Labor’s Peninsula Public Transport Hoax

Legislative Assembly 22 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:32): Once again the Andrews government has been caught misleading the peninsula community.

Yesterday a media release trumpeted ‘Improving connections on the Mornington Peninsula’. In fact it is not about improving connections on the Mornington Peninsula or the whole peninsula; it is actually about improving connections in the marginal Labor seat of Nepean and it is about punishing the Liberal seat of Mornington.

The government claims Mount Martha will now have better public transport coverage. No! The Nepean electorate will benefit because of a slight extension to a service that previously terminated in Mount Martha.

The release also claims that travel times will be reduced on the 887 route. If that is true, it is only because the route no longer serves the Mornington electorate at all. Up until yesterday the 887 stopped at Mount Martha, Mornington and Mount Eliza.

Now there is no service—not a reduced service, no service at all.

Now there are 27 stops on the 887 route in the Nepean electorate—previously there were three: at Rosebud, Dromana and Safety Beach—a ninefold increase in stops serving the Nepean electorate, while the Mornington electorate has been wiped out completely.

Local students seeking to access Monash at Frankston have been relegated to the ordinary, totally inadequate public transport system.

Quotes in the release acknowledge the population growth on the Mornington Peninsula, but the growth is peninsula wide and particularly in the seat of Mornington. It is about time the government stopped playing politics with public transport and delivered the services my community deserves.

Esplanade needs urgent attention but not a “Quick Fix”

Legislative Assembly 9 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:00): (6196) I raise a matter for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and I am seeking urgent action to ensure the continued safe passage of cars, bikes and pedestrians and management of the interaction with pedestrians on the Esplanade between Lempriere Avenue and Bruce Road in Mount Martha.

The road is like a short section of the Great Ocean Road. It was literally cut out of the side of Mount Martha. It has spectacular views, and for most of its life it carried traffic more than adequately. But of course with an increased population, lots of subdivision on the hills above it and a particular increase of people on bikes and so on, there is far, far more traffic than it has ever carried before.

It has been a problem for a number of years, but it is just getting worse and worse.

The comparison that comes to mind—every morning I walk or run across the Anderson Street bridge to South Yarra. When I was 19 or 20 I actually used to drive across it in the mornings, with all the trucks and cars going across it. It had completely outlived its usefulness at that point back in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The Esplanade is in a similar situation. The traffic it is carrying is way beyond its capacity.

There has been an issue relating to The Pillars that I have raised here on numerous occasions, and that has basically resulted in finger-pointing between the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and the former minister for roads. It is sort of, ‘It’s their fault. It’s their fault’.

That is a contributing factor, but there are frequent failures and frequent landslips, sometimes closing the road for six months at a time. I think most recently 2020 was the last one.

The other issue is the issue of the management of the road. VicRoads have been trying to offload it to the shire council for many, many years. Probably for the best part of 10 years VicRoads have been saying, ‘No, you can have it; you can have it’. The council, quite rightly, is saying, ‘We don’t believe the ratepayer should take on this sort of liability, which will probably run into millions of dollars, to stop the Esplanade slipping into the sea’.

So it is not just one issue. It is not just a traffic issue. It is not just conflict with bikes. It is the whole issue of the road between Mount Martha village and effectively Safety Beach.

This is not a quick fix. It needs some urgent attention. It needs a working party perhaps established with the council and some serious action taken, because this road is rapidly becoming a serious issue.

So I would appreciate the minister’s support with urgent action and getting something happening with this.

1 Mount Eliza Way – Not For Sale

Mornington MP, David Morris, has called on the Andrews Government to abandon the sale of 1 Mount Eliza Way, and to work with the local community to retain this important site in public ownership.

No. 1 Mount Eliza Way forms part of the gateway to the Mount Eliza Village. It is a 2600-square metre block, with an asking price of $2 million to $2.2 million.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Mr Morris said the impact of the government’s financial recklessness is becoming evident with the sale of assets, including this site, to prop up the budget.

“The issue is that the government is doing this with absolutely no warning.”

“This land has been a reserve for as long as anyone can remember, and in fact when I looked at the Landata map last night, it is identified as the Mount Eliza Way Reserve. It appears it was a road reserve purchase that is no longer required and is now being disposed of.”

