I rise to make a contribution on this no-confidence motion brought by the Leader of the Opposition. I would like to say that I am very pleased that we are back in Parliament and in a somewhat normal sense in that we are here for three days and that we seem to be resuming a timetable that was upset during the course of the year. It is so important that we sit safely and that we obey a whole lot of rules, but it is a hallmark of our democracy that our Parliament should sit and should do so regularly. Another hallmark of our democracy is the fact that we have elections every four years, and at those elections the people of Victoria decide who will be the government. Just less than two years ago we had a state election, and the government today was overwhelmingly elected to govern this state. I see no reason at this time to support any motion that would upset that.
We are in the middle of the worst disaster, the worst emergency, in over 100 years, and this is not a
time for upset or disruption; this is a time for standing together as Victorians and trying to get the
results that the member for Melbourne has so well put: we all want to get back to some sort of normal.
This is not a time that you would wish on any government, whether it be a state, territory or federal
government, and it has been very pleasing to see the way that governments generally have stood up to
what they have been faced with during this year. But they do have to be accountable, and there are a
couple of things I would like to point out that I feel pretty disappointed in relation to the government.
The first goes back to late March, early April, when many offers were made for a joint parliamentary
COVID committee—to come together, to work together in a sense of cooperation so that we could
advise, we could assist, we could help the state work together and bring more information to the
government about what was happening. I think the denigration of that idea and the fact that it was not
taken up has partly contributed to what has been and what has become a very hostile political
environment. The federal government allowed the Senate to do it, New Zealand have such a
committee. Other governments instigated those sorts of committees where Parliament was not going
to sit for some time, as a safety measure. So I think that was a mistake.
Here in Victoria our crossbenchers and Independents were very loud in calling for that to happen. In
the early weeks and months that followed the pandemic many extraordinary things happened, things that we never thought we would see—the closing of international borders, the lockdowns, the
quarantines—nothing that we had really contemplated in our lifetimes. We were surprised that even
these powers actually existed, and in those early months there was a lot of praise for the way leaders
stood up and took to the helm and instigated at very short notice a whole lot of processes that made
people feel to some extent confident that they were in good hands. In my community there were many
people who in the same breath were lauding the Prime Minister and our Premier. It was extraordinary
in a fairly conservative electorate that that might have been taking place, but people had a level of
confidence that I had not seen before and that was very much needed at that time.
So the months have marched on, and through April, May and June the hotel quarantine system was
set up and failed. We have seen the results of that. It has brought about a whole lot more community
illness. It has brought about many deaths that we may have avoided had that not happened. One of the
other mistakes that I think was made very early on, and this came out during the hotel quarantine
inquiry, is that the chief health officer was sidelined. He, under the Victorian emergency health plan,
should have been the state controller. He should have been in charge. It should have been a health
response, not a logistics response. I think we are still seeing the consequences of that, and it is very
disappointing. I do wonder even now why the chief health officer is not in charge, because this is a
health pandemic. There are social and economic consequences for sure, but I think that the Department
of Health and Human Services really made a mistake in putting those things first rather than the health
Out there in that evidence that we have heard over recent times there is an acknowledgement that
within our department of health there is a serious lack of qualified people to deal with infection control,
to deal with pandemics—to deal with these sorts of health issues. It was admitted in the evidence that
the department is short on those sorts of skills. Now, that must in itself have contributed to the lack of
skill and capacity when it came to contact tracing—again a very serious consequence and one we are
still hearing instances of as we go forward. I have little doubt that if a full health response had been in
place early on, the situation in hotel quarantine may have been different because the chief health officer
would have been looking at infection control, not logistics. And it probably would not have mattered
whether there were security guards or police or ADF members at that time, because infection control
and the health issues would have been paramount and that would in itself have taken care of so many
of the problems that then took place.
There are many learnings that we will take away this year from what has happened, and some of those
are very much about this place: about how Parliament should be able to meet in times of crisis, about
attending Parliament remotely and about being allowed to vote even if you cannot come in. For many
of us regional members this is the first sitting of Parliament that many of us have come to since June,
and that is very disenfranchising not only for the members but for our communities.
