one of the last, if not the last, responsible Labor budgets that we saw.

I will come back to the numbers because clearly those numbers have changed enormously, but it is not only the numbers that have changed. Transparency in the budget process has been significantly diminished.

When Steve Bracks was Premier he had a very strong commitment to the PAEC process. He put extra money in; he felt that there was not enough money going in under the Kennett government, and he was probably right, frankly. He put extra money in, he made sure the committee was resourced and he was very, very keen to facilitate the process. Unfortunately what we see now is that while the number of hours of hearings may be the same, the schedule is very much curtailed—so early morning starts, late evening finishes. In terms of work, there is nothing wrong with starting early in the morning or finishing late at night, but when you have these sorts of hearings back to back, one after the other, you have got fresh ministers coming in, you have got tired and at the end of the time exhausted committee members, it is not a reasonable match.

You also have a situation where hearings are occurring at hours that are not convenient to the media, and that again minimises the coverage, so we have far less coverage at PAEC now than we have had in the past. I know people will say, ‘Who cares? It’s another committee hearing’. But the reality is the PAEC process is intended to take the place of consideration of the committee of the whole, or consideration in detail, as we now call it.

That is what PAEC is about. I know we do not do a lot of consideration in detail, but surely if there is one bill a year that you want to consider forensically and examine in detail, it is the appropriation bill. It is happening, but it is not happening to anywhere near the extent that it used to.

The second change that does concern me in terms of transparency or in terms of opportunity to examine these important documents is the fact that we are now conflating the debate—and I know that is not the technical term—we are now conflating the issues of the appropriation bill and the appropriation parliament bill.

Frankly, I have a problem with that for two reasons. The first is we are now forced to consider the appropriation of the Parliament in the same breath as the executive. That is not appropriate. The second point is I doubt if I have heard anyone mention the Parliament in this whole debate. You do not need to be debating the appropriation parliament bill for weeks, but it deserves to be examined separately and it deserves to be considered separately.

The practice now diminishes the role of the Parliament and effectively places it in this debate in a subsidiary position to the executive, and that, in my view, is not appropriate.

I think all members—it does not matter which party they belong to or to no party at all—need to be aware of the need to protect the position of the Parliament. And okay, if you are a member of the government, you do not need to go out and argue the case in public, but at least have a voice inside your own party and protect the position of the Parliament, because under the current arrangements it is being eroded. Democracy is multifaceted and the parliamentary process is an important part of it, but the reality is that unless we keep pressure on all facets of democracy—and the lesson of Saturday is our system is working, but we need to make sure we keep it working—unless we make sure we safeguard the democratic process, it is very easily diminished.

I want to give a recent example of how transparency can be diminished and democracy potentially threatened, and that is in the United States. A few days ago Jen Psaki, who was President Biden’s first press secretary, doing the briefings, stood down after 16 months. During the course of those 16 months she had given 224 briefings. In contrast, the however many press secretaries Donald Trump had had in total over four years given 205 briefings. So in 16 months Jen Psaki has given 224 briefings compared with 205 for the whole four years. That is about transparency and that is about access.

Now, I know they have a different system to us, clearly, but my point is in the United States they have taken action to repair the damage to the democratic process that was done under Trump. I am not suggesting that what is happening here is anywhere near as dramatic, but the point is we need to be vigilant. We need to be on guard to protect the process.

You cannot have a discussion about a budget without talking about debt, without talking about deficits, because debt is an ever-present part of every public budget, and of course deficits are a part of some budgets.

But this year, for the current financial year, the government forecast a deficit of $11.6 billion. The deficit at the end of this financial year will be $17.6 billion—just a lazy $6 billion variance. Yet the Treasurer a few weeks ago stood up and said, ‘Oh, we’ll be back in surplus in four years. We’ll deliver a modest surplus in four years’.

I think that has got a touch of the Wayne Swans about it, because it simply cannot be done.