“The recent report from the Environment and Planning Committee, made the point that requiring highest and best use, which is government policy, leads to loss of sites such as this—sites that have been used for passive recreation for decades if not significantly more. This one probably goes back to the 1960s, when the road was constructed.”

“This is the main gateway to Mount Eliza. It is an absolutely critical site. It will have a significant impact on the treescape if this proceeds and is developed.

Working With Children Permits – No excuse for delays

Legislative Assembly 23 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (14:47): (6284) My question is for the Attorney-General.

I recently met with a constituent who had spent almost three months trying to get his working with children card renewed.

The card had expired on 14 December last year, and he had started trying to get it renewed in mid-November. The online system indicated that further information was required but unfortunately did not bother indicating what that further information was, so he had to resort to the telephone to try and move things on.

He called every day for three months but kept getting a recorded message saying to call back either later this day or the next business day.

Of course it is important to have a working with children check when required, but in this case it was also a prerequisite for membership of his local men’s shed, and consequently his membership of the men’s shed was in doubt.

Whatever arrangements it has been necessary to make to cope with the results of the pandemic, clearly they are not working. The government needs to resolve this problem of delays.

So my question to the minister is: why has this unacceptable situation arisen, and what is being done to fix it?

1 Mount Eliza Way – Not for Sale!

Legislative Assembly 23 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:48): It appears the impact of the government’s financial recklessness is becoming evident. In fact they are now selling off assets.

One asset is 1 Mount Eliza Way in Mount Eliza. It is a 2600-square-metre block, and the asking price is $2 million to $2.2 million, so it is a valuable block.

The issue is that the government is doing this with absolutely no warning. This land has been a reserve for as long as anyone can remember, and in fact when I looked at the Landata map last night it is identified as the Mount Eliza Way Reserve.

It appears it was a road reserve purchase that is no longer required and is now being disposed of.

The recent report from the Environment and Planning Committee made the point that requiring highest and best use, which is government policy, leads to loss of sites such as this—sites that have been used for passive recreation for decades if not significantly more. This one probably goes back to the 1960s, when the road was constructed.

The issue with this one, though, is that I understand there has not been much conversation, if any, with the council. The council through third parties have certainly indicated that they would be prepared to consider acquiring the site.

This is the main gateway to Mount Eliza. It is an absolutely critical site. It will have a significant impact on the treescape if this proceeds and is developed.

So I call on the minister to suspend this process until the local community can be consulted properly.

Fisherman’s Jetty – Time for action

Legislative Assembly 10 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:22): (6274) I raise a matter for the Minister for Ports and Freight this evening, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that she direct her department to work with the Mornington Yacht Club and Parks Victoria to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for the management of Fisherman’s Jetty at Mornington harbour from Parks Victoria to the Mornington Yacht Club.

I raised this matter just a little over a year ago in this house.

Fisherman’s Jetty is a small jetty, in Mornington harbour. It is a relatively minor piece of infrastructure but beloved by many. It has been closed, because its structural integrity has been compromised, since 2020. In March last year I raised the issue. The response I got back was:

… the local port manager … is sometimes required to restrict access to assets, such as has occurred at Fisherman’s Jetty …

Works and planning for Fisherman’s Jetty are considered for funding and prioritised for investment along with other marine assets.

In other words, do not hold your breath.

Well, the Mornington Yacht Club, being experienced in managing this harbour, having managed assets in the harbour for many years, are realistic about the chances of obtaining funding, and they have advised me that they are very much aware that Fisherman’s Jetty is, in their words, not a current priority under the Sustainable Local Ports Framework.

There are 150 or so wharves and other similar infrastructure across the state that require maintenance, and Fisherman’s Jetty just is not going to make it onto that list.
They have had the jetty assessed and they have confirmed that since its construction in 1990 there has been no maintenance, so the jetty is literally falling apart. That is why it is closed. They are, however, prepared to take over responsibility both for the initial repairs to get the jetty back into a fit condition and for maintaining the asset—maintaining a public asset.

A private yacht club is prepared to maintain the asset and maintain access for the public to the facility. But of course these wheels move slowly.

