Pilot Boats and Jet Skis

I must say I thought the representative of the boating capital of Victoria, the member for Essendon, might have got his pilots confused when he was doing his research, but he got to the right sort eventually.

As the explanatory memorandum notes, this bill makes a range of changes to the ports and marine legislation and to a number of other acts. The government claims in the explanatory memorandum that the bill will result in improved management of marine safety risks, improved public safety, more efficient and effective management of state waters and that it will also provide some administrative savings.

Of course as we have heard in the debate thus far the principal area of interest is personal watercraft, and I do not have an interest to declare in that area; I do not hold a marine licence. But there are a number of other important changes as well as the proposed changes to the personal watercraft age limits.

The bill refers to accountability, and in particular accountability in the form of Transport Safety Victoria and providing them the opportunity to acquit their accountability requirements, and indeed there are explicit references to that role in clauses 7 and 9 of the bill. There is no reference in the second-reading speech, though, to clause 8, which I must say I found a little surprising. Clause 8 inserts a new part 2.2B in the principal act, ‘Safety duties of persons who manage boating activity events’. It imposes a requirement that so far as is reasonably practicable the organisers of an event — and an event is defined — will ensure the safety of participants. I think that is an entirely reasonable thing to do, and there is an example given in the second-reading speech of an event that had some problems and resulted in more than 100 rescues. So I have no problem with the concept.

I do note, however, the severity of the proposed penalties and the fact that an offence against section 25A(1) of new part 2.2B is considered to be an indictable offence.

The penalties are particularly steep: 1800 penalty units for a natural person and 9000 penalty units for a body corporate. In dollar terms, that translates to a maximum penalty of almost $280 000 for an individual and some $1.4 million for a corporation. So they are very steep penalties. I am not saying they are excessive, but they are very steep, and given the substantial nature of those fines, I was a little surprised that the minister did not provide greater explanation in the second-reading speech.

The bill goes on to provide examples of the type of information that must be provided to participants and the type of events that are anticipated by the bill. They include a number of things: boat races, open water swimming races, water sports, even down to school kayaking excursions. Again, given the substantial nature of those fines, I trust that the minister will make sure that people are made aware of the consequences of their actions.

The second matter I want to talk about is the issue of the additional compliance requirements for sea pilots or for marine pilots. In particular the bill provides powers, which do not exist currently, for the safety director to have oversight — and the member for Essendon referred to this — of the medical fitness of marine pilots and also provides the capacity to impose conditions on marine pilot licences.

Of course the principal group operating in Victoria — not the only group but the principal group — are the Port Phillip Sea Pilots. As the member for Essendon said, they were established in June 1839. When you consider that that was 11 years before the foundation of the colony of Victoria, that certainly has to be one of our longest running private organisations.

You would have to say that over the intervening years, the 178 years they have been operating, they have served the state and the colony before it very well. Of course we have a large volume of international trade now and we have had for many years, and when you consider the few incidents and at how well they have operated, it is perhaps difficult to see what justification there is for imposing further red tape on that organisation.

Again there is potential justification in a conceptual sense, but unfortunately there were no examples given in the second-reading speech to indicate why that extension of government powers was necessary.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention, in connection with Port Phillip Sea Pilots, the terrific success of Hart Marine of Mornington, which now build the pilot boats for the Port Phillip pilots.

Indeed prior to the global financial crisis Mal Hart was better known for producing high-performance racing yachts. Many of those figured very successfully in the Sydney to Hobart and other similar races. With the onset of the global financial crisis that particular source of business dried up, and he has now turned to a new career building pilot boats.

In June 2015 there was a report of the handover of a new pilot boat, and the report says in part:

This vessel embodies the culmination of 15 years of extensive design, research and modelling from the renowned French naval architect Pantocarene.

‘Corsair’ represents further steps forward in terms of the function and overall capabilities of a modern pilot boat. Constructed of fibreglass and displacing 28 tonnes, the vessel is 18.55 metres long, 5.50 metres wide, has a draught of 1.55 metres and a depth of 2.30 metres.

They are all, I am pleased to say, built in Mornington.

Most importantly, though, they are self-righting, and they are designed in such a way that they can come up and continue operating. The engines are fixed securely enough so that they do not fall through the cabin in the event of a capsize, and the boat is exceptionally safe. The particularly important part is that that means the pilots can continue operating when with other vessels they would have to cease operation and the port would have to close.

