I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this government business program. While I will be supporting the government business program, because these two pieces of legislation are incredibly important, I am very unhappy with the way that these bills have been presented to the house at such short notice. I believe that receiving copies of the bill effectively when they are circulated in the house, having got notice of them just yesterday, is not the way that the business of this house should be done.
The Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme Bill 2021 is obviously an incredibly important one, and that is across the whole of Victoria and probably across most of Australia now. It is with great sorrow that I have to talk about some of the businesses in my electorate that have really been doing it very hard, and I recall in the last week speaking with two in the hospitality industry. They are some of our outstanding operators, and they are being faced with situations that they never thought they would face because of their success prior to COVID.
They have been hit so hard with the shutdowns. Just the tendency for people to be staying at home so much more is really having an impact. So this sort of relief—and we saw it throughout most of last year and indeed up until March this year—is welcome and will at least provide something. But it is a situation where a lot needs to be done quickly and not have delays in payments coming to people, because the level of desperation out in our communities is really great.
I think in a situation where bills are presented to the house in this way not to have consideration in detail of those bills is outrageous. It is not good enough to just pass that off. In fact it is the only opportunity in this Legislative Assembly—which is the house of government, in case we have forgotten that—that we get to question ministers, to hold ministers accountable in some way, to let them stand up and defend their bills and show a bit of passion for the bills that they are putting before the house. We get no opportunity to scrutinise bills in this way. There has been a long-term periodic pattern of reduction in consideration in detail. I could refer to the paper that Ray Purdey, a former Clerk of this Parliament, did some years ago where he did a complete history of the introduction of government business and the disposal of non-government business in this house. Gradually over the years there has been an almost complete wipe-out of consideration in detail in this house. We see consideration in detail in the upper house taking place, but most of the ministers are not there. That is not holding government to account. That is not holding ministers to account. That is not giving us the opportunity to question.
This Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme Bill 2021 is largely going to be detailed in regulation. You know, maybe this was a good opportunity to go into consideration in detail, because we have not seen the regulations; the regulations probably have not been done. I would certainly give the government the benefit of the doubt in that surely they would know what is going to go in the regulations and a minister could get up and explain what the bill is, what the regulations will be and how this will work so that by the end of Parliament on Thursday people in my community would have some idea of what to expect in some detail. But no, we do not have that, and it is an entirely unsatisfactory circumstance.
It makes a joke of the lower house of this Parliament—we who are the seat of government. We are elected to pass legislation finally and the upper house is a house of review. I mean, really, why are we handballing all the work that is meant to be done in this house to the upper house? It is an entirely disgraceful situation. It is time that the government addressed it. We need a non-government business program. We need to be able to do disallowance motions. We need to be able on this side to consider introducing legislation that affects our communities. We need to restore some level of democracy to this house of this Parliament which has gradually and progressively disappeared. It is not good enough to come in here with bills at the last minute and then shut us down on them. We should be allowed to question ministers on these bills.