Parks Victoria is the local ports manager. The footprint that the yacht club has in the area does not include Fisherman’s Jetty, and that needs to change.

So I am seeking from the minister the cooperation of her department and Parks Victoria to work with the yacht club so that this public asset can be repaired and reopened and made available to the public again.

Regional Status no threat to Green Wedge

Legislative Assembly 9 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:57): Last night the member for Nepean during the adjournment debate repeated an assertion that he has made on a number of occasions that according the Mornington peninsula regional status would somehow negate the green wedge controls.

Mr Brayne: Correct.

Mr MORRIS: Correct?

Mr Brayne: Absolutely.

Mr MORRIS: The member knows, and if he does not he damn well should, that the green wedge controls are incorporated in the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.
If there is any daylight between according the Mornington Peninsula regional status and the green wedge controls, it can be dealt with by the stroke of a pen, by a ministerial amendment.

The member knows that the Minister for Planning is the person entirely responsible for the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme, and if there is any daylight—I do not accept that there is, but if there is—it can be dealt with immediately by a planning scheme amendment.

Now, the fact is that for the last two years I have been seeking to get amendment C270, which will actually protect the green wedge, up—crickets from the Minister for Planning for two years.

Finally, he has done it now. Ten months out from an election he has agreed to it. Do not come in here and tell this Parliament that the Labor Party’s position on protecting the green wedge is superior. And if the member for Nepean—

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Without interjections.

Mr MORRIS: If the member for Nepean needs to resort to scare tactics to get elected at the end of the year, then he needs to reflect on how little he has done since he has been here.

Mt Eliza Secondary College – Funding Urgently Needed

Legislative Assembly 22 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (14:49): (6214) My question is to the Minister for Education.

I recently received an email from a constituent, and I will quote it in part:

I’m shocked and so disappointed at how little public investment has been allocated to my local high school—

Mount Eliza Secondary College—

… is in desperate need of being brought into line with neighbouring local schools. Given the demographic change with many young families moving into Mount Eliza, the school is not prepared for the needs of these families. The infrastructure is inadequate, or at the least in much need of upgrade …

and I would certainly second that.

The infrastructure is extremely inadequate.

It is not as if there has been underinvestment; there has been effectively zero investment in the school probably for the entire last 16, if not more, years.

So, the question to the minister is:

What are the minister’s plans to bring the Mount Eliza Secondary College infrastructure up to a standard comparable with neighbouring secondary schools?

Robert (Robin) Fitzgerald Cooper

Legislative Assembly 8 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:23): Perhaps I can fill in that blank for the Premier: what was on the end of the chain was actually the gold pass for the Mornington electorate, and he carried it with him every day that he served in this place.

Today we pause to recognise the contribution to the Victorian community of the Honourable Robin Cooper, my predecessor of course in the seat of Mornington.
The debate is occurring because Robin was a minister, as has been said, between January 1997 and October 1999. And while his time in cabinet, I think it is fair to say, marked the pinnacle of his political career, it was a relatively brief interlude in a very long period of public life and an even longer period of public service.

In preparing for the debate I managed to unearth a copy of the 1985 Liberal candidate biographies. I am not going to read it out, but when you look through, they mostly run to about half a page; Robin’s well and truly filled the page. It makes for some interesting reading. As I say, I will not go through it in detail, but it does mention that he was educated at Xavier and later at Taylors College, which was not at all unusual in the 1950s, and then followed that with a management supervision course.

As others have said, 20 years followed in the building industry, interrupted—I do not think anyone has mentioned this yet—in 1964 by national service. In those days that was effectively two years out. That period ended as a self-employed consultant, but still in the building industry, from 1980.

But in terms of that profile, when you get to the community section, that is when you start to see the Robin Cooper that I really knew: 20 years service as a volunteer firefighter at the Mount Eliza CFA; election to the Shire of Mornington in 1972—there seems to be some controversy about when he was actually shire president, but my understanding is it was the council year 1979–80; member and chair of the Peninsula Regional Library Service; member and president of the Mount Eliza High School council; member of the Western Port Regional Planning Authority; member of the Mornington Peninsula development committee; and so on and so on—you get the idea.

