Pandemic Management a Total Failure

Legislative Assembly 17 November 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:53): It is a pleasure to rise and make a contribution to this matter of public importance advanced by the member for Ripon.

It is interesting to reflect, to the extent that you need to, on the contribution of the previous speaker. I guess the take-out I would have is that it does not matter whether you are telling the truth or not; if you say it loud enough and you say it with apparent conviction and you keep repeating it, then someone is going to believe it.

But I do not think anyone in this chamber believed it, frankly. Certainly no-one on this side of the chamber believed it, because we know exactly how bad the record is that the member was trying to, frankly, misrepresent.

I do strongly support the matter advanced, as I said, by the member for Ripon, because if there is any matter of public policy that is more worthy of serious examination by this house, it is the manner in which the government has managed the approach to the pandemic in this state.

The numbers themselves tell a story; you do not need to go much further: 107 000 cases in round figures so far; 260 days locked down; 1248 deaths so far.

Ms Britnell: Huge.

Mr MORRIS: As the member for South-West Coast says, huge. You contrast that with the result to our immediate north: fewer than half as many deaths, 612; well less than half the days locked down—lockdowns of course are not just inconvenient; they are job killers, they are business killers, they are life destroyers—and the total number of cases, less than 80 000.

We had 50 000 more people contract COVID in this state than in New South Wales.

I think we are right to express our concerns about the government’s management of this pandemic because they have failed. They have failed comprehensively to keep Victorians safe.

No matter how loud the bluster, the fact is lives have been disrupted across the state. I do not know a single person in my electorate that has not been touched significantly by the impact of COVID. And we have had it relatively easy, although we have been part of the metropolitan lockdown. We should not have been, but that is probably a subject for another time.

The community has been badly affected. Other communities I know have had it a lot worse. This was a situation that did not need to happen.

The example is there in New South Wales. They had competent management in New South Wales. The result in Victoria, is damaged lives, a damaged economy and mental health impacts I think beyond anything probably in the post-white settlement of this state—huge impacts.

The fact is the mental health impact will go on for the longest, but damage has been done to the economy, jobs have been lost and lives have been disrupted.

I was talking to a constituent on Sunday, and he said, ‘I’m 85 years old. I haven’t seen my grandkids for two years. I don’t have that many more years left. I’ve lost that time’. The impact has been huge and it has been unnecessary.

We now have a situation where the view of the government is that, ‘Oh, we’ll have more of the same. We’ll continue this. We’ll change the rules’. We cannot talk about the bill, so I will not do that, but, ‘We’ll change the rules and we’ll have more of the same’.

When I spoke on the extension of the state of emergency back in February I made the observation that you cannot use such a draconian and arbitrary regime to govern in a democracy. You can do it in short bursts, you can do it for emergencies, but you cannot use the sorts of powers that the government has invoked in its management of the pandemic to govern in a democracy.

Yet that is what has happened. That is what has been going on since March last year. Now, I am the first person to say on occasion intervention—and intervention on that scale—was probably justified, but for short periods only and with proper accountability.

The issue is it has gone on and on and on. I made the observation back in February. I said, ‘What happens when we get to November? Will we still be there with this wicked virus?’. Yes, we are.

And we are seeing a wish to continue a regime that has not worked. It has not worked and in fact it has done considerable damage.

Now, the observations that are included in the matter of public importance, the observations from the Ombudsman, the bar council and so on, really are talking about protecting democracy under an emergency situation.

The first issue I have with the way the government has been managing the pandemic is that it has not worked.

The second issue I have with it is the way in which power has been concentrated: not only has the community been sidelined, the Parliament has been sidelined and half the cabinet has been sidelined.

A very few people have taken power into their hands and used it, we have had no accountability and we have had limited opportunities in this place.

Frequently the only reason we sat was to facilitate something the government needed.