Mal is now supplying boats, or has supplied boats, not only to the Port Phillip Sea Pilots but to the Geraldton port authority in Western Australia; Rio Tinto in Western Australia at Dampier; Esperance Ports Sea and Land, also in Western Australia; the Port Kembla port in New South Wales; Chevron’s Barrow Island site in Western Australia; Flinders Ports in South Australia; and the Tasmanian Ports Corporation.

It is a real success story. It is a great example of adaptability, ingenuity and just plain hard work from a master craftsman. He has built up a tremendous team — more than 70 people are involved there — and I am sure his success will continue for many years.

I do want to get to the issue of personal watercraft, because it is clearly an important issue for anyone who has the sort of coastline I have along Port Phillip Bay. Those members who have been in the house for some time will understand that Parliament has taken successive steps to deal with a range of conflicts between swimmers and those using watercraft, but clearly there are still some issues.

These personal watercraft, if they ever were, are no longer low-powered machines. They have up to 350-horsepower engines, good acceleration, as another speaker mentioned, and are capable of travelling 60 kilometres an hour or more.

Unfortunately the users of these craft are over-represented in terms of injuries. They represent only 10 per cent of the total fleet, but 25 per cent of injuries occur as a result of these vessels.

We also understand that most of the people causing problems with these craft are not in the 12 to 16 age group; they are in their 20s or they are in their early 30s. We have regular reports, and I have them on the table in front of me, of incidents that occur during the summer months, and they are more frequently in this age group.

There is clearly a small group of people who are causing some problems. I do not have a particular issue with taking unsupervised 12 to 16-year-olds out of the equation; I think it is reasonable for them to still be able to use the craft supervised. However, I am not sure that we are actually solving the problem by taking these kids out without dealing more specifically with the hoon element that definitely cause the problems in my part of the world.

It is about sharing that great resource of Port Phillip and our waterways evenly between all people.

Labor – Hollow Hypocrites

From Hansard, the member for Bendigo East, now Leader of the House, on 24 October 2012:

Doing the right thing would be paying back the money … Doing the right thing would be the Premier standing aside the member for Frankston while these investigations are under way … Doing the right thing would be making sure that the member … is held absolutely accountable for his actions.

From the member for Mulgrave, now the Premier, on the same day:

His intention was to rort the very system he was entrusted to uphold.

And again on 11 June 2014:

It is about probity and decency. It is about doing the right thing and being consistent.

And finally from the member for Melton, former Deputy Speaker, on the same day:

We should not allow any member of Parliament on either side of the house, whether they are Labor, Liberal, Nationals or Independent, to rort their entitlements. That is not what we are here for.

The Members of Parliament (Register of Interests) Act 1978 is very clear:

Members shall –
ensure that their conduct as Members must not be such as to bring discredit upon the Parliament …

Clearly the Premier, the Leader of the House and even the member for Melton understand what discreditable conduct is. They understand that the member for Melton has brought discredit upon the Parliament. They understand that any vote he casts is tainted.

The Premier has a choice: he can either deal decisively with the member for Melton — because this is about probity, this is about decency, this is about doing the right thing — or he can continue to dodge and weave, he can continue his pattern of distraction, deception and denial or be revealed as the hollow hypocrite he truly is.

When will Mornington Pier be fixed?

My question is for the Minister for Ports.

As the minister is aware, in 2016 the Mornington pier suffered extensive damage from an extreme storm event.

I have previously raised this matter in the house. I sought immediate action to restore the safety of the harbour, but unfortunately, apart from some temporary works, very little action has been taken. We have broken concrete panels sitting on the seabed or lying haphazardly near the pier.

The damage has affected the operation of the lower landing and of the swing moorings in the harbour, which are particularly exposed to westerly and south-westerly winds and waves.

The damage has effectively compromised the safe operation of the harbour under certain circumstances. It is now an issue of public safety, and there is potential risk there to life.

I ask the minister: when will the overdue and urgently required repairs to the Mornington pier be commenced?

Fair Work Changes – Bad Public Policy and Bad Legislation

This is a bill with only one purpose, and that purpose is to lock successive governments into the Premier’s profligate public sector wages policy, to lock them in for government after government after government.

The sad thing is if only members opposite could realise that if they actually stick up for the public interest and for ordinary Victorians, instead of their mates, those people who they owe a debt to for getting them onto the Treasury bench, then they might actually get returned next time.

But no, they are not interested in doing that. They are interested in looking after their union mates, and they are hoping the public will not notice.

