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.

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.

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.

Call in Second Retirement Village Application Now!

Legislative Assembly 3 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:20): (6344) My adjournment matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the Minister for Planning is that he call in planning application P21/1949 to the Mornington Peninsula shire planning scheme—it applies to a property at 60 Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza—and reject it.

Speaker, I think with you in the chair I have raised matters relating to this property on many occasions in this house over the last three years, perhaps a little bit longer, most recently with regard to planning scheme amendment C270 for a rezoning.

This is the second planning application on this site. The first one was rejected, quite rightly. The applicant has done what—and I do not blame them for doing it—so many applicants do: they put in the ambit claim, put in the big one, then they come back with a smaller one and say, ‘Well, how does this fit?’.

The first application was rejected, and the second one should absolutely be rejected as well. This is a site outside the urban growth boundary. It is a site in the area that amendment C270 seeks to rezone to green wedge. It is a landmark site right on the southern side of Mount Eliza.

What is proposed here is a development with a footprint of nearly 15 000 square metres. It is not a modest, sympathetic extension to an existing facility, it is a massive development—yes smaller than the first one, but it is an absolutely massive development with numerous three- and four-storey buildings.

As I mentioned, it is outside the urban growth boundary. To approve this application would be totally contrary to planning policies that go back to the 1970s in this area.

There is a Mornington Peninsula planning statement, or localised planning statement, that expressly talks about providing a clear separation of the peninsula from metropolitan Melbourne, protecting the character and functions of the towns and villages, protecting areas of special character and having developments sympathetic with, respecting and enhancing the natural environment.

In this case this is a linear development between towns. It is effectively an expansion of the urban area of Mount Eliza.

To those of you who are familiar with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, this would be contrary to the intent of the Planning and Environment Act, where every expansion of the urban growth boundary needs to be agreed to by a motion by this house and by the other place. So this application is totally contrary to every agreed policy.

I request the minister: call it in and knock it on the head.


Mornington MP, David Morris, has demanded the Minister for Planning “call in” and reject the application for planning approval for a retirement village in Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza.

The first application lodged for the land was rejected by VCAT on appeal, after an initial refusal by the Shire Council. This time the applicant has taken their case straight to VCAT, by-passing council consideration.

Speaking in Parliament this week Mr Morris said:

This is the second planning application on this site. The first one was rejected, quite rightly…the second one should absolutely be rejected as well.

This is a site outside the urban growth boundary. It is a site in the area that amendment C270 seeks to rezone to green wedge. It is a landmark site right on the southern side of Mount Eliza.

What is proposed here is a development with a footprint of nearly 15 000 square metres. It is not a modest, sympathetic extension to an existing facility, it is a massive development—yes smaller than the first one, but it is an absolutely massive development with numerous three- and four-storey buildings…

To approve this application would be totally contrary to planning policies that go back to the 1970s in this area…this is a linear development between towns. It is effectively an expansion of the urban area of Mount Eliza…every expansion of the urban growth boundary needs to be agreed to by a motion by this house and by the other place…call it in and knock it on the head.

Further information: David Morris on 5975 4799

Mornington’s share of the State Budget – Not a whole lot!

In a welcome departure from its usual habit of ignoring the Mornington Electorate in the State Budget the Victorian Government has finally funded two desperately needed local projects.

After more than ten years of campaigning the Government has committed to re-build Mornington Special Development School, committing “at least $6.769 million” in today’s state budget. But students, parents and teachers shouldn’t be expecting immediate action as only a fraction of the funds allocated to the program will be spent in the next financial year. The budget papers show an “estimated completion date” of December 2025.

Despite the likely delay I am delighted the Government has finally seen sense. For too long this school has had to make do with sub-standard temporary accommodation, and no guarantee that the school would even remain on the current site. This announcement provides the certainty the school needs to confidently plan for the future.