In saying that, I want to make my position on debt very, very clear. You need to borrow money to build infrastructure, but you do not need to borrow money to fund cost blowouts that should not occur. You need to borrow money to support a budget in an emergency, and the deficits that have been run over the last couple of years I have no problem with when the money has legitimately been used for the emergency. But in many cases it has not been, and I will come back to that as well.

So I have no problem with the legitimate COVID expenditure, and I have no problem with sensible infrastructure provision, but unfortunately that is not the total story in this budget.

Coming back to the comparison with 2007, in 2007, when I came into the Parliament, the budget surplus was $324 million. We had net debt of $3 billion. The budget deficit for 2022 is expected to be $7.9 billion. Given the performance last year, who knows what it will actually be—who knows?

Net debt will be almost $119 billion; by the end of the forwards, $168 billion—21 per cent of gross state product at the end of the next financial year and 26.5 per cent of gross state product at the end of the forwards.

Now, to put that growth in perspective, the CPI index in December 2006 was 86.7; it had risen to 124.2 at the end of March this year. That is a 43 per cent increase in the CPI over that period. The appropriation bill, when you look at the amounts to be issued from the Consolidated Fund, totals $85.1 billion.

The corresponding figure in 2006 was $26.8 billion, in round terms. So in other words, in those 16 years notional spending has trebled.

Now, I know the CPI has gone up by, as I said, 43 per cent. The population has obviously grown significantly over that time as well. It has gone from 5.1 million to 6.6 million, but the government was spending back then $5188 per capita. If you index that by the 43 per cent, that comes to $7400 per capita in round terms.

But the actual spend per capita in this budget is $12 800, so over that 16 years real spending has grown by 73 per cent, and that is not sustainable. The government knows it is not sustainable. It cannot be sustainable.

Okay, interest rates are at historic lows, and we can probably support the sort of debt that that generates as long as interest rates do not move. But we know they are going to, so I think there are some concerns there.

I want to delve a little further into the detail, and that is to briefly talk about the Treasurer’s advances. Page 15 of the appropriation bill provides a $14 billion allocation as an advance to the Treasurer—$14 billion—and actually it is down a little bit. Last budget it was $16 billion. So what we are proposing in this budget is to allow the Treasurer basically to spend $14 billion on whatever he deems necessary. We are handing over $14 billion.

Now, during an emergency that is a reasonable thing to do. It is not desirable, but it is a reasonable thing to do. But we are coming out of that emergency now, and that approach should not be business as usual. We should not be allowing that sort of funding to be allocated and then simply signed off by the Parliament in a couple of years time.

Again, I go back to the figures from when I first entered this place. The amount provided for the Treasurer’s advance in 2006 was $482 million.

In other words, the amount provided in this budget compared with 16 years ago is 29 times higher. As I said, yes, it is reported back; yes, it appears in the Annual Financial Report; yes, we get to sign off on it two years down the track—but there is no oversight from Parliament. There is no veto. We only get to approve it when the money is spent.

And just in case there is a claim that it has all been spent on COVID, when you have a look at the figures in the budget papers nearly $8 billion was spent by way of Treasurer’s advance in 2020–21, which are the numbers that are reported, and $3.4 billion of that was COVID but $4.16 of that was not COVID, just simply extra spending not of an emergency nature.

Just very briefly in terms of the Mornington electorate, normally I stand up and say, ‘We got nothing, so thanks for nothing’. In this case I am delighted to say, after a 10-year campaign, Mornington Special Developmental School was funded for a rebuild. It has been a 10-year campaign. It is going to be a great development for the kids at the school. It is going to be a great development for the teachers, who do a fantastic job. It is very, very welcome news.

Unfortunately there is a long list of infrastructure works that have not been funded, but there is one funded, and for that I am very, very excited.

Federal Election 2022

Legislative Assembly 24 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:52): On Saturday, 21 May, Australians went to the polls.

The outcome of that contest was a change of government—a peaceful change in what have been somewhat turbulent times. I think the outcome, and the manner in which it was conducted should remind us all just how strong our democracy is and how lucky we are to have it.

Personally, it was a disappointing result, and of course it was also a disappointing political result from my perspective. It remains to be seen whether those that wear the teal can now switch from campaigning to actually delivering for their communities.