We do not have an appropriate accountability mechanism. It is all very well to say, ‘Oh, a parliamentary committee will do the job’, but with the way we structure our parliamentary committees in this state they cannot do the job, speaking as both a former chair and deputy chair of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee and having worked with two members of the current cabinet, Minister Pakula and Minister Pearson.

Yes, we work with good faith. Yes, we got a lot of good things done and I think to the benefit of the community and to the benefit of accountability of government from both sides.

But the reality is that when a conflict arises between the majority of the committee and the government, either the majority of the committee do as they are damn well told or they are replaced. That is the way it works. So let us not pretend that we can have some fig leaf of accountability through a parliamentary committee which is dominated by government members.

If you have a parliamentary committee that perhaps has a non-government chair and perhaps has a non-government majority, then you are possibly part of the way there.

I was interested to see a piece in the Conversation from, I think, Monday from associate professor William Partlett and a number of his colleagues. They made the suggestion there that there was an alternative accountability mechanism in New Zealand.

I note the Premier has not picked up that particular accountability mechanism, so I think there is a lot to be said for this matter of public importance submitted by the member for Ripon and it certainly is and remains the number one public policy concern for me.

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?

Labor Playing Politics with Religious Freedom

Legislative Assembly 17 November 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:27): It is a pleasure to join this debate on the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021.

I will have been in this place for 15 years at the end of the month, and we have dealt with many, many controversial issues during that time. Some of them have been of great significance to individuals; some of them have been more about social reforms, the evolution of societal attitudes and so on.

When I was a relatively new member we dealt with the Relationships Bill, which became the Relationships Act 2008, and I strongly supported that bill.

At the time it was seen as a vehicle for formalising same-sex relationships—relationships particularly for gay and lesbian couples—in the absence of changes to the Marriage Act 1958, which was, of course, a federal statute.

Marriage equality at that time was a far-off dream for many, but I think it is fair to say that it was also a very long way from being accepted by the community. In fact I commented during that debate that the passage of the Relationships Bill would not lead to a change in the Marriage Act. I think I effectively said,

‘It’s not marriage, and if it was I wouldn’t support it’.

Now, I have reflected on those views. It was 2008; it was a while ago. I have reflected on that statement and I think I can honestly say that it was more about the way the community was thinking at the time than about any personal views I may have held. Certainly had the opportunity to vote for it come up at that stage—outside the Parliament, as an individual at the ballot box—I know what my vote would have been, and it would have been positive.

But the community was not there yet; the community was a long way from it.

The reality is if you want to undertake these reforms, you really cannot get too far ahead of where the community is at. Public opinion does change, and it changes sometimes very, very quickly. We have seen that on a range of issues.

That bill, as I said, was debated in 2008. Nine years later the nation voted overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality—overwhelmingly in support. Every state and every territory in the nation voted in favour of it. In my own patch, in the electorates of Dunkley and Flinders, there was a slight variation but it was around 70 per cent across the board.

We will not, of course—and God forbid that we do—but if views were reassessed now, I think that that number would be significantly higher even than 70 per cent.

By December of that year of course the amendments had become law, with 128 votes in support in the House of Representatives. So things move relatively quickly.

Can I say, though, I recognise the impatience of those in 2008 who said, ‘Look, the Relationships Act is nice, but it’s not what we want. It’s not what we need. It doesn’t go far enough’.

The fact is—setting aside the constitutional niceties—had this Parliament voted in 2008 to amend the Marriage Act in the way that was being suggested, we would have been doing it without widespread support, and it would have effectively been change imposed on the community.

When you impose that change you do not have the sort of debate—you would not have had the issue being embraced the way it has been subsequently by the community. When you impose that change you create division. People resent things being imposed on them and their positions become entrenched; they do not have open minds.

Of course we had that debate, and I should say I understand how uncomfortable that was for many members of the GTBTILQ+ community, because had it been about straight people, it would have made me bloody uncomfortable, I can tell you—very, very uncomfortable—but it was not.