The budget also provides funding for “critical works” on Mornington’s Fisherman’s Jetty which has been “temporarily closed” since 2020. The extent of the funding was not disclosed in the budget papers, so whether there will be enough money to actually re-open the jetty, or even when the works will be undertaken, remains uncertain. In spite of these misgivings I am pleased the Government has finally responded to my repeated calls for action.

These small wins are long overdue, but too many desperately needed projects were overlooked in this budget including:

  • Action to fix congestion on Bungower Road and Mornington-Tyabb Road
  • Desperately needed safety works at the intersections of Forest Drive and Uralla Road with Nepean Highway in Mount Martha
  • Long overdue and much needed investment in Mornington Park Primary School and Mount Eliza Secondary College
  • No funding to back the Shire’s commitment to the Peninsula Trail between Moorooduc and Mornington.

This year’s state budget was pretty much what we’ve come to expect in the Mornington Electorate – not a whole lot!

Brain Injury Matters

Legislative Assembly 6 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:53): I rise this morning to seek additional support for the Brain Injury Matters organisation as part of the forthcoming Victorian budget. The Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers would, I am sure, be well aware of the organisation. It is a not-for-profit run by people living with an acquired brain injury. BIM run a number of programs, including the highly valued peer support groups. A constituent has written recently:

I am a member of a weekly BIM Peer Support Group meeting in Frankston and have benefited a great deal from being part of the group. I have made friends, developed skills, accessed the community and had a lot of fun. I am afraid of increasing isolation and lack of confidence if BIM cannot find funding to continue my Peer Support Group. BIM’s research has found that addressing social isolation continues to be a key need for Victorian adults living with brain injury.

BIM would welcome an increase in the recurrent funding amount. This would allow the continuation of the BIM Peer Support Group I attend. Funding for the project team which runs the PSGs ends on June 30, 2022.

The Department of Health provides some modest funding which assists with staffing and accommodation costs, but that is not sufficient to ensure the ongoing operation of the peer support groups.

I think we are all only too aware of the mental health cost of the pandemic across the community, and that impact certainly extends to people with an acquired brain injury, so I do urge the minister to provide additional funding for this worthy organisation in the upcoming budget.

Approve C270 and Protect the Green Wedge Now!

Legislative Assembly 6 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:09): (6321) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he expedite the approval of amendment C270 to the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.

Amendment C270—there is a lot of history here—has recently been exhibited, and exhibition closes on Friday.

Normally there would be a very long process from then until the amendment is approved, but I stood up in this house more than two years ago, in February 2020, and asked the minister to expedite the exhibition of the scheme. Two years on, it finally got on exhibition in February of this year. 

Since then I have raised the issue on at least three occasions. The reason I have done that is that this is critical for the future protection of the green wedge on the Mornington Peninsula.

The amendment itself deals with a number of sites that are outside the urban growth boundary but are not currently protected by green wedge provisions.

One is particularly sensitive and is one I have mentioned on many occasions in this place, and that is an application for a retirement village outside the urban growth boundary in Mount Eliza. The first application was knocked backed by VCAT. It is now the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. The second application is currently on exhibition and closes on Friday.

Just to give the house a sense of the scale of this development outside the urban growth boundary, land that is supposed to be protected, its total footprint is 14 963 square metres. There is the addition of three wings to the existing historic mansion, two four-storey and one three-storey; three freestanding four-storey buildings; two freestanding three-storey buildings; 246 car spaces; and a place of worship. So it is a very, very significant development in a totally inappropriate place.

Further down the road we have another application that is not affected by this planning scheme amendment but which seeks to turn an existing nursing home into a much, much larger retirement village with a significant footprint.

Again and again we are seeing these sorts of applications. In part it is a function of the value of the land—I understand that—but either we are serious as a Parliament and as a state about protecting this area or we are not.

I do urge the minister, as a first step in beefing up the protections for the green wedge, to get on with C270 and truncate the process period to the extent that he can, and let us get it approved.