Not content with all that, he was a player in a Mount Eliza Cricket Club premiership side and a long-suffering but ultimately triumphant Demons supporter.

Robin was elected to the Mornington council in 1972, I think a few months before Henry Bolte, the long-serving Premier, retired. As many would either recall or have learned, one of Bolte’s signature policies was creating the “Ruhr of Victoria” in Western Port and developing Hastings and French Island and turning that area into an industrial hub—it has got to be said—despite the wishes of most of the locals.

When Bolte retired that opened an opportunity to reassess that plan, so Robin’s time in local government, the 1970s and early 80s, were an absolutely critical time for the Mornington Peninsula. If that industrialisation had gone ahead, if we had had that nuclear power plant on French Island, if we had had the suburbs that were expected to go on the Moorooduc plain with tens of thousands of houses for factory workers and port workers and so on, the Mornington Peninsula that we enjoy today would be a very, very different place.

The contributions of the three councils then on the Mornington Peninsula and councillors like Robin Cooper were significant in getting those things changed.
Like many parts of Victoria, the peninsula experienced change as a result of the 1982 election. The seat of Mornington had been established in the 2nd Parliament, but in 1967 it was renamed Dromana. The footprint was pretty much the same, but the name was changed. In 1982 Dromana was captured by the ALP and for the first and only time in local electoral history the Mornington area was represented by a Labor MP in this place.

Now, Robin’s political ambitions I do not think were a secret from anyone. He was active in the party. He contested preselection for state seats, as the Leader of The Nationals said, on two occasions, and he actually contested preselection for the seat of Flinders as well, so his plans were out there. As an energetic Liberal and an experienced local shire councillor he was absolutely determined that the continued presence of the ALP in the seat of Dromana, as it was then, would not be tolerated, so he put his hand up again.

There was a redistribution—the seat of Mornington was recreated—and when he stood he gained a 3 per cent swing and of course returned the seat to the Liberal Party. As others have said, he held it for 21 years: he was re-elected in 1988, 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2002.

But in 1985 it was a very different seat to the seat we see today. On the Port Phillip side it was only the southern half of Mount Eliza and the town of Mornington that were included in the seat. Then it was sort of a long, narrow, horizontal seat that went right across to Western Port and included French Island—not Phillip Island but French Island.

As the population grew the seat changed dramatically, and eventually it contracted westward and moved north and south and took in the whole of Mount Eliza, kept Mornington, took in Mount Martha and was pretty much the seat we have today although a little bit smaller. As we all know, when you have change on that scale it can make things a little bit challenging for continuing in this place, but despite those changes Robin’s reputation as a very strong local representative endured, and so ensured continued success at the polls.

When he was elected to Parliament in 1985, as others have said, he went straight to the front bench as Shadow Minister for Local Government and Shadow Minister for Public Works.

And unlike today where councillors if they are elected need to immediately resign their council seats, for some time Robin was actually Shadow Minister for Local Government and a councillor at the Shire of Mornington as well. I believe his term ran out in August of the year he was elected, but he did six months wearing those two hats, so he had skin in the game when it came to the amalgamation debate.

Of course that debate immediately put him in the spotlight, and I know he relished the opportunity it gave him to get up and belt the government. I remember sitting up in that gallery one night probably in the late 1980s, and he was still waving the local government flag. He did a very vigorous adjournment—with far more vigour than you would see in most adjournments today. He had that spotlight, but when the reform agenda collapsed—and I do not think there is a kinder word you can use than that—he moved on. He became Shadow Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and he became Shadow Minister for Corrections as well, which I know he was not that enthusiastic about. He returned to local government in 1989 but added tourism and then the shadow ministry of public transport in 1990.

When Jeff Kennett returned to the leadership I think the nicest thing you could say is that Robin’s progress temporarily stalled. So he went to the backbench. And when the Kennett government was elected in 1992 he took the chair of the Public Bodies Review Committee, which does not sound particularly exciting, but if you think about it in the context of a reforming government and all the work that was done on amalgamating, eliminating public bodies and reforming the public sector at that time, it was a significant role.

When the government was re-elected in 1996 he became Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Roads and Ports, and he joined the cabinet in the following year as Minister for Transport and held that post until 1999.