So there was a cost to that debate, and I recognise that. But there was a benefit too, and that was that it had an educative role for the whole community.

It got people talking about it. It got people thinking about it. It gave people an opportunity to reflect on their own positions and how they came to their own positions—had they ever thought about it before? To the great credit I think of the Victorian community, to the great credit of the Australian community, when they did reflect their views evolved; the culture evolved.

If you want to have lasting change to societal attitudes, if you really want to get that cultural evolution and not just have political correctness, which is effectively forcing a segment of the community to keep their views to themselves, then you have got to have that cultural change, you have got to have that cultural evolution.

Without it the opposing views do not go away. They just go underground, but they keep up the fight; they keep up the resistance. They are still there. The society does not get to evolve. The opposition is invisible, but it still exists. I think the bill before us is unfortunately a perfect example of how not to handle a debate like this.

Now, I have spoken before in this chamber about the differences in approach between that of Steve Bracks and John Brumby and the current Premier. Premier Bracks and Premier Brumby were committed to outcomes. They were not above using the issue for politics—why wouldn’t they, as politicians?—but they were committed to the outcome, and they did not let the politics get in the way of the outcome. They wanted to genuinely bring the community forward, as did Ted Baillieu.

We have seen significant change in the last four parliaments. We have seen support across the chamber on a range of difficult issues, support that was both deserved and then received, but often that has been after a significant inquiry, whether it is a Victorian Law Reform Commission inquiry or whether it is perhaps a parliamentary inquiry of a joint standing committee—whatever.

That gives people the opportunity to provide input. It gives people the opportunity to be heard, to have their concerns addressed. Of course, as we all know, being heard does not mean your views are automatically taken on board, but it gives the decision-makers—in this case the legislators—the opportunity to test those views and come to a conclusion.

And if you do not accept the view that is being put to you, at least the risk is on the record; you know that it has been considered.

That is not the case with this bill. The government claims that this is overwhelmingly supported. The government claims there has been extensive consultation. We know that is not the case.

We know that a particular and considerable section of the community feels their rights are being overridden with this bill. It is clear from the ad that was in the paper yesterday and from all the emails and all the communication that I am sure we have all received on this issue that there is considerable concern, but certainly the Anglican community, the Catholic community, the Hindu community, the Coptic and Orthodox community, the Jewish community, the Sikh community, the Islamic community and a range of other faith communities do not believe they have been consulted meaningfully.

And as the ad said yesterday:

We … urge the Government to conduct meaningful consultation with faith groups and other stakeholders which will be in the interests of all Victorians.

I could not agree more. As I think my colleague the Leader of the Opposition said, no-one deserves to lose their job because of their sexuality. That is above and well beyond this discussion.

What this discussion is about is a legislative instrument that the government is bringing into this house to achieve a political outcome, and I think it is regrettable that politics has been allowed to dominate this discussion when this is an important issue and we do really need to bring the community with us.

The Peninsula has suffered under Labor, Time for Balance

Legislative Assembly 17 November 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:51): I have raised the issue of the metropolitan status of the Mornington Peninsula in this place on numerous occasions.

I have tabled petitions with more than 3000 signatures on them in the last 12 months.

The pandemic has heightened the visibility of the metropolitan status, and it has certainly brought it to the attention of many more residents. Many residents are asking, ‘Why is that the case?’.

It is a basic matter of fairness.

Geelong is considered to be regional; the Mornington Peninsula is not. Geelong is eligible for a range of support measures—the Regional Jobs Fund, the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund, the Investment Fast-Track Fund and a range of others.

But significantly, Geelong businesses are eligible to pay half the payroll tax rate that businesses on the Mornington Peninsula pay.

Ms Britnell: That is not fair.

Mr MORRIS: That is not fair in any way, exactly as the member for South-West Coast says.

We have also seen disgraceful scare tactics where members of the Labor Party and their fellow travellers are running around saying that if we go to regional Victoria, we will not have the green wedge protections.