I suspect they will have a choice between sticking to their principles and actually delivering, so we will have to see how that works out.

In the Mornington electorate we have a new member for Flinders, Zoe McKenzie, who actually achieved a slight swing towards the Liberal Party.

Unfortunately in Dunkley the Liberal candidate, Sharn Coombes, was not successful, but Sharn was a great candidate. You could not have wanted anyone to work harder. Indeed I think she was probably the hardest working candidate I have seen in my 40 years in this game.

The outcome in no way reflected the effort. I do have enormous respect for Sharn’s dedication, the skills she brought to the contest and the manner in which the campaign was conducted.

I do extend my congratulations to Peta Murphy, and I look forward to working with Peta and with Zoe McKenzie in the service of the people of the Mornington Peninsula.

Adoption Reform welcome, but how about a Legislative Agenda?

Legislative Assembly 12 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:50): I am probably going to disappoint the member for Frankston, but I do want to congratulate him on his contribution and the points he made on that particular element of the bill. I agree it is totally bipartisan, and I think there is wholehearted support across the Parliament for what has been done.

Unfortunately I do have some issues with some other parts of the bill. I guess the fact that we are dealing with yet another omnibus bill, which is a grab bag of bits and pieces, really points to the thinness of the government’s legislative agenda; it is very, very thin.

We have an absolutely broken health system. We have a CBD that is screaming for support and getting next to none. We have an infrastructure agenda that even the Treasurer admits is at risk of collapse because of a shortage of materials; we have heard that in the last few days.

When we are talking about justice, we had a story on Anzac Day in fact warning that there will be a crisis in the courts that could take decades to clear. We have the government refusing to confirm the number of pending cases. We have the Auditor-General saying we need a 179 per cent increase in the number of courtrooms.

A few days after that the figures were released. I can understand why the government was not keen to have them released, because they showed there were 116 000 cases pending in the Magistrates Court; that is up 45 per cent.

Then a couple of days ago we had the Herald Sun reporting that criminals are walking free from jail early because of the backlog—judges reducing sentences to try and get guilty pleas to deal with the backlog. This is a very, very unnecessary and difficult situation for our justice system, but it is a reality.

There is nothing in this bill that addresses any of the multiple crises that we have currently across the state.

Just look at the second-reading speech: clarifying an issue in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010; gender-inclusive language in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities; reforms to the Adoption Act 1984 and the births, deaths and marriages register—which, as I said, is I think the important issue in the whole bill. We have got diversity on the Judicial College of Victoria board, how they appoint alternate directors, a change to VCAT’s jurisdiction, updating of the Crimes at Sea Act 1999 and the secrecy provisions in the Gender Equality Act 2020.

None of those things are problematic in terms of the actual legislation, but they are essentially administrative matters. None of them fix the crisis that our justice system is facing across the state.

Before I speak about the range of matters that are in the bill, I do want to make some comments on part 8, which is the integrated birth certificates part of the bill. Part 8 makes a range of amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 and the Adoption Act. They are quite technical changes, but the outcome is to facilitate integrated birth certificates.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a very important reform, and I think it is a very welcome reform that will enjoy strong support. It picks up recommendation 26 of the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into historical forced adoptions. This is an extremely difficult subject, and it has had a difficult history over a long period.

I have no doubt that many of the people that were engaged in the practice of what has come to be known as forced adoptions felt that they were doing the right thing. But we need to be clear: they were not doing the right thing.

It was a practice that led to enormous trauma for far too many, and it is a practice that has had ongoing impacts across the generations—the impact of trauma, mental health impacts and potentially physical health impacts.

This can, should be and I believe is a bipartisan outcome. I am certainly proud of the fact that I was part of the 2012 apology—a part of the government that introduced that apology—and I am proud to be standing here today saying I strongly support the changes that are part of this reform.

Going back to the chronology of the bill, in the time that remains, changes to the Crimes at Sea Act 1999, part 2—irrelevant to Victoria but necessary, absolutely. Changes to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010—now, the member for Malvern talked about clause 7. The advice we had was that it is an avoidance-of-doubt clause. If that is in fact the case, then I think it is quite a reasonable change.