But fortunately they will.

It is clear from the debate today’s debate that government members know that they are not standing up for the community They know they are doing the wrong thing. They know that their mates, the Premier’s mates, will be the winners from this legislation. They know that the public interest and ordinary Victorians will be the losers.

If you look at the types of agreements that have been negotiated by this government, the sorts of things that have been put into them, it is little wonder that the public simply does not trust them in this regard. We have seen 19 per cent increases on all allowances for the Country Fire Authority (CFA), delayed pay increases, $5000 in expenses because of court and tribunal proceedings, sports vouchers, allowances for those who live outside “difficult to fill” areas.

When the question was asked in the outcomes hearings, the relevant individual had to ask, ‘What is a difficult to fill area?’. There have been awareness programs with further loadings; road accident rescues, further loadings; extra significant amounts for having to travel a modest distance; plus of course the killer, a qualified firefighter rate for communications controllers, 34 per cent bonus

That is the type of agreement we are seeing negotiated by this government.

We need look no further than what has happened as a consequence to public sector wage costs to see the impact of this.

In 2014–15 the public sector wage costs were $18-and-a-bit billion. In the 2016–17 budget they had shot up by 15.2 per cent to $21.3 billion, and they are expected to reach $23.7 billion by 2019–20. Yet when the mid-year budget review was released, there was a $1.2 billion hit on wage costs in just seven months.

You cannot sustain that for a couple of years, let alone over a number of governments. It simply does not work.

Apparently this government has not learned its lesson. It has not learned that an enterprise agreement has to cut both ways. You have got to have benefits for the employees, but you have also got to have productivity gains. It is not a one-sided process, and unfortunately the sorts of deals that have been negotiated — each and every one of the deals that has been negotiated under this government — have been extremely one-sided. It has been all about one side to the exclusion of the public interest, in every case.

It is clear some members of the government do not like these grubby deals. They will not talk about the bill. They will not talk about the fact — —

Ms Hutchins — We put out a press release!

Mr MORRIS — I am not talking about your press releases, I am talking about this debate, because there has been from the government benches almost no mention of the bill. There was a ruling earlier, which I will not refer to because it might be construed as maligning the Chair, which allowed further matters, extraneous matters, to continue to be raised, because the substance of this bill is anathema to most government members.

In fact there has been no legitimate effort or legitimate attempt to justify this corrupt public rip-off.

All we have heard in this debate is about penalty rates, which are entirely irrelevant to this discussion. All we have heard are the words of class warfare, and there is no place for class warfare or for this sort of ideology in the state. All we have heard in this debate is about how members on this side are supposedly union-haters, and that is an outright lie.

But that is typical of the Premier, it is typical of the government he leads, and it is typical of the backbench rabble that he commands, sitting over there. They are not prepared to stand up for the public interest. They are not prepared to even try to justify this appalling piece of legislation.

The coalition understands that this was an ALP election commitment, but we also understand that if this bill is passed, the types of provisions that the

Premier has agreed with Peter Marshall, the types of provisions that allow United Firefighters Union (UFU) style restrictions, UFU style restrictive practices and UFU style controls, the sorts of agreements that have delivered those things to the CFA will be open slather across the public sector.

I contrast that view and I contrast the measures contained in this bill with the provisions that were in the bill — now the principal act — introduced by Labor under John Brumby in 2009.

In 2009 the Labor Party understood that governments were elected to govern. In 2009 they understood that management should be allowed to appropriately manage the organisations they are there to run and they are paid to run.

In 2009 the Labor Party understood that genuine productivity gains could be negotiated and could be implemented with the workforce. But this government simply does not understand those basic facts. Those things are all in the principal act, and they are all things that are being removed by this bill, because under this bill productivity goes out the window.

They have put the foxes in charge of the henhouse.

Seriously, what union leader worth their salt would agree to a cut in numbers, no matter how great the productivity gain, no matter how beneficial to the organisation, no matter the dividend to the community as a whole? They simply would not, because it would lower their membership.

Once staffing numbers are included in enterprise agreements the genie is out of the bottle, absolutely.

I conclude by reiterating a point that has been made by a number of coalition speakers today, and that is to make it explicitly clear that no matter how distasteful we might find any agreement negotiated by this Labor government, unlike the Premier, we are not in the business of tearing up signed agreements, tearing up signed contracts.

We not in the business of setting aside bona fide agreements. Let us not have any scare campaigns on this score.

