Ms SHEED (Shepparton) (15:18): (By leave) I rise to speak on the government business program, and I have to say it is with some disappointment that we are starting a new year and we are still fixed in the ways of not having the opportunity for consideration in detail in this house. I think we all know that this is where the ministers sit—most of the ministers on most of the important bills that get debated in this house—and it is surely the role of ministers to step up and answer questions from the opposition, independents and Greens. There are no opportunities for this to happen in this house, and it really starts to make a mockery of what the role of an opposition is in a Legislative Assembly. It is very disappointing.
We do have three important bills before the house. The Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Bill 2021 has some very important issues in it, including that notion of a duty of candour by hospitals to allow people to understand what may have happened to them and to have a full, detailed explanation of things that have happened to them in hospital and even an apology, and it sets up a situation where that can happen, among many other things.
The Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021 has been on the table for a long time, and there are aspects of that where fleshing out some of the detail I think would be very useful for all sides of the house to better understand, because it will have a significant impact.
The Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2021 contains many small issues, some of which are incredibly important, and one may well relate to the future of regional newspapers. The planned removal of advertising in the printed form in newspapers may well lead to the reduction of advertising. Small newspapers depend enormously on government advertising to actually exist. We are losing our capacity to be heard in regional areas: newspapers are disappearing, regional radios are being soaked up by multinationals and television has almost disappeared, with WIN Television going and Prime television going. Very little coverage is left for anyone to tell the stories of regional people within their communities. These are really important issues that are here to be debated.
I think the opportunity for members on this side to be able to debate and have a say on these issues often only comes in consideration in detail, because here in this house we have no non-government business program—the only house in the Westminster system that does not provide an opposition with a non-government business program, and that is truly an astounding thing. I have stood up here every Tuesday to move a motion to remedy that, and I am not getting the support that is required. Here on this side the Greens certainly support me, and other independents do. I am yet to hear others speak up in support of such a fundamental change to bring back into the Victorian Parliament in this Legislative Assembly the sorts of democratic processes that we should have. So I oppose this for all of these reasons, but particularly that removal of the ability for us to do our job and for us to be able to address ministers, raise questions and get answers in what is really a very civilised fashion. You only have to see how that operates in the upper house and in other parliaments to see that it is the one opportunity that members get to really flesh out the details around a bill. It disappoints me to have to oppose this government business program, because the bills themselves are important and generally supported, but because of the lack of capacity to investigate and to ask questions, I will be opposing the government business program.