New section 176B adds to the section 176 secrecy provisions to codify a range of exceptions. According to the second-reading speech it is about enabling disclosure where necessary to protect the safety and wellbeing of others.

There is nothing unreasonable there. I think it probably does indicate a weakness in the current FOI system—that the FOI system could be frustrated by hiding behind the secrecy provisions. And perhaps it also indicates a weakness in terms of the mandatory reporting provisions—the fact that we have to beef up this act to ensure that those things are still observed. Surely if we had a system that was doing its job, those provisions would override this, but unfortunately it appears they do not.

The changes to the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006—clauses 9 to 24—are largely about changing ‘his or her’ to ‘their’, ‘that person’s’, ‘the child’s’, ‘the member’s’ or ‘the Minister’s’. It is interesting in the style convention that ‘the minister’s’ has a capital ‘m’ even though it does not apply to a particular minister but ‘the member’s’ does not. I am not sure how that evolved, but it is an interesting observation.

Is it a reasonable change? From my perspective, absolutely it is. Personally, I would like to see this change happen a lot quicker than it is happening. I would like to see the legislation just done across the board, sort of similar to the 1958 consolidations of legislation that were undertaken.

I know some people are concerned about these sorts of changes. I suspect it is more about what you are used to than specific pushback about the intent. The fact is many people simply do not like change. That is the fact of it. I recall probably three or four decades ago the debate about whether you have a chair or a chairman or a chairperson.

That debate has largely been forgotten now, and over three or four decades that practice has changed. Now of course we talk about batters et cetera. So from my perspective, the sooner we can get this done the better. It is a debate that we do not need distracting us in difficult times.

Changes to the Judicial College of Victoria Act 2001—the second-reading speech suggested that it was about implementing the recommendations of the review of sexual harassment in the courts and VCAT.

Well, yes, it is about one recommendation, I think it was recommendation 7, but it is also about dealing with the “big” issues again: prohibition on acquiring or disposing of personal property of more than $50 000—I do not know why it was in there in the first place, but this takes it out; removing the reference to the need to execute delegations under seal; board absences approved by the chair not the Attorney-General; and fewer meetings a year—three meetings instead of four. Why not make it four meetings a year rather than saying ‘every three months’? And permitting the chair to appoint a temporary chair.

There is only one change related to the review, as I mentioned, and that is changing the number of directors from eight to nine or ten and boosting the number of people with broad experience in community issues affecting courts from two to three or four. So that is the implementation of recommendation 7.

The Magistrates’ Court Act—as I said, 116 000 cases pending, 45 per cent up. What are we doing? We are changing the mechanism for adjusting the court rules.

VCAT, federal matters—again something needs to be done, but it is hardly a matter of moment. The changes to the Adoption Act—I will not have time to go through them, but they are again an important part of that process and certainly to be supported.

There is nothing remarkable. These are largely administrative reforms. Most of it is housekeeping. The changes that I identified at the outset of my contribution are the important changes. I would like to see far more matters of substance on the legislative agenda of this place. I live in hope.

Public Housing – Well located Slums are still Slums

Legislative Assembly 12 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (10:07): We have a housing crisis on the Mornington Peninsula.

We have the sixth-largest number of rough sleepers in the state. We have low—in fact extremely low—vacancy rates in terms of rental properties. We have a genuine crisis.

I thought it might have been instructive to see what the government, particularly the member for Nepean, has been saying about housing, so I searched Hansard.

The member for Nepean has mentioned housing on the Mornington Peninsula once, on 9 September 2021. He asked the Minister for Housing to provide an update to his community about:

… how the Victorian government’s announcement on funding to provide housing support and targeted initiatives to address homelessness in—

the budget—

… will help to reduce homelessness on the Mornington Peninsula.

What was the response? None—absolutely none.

A government member asked in an adjournment for a response from the Minister for Housing and he has had nothing at all. I guess it is hard to talk about what you are doing when you are not actually doing anything.