Let us not have these Labor backbenchers running out to their communities and telling lies about the intentions of the opposition.

This is bad public policy, it is bad legislation, and it should not pass the Parliament.

Question: Shire Hall Beach

My question is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.

This morning I raised the issue of the Andrews government’s neglect of the Mount Martha foreshore reserve. I now raise the issue of the government’s neglect of the Mornington foreshore reserve.

Shire Hall Beach is a small and lovely beach at the fringe of the Mornington Harbour precinct. Sadly the usually pleasant sandy aspect is currently nothing more than a collection of exposed rocks, totally unsuitable for the families and children that usually frequent the area.

I ask: what action has the minister taken to ensure that there is no further degradation of Shire Hall Beach at Mornington?

The Pillars – Time to Fix the Problem

This morning I presented a petition from residents of the Mornington electorate seeking action from the Andrews government to resolve a problem I have raised in this house before — management of the out-of-control level of visitation to The Pillars on the Mount Martha coast.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, as the land managers, have long sought support and assistance from the government to resolve the issue. In January, after two years of fruitless discussions, the council resolved to close the area to the public.

I was present in the gallery during the debate, and I am pleased to say that while the council actively considered handing back their management responsibilities to the state, they did not proceed at this point. Given the total lack of cooperation from the Andrews government, it would not have surprised me had they done so, but at this point they have stopped short.

Last September, in the vain hope of getting some action from the government before Christmas, I raised the matter again by way of an adjournment matter directed to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. What was her response? It was: … this matter falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for Roads and Road Safety.

In other words, ‘Not my problem’. The only flaw in the minister’s reasoning, if you can call it that, was that just days before she signed that response on 25 October she had issued a press release announcing funding, unfortunately a paltry amount, for risk mitigation at The Pillars.

The response was not just a brushoff; it was also completely wrong. It is her responsibility.

Minister, the council has demonstrated good faith and the community has demonstrated good faith. It is time to get out of your ministerial office, get into your chauffeur-driven car, get down to Mount Martha and fix the problem.

Dr Peter Frost

I rise this morning to acknowledge the retirement of the chief executive officer of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, Dr Peter Frost.

Dr Frost of course not only was the CEO but also served as the acting Auditor-General for two extended periods, first following the retirement of Des Pearson and second following the resignation of John Doyle. The role is never straightforward, and Peter did an excellent job filling the gap left by Des Pearson.

His second stint after the resignation of John Doyle was, I am sure, even more testing. I do not wish to dwell on that time, but I simply say that under exceptionally difficult circumstances Dr Frost did a wonderful job to keep the office and the critically important work it does constantly moving forward.

Peter was not of course a career auditor. His Victorian public service roles included first assistant secretary to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, head of the Office of Public Sector Management and deputy secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

In academia he served as deputy vice-chancellor at RMIT. He worked in 33 countries as a project director and consultant for the World Bank, and he was a special adviser of public sector reform for the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

Peter is a former Menzies scholar and completed his doctorate in public policy and education at Harvard University.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the farewell function for Peter at the end of last year, but I did not want his retirement to pass un-noted, as it marks the conclusion of a long and distinguished career of service not only to the state and people of Victoria but to public service across the globe.

I am sure all members will join me in congratulating and thanking Peter for his service and for his commitment to the public sector and wishing him well in future endeavours.

Osborne Primary School – Funding Needed in 2017 Budget

I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Education. The action I seek is that the minister refer sufficient funds to the 2017 budget to permit the commencement of urgently needed works at Osborne Primary School.

This is a matter that I have raised on a number of occasions in this Parliament. As I have previously advised the house, in 2014 then minister Dixon announced funding of $960 000 for the school.

Unfortunately, that was not a commitment that was kept by Labor, although to be fair, a modest amount has been allocated – in fact, a very modest amount. There have been two modest amounts, both from the condition assessment report process.

In contrast, the coalition committed a significant amount, and as I have also noted previously in the house, there was a legitimate expectation that an improving budgetary position would in fact allow a total rebuild.

In his response the current Minister for Education, Mr Merlino, indicated that he would ensure that Osborne was on his radar. If it is, then he will know that the school has a dedicated and skilled staff and excellent school leadership but that the condition of the fabric still lets the school down.