That is complete and utter rubbish—absolute rubbish. The only reason that would occur is that the government allowed it to occur. It is in the hands of the government of the day. The scare tactic is a complete and utter furphy.

The peninsula has suffered enough at the hands of this government. It is time we had some balance.

Circular Economy Bill A Complete Hoax

Legislative Assembly 16 November 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:01): The bill before us today is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with this government. It is 169 pages—plus of course the explanatory memorandum—of very little.

When it comes to the environment with this government there is lots of talk—lots of talk, lots of claims—but in fact there is very, very, very little action.

Now, the background to this bill, and the minister identified it in the second-reading speech, is China’s National Sword policy, the policy position that was taken by China in January 2018, almost four years ago.

For 12 months the government sat on their hands. They knew the policy was there, they must have known the implications, but they sat on their hands. And then of course we had the fire that the member for Footscray was just talking about.

Even that did not jolt them into action. Then of course SKM Recycling collapsed in I think it was February 2019, and the issues started to emerge and started to be a little bit obvious, because not only did SKM collapse but effectively the recycling system in this state collapsed.

Thousands and thousands of tonnes of resource that should have been recycled, that should have been re-used, were consigned to landfill. And of course, worse still, we had thousands more tonnes stacked into warehouses—just a time bomb waiting to go off—and we saw the impact of that, we saw the impact of the fires and we saw the environmental damage that came out of that.

Still the government did nothing—did nothing.

Finally, more than two years after the China sword announcement, the government issued a media release, and it has taken another two years to get from that media release to seeing the bill in this house.

So we are now, as I mentioned, four years on.

This government can bring in a bill to lock up people, to deprive them of their civil liberties—bring it in on Wednesday, guillotine it on Thursday, done. But to bring in a bill to protect the environment takes four years. It takes four years and we still have a shell of a bill. It is a shell of a bill.

Everything in it is left to regulation. There are heads of powers, that is it. But if you want to see what the system is going to look like, it is not in the bill.

You have only got to look at the time lines to see the flaws in this initiative and particularly the flaws in this legislation. According to the second-reading speech we are going to have a glass recycling service, a factor which is an integral part of the contamination issue that we were confronted with four years ago, by the end of 2027—the end of 2027, six years from now.

We are going to have a food and organic recycling system by the end of 2030, nine years from now. As I mentioned, we are already four years in. So that means the glass recycling is going to be 11 years after the need for it became more than obvious—and the food and organics even more. Come on.


The government claim they are there to protect the environment. They claim they are there to take on the big issues. But 10 years, 13 years to fix a policy problem that was obvious is just absolutely crazy.

I think just about everyone will remember the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report from June 2019, Recovering and Reprocessing Resources from Waste. It was a damning report from the auditor. It was an entirely fair report, but it was damning.

It found that Victoria had not had a statewide waste policy since 2014. We had a statewide waste policy in 2014. We had a serviceable waste policy in 2014. One of the first acts of the Andrews government when they were elected was to scrap it.

The auditor found that the roles and responsibilities in the waste resource recovery sector remained unclear, as they do today; problems with Sustainability Victoria; no clear plan to implement the actions in the strategies; no planning for hazardous waste—wasn’t that obvious?; ineffective monitoring from the EPA; and waste data was inaccurate.

More than two years on, we still do not have legislation in place to facilitate a solution for those things. And of course the auditor also confirmed that $511 million in the Sustainability Fund was being used to support the surplus. Of course that was back in 2019, when surpluses apparently did matter. Things have changed somewhat.

So how did the government respond to that criticism—to that reasonable criticism? The response came from the Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek. Remember him?

The Minister for Local Government was the only minister that took any action, and it was a relatively modest one: to issue a statewide exemption for councils to remove administrative barriers to getting their contracts sorted out. He was the only minister in response to that damning auditor’s report that took any action at all.