My own electorate has a number of locations where public housing is literally falling apart—literally collapsing. It is prime real estate, but if you are not going to invest in public housing on the Mornington Peninsula, how about you utilise the assets better? Surely we can use them more effectively.

The sites are great, the buildings are not. Well-located slums are still slums.

There is a real opportunity here to take action and make improvements that will make a real difference to people’s lives. I challenge the minister, who it is great to see at the table, to really get on and do something.

Financial Assistance for Victims of Crime – Welcome, but why has it taken so long?

Legislative Assembly 11 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:27): I am pleased to have the opportunity this evening to make some comments on the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Bill 2022.

Given the nature of the legislation we have been dealing with in recent weeks it is in fact a great pleasure to be debating a bill with a long title that says, ‘a Bill for an Act’. So it is not the usual grab bag for rats and mice or bits and pieces, it is not a so-called omnibus bill that covers the whole gamut of a department in order to make it up to 50 pages; it is actually a new act—with, obviously, some amendments to other acts. So it is a pleasure to be able to debate this bill.

My perspective is somewhat different from what we have heard from the member for Broadmeadows and the Minister for Public Transport. I would say: why has this taken so long? We have got a bill where clearly the purpose is:

to provide a new scheme to assist victims of crime in their recovery from acts of violence; and to amend …a range of other acts.

Why has it taken so long?

The second-reading speech clearly confirms the problems we have with the current regime. The minister says the Victorian Law Reform Commission:

found that the experience for victims in applying to VOCAT is highly retraumatising and requires engagement with an often complex, lengthy and delayed process … victims often faced lengthy delays before receiving awards, and were sometimes exposed to the indignity of the perpetrator being notified to attend a hearing.

These issues are not new.

A member interjected.

Mr MORRIS: I am quoting from the second-reading speech.

These issues are not new. For years, victims have been emphatically telling us that more work needs to be done to provide them with real access to justice … They see the system as broken and in urgent need of being rebuilt.

I endorse all of those remarks absolutely. This is not a new issue at all. The current arrangements do cause significant trauma. There are lengthy delays, and yes, the system is broken. I agree with all those statements from the minister.

So why did it take four years to get this bill into the Parliament? A media release of September 2018 says: 

The Government accepts all of the Commission’s recommendations in principle and, if re-elected, will undertake significant work to progress these reforms in the next term of government.

Well, frankly, talk about weasel words in a press release:

undertake significant work to progress these reforms …

The expectation from the public when you make an announcement of this nature and you talk about the next term of government is that it will be done in the next term of government.

But that is not what we see here. We see that almost four years after the media release we have now got a bill in the house and a commencement date 2½ years down the track—a December 2024 commencement date.

The release of the report and the media release was in the shadow of an election. The Victorian Law Reform Commission report confirms, as I said, that the system has failed too many. In fact it is probably fair to say it has failed most.

But four years on, almost in the shadow of the next election, this bill lands. I might be a little bit cynical after almost 16 years in this place, but I do not see, if it takes four years, any genuine commitment to reform.

We have heard lots of fine words this afternoon, lots of talk about commitment, but if it takes four years from the time you have a report with an almost fully formed process—a very, very solid report from the law reform commission—I do not see any genuine commitment, when you take four years to get the legislation and then, as I said a minute ago, another 2½ years to commencement.

The only commitment I see is a commitment to stay on the Treasury benches. Now, that might be a little bit cynical, but, frankly, that is the way I view what we are going through this afternoon.

I am not suggesting for a minute that the legislation is not good—it is. I absolutely support it. The member for Gembrook and the member for Ovens Valley touched on a few niggles, a few concerns that we on this side have, but they are very, very minor concerns. The bill is good.

Frankly, the credit I give the government is the reference to the law reform commission, because the model that we are dealing with this afternoon, as I said, is that of the law reform commission.

I could spend considerable time going through the details in the bill. I will not. Basically in part 2 it lays out eligibility for assistance, whether it be for primary victims, secondary victims or related victims, and there is reference to funeral expenses.