The paucity of funding provided by Labor means that no major works can be undertaken – in fact, only minor works, and then only in a piecemeal way. As the chair of the school council has noted in correspondence:

… my fear is that when the works from this allocation is complete, that our school grounds will resemble a patchwork quilt, rather than a playground. This round of funding I understand, is to be devoted to repairing water pipes and electrical cables all of which are located underground, and will see us lift sections of the sheltered area where our basketball courts are located.

That is precisely why this school needs to have the appropriate funds allocated – to allow those works to be undertaken, and undertaken in a way that enables completion.

Labor promised for many years that it would completely rebuild the school. Of course, like 200 others, that rebuild never eventuated. The school is now growing, and we need those decade-old promises kept.

To again quote the chair of the school council:

Our school is struggling to deliver a 21st century standard of education utilising 20th century infrastructure. We all want the best education for our children, but sometimes I feel that our 630-plus students, and growing, just have to make do with whatever we can put together.

This is a school community that has worked hard for a very long time. They have made a terrific contribution to the school, but they simply cannot rebuild it on their own. They need the government to provide this funding, and they need the government to do it in this budget. I urge the minister not to let this plea fall again on deaf ears.

Fracking Banned, But New Gas Exploration Essential

Much of the legislation we deal with in this place is relatively pedestrian. It is important in its way, but seldom does a bill have significant implications that go well beyond its anticipated life. This is such a bill. It is not just an important bill, it is perhaps a critical bill for the future of the state. It is a bill that builds on the work of the former coalition government and a bill that will ensure our reputation for clean, green, sustainable agriculture is not compromised in any way.

The bill is intended to achieve three major outcomes: a ban on the development of coal seam gas extracted by any means, a ban on the practice of hydraulic fracture to harvest gas, and an extension of the 2012 moratorium on the development of conventional onshore gas facilities, which was put in place by the former coalition government and an extension of which to 2020 was proposed by the coalition in opposition in September 2015.

But there is an elephant in the room, and apparently this elephant is invisible to the government because the debate today is being held against a background of rapidly escalating energy prices, both electricity and gas — an escalation that in the case of gas, it has to be said, is being driven largely by market forces and in the case of electricity is being driven largely by the actions of the Andrews government.

The government sought to make the bill, in the context of this debate, about hydraulic fracturing, and that is without a doubt a significant component, but we cannot simply ignore this apparently invisible elephant — the energy price — because if it is ignored, it will not only cause tremendous social dislocation; it will destroy what is left of Victoria’s manufacturing industries. We cannot just hope for the best. We cannot just hope that energy prices will somehow sort themselves out, because quite simply they will not.

The bill proposes amendments to the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, largely to deal with the issues surrounding coal seam or unconventional gas, and also amendments to the Petroleum Act 1998 to deal with the issues surrounding the extraction of onshore conventional gas.

Part 2 of the bill addresses the issues of coal seam gas. Definitions of ‗coal seam gas’ and ‗hydraulic fracturing’ are inserted into the principal act.

Coal seam gas is defined as natural gas when contained in oil shale or coal, while ‗hydraulic fracturing’ is defined as being the injection of a substance or substances into a bore under pressure for the purposes of stimulating a geological formation.

While relatively new in Australia, hydraulic fracturing has been employed in the United States to stimulate wells since the mid-1860s, and over time a variety of materials have been used. Originally it was largely explosive fluids — like nitro-glycerine — while later on, in the 1930s, acid was introduced. A variant of hydraulic fracturing, massive hydraulic fracturing, is currently used on shale formations in the United States, and of course the process itself has been used widely to develop the Queensland coal seam gas fields.

When it comes to coal seam gas and to hydraulic fracturing, the role of the Parliament — the role of the government — is very much about risk management. There is of course in the recovery of coal seam gas, particularly through hydraulic fracturing, a considerable risk, and that was recognised by the former coalition government. As a consequence the moratorium that is still in place was imposed in 2012. It was further expanded in 2013 to include tight and shale gas.

In this regard I contrast the attitudes of the Baillieu and Napthine governments with that of earlier Labor administrations, because not one permit for the exploration or recovery of unconventional gas has been issued under a coalition government.

Every single one of the 73 licences that have been issued for exploration for unconventional gas were issued under a Labor government. Every single one of the 23 fracking permits that have been approved in this state were approved under a Labor government, and there is simply, in all of those approvals, not one example of public consultation — not a single example.

Additionally, as the Auditor-General’s report confirmed, the relevant department did not brief a minister on unconventional gas development in Victoria from 2004 to 2011, so clearly Labor was asleep at the wheel. This new and potentially problematic industry was allowed to develop without proper risk management and without appropriate regulation.