Beyond Mr Somyurek we heard nothing, absolutely nothing, apart from a continuous stream of self-serving, self-promoting, pork-barrelling announcements in the recycling area—nothing that made a significant difference.

But in stark contrast, on this side of the house the opposition made a series of significant announcements, and I want to just touch on two.

In November 2019 we announced our zero to landfill policy. We made a commitment that by 2035 we would eliminate waste going to landfill, a commitment that the government still has not matched.

It was not just an ambit claim. It was not just a sound bite. We made commitments to reduce waste by 33 per cent by 2025 and by 66 per cent by 2030. Still the government did nothing.

In February 2020 the opposition announced a plan, a cash for containers scheme. Finally we got a response from the government—finally we got a response.

Two weeks later we got not a plan, not a bill, but we got a press release: that there would be a container deposit scheme and that there would be a fourth bin system.

And now, almost two years after that press release, we have got a bill that does not establish a container deposit scheme and does not establish a comprehensive recycling scheme; it establishes a framework for those things.

All the heavy lifting is going to be in the regulations. We are 10 years away from having a proper recycling scheme fully operational—10 years away.

As I said, the second-reading speech made it clear that this is a response to China’s Sword policy, which was introduced four years ago. Thirteen years on from the introduction of that Chinese policy the government is going to respond.

The fact is this bill is simply a hoax. It is an illusion of action when no action is happening. It is a triumph of politics over substance. It is a complete fraud, and it should be recognised for what it is.

Time to Back up Green Wedge Rhetoric with Action

Legislative Assembly 28 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:19): (6124) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Planning. It relates to a property at 60–70 Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he immediately agree to the exhibition of amendment C270 to the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.

Speaker, you may be aware, and certainly I am sure many others are, that this is not the first time I have raised this issue in the house. I think the first time I raised the specific matter of amendment C270 was in fact in February 2020, so it is a while back. There have been a number of other contributions and amendment requests related to this property over the journey, and most recently I raised the issue by way of adjournment in August of this year.

The issue with this particular site is it is a large piece of land outside the urban growth boundary but it is not protected by the green wedge provisions that protect 99 per cent or more of the Mornington Peninsula that is outside the urban growth boundary.

It is a historical anomaly. It goes back to the days when the site was occupied by the Melbourne Business School, so it is a special-use zone. The shire quite rightly saw that there was a difficulty not only with this site but with a number of other sites which amendment C270 also covers, and in February last year it resolved to request the minister to agree to the amendment.

At the time the minister responded and said, ‘I’ll look out for that amendment’, and I am sure he did. He is certainly aware of it.

In fact I should say that when I raised the issue again in August of this year the minister was of great assistance and immediately, because he was in the chamber, offered a briefing.

That briefing was conducted within a matter of days—very, very quickly—and I certainly appreciated the speed at which the minister moved and the information that was provided to me. I do not intend to go into the details of that, that shall remain confidential, but I did appreciate the information that was provided.

We are now another couple of months down the track. We are still waiting for something to happen.

The question is whether this government is actually going to back up its rhetoric of protecting green wedges, and particularly protecting the green wedges on the Mornington Peninsula, or whether it is not.

The council support this amendment. I certainly support this amendment. My colleague in the other place Edward O’Donohue strongly supports the amendment. It is time this happened.

The minister has an opportunity to back up his rhetoric with action, and that is what I am seeking from him today.

Small Business COVID Hardship Fund

Legislative Assembly 26 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (14:44): (6094) My question is for the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery.

Minister, the government has repeatedly trumpeted the financial support it is offering to businesses and particularly to small business.

Despite those claims, rarely a day passes when I do not receive communication from multiple businesses that their applications have been rejected for no obvious reason, or that they have been accepted and then apparently disappeared down a black hole.

The mental health impact right across the community, as we know, has been huge, but the government is simply adding to the anguish of small business owners by leaving them waiting for weeks and months to have their applications for financial support processed.

