Liberal Party

I think the election cannot come soon enough in Burwood. I absolutely grieve for the way that the Liberal Party at state, national and local levels has begun this election year. They have come out of the blocks. They continue to talk down our state and our city. They continue to raise fear of crime yet take no responsibility at all for their role and the role of their cuts in the seven-year upward trend in crime, which is actually now being arrested by the actions of this government. They have actually dug further into their evil bag of tricks, down into the scum and down into deep places which have rarely been seen in Victoria.

Of the major parties in this state, the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party has a small-l tradition and they are led by someone who was Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship. Yet what we have seen from the beginning of this year is culture wars. Implicit in that is having a dig at those who do not have as much as others, but underlying a lot of that has been the colour of the skin. We have got Peter Dutton comparing Melbourne to Johannesburg and denigrating every person of African background, whereas I see on the Mernda rail project that one of the amazing cadet engineers who has been employed there was a refugee. He has come to this country and has now been given an opportunity. That is how you should bring this community together, share in the wealth of this community and keep Victoria the broad-minded and thinking place that it has always been.

To get down into the gutter and say that it is wrong and un-Australian for the oldest culture in the world and for our first Australians to be able to have a conversation in a democracy about Australia Day is beneath what was once a small-l liberal party. The Leader of the Opposition, who was once the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, should absolutely know better than this. He should not be deploying tactics that have been used in other countries, such as the tactics that were used by Donald Trump to vilify African Americans and denigrate them by saying that the Ku Klux Klan are fine Americans. We saw recently that a senator, a senator who has fought for this country, has been caught distributing racist material that even the UK Independence Party in the UK probably would not distribute — even further right. Malcolm Turnbull, who has always said he is a small-l liberal, and the Leader of the Opposition are presiding over this disgraceful bottom-feeding outfit.

The member for Eltham and I live in the Shire of Nillumbik, and we were there on Australia Day. As it started out, most of it was actually pretty good. We continued to have the welcome to country, and Uncle Ron Jones made a beautiful presentation, as he always does. He informed us about how his family had been separated and about the success of the Coranderrk mission. Indigenous people had been herded onto the Coranderrk mission, but they had turned it into a productive farm. Then because it was productive the Victorian government at the time had turned around and said, ‘We’d better have none of that’. It was a very long time ago, but it did happen. From that successful enterprise that Indigenous people were running very successfully — feeding themselves and selling produce to the wider community — they were then divided up on the basis of what colour they were. Families were split up and sent to four corners of the state. It is not wrong to talk about that and to hear about it on Australia Day, and I want to say thank you to Uncle Ron Jones for showing us that. That was great.

The member for Eltham and I were really moved in hearing that, and I thought the Liberal Party members that were there recognised that too. I thought they were nodding along. I thought that was the focus of Mary Wooldridge, in another place. I thought that might have been the focus of the mayor, Liberal Party member Peter Clarke. But embarrassingly he decided that there should be a parade coming in on Australia Day. When everyone was seated, instead of our first nations people and the new citizens being the focus, we as elected representatives were subjected to the embarrassment of being paraded in behind the mayor, wearing his mayoral chains. I kid you not — it is embarrassing in the 21st century, and it was divisive and it was classist. The member for Eltham and I have vowed we will never do it again.

We thought that Ms Wooldridge actually agreed with us and that she thought it was over the top that we were paraded in and that the mayor and councillors were treated as somehow up here, above the new citizens and above Uncle Ron Jones, the representative of our first peoples. She was taking photos and I thought, ‘Gee, that’s nice. She’s going to put something nice on Facebook’, which I always like to do on Australia Day to show the celebration and the coming together. But we also heard Uncle Ron Jones talk about what they had suffered, and it was important that everyone in the room heard that. No, an elected member in another place went on Twitter — I bet she thinks she is a twit now — to denigrate another elected person because she thought she was not waving the flag enough. Well, I heard more important stuff there on that day from Uncle Ron Jones, and I was not going to judge anyone if they were holding their flag or if they did not wave it as hard as someone else. Everyone always says, ‘Mary Wooldridge, she’s not as bad as the others. She’s really quite progressive’. No, she is part of these odious culture wars, just like everyone on the other side who is trying to create this division and is implicitly playing the race card.