Unlike Labor, upon coming to government the coalition very quickly realised the risk posed by hydraulic fracturing to our agricultural industries, and we took action.

Clause 4 of the bill proposes a total ban on both exploration for, and mining of, coal seam gas and imposes significant penalties. Any coal seam gas that may be incidentally discovered must be reported. Hydraulic fracturing is banned. The issuance of exploration or mining licences, or the retention of a licence issued for coal seam gas, is also prevented. The reporting of any coal seam gas discoveries to the minister is required. A limit is proposed to be imposed on the liability of the government with changes implemented by this bill, and the minister is authorised to undertake buybacks, although in a limited time frame.

Part 3 of the bill relates to the Petroleum Act and implements very similar arrangements. There are also consequential amendments to another act as a result of the banning of hydraulic fracturing and where provisions become redundant.

So that is the bill before the house. In many ways it is straightforward. Insofar as it relates to the prohibition of the exploration or recovery of unconventional gas, it is largely uncontroversial in this house. So too is the extension of the moratorium to 2020. Again the coalition have been leaders in this field. We announced our position on 28 September 2015, and our view remains unchanged. As the Leader of The Nationals noted at the time:

Extending the moratorium until 2020 will allow time for the regulatory work recommended by the Auditor-General to be carried out and for the findings of the parliamentary inquiry to be fully assessed.

Unfortunately there is little evidence to suggest the government is ensuring that the necessary work is undertaken or that the findings of the parliamentary committee have in fact been taken seriously. I suspect they do not actually intend to undertake any work at all to develop any safeguards and simply hope the problem will go away — but it will not.

Victoria is on the brink of an energy price crisis. The most recent report from the Australian Energy Market Commission released in December 2016 states clearly that in the three years from 2016 to 2019 electricity prices are set to skyrocket by 35 per cent. In the short term the impact is even worse, with prices set to rise by up to 40 per cent between 2016–17 and 2017–18 as a result of the closure of Hazelwood.

The National Australia Bank has forecast that Victorian households could be facing gas bill hikes of 50 per cent or more. Of course this hike comes on top of already significant increases. The bank’s 2017 ‗Gas and LNG Market Outlook’ indicates that prices in Victoria could rise to between $8 and $10 a gigajoule, up from $2 to $4 a gigajoule before the export plants were commissioned.

Earlier in this debate the Premier asked rhetorically if we were ―for‖ the Victorian economy.

The fact is that the energy price crisis that is set to engulf this state will not only make life exceptionally difficult for households,it will take the axe to Victoria’s manufacturing industry. Yet the government is doing absolutely nothing to deal with this crisis. It is doing absolutely nothing to ensure that the literally hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on a reliable, reasonably priced energy source have a future beyond the next year or two. If the government continues to ignore the looming economic firestorm that a 35 per cent increase in electricity costs and a 50 per cent increase in gas costs will ignite, the very future of this state could be at risk.

So should we ban hydraulic fracturing? Absolutely. Should we continue the moratorium on onshore conventional gas until we get the regulatory framework right? Absolutely.

But the government must start that work now. We cannot wait another five years; we cannot wait another ten. The cost to the Victorian economy and the cost to Victorian families in lost jobs and a skyrocketing cost of living is simply not sustainable.

Inaugural Speech

“I feel greatly honoured to stand in this place today as the member for Mornington — honoured to be a member of this house, of course, but particularly so to be representing the seat of Mornington.”

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) — Speaker, may I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election to your high office and to wish you well in discharging your duties over the next four years.

I feel greatly honoured to stand in this place today as the member for Mornington — honoured to be a member of this house, of course, but particularly so to be representing the seat of Mornington.

The electorate lies on the eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay and comprises three distinct townships, Mount Eliza, Mornington and Mount Martha. It also contains a good slice of the district and village of Moorooduc. Despite substantial population growth in recent years, owing to the foresight and planning of successive councils, the area retains its charm.

Unfortunately the Melbourne 2030 activity centre provisions now threaten. This is a critical time for the Mornington Peninsula. We are in serious danger of becoming simply a southern extension of metropolitan Melbourne, a scenario emphatically rejected by the peninsula community.