Minister, as of today’s date how many applications under the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund initiative are yet to be finalised?

UFU Tactics Patently Dishonest

Legislative Assembly 12 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington): (6060) My question is for the Minister for Emergency Services.

Minister, the UFU is currently engaged in a campaign apparently intended to drive CFA volunteers out of Victoria’s fire services.

It is patently and dishonestly intended to convince the community that they are not safe unless they are located within a Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) coverage area.

On-the-ground tactics include bypassing CFA stations for incidents, including some in their own area, and not recognising CFA trucks as a primary vehicle.

I understand that if FRV is committed for more than 30 minutes a truck will be moved to Mornington Peninsula locations from as far away as Patterson River or Dandenong, despite CFA trucks being immediately available.

Minister, why are FRV vehicles travelling long distances while CFA vehicles which are almost immediately available are being overlooked?

Business support – not fair for all

Legislative Assembly 7 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington): (6049) My question is to the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery.

Minister, I recently received an email from a constituent, who wrote:

As a business owner in Mornington of Remedial Massage and Myotherapy we have been forced to fully close during lockdowns. I have received the round two and extension grants however we are not part of a category that receives the extra $5000 continuity fund which we are in desperate need for.

When looking at the list I am completely confused as to why we are not on this list?

Our association has been advocating on our behalf to be allowed to offer our service like all other Allied Health to allow for those in real chronic pain to attend even if this is still rest practice.

Unfortunately, we keep getting told NO …

Minister, why is support provided to allied health providers, hospitality providers et cetera but not to a business like that operated by my constituent?

Bureacracy building won’t help the Environment

Legislative Assembly 5 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:16): I must say that there has generally been a tradition in this house that at least the first speaker for the government talks a little bit about the bill— about what is in the bill and how the government, beyond the detail required in the second-reading speech, actually came to the position it did and why it is implementing the changes—and generally makes an effort to respond to the issues raised by the lead speaker for the opposition.

By my count it took until the last 28 seconds of the Member for Footscray’s speech for her to actually address an issue that related to the bill at all, and I think that is absolutely a record.

I know debating standards in this chamber—I am not talking about behaviour, but the standard of debate—have been declining for years. But could we at least have a situation where the first speaker for the government actually talks about what is in the bill—not the history, not what may be happening in another party in another state, but actually what is in the bill? That might be helpful.

The Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 is fairly straightforward, amending the Water Act 1989 and the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.

This is I think in many ways an unremarkable bill, but it is also a significant bill because it is abolishing the Victorian Catchment Management Council. It is reassigning the duties of the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (CMA), which has been operating since—what, 1997? Something like that.

Of course, as the Member for Footscray did finally mention, it is merging City West Water and Western Water and turning them into Greater Western Water as well. But it is doing a lot more than that.

The Member for Euroa particularly talked about the changes to the Water Act and the way they apply. The area that is likely to be most affected is of course the Murray River and particularly the issue of water supply downstream of the Barmah Choke.

Now, I know what the Barmah Choke is, I know where it is and I know a little bit about the issues around that, but I certainly do not pretend to be an expert. But it is clear that if you have reduced flows and you have increased utilisation of water downstream, then you are going to have issues. I think while, as the Member for Euroa mentioned, there are some concerns with the mechanism and there are some concerns with the regulation process still to come, the actual initiative, as she mentioned, was actually proposed by the coalition, by the Liberal and National parties, prior to the last election, and clearly it is an area that we are actually supportive of.

I did want to concentrate most of my remarks on the abolition of the Victorian Catchment Management Council and the issues arising from the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA merger with Melbourne Water.

Now, with regard to the catchment management council, they characterise themselves in their annual report, and I think it is borne out by the legislation, as the government’s peak advisory body on catchment management. They say that they are uniquely placed, that they are able to take a long-term view and that they are able to influence change in working towards their vision for catchment management, working towards the government’s vision for catchment management.