We know that they are going to continue with this throughout the year. They have already said they are going to do another audit. What that means is cuts. Leopards never change their spots. In the four years those opposite had on the government benches they came in and did the Vertigan report. They did not even have the courage to make it a public document. It demonstrated for them that you needed to cut things like health promotion, kids’ Free Fruit Friday and the bus services to Kinglake.

Today is the ninth anniversary of Black Saturday. One of the early things that those opposite did in government was that rather than giving that community a leg-up, they kicked them down further. They cut community transport to that community — the opportunity for people to get out of a stressed environment. Some of them still do not have their own transport. Young people need their own transport. There were community transport programs that went to three different townships out in the Kinglake Ranges. Those on the other side are silent, but they cut those bus services. Those are the sorts of mean-spirited things that they did. Along with the more than 1000 bus services per week that they cut in my electorate, they cut the only lifeline that those young people and older people without transport had. It was only a huge community campaign and action from members on this side that forced them to bring those services back.

Those opposite removed support for the business incubator there, which was helping businesses get back on their feet. There were also Victorian certificate of applied learning coordination cuts across the state, but those hit hardest were the kids who were still struggling after the impact of Australia’s worst disaster. There are more bushfire-affected kids in high school now than there were at the time of the fires. Why didn’t anyone on the other side of the chamber stand up for those people? So we know that that is what would happen if those opposite got in again — they would be cutting. They would not be opening a police station in Mernda.

I mentioned earlier today that when the Leader of the Opposition was interviewed on the Jon Faine program yesterday, I felt like I was listening to Jeff Kennett circa 1999 — and he was his disciple. He was talking about supporting communities in the outer suburbs. Well, when he was Minister for Planning he oversaw some of the biggest and most rapid population growth in the outer suburbs, and he delivered nothing to them. Now he is going out there and playing politics in Cranbourne and Tarneit, trying to raise fear and create division. But what did he do as minister? He approved and oversaw that population growth, and at the cabinet table he was either unable to secure funding from the other ministers or was unwilling to lobby for road funding, extensions to public transport and new schools. Who is his solution? Who is his great white hope now he is opposition leader? This man who knows so much about the outer suburbs and regional Victoria, who did he choose to head up his population task force? The junior woodchuck — the member for Kew.

The Leader of the Opposition had a crack at Jon Faine yesterday, telling him that he is an inner-city person who would not know up from down. What does that make the member for Kew? He has only just left home, for crying out loud, and he lives in Kew! What does he know about the outer suburbs and regional Victoria, and what does he know about public education, the private school boy that he is? How dare he go into government schools and say they are mediocre. Is he going to lobby the feds and go, ‘Let’s not fund those big-end-of-town schools. Let’s put it all into state education’? Not on your Nellie! He will be sitting around that cabinet table going, ‘How do we cut?’. Even the head of the Catholic system is saying that the system of funding private schools is broken. I am proud that we have provided funding to schools that need it — private and state. The Catholic system has had schools built and supported by this government, and the other side were not doing anything for anyone. The Leader of the Opposition has actually been trying hard for a while. He first ran for Parliament in 2002, so that was his focus on Yan Yean.

An honourable member — How did that go?

Ms Green

He did not win. He had to wait another four years to come into the Parliament. He had to wait until 2010 to become a minister and be able to actually do anything around the table. He did nothing. He does not care about Yan Yean now and he did not care then. In 2010 the Liberal Party was elected to government, and their promises were to fix the problems and build the future. Instead they built the problems and they fouled up the future. At that time they made not one capital commitment to Yan Yean. The only time they discovered it was when their government, their bums on seats, their jobs and those white cars, depended upon it, when Yan Yean became a notionally Liberal seat. All of a sudden they wanted to talk to everyone in the community and they were making promises to everyone — promises that were not believed.

Do they care about Yan Yean now? I have not seen hide nor hair of the Leader of the Opposition or any of his frontbench. They have preselected a Liberal candidate in Eltham, they have preselected a Liberal candidate in Ivanhoe, they have preselected a Liberal candidate in Sunbury and they have preselected a Liberal candidate in Macedon. There is nothing in Yan Yean. They cannot even have a candidate. I welcome democracy. I welcome the contest of ideas. Unlike those who want to gag people who do not agree with them, I actually do welcome the contest of ideas. I want them to be out there, saying that they give a toss about the people that I represent and have represented for 15 years. I want them to step up, but they have not even got anyone in the field. So the likelihood that they will promise anything is nowhere. If they get in, it will mean nothing for my community, it will mean more division and it will mean cuts.

Question agreed to.