Government Business Program – I appreciate having the opportunity to speak on this matter. I will be supporting the government business program because I do not see that the issue of lack of opportunity to speak in this place actually creates a reason to oppose the government business program.
There are four important bills that need to be discussed, but there is definitely an issue around the lack of opportunity for those who are Independent members. The National Party has six members and the Liberal Party is now a smaller group. It is difficult at times to get to your feet and say things. There was a time when in this Parliament there was general business and that generally took place on Wednesday mornings, sometimes I think for up to half a day.
I know I have had discussions with the government at times about reintroducing general business so that those of us in the Parliament more broadly who want the opportunity to speak on matters could do so and so motions such as that put forward by the member for South-West Coast might also be debated more openly.
There are many issues in our electorates that warrant much more airing than we get the opportunity to give them in this place, and while we need to debate the bills I think there are times when it is pretty clear that there is insufficient time to canvass other issues. The issue of water in my electorate and right across northern Victoria is a major issue that rarely gets any mention in this place. Often there are missed opportunities to advocate for our community in relation to the impact of the Murray Darling Basin plan and the very devastating effects of the removal of water in northern Victoria. When you couple that with the price of water, the lack of transparency in the water trade, the drought on the whole eastern seaboard and a combination of issues that are having devastating effects in regional areas this needs to be debated.
There is absolutely a very sound argument for reintroducing general business into this house, as it used to be. I have found very little support for that on this side of the house in the past, but given the situation we find ourselves in now perhaps there might be more of an inclination to support working towards a situation where we do have some general business in this place. I would urge the government to raise this matter and perhaps refer it to the Standing Orders Committee as a genuine and valid issue to be debated before that committee with hopefully a recommendation to come back to this place.