Part 3 deals with the processes—with the mechanics—of granting the assistance.

Part 4 talks about reviewing the assistance, variation of assistance, repayment if required and so on, and then a number of acts have some consequential amendments as well. As I said, basically I think it is a good model. The thing that really irritates me is that it has taken so damn long to get there.

I want to change direction and refer to the report in the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) Alert Digest that was tabled in this place today and in the other place yesterday.

We get these reports every week. They are very rarely mentioned in debate, and when they are, I suggest it is in the nature of a stocking filler. It is an opportunity to pull a few quotes out when you have not got much else to say.

In saying that, I am not diminishing in any way the importance of these reports, because I think the fact that they do not actually get used in debate very much is an indication that the system is working, that the questions that need to be asked actually do get asked. So I am not belittling the reports at all.

In this case there are a couple of things that I want to mention very quickly that relate to the charter, and they are illustrative of the challenges of legislating the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities as this Parliament has done and then trying to fashion legislation such as this, where some of the issues that are laid out in the charter and that are generally universal do cause problems in this sort of legislation.

I want to say clearly that the approach in the legislation is the one I support, but SARC has raised a couple of potential conflicts.

The first is the impact through clause 22, which requires information to be fully made available when a claim is made or when assistance is sought. There are then some provisions in clause 33 that talk about the decision-maker taking account of the criminal record of an applicant or a deceased primary victim.

The issues are essentially around the issue of privacy and whether spent convictions should be considered. I know the committee is writing to the Attorney-General on that.

The other issue is around the admissibility of scheme documents, clauses 63 and 64—the admissibility of materials arising from the scheme and of cross-examination and admissibility of documents by consent.

So there is potentially conflict with the charter and potentially some issues with the statement of compatibility, but as I said, from my perspective what is in the bill is the appropriate direction we should be going.

This is an important piece of legislation. I can see absolutely no reason why it could not have been implemented three years ago; I really do not. Essentially the scheme was designed by the Law Reform Commission. It could have been in place. Just get on and do it, and do it as quickly as you can.

Updating Agriculture Legislation

Legislative Assembly 3 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:21): It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to make some comments on this Agriculture Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which is not only physically a fairly substantial bill, but it does introduce a range of changes.

It is effectively an omnibus bill in the context of the agriculture area. True, I think most of the changes that are proposed are in fact related directly to agriculture; with some the link is perhaps a little more tenuous. Certainly with the proposed amendments to the low-THC definition, I think the link is non-existent, but ultimately they are, I guess, related in some way.

I think one of the issues, though, with a bill of this nature is that the changes are so many that, frankly, with the speaking limits we have we do not actually get to talk about all of them in any case—and I will not labour this point because I will obviously be burning time—and we do not get the opportunity to really address the whole bill, let alone particularly contentious clauses. I guess the comments from the member for Box Hill bear that out; he needed to focus on one particular area.

There are many changes. Most of them are administrative—or many are administrative, I should say—but some are in fact reasonably significant. I will comment briefly on the less contentious or less complex matters covered by the bill and then, hopefully, spend a bit more time on the bigger changes and where I see more issues.

The changes proposed to the Meat Industry Act 1993 and the Dairy Act 2000 are relatively straightforward. They are about ensuring that the Public Administration Act 2004 applies to both PrimeSafe employees and Dairy Food Safety Victoria employees.

There is an unambiguous exclusion in the current legislation. When we sought an explanation as to why that was in fact the case, apparently the reasoning was lost in the mists of time. No-one seems to know why the exclusion was put there—it is not obvious—so I certainly do not object to it being removed, but hopefully it will not come back to bite us.

The changes with regard to the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011 extend the application of that act to forestry and agriculture and require that an exemption certificate is in place at all times before further measures are taken.

From my perspective any measures that serve to keep people on the land to keep them producing food and fibre are worthwhile measures. This bill will certainly assist in that way but it also does in fact streamline the processes associated with it, hopefully for the beneficiaries as well as the people seeking to enforce their entitlements.