That is certainly a debate we must have, but perhaps it is more appropriate to leave it to another day. As I speak, much of the seat remains rural land, home to cool climate viticulture, extensive grazing, fine food and, of course, the racing industry. We are on the metropolitan fringe.The Mornington Peninsula Shire is an interface council, with all the challenges that go with that particular designation.

I have spent most of my adult life on the peninsula. From almost my first day I was aware of the fierce local pride that people who live on the Mornington Peninsula — and particularly those who have lived there for a while — have in the area. It is a pride which I quickly came to share and which has made me a passionate advocate for the community that I now have the pleasure of serving in this place.

The other constant in my adult life has been small business. It was small business that brought me to the Mornington Peninsula, and it is small business that to a large extent has guided the course of my life over the last 26 years.

As all good traders know — and I think as all good members of Parliament know — it is of vital importance to be involved in your local community. Early on in my time on the peninsula I joined a number of local groups, including the Mornington Chamber of Commerce.Not long after that the chamber developed a fairly strong difference of opinion with the then Mornington council as to what the future shape of the Mornington township should be. It was a difference that threatened to escalate and poison what had been previously a pretty good relationship between those two bodies over the years.

In a bid to understand the council’s view of things I started sitting in the gallery right through council meetings, and of course rather than simply taking note of what happened in terms of the planning issues, I started to get interested in all the other bits and pieces that were going on as well. Fortunately our differences were resolved pretty quickly, but not before I was well and truly bitten by the local government bug, and before long I had been elected to the Mornington council.

My local government service, which was in the pre amalgamation days, was certainly one of the high points of my public life to date. To serve as mayor, or shire president as it was in Mornington in those days, was a great privilege, as was the opportunity to serve on public bodies such as the Peninsula Regional Library Service and the Westernport Regional Planning Committee, to advise the Minister for the Arts on library funding or to be nominated by my peers to negotiate the merger of the Shire of Mornington with the shires of Hastings and Flinders.

But undoubtedly the most rewarding part of local government was the opportunity it gave me to engage directly with so many people who make our community great — the traders who give their time, and often their money, to make local festivals happen; the Rotary clubs and the Lions clubs, which contribute so much in so many ways; the volunteers who support the Meals on Wheels services — and without the volunteers they simply could not happen; and many, many more. Such people are an integral part of the active and vital community that is the Mornington electorate, as they are of so many other communities across Victoria.

In the past few days — and unfortunately now, weeks — there has been no better example of service to the community than the efforts of the Country Fire Authority volunteers, a number of them from the Mornington electorate, who have left their homes and their jobs to battle the menace of the fires which have laid waste to vast areas of our state. These brave men and women deserve our recognition and our thanks for their tremendous commitment to the public good. I am sure the thoughts of all of us are with them in their duties.

I come into this Parliament as a proud member of the Liberal Party, a party I joined in November 1975 at the age of 19. Over the years I have been an active member and have had the opportunity to contribute in many ways. I am a Liberal because I believe in individual freedom, in individual responsibility and in a society committed to freedom of thought and freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of association and free enterprise. I believe in a community that values initiative, enterprise and individual achievement over compulsion and conformity — a place where people are able to buy a home, raise and educate their children in the way they choose, and create the life to which they aspire.

I would not have the privilege of standing in this place this evening had I not had tremendous support from many people. I firstly want to recognise the support I have received from the former member for Mornington, the Honourable Robin Cooper. Robin has been a friend for almost 20 years, a great mentor and a great supporter. I also particularly want to thank Diana and Erich Goetz, Terry Leech, Alan Underwood, Frank and Trish Winter, Arthur Ranken and David Chapman. Their efforts have been way beyond the call of duty, as have those of Darren Disney, Julian Sheezel and all in their team. I would also be remiss if I did not mention another good mate — the Honourable Bruce Billson, Minister for Veterans Affairs and the member for Dunkley in the commonwealth Parliament. Bruce and I have shared many political adventures since we first crossed swords on a regional library committee in 1987.

I am also particularly fortunate to have enjoyed great support from my family for my political endeavours over what is now an extended period. That support has come from my parents, Bob and Dorothy Morris, from my sister, Robyn Tredinnick, and her husband, David, and lately their children, Caitlin and Andrew, and from my newer family, Simon, Tim and Carolyn Wilson, but most of all from my wife, Linda, who worked at full stretch for every day of what was a 22 month campaign. I simply would not be here without her love and support.

I thank the house for the courtesy with which I have been heard this evening, and I look forward with great enthusiasm to the years ahead.

Legislative Assembly 20 December 2006