I am pleased to speak on the government business program. I think it is a welcome opportunity this week for us to reflect on the budget that has been brought down and certainly for me to speak on it, to reflect on the investments that the Shepparton district is receiving out of that budget and also to speak on the Appropriation (Parliament 2022–2023) Bill 2022—always an opportunity to thank all of those associated with the Parliament and to reflect on funding for integrity agencies and a range of others.
But I particularly do like to talk about the government business program because one of the fundamental things that is missing in this place is a non-government business program, and I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact that each time I try to move a motion to amend the standing orders to reintroduce the opportunity for there to be a non-government business program in this place, it is shut down. It is always refused by the government side. Just today, however, the acting Leader of the House said yes, but there we go—shut down again, no opportunity to debate what is really just a fundamentally simple provision. This place is the only house of Parliament in Australia that does not have the opportunity for a non-government business program in the whole of its program.
When did it happen that it was whittled away? It started in the 1990s with the introduction of a government business program that has just dominated—dominated—and over the years, slightly, step by step in each Parliament, the opportunity for members on this side of the house to speak, to make a contribution, has been cut away. It is simply not good enough. How can we in Victoria be the only lower house in this country not to have a non-government business program? What are people afraid of? That I might move a bill on something? That I might want to bring forward a motion that somebody else on this side may want to debate, that somebody on that side may want to debate? I have got lots of good ideas, let me tell you, and I would like to have the chance to put them before this place on behalf of my community, my electorate and regional Victoria. But we do not get the chance to do that because we have only a government business program. That is all we have—no opportunity for anyone on this side of the house to have any say on what should be brought before this house and what should be debated, discussed and put forward as bills.
I just put it to all of you: it is a time for change, and we need to see that change happen. There is no reason to be afraid of it. It happens everywhere else. It happens in the upper house every Wednesday afternoon—all afternoon, a non-government business program. Why have we allowed this place to not have a non-government business program, only to have a government business program dominated by the government? There is no need to be afraid of it. We should debate this. We should all be prepared to debate it, and we should all be prepared to stand up and vote in favour of the reintroduction of a non-government business program in this place. You can all see the proposed amendments on the notice paper, in notice of motion 48. It sets out in detail the changes that are needed to the standing orders to enable just a 3-hour provision on a Wednesday for this sort of debate—for an opportunity for this side of the house to have a say. It is about time it happened. It is about time people had a close look at what is being said about the operation of this place—no consideration in detail, no non-government business program. Truly it is time that people looked closely at this issue and had what it takes to stand up, debate it and support it.