Government Business - Business of the House

November 25, 2019

T SMITH (Kew) (13:16:43): I rise, in accordance with the remarks made by the Manager of Opposition Business, to oppose the government business program. I oppose the government business program for a number of reasons, but particularly because the Local Government Bill 2019 that had been mooted for some time and that was introduced into this place in 2018, in the last Parliament, has had a number of iterations.

As the Leader of the House said, there was an exposure draft last year. There was a further discussion paper released by the Minister for Local Government earlier this year when there was a period of consultation with local government. This bill is a very complex piece of legislation. It, in a number of ways, amends and repeals various sections of the 1989 act, but it also allows for various provisions of the principal act to remain in force. We are literally talking about hundreds of pages of legislation that deals with the provision of local services but also the regulation and governance of local councils—the 79 local government areas around Victoria—that have a great bearing on the lives of everyday Victorians.

There are many provisions in this bill. It is because of the complexity of it not fully repealing the 1989 act and the way that it interrelates with other acts of Parliament, and the way that this bill is silent on a number of very important matters, that I would like the opportunity to question the government in consideration in detail, because I think that these matters are of significant importance. Indeed the constitution of Victoria provides for local government, and this bill, which will amend the 1989 act and make various other consequential amendments, makes good on that constitutional provision that there will be local government in Victoria—and it does provide important services to citizens.

I cannot emphasise enough how complex some of the provisions are. For various local councils, particularly in country Victoria, particularly very small councils with low rate bases, the complexity of a number of these provisions will be such that these councils will have to engage further advice at quite significant cost to them, unless some of these provisions are tightened up in this Parliament—indeed unless we can get some very direct answers to a few key questions on a number of these provisions, which to a non-legally trained mind, would be extremely confusing. The ideological and political aspects of the bill, I am very concerned about. I support single-member ward councils elected by preferential voting in metro Melbourne, but I am concerned about how that will affect small regional councils and I do not support that.

Ms Allan: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, in the vein as the one raised by the member for Warrandyte in the contribution by the member for Macedon earlier, I accept that there is some scope to talk about the parameters of the bill in the frame of, clearly, the opposition not supporting the government business program, but I think the member is starting to go into debate on the bill rather than on what he would like to see Parliament do or not do. That is a matter for the debate itself, not a matter to be resolved through the government business program. I ask you to rule in the same way that you ruled on the member for Warrandyte’s point of order: that the member be brought back to debating the government business program and not the substance of the bill.

Mr T Smith: On the point of order, Deputy Speaker, I am explaining to the Leader of the House why I believe that we ought to be given the opportunity to go into consideration in detail on this bill so I can question the minister—I think it is the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, who will be representing the Minister for Local Government—as to a number of these key provisions and how they will impact, for example, small regional councils. Now, clearly the minister is concerned that the various ministers that will be questioned on this matter are not across the detail and will most probably make fools of themselves if they answer.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no opportunity for me to rule on the point of order. The member’s time has expired.