The changes to the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010 appear to expand the role of inspectors but also to clarify their powers, so while some of it may be controversial, I think again it is largely acceptable. With the Rural Assistance Schemes Act 2016, it is streamlining again. Essentially providing flexibility for a member appointed to the rural assistance commission to operate part-time makes sense.

With the Wildlife Act 1975, a couple are very small, but I think certainly one of them is an important change. The first one is changing the words ‘game birds’ to ‘game that is waterfowl’, a distinction that is apparently important, and the second one of course is substituting a full stop for a semicolon, so we are dealing with another matter of substance there.

The first one, though, relates to the measures to protect non-shooters and shooters under section 58C of the act—that is, during the 2 hours before sunset through to 10.00 am the following morning, the exclusion of non-shooters through that period. I think it is important that that measure continues to work.

Changes to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992—changes to the labelling requirements—are potentially controversial but, provided they are enforced the right way, are not a big issue.

With the Veterinary Practice Act 1997, there are a couple of concerns there from my perspective. There are some changes to the way the board can negotiate with those under investigation for professional misconduct. The changes proposed there, I think, are welcome.

There is a more nuanced approach to penalties; again, that is welcome. There is a change to remove the entitlement of Melbourne University to nominate a member of the board and replace that with a person experienced in veterinary education or veterinary professional development, and I think that makes sense as well.

But then there is the curious decision to remove the requirement that the chair and deputy chair of the board are in fact veterinary practitioners. That one I am not so enthusiastic about. The justification given during the briefing yesterday was that there are sets of skills required to chair a board. I agree, absolutely there are, but those skills are not mutually exclusive from being a veterinary practitioner, and I think if you remove that requirement and then move away from having practising vets on the board, it does change the way the organisation operates.

With the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994, there are significant changes to the noxious weed provisions. I will not go through the details; there are many pages of them.

I think the most significant thing is that the number of penalty units that will apply for breaches with regard to state prohibited weeds will move from 120 penalty units to 480 and for regionally prohibited weeds it will move from 120 to 240, but on the other side of the coin, regionally controlled and restricted weeds both drop down to 60 penalty units—so there are some winners and some losers.

I think the key point though is the potential for damage to be done to the livelihood of a primary producer through the spread of noxious weeds is significant. These are serious issues and they do require serious penalties, so I think that is a reasonable change, and the sliding scale is an improvement.

With regard to the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, there are changes to the Apicultural Industry Advisory Committee, the Cattle Compensation Advisory Committee, the Sheep and Goat Compensation Advisory Committee and the Swine Industry Projects Advisory Committee.

Changes to the composition and changes to the way that the funds that these bodies administer are spent are largely to allow the cost of recruitment and so on to be defrayed and administrative costs to be defrayed. Surely that is something the government should be doing.

Secondly, there are big changes in terms of the membership. Each of those committees currently is constituted differently with different numbers and so on. This bill will increase the numbers to nine members. In each case—except the agricultural industry one—the members are often industry body nominees, and they have specific requirements related directly to that industry.

The bill that we have before us provides just basically a link in the first prerequisite and then provides a whole lot of others that require the board members to have no connection with the industry at all. Certainly the last prerequisite listed is basically whoever the minister thinks is appropriate, which gives, in my view, far more flexibility than is desirable.

It would be far more appropriate, I think, to keep those industries engaged, because—not that I am suggesting this minister will—a minister could in the future appoint a whole committee which would have absolutely no connection to the industry whatsoever under this legislation.

I want to finish on the changes through part 5 to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981.

There are two distinct changes to schedule 4 and schedule 8, prescription drugs and controlled drugs, with regard to catastrophic natural events to assist the treatment of animals. That is a change that is very welcome.

Changes around cannabis, particularly the provisions relating to the authority to cultivate and process low-THC cannabis, are I think a big improvement as well—and beefed up.

Where I have a problem is the increase in the definition of ‘low THC’ from 0.35 to 1.0. We are tripling that number, and we have had no real commentary from the government, no explanation during the briefing. I am concerned about that particular measure.