I rise to indicate in the first instance my support for the terms of reference
before the house afternoon. I will be voting in support of them. However, I also
take this opportunity to indicate that if the terms of reference that I heard of
two days ago were the proposed terms of reference before the house today, I
would not be standing here in support of them. Some of the terminology in the
draft terms of reference was quite emotive and I would argue quite political. I
was concerned that party politics would interfere in what I consider to be a
very important inquiry into the issues that confront many communities not only
in regional Victoria but also in metropolitan Melbourne.
I was particularly interested in the journey of the terms of
reference, because I understand there have already been radio interviews and an
article in a Shepparton newspaper about these terms of reference. I found that
quite fascinating given that committee members had not been provided with a copy
of the terms of reference, nor has this chamber passed them, but the public has
been told that public hearings will commence early next year throughout regional
I should draw the attention of members of the house to the
other aspect — that is, unlike the recent inquiry, one of the terms of
reference for this inquiry provides an opportunity to examine the current
government’s response to the issues that are before the inquiry. As a government
member I can say we would be very much looking forward to that.
We are mindful that next year is an election year.
I hope all members of the committee will respect the fact that
this will be a very sensitive inquiry which will deal with issues confronting
many of our communities and many individuals we have in our electorates. This is
not an opportunity to talk down regional Victoria. This is not an opportunity
for us to start providing scope for people to think about regional Victoria in a
negative way — for example, thinking that there are towns not to visit, that
there are towns not to go and live in and that there are towns not to invest in.
I am quite concerned there might be some thoughts in the back of some people’s
heads that this might be an opportunity leading into the election next year to
do that for their own political purposes.
I am looking forward to a very rigorous inquiry and one that is
open and transparent. I am also looking forward to working further with a
committee that does not wait until its last meeting to put key recommendations
in its final chapter.
I think this inquiry is so important that we need to have a
vigorous discussion, a debate and challenge and search for solutions all the way
through the discourse of the inquiry. I reiterate that I very much look forward
to vigorous, open debate during this inquiry.
It is important to make sure we are sensitive to the fact that
this inquiry will lay out a number of issues. It is important we are sensitive
to a whole range of issues but also to the impacts those issues have on
individuals. I am also looking forward to looking at all the ways this
government has attempted to deal with the issue of disadvantage in our
electorates, particularly in terms of economic development and community
support. Much has been done by the Brumby Labor government in this area, but as
we all know in these areas there is so much more that can and will be done.
We all know that parenting issues, low levels of education,
unemployment, health problems and chronic social problems such as drug abuse are
in our communities. This inquiry charges this committee with the responsibility
of ensuring — with good recommendations — that all people can share in the
prosperity and the comfort this country and particularly this state can offer.
We have an important job in front of us. I look forward to it. I look forward to
achieving some solid outcomes that will benefit all our electorates in Victoria.