In the years of opposition that followed he, as the Premier said, sat in that chair. He mostly supported the leadership but always had serious input into parliamentary strategy—if you were to ask Robert Doyle, he might have a different view—and of course finished his time in this place as Manager of Opposition Business under leader Ted Baillieu.

The final comment I want to make in terms of Parliament is both in government and out of government he was a very strong supporter of the committee system, and when I was elected he actively encouraged me not only to be involved but to turn up and engage. And that was certainly very, very good advice.

Not only did he chair the Public Bodies Review Committee but, as the Leader of the Opposition said, he served on the House Committee. He had a couple of turns on the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee and 14 years as a member of the Privileges Committee. I am coming up for twelve years on the Privileges Committee, and I certainly endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.

Community service remained a priority for Robin after his retirement. He remained almost until the end a very active member of the community. He was a particularly active member of the committee of the Mornington Information & Community Support Centre and was for a time their president.

From a personal point of view, when I joined the Mornington business community in 1980 Robin was shire president, and at that time of course he was trying to balance the conflicting demands of public office, a growing family and a fledgling business.

He was one of those people you think you know because you read about them in the paper. You might see them down the street and give them a wave, but you really do not have anything much to do with them. I cannot recall when we first met, but I suspect it was 1982 or 1983 and was probably in the context of discussions between the Mornington Chamber of Commerce, of which I was an office-bearer, and members of the council—something to do with Main Street, I suspect.

But I can certainly clearly recall sitting next to Robin at a chamber of commerce dinner in around 1984. He would have been the Liberal candidate for Mornington. I was amazed that one person could sit on one 7-ounce glass of beer for the entire night and drink the last half inch or so as he left. But I probably now understand better the demands of public life and attending dinners. At the time, though, I was a lapsed member of the Liberal Party, having joined in 1975 and relocated to the Mornington Peninsula from Canterbury. I had a new business, open seven days a week, and that really did not leave very much time for anything else, so as I said I had lapsed.

At that time no-one was going to convince me to go and put time into a political party when I really was not getting enough sleep running the business.

But by 1986 Robin had convinced me to rejoin the Liberal Party, and the following year, partly with his encouragement, I stuck my hand up for a seat on the shire council, contested a seat and won it, and that really I think began a partnership that endured for more than 20 years. For almost five of those 20 years I chaired the electorate for him, and then of course he was generous enough to work very closely with me during the campaign in 2006.

Sometimes when you work closely with people you find they are not who you thought they were, but certainly—as again the opposition leader said—that was not the case with Robin Cooper. What you saw was what you got. You might not have liked what you were getting, but that was it. I think that in part was one of the secrets of his success in public life, because he was absolutely fair dinkum.

Certainly it was his example and that of another great Liberal, Alan Hunt, that fed any political ambitions I might have had, and I certainly thank him for encouraging that and for his support to allow me to be here speaking in this debate this afternoon.

All of us who serve in this place know that we cannot begin to do so without the strongest support of those closest to us. Robin’s marriage to Jennifer—it endured for most of his adult life—was a life partnership in the true sense of the word, and as the children arrived and grew, they joined and strengthened the partnership. Robin would have been the first person to admit that he could not have achieved everything he did without the backing of his family and particularly not without Jennifer’s enduring encouragement and strong support.

Robin served his electorate—the greater Mornington Peninsula—and the state of Victoria with distinction. His family can be justly proud of his service and of his achievements, and my thoughts, and I know Linda’s thoughts, are with Jennifer and with Rebecca, Jeremy and Anna. Vale, Robin Cooper.

Travel vouchers available, when?

Legislative Assembly 17 November 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (14:47): (6134) My constituency question is for the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events.

In the depths of COVID the Liberal and National parties came up with the idea of a regional travel voucher scheme, and we were pleased to see the government adopt that idea subsequently.

I am referring to a screenshot from a website taken just before question time started, the website:

The Victorian Government has announced 80,000 regional travel vouchers valued at $200 will be made available, building on the success of the Regional Travel Voucher Scheme.

Information on how Victorians can apply for and use the vouchers will be available here soon.

To my knowledge it has been saying ‘available here soon’ for a considerable period of time.

Now, I am wondering if the minister can advise me when those vouchers will be made available?