Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I would also like to contribute to the address-in-reply in this 57th Parliament. I start by thanking the good people of Western Victoria Region for again giving me the opportunity to represent them as their member in the Victorian Legislative Council.
Before going any further, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the enormous effort our State Emergency Service workers and volunteers are currently putting in as we experience some of our worst storm and flood events, not just here in Victoria but also in Queensland and northern New South Wales.
I also pay tribute to those fighting the bushfires in Western Australia and the communities who have been affected by these events. Their ability to stand strong and help each other is illustrative of what makes this country what it is. Our mateship, compassion and strength gets us through tough times such as these. The way we pull together in such times makes me incredibly proud to be a Victorian and, of course, an Australian.
In my contribution today I will address some of the specifics mentioned in the Governor’s speech on the first day of this 57th Parliament. However, before I go to that I would also like to reflect on the previous government. It was a government that assisted us to go through the global financial crisis as the leading state in the best performing country in the world. It was a government that created hundreds of thousands of jobs for people in Victoria. It was a government that invested heavily in alternative forms of clean energy and led the way in the fight against climate change. It was a government that secured the availability of water for regional cities such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Hamilton; a government that rebuilt schools and hospitals and invested in teachers and nurses; a government that invested in our regions and provided much-needed infrastructure, stimulating the rural and regional economy and creating jobs; and a government that made tough decisions over 11 years, making Victoria the best state in this country.
Through funding programs such as the Small Towns Development Fund and the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund, regional Victoria has been able to flourish and become a significant generator of employment opportunities for Victorians. It has also become a strong contributor to the Victorian economy, and this is not to mention the extensive educational opportunities it has, through TAFEs and the establishment of the Deakin medical school. Rural and regional Victoria is now a gem in this state’s — —
Hon. D. M. Davis — On a point of order, Acting President, it would seem that Ms Tierney is reading slavishly from her speech notes. I am hoping that is not the case, but if it is, I ask you, Acting President, if you would insist that she speak from notes rather than slavishly reading.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! I was watching Ms Tierney speaking, and I think she is referring to notes.
Ms TIERNEY — That is right.
Rural and regional Victoria is the gem in this state’s crown, though it was referred to and certainly treated as the toenails of the state by the last Liberal government.
What the Small Towns Development Fund and the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund are responsible for — and I will read this list of what these funds have achieved in the electorate of Western Victoria Region — includes the redevelopment of the Hamilton showgrounds, home of the annual Sheepvention event, which my office staff and I attend every year; the redevelopment of the Lorne pool and the Mountjoy Parade streetscape, the main shopping and tourist strip in Lorne; the redevelopment of Nunns Beach, which is a very iconic place for locals in the Portland area — and the Glenelg shire has started work on that; a contribution to the Kyneton heritage and justice precinct; the upgrading of numerous sport and recreational facilities, including a number I announced and opened around the Anglesea area; significant investment in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, in particular the new spa centre; a number of announcements in Birregurra, rejuvenating that township; a significant investment — —
Mr Viney — On a point of order, President, it appears that the man who interrupted — oh, he has come back. There was no minister in the house. The man who wanted to so preciously deal with the proceedings of this house — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! I advise Mr Viney that he cannot debate the point of order.
Mr Viney — Then he stepped out of the chamber, leaving no minister at the table.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! The minister is in the chamber.
Ms TIERNEY — I have mentioned a number of projects coming out of those funds, but we also provided $113 million for the redevelopment of the Warrnambool hospital; the return of passenger rail to Maryborough and Ararat; the Portland children’s centre; the building of the first two stages of the new $24 million Colac Secondary College; Horsham and Maryborough neighbourhood renewal projects; the Deakin medical school; the Ballarat and Bendigo goldfields super-pipe; and many more projects. Of course there were also some difficult times during that period, and there will be difficult times in the future. But what will not be there to assist regional and rural communities in the future is Regional Development Victoria, because this government has already trashed it and shifted it out of the economic department into planning, effectively killing off its role of attracting jobs and investment into the regions.
Just over two years ago Victoria and Victorians were fighting the worst natural disaster in this state’s history, which took 173 people’s lives, injured a further 414 people and destroyed 2030 houses and 3500 structures as well as damaging thousands more. Through that period farmers continued battling a 10-year drought; they now see themselves on what could be likened to a roller-coaster ride — one I mentioned yesterday and in my previous contribution — on which they have been fighting not only fires but floods, locust outbreaks and now fruit fly.
In the last four years we have seen a number of prominent people and local community members in Western Victoria Region pass away. I want to take this opportunity to mention them.
Gillian Walker was a resident of a number of communities in western Victoria and was the chief librarian of the school at Ararat and heavily involved in different campaigns to protect the hill at Stawell. In more recent years she had also been a resident of Portarlington. She had been a real environmental activist who had made sure that every politician at every level of government was accountable for commitments to the local community about community efforts and environmental matters.
Roseanne McGuire passed away just before the state election. Roseanne had been a teacher at Horsham for many years and had helped so many young people, particularly disadvantaged rural students, through their difficult teen years. She had been a solid activist for many years.
Paul Turner from Geelong had also been very active in the social justice area as well as being involved with the Geelong Environment Council.
Josie Black from Glenormiston, who was a board member of the South West Institute of TAFE and who was involved in the South West Community Foundation and almost every other organisation you can think of in south-western Victoria, also passed away on the very day we signed the Glenormiston College lease over to the TAFE.
David Henshaw, a member of this Parliament in previous times, also passed away.
Ted Kenna, our Victoria Cross medallist from Hamilton, also passed away, as unfortunately did Tim Neeson, the economic development officer who drove so many things for the Southern Grampians shire.
Des Brennan, a highly respected man from the Ararat district, passed away over the Christmas break; and of course there was Arda Duck, whom I mentioned this morning in my members statement. We were extremely lucky to have those people in western Victoria. We were very happy to have them in our lives, and all of those communities in which they worked and lived, sadly, are missing them deeply.
I want to thank my staff, who have worked tirelessly over the last four years, as well as all the volunteers who have assisted me. A number of them are from the Geelong community, but there are also people who have driven considerable distances to come and assist as well.
I also thank the various community organisations I have been involved in and whose members have requested help, as well as many individuals.
I thank all 23 local councils in the electorate of Western Victoria Region — the mayors, the councillors, the chief executive officers and the council workers — because they have obviously made my job so much easier. There is no better way of getting to know parts of the electorate than by relying on the local knowledge and information provided by members of each and every local community, and I certainly thank them.
I make a pledge to all constituents in Western Victoria Region to continue to work incredibly hard. I will make sure the issues that affect western Victoria are strongly put and effectively pursued.
I will also make sure that the rights of western Victorians are protected and extended, and I look forward to continuing to enjoy working for a really wonderful electorate that is full of very active and committed community members.