It is a pleasure to stand to talk about this bill, but not necessarily a pleasure that this bill is in the house. It is good to have the opportunity to put the record straight in a number of ways and speak on behalf of the people that are suffering because of the way this government has handled both the crisis that our state faces but also the way any criticism comes to it—how it avoids scrutiny, how it just does anything that helps the Labor Party or any of its union mates but avoids helping any of the businesses in reality and avoids helping the people that really most need its help.
This is probably the most controversial bill we have had, and we have had many controversial bills, particularly under previous Labor governments. We have had many controversial bills, and yet this one is probably right up there. This one is unfortunately being met in a way that previous governments would not have met a bill in this sort of crisis. In this case unfortunately this government wants to work against everybody, and that I think is reflective of the Premier’s personality. The Premier is all about how he looks, what he does and what he can do for himself, the ALP and unions but not what he can do for Victorians at a time when Victorians desperately need us to work together.
Now, work together—you would expect that that would be the case, and I am sure that most people have been greatly and deeply appreciative of the way the Prime Minister has approached these matters. The Prime Minister briefs Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Opposition in federal Parliament, weekly. He talks to him, consults with him, and that is a great thing to do, because when a community is under pressure like our community is under pressure you need as many good people as you can have working together to come up with the solutions for the problems that we face. Of course every member of the opposition has been elected by their community to come and represent their views, and yet the Premier seems to have completely forgotten that. So while the Prime Minister has been very happy to consult with and to talk to the Leader of the Opposition on a weekly basis, the Premier of Victoria has completely ignored the opposition leader and the opposition since March. There has not even been a phone call to the opposition rooms from the Premier or his office since March. I think that is a particular fact that goes to show exactly what this Premier is like and exactly how he approaches these problems, regardless of what the consequences are for Victorians, for the people that are doing it so hard.
Unfortunately arrogance is the bedmate of ignorance, and although at the start of this pandemic the Premier was always the first person to come out—I remember what it used to be like at school trying to get out of school first because you might have something to tell all of your friends—of national cabinet and do something that seemed to be different, that seemed to be leading the way, or at least that is how he wanted it to be. But of course then you would find out later that was something that the national cabinet had decided to do and it was just the Premier of Victoria trying to big-note himself. And he big-noted himself by locking down Victorians harder than any other state—and longer—and everybody put up with that. They thought, ‘Okay, he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to make sure that Victorians are left in the best possible position’. But as we know now, it is precisely the opposite.
While all of the other states have done well and are back to pretty much a normal state of affairs for their states, we are not. We are in the hardest lockdown—one of the hardest lockdowns in the world—and that is an incredible situation from where we should be. The result from one of the Premier’s complete failures is that of hotel quarantine, which has been talked about at great length—the reasons behind that. Of course you cannot blame the Premier for everything that happened in hotel quarantine, other than the fact that he had so many good options to choose from, with the Australian Defence Force ready there, with our own police force ready there. But instead of, in the most critical of circumstances, putting people in charge that know how to do this—it is their job to do these things—they put people in place that did not have the experience or the expertise to make sure that Victorians were protected. And now that is why we are standing here today arguing about how we go forward in such difficult circumstances, with 547 deaths since the quarantine failures—59 today. It is difficult to imagine any Premier or Prime Minister or President that has been more responsible for such horrible consequences for their people than what we are seeing today.
Every day in my electorate I talk to people. I hear their angst. I hear their pain. It is such a horrible situation to be in because you cannot say to them, ‘Look, unfortunately your Premier is completely ignoring the opposition. He does not listen to anything that we have got to say’. But unfortunately that is the fact. We are in a position where we are trying to keep people calm, keep their anxiety down, stop the angst they are feeling. But every day we are having more deaths, many of them suicides; more bankruptcies of businesses; more lost jobs, depression, anger, angst, family violence and just people that are absolutely unhappy. And why wouldn’t you be? Who could have imagined that in 2020 we would be living in what was the world’s most livable city and not be allowed to go outside our front doors at 8 o’clock at night, not be able to drive more than 5 kilometres, be able to go shopping once a day and not be able to have people over to your house. It just does not seem real. It still does not seem real that we have found our way into this situation.
But we have to work together to get ourselves out of this, and I strongly encourage the Premier to pick up the phone—which I think he should have been doing all the way through, instead of making the circus that he has with this piece of legislation and fighting openly with people across the political realm—and say to the opposition, who in fact have the numbers he needs to get where he needs to go, ‘Why don’t we talk about this? We can’t end this abruptly on the 13th. Let’s look at a way of moving forward’. That would be a critical part of actually doing what is right for Victorians, but that is not something this Premier wants to do. It is not about any of us in this house, but we are tasked with trying to resolve these problems and to put Victorians in the best possible situation they can be.
I have had people in my electorate call me at all hours of the night. One woman’s son had fallen from a 6-metre-high building site onto his head and been put into intensive care and operated on—the outcome not being certain at all. He had pieces of his skull removed and was in a coma, and his mother had to sit downstairs because she was not allowed to see him. His mother is a healthcare worker who gets tested nearly every day and could walk into most hospitals, but she was not allowed to see her son. We have had people who cannot hold their mum’s or their dad’s hand while they are passing away. These are the consequences that have been brought about by the mismanagement of the Premier.
The other important element I will cover very quickly is the Mornington Peninsula and the way it has been treated by being locked down as part of metro Melbourne. We had zero cases down there, but the way it was locked down allowed people from high-infection areas to go down there. We now have some infections, but it is important that we get this right and separate the Mornington Peninsula for these purposes. (Time expired)