Ms SHEED (Shepparton) (10:11): I rise to speak briefly on the Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill 2019 and the amendment that has been made by the Legislative Council. My remarks will be quite short because they go to procedural matters. I consider it entirely inappropriate that an amendment such as this be raised in the house, handed to us, a motion being put that it be adjourned until later this day, and then immediately brought on for debate. That is my primary concern about this. I suppose in the last hour that I have actually had to read through the amendment—yes, it would appear on the face of it to be just a change to dates that may not be substantial, but how do we know that? It would have been appropriate for an appropriate amount of time to be given for all members on this side of the house to consider the amendment that has been put and what it might mean.
I do not intend to try and relitigate the bill itself, as others here may be seeking to do. I note it was debated for many hours in the upper house yesterday, and the result of it is this document with what appears to be a minor amendment to the bill. But I would say in making my comments that this is a reflection of what this house has come to and what this side of the house has now been brought to. We have no consideration in detail of bills. Had we had that, this matter may have been dealt with here in this house at the time this bill was debated in this house.
Ray Purdey, a former Clerk of this Parliament, wrote an excellent paper on the diminution of many of the democratic processes in this house over a period of 20 years, and nobody has done anything about drawing attention to that. Well, I intend to draw attention to it. It is an extremely important foundation of our democracy that as an opposition here in this house we have the opportunity to use the standing orders in a way that enables us to have our say and to represent our communities and our electorates. We are not given that opportunity at the moment. You will have heard me get up on numerous occasions over the last six months and read out a motion by leave seeking that we look to removing the matter of public importance and the grievance debate on a Wednesday afternoon and move to having general business. That would have meant that the member for Lowan in the last Parliament could have introduced her bill. We could have had a debate on it. But no, it has now been introduced in the other place, where they will debate it, and who knows what will happen.
This is the house of government; that is the house of review. We should start behaving like that, and that will require some changes to the standing orders. But I have not had any support from anyone. No-one from any part of this Parliament has come to me and said, ‘I agree with you. Let’s work on it. Let’s see whether we can bring this matter up in another place or start talking about how we might achieve some changes to the standing orders’. Well, it is about time people on this side of the house started thinking about that, because they are not controversial. They are not major. They are really just going back to a time when oppositions were given an opportunity to bring on a bill and have it debated—not be shut down at the first mention of a bill.
It was a time when motions could be brought and debated during that period of non-government business, and that meant that this side of the house, which sometimes, believe it or not, is almost half this house, gets to represent their communities. We have a government at the moment that has a massive majority. The people of Victoria overwhelmingly voted in the Andrews Labor government at the last election. Well, we wear that. These are the opposition; I regard myself as an Independent. I behave as an Independent, and I raise this issue as an Independent because it is about time everybody in this place started to have a think about how important it is.
Never has it been more important that we protect and value our democratic institutions. We can see the rise of restrictive regimes around the world in many places, and the attack on democracy is something that we should all be afraid of. We do not want to be shut down. We want the opportunity to debate appropriately, and this is something that I feel very strongly about and I believe the people of Victoria would feel strongly about, were they ever to take any notice of an issue like this that is being raised here on a Wednesday morning. I think it is incumbent on all of us to work much harder to lift the profile of the Parliament, to value the norms of the Parliament and to try and improve the outcomes within our Parliament. Many have written about it. Other parliaments have taken steps to improve and reform their parliaments; New Zealand in recent times has done that.
Coming back to this particular issue, my objection is to the fact that it has just been put in front of us like that, just handed to us and then brought on for debate. It is not respecting the process as we should respect it. An hour would have been enough. We have got a shadow minister who would have had plenty of time to go and look through it. It is not a time to necessarily relitigate the whole argument, but they are amendments. This Parliament deserves the time to just have a look over them before the debate is brought on, and I would urge everyone in this place to have a think about what the value of this place is, what we are really here for and how we should really stand up for the things that matter in this place.