There are those people who feel that maybe herd immunity is the way to go, that it is just survival of
the fittest, but I have to say that I am very grateful that we live in a country where every government in
the country has taken the view that everyone should be protected and that the goal has been to look after
our community and protect them. Even though by far the majority of the deaths we have seen from this
virus in Sydney and Melbourne and across the country have been in our more vulnerable communities,
their lives do matter; their lives have mattered. I would like to take this opportunity just to extend my
condolences to every family who has been affected by the loss of someone from coronavirus, and I
extend that to members of my extended family who in aged care have suffered that result.
This crisis has exposed some very deep and serious vulnerabilities within our community, and I believe
that it is time to bring on a review of our health department and our aged-care services. And it is very
disappointing, I have to say, that in the federal government’s budget just passed the opportunity was
not taken to do something about aged care. During the early stage of the pandemic, during July and
August when cases of coronavirus were ramping up in Shepparton, I rang every aged-care facility in
They were anxious. They were short-staffed. They had people calling in, with insufficient staff to even
meet the day’s requirements. There was no plan for backup staff at a federal level should the numbers
escalate in aged care, and there were many, many of those institutions that had workers working across
two or three places, including the local hospital. We know that these are the really fundamental
problems in aged care. And what has been done to address them?
I think that that is an opportunity in a budget where it is argued that women have been left out. There
is no doubt that when it comes to the care of children and the aged women are the predominant carers
in our communities. They are quick to do it and they do an incredible job, and to all of those carers out
there I just say thank you so much for the work that you do in all those areas in our community. It falls
to women to do those jobs, and women need to be sufficiently paid. They need to have job security.
They need to have full-time work when they need it and not be forced to work across multiple
I have been gutted tonight to have a briefing from the Minister for Health to say that in Shepparton we
have just had two active cases. We had a big run of cases in July. We got on top of it, suppressed it,
and we have been clear for many weeks. To find out that just tonight there are two active cases,
possibly with many contacts for our community, is extremely upsetting. It comes at a time when for
all of us—in regional Victoria but especially here in Melbourne; I just see it driving in—life has been
sucked out of this place, and it is a truly tragic thing to see. I am not here to blame people for that,
because it is the virus that is doing it. It is absolutely running rampant across the world, as we know.
But we had a moment of hope, I think, that in regional Victoria we might have been able to have a
much better result—to be able to be more isolated and to be able to free up even more. I am obviously
grateful that we are in a better position than Melbourne, but news like that can just really be so
devastating in our communities where we feel like we were really getting on top of it.
I think to bring a no-confidence motion is a very serious thing, and to do it at a time like this is
disingenuous, really. People in my community are not calling on me to vote no confidence in the
government. Of all the emails that have landed in my email in the last three or four days, five of them
are from my constituents. The rest are from God knows who. They do not put their name and address
on them, most of them. I do not know where they are even generated from, quite frankly, and I am
very suspicious of it. There will be people in my community who have lost confidence in the
government, but I am put here as an Independent. People have to rely on me to make a decision on
this—me alone. I do not get told how to vote, and I feel quite confident in voting against this motion
of no confidence that people really are looking for something different at the moment. They are not
looking for this sort of extraordinary ill will, this building up of a feeling of divisiveness. They want
us to get out of this. They want to find solutions. They want us to be the ones to lead them through it,
and that is a great responsibility.
People who are vulnerable in our community in particular deserve to be looked after, and we must do
everything that we can to do that. I have to say, and this is on a gloomy note, I do not consider that we
are in a second wave. We are just in a second lockdown. We only have to look at what is happening
in the rest of the world to see that the second wave is yet to come, and that will come next March and
April as we go into winter. Now, as far as I can see, on this side there is no road map for that. On that
side there is a bit of a road map. There is a road map that we can look forward to, there is a bit of
experience and there are some learnings from mistakes. But here—what are we doing? The road map
that the Leader of the Opposition has asked for is: ‘Let’s lift the 5-kilometre rule’. Well, how good is that? We have had that lifted. We are lucky in regional Victoria because we have had some of that happen. But we need a road map because we have got a lot more coming. I am not seeing a road map on this side of the house, and that is something that needs to be addressed. We need to be together on this.
I think I have said enough really. I think it is pretty clear that I will not be voting for this because in
this time we need to be working together, not dividing communities the way that this motion of no