In particular, they talk about ecologicallyand sustainable and productive  catchments. Now, I think that is an ambition that we would all consider to be reasonable, so it does beg the question of why this body is to be abandoned. I particularly refer to the report State of the Environment 2018—we have another one coming in 2023, but this one came out in 2018.

While it has a range of indicators in it, the ones I am always interested to look at relate to biodiversity. Remember, ecologically sustainable and productive catchments and biodiversity are inextricably linked—they are inextricably linked.

Yet when you look at the report and the biodiversity indicators, 35 of them, none were good—none at all were considered to be good. Seven were considered to be fair, 21 were considered to be poor and seven we just do not know—we just do not know. So 80 per cent of the indicators are either poor or unknown, and the balance are to be considered fair.

You would have to say that is an appalling record when it comes to biodiversity. Yet here we are today debating the abolition of the Victorian Catchment Management Council, which is about ecologically sustainable and productive catchments.

I really find that rather surprising, I have got to say.

The other aspect, as I foreshadowed, that I want to talk about is the merger of the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA with Melbourne Water. Now, of course Melbourne Water is the successor of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, a bureaucratic juggernaut that was well and truly due for winding up when it was broken up in the 1980s.

Of course it has a history well outside simply the supply of water, particularly when it got into planning and other matters, but that is really outside the scope of this debate. But the Melbourne Water of today, being the successor of that body, is still primarily a water supply body.

When you look at the annual report, again:

We manage water supply catchments, treat and supply drinking and recycled water, remove and treat most of Melbourne’s sewage, and manage waterways and major drainage systems in the Port Phillip and Westernport regions.

When you contrast the activities of that with what the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA is largely engaged in, when they talk about their summary performance they are talking about a collaborative strategy, they are talking about supporting Landcare, they are talking about working with the Indigenous communities and working with the broader community.

The thing that really struck me when I looked at the numbers here was that they are working with 86 Landcare groups in the Port Phillip and Western Port region and they are working with 4500 volunteers. They are also working with 25 councils. It is very much about partnership, it is very much about work on the ground, and we know that probably the most significant impact you can have is through this work on the ground.

Now, I am not being in any way critical of Melbourne Water. Melbourne Water work closely with a number of my community groups. They provide the funding. They do quite a decent job.

Members interjecting.

Mr MORRIS: I will tell them to shut up in a minute, Acting Speaker, even if you will not. I cannot hear myself.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Connolly): Order! Can I remind the Members in the chamber that the Member for Mornington is debating this bill, and I am unable to hear his contribution.

Mr Battin interjected.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Connolly): Member for Gembrook, I am looking at you.

Mr MORRIS: Thank you, Acting Speaker. I am not being in any way critical of Melbourne Water, but they are very, very different bodies, and I am not sure that this is the best model.

The theory that bigger is better, in my view, does not apply in this case, particularly when you have got such an appalling record in biodiversity, as I mentioned earlier.

The system is not working. Consolidating existing units and just making it bigger is not going to help, in my view. It is not going to help.

Land management or catchment protection—yes, it needs to be integrated, but is that the best model in terms of the Port Phillip region? I really have some significant concerns that it is not.

Because you only need to look at the map here—this is a region that stretches almost but not quite to Geelong, a bit like the metropolitan area, up to Ballan, across the slopes of the Great Divide. It then goes across to Healesville and down to West Gippsland.

It is a very, very big area, and while it does reflect the catchment boundaries it does not in any way reflect land use. It cannot. When you look at the land use outside this door and you look at the land use on the slopes of the Great Divide, it just could not be more different. It does not in any way reflect the conditions. It does not in any way reflect the terrain.

So I am not sure that this is really the best opportunity. I have significant concerns with the legislation. I have greater concerns with the approach of the government. We have got an agenda driven by a need to suit the convenience  of the government. It does not do much for the communities, it does not do much for the environment, and while the opposition will not opposing the bill, I am not sure that this is really a solution.