We have more in common than what divides us

1 December, 2022

I follow on from the member for Bendigo, who gave an address that outlined some of the problems that at all electorates face, especially in regional areas. I represent a regional area: the seat of Monash. Whilst it's more spread out than the seat of Bendigo, it has all the same issues, especially, as the member for Bendigo mentioned, around child care. Being a mum herself, with two beautiful children, she outlined perfectly the problems with the structure of child care. It's not about the money that the federal government put in or not. For me, it's about the number of places and opportunities for families to get child care. The problem in my area is that there are just not enough childcare places and, when there are new centres built, the opportunities for places in those centres are taken up so quickly that many people miss out.

As the member for Bendigo pointed out, there are difficulties around how families are locked into child care and don't have the opportunity for family day care. In my case, many years ago, we had a very large broader family who took all the responsibility for child care. Living in a country community like that, it takes a whole village to raise children, and my children were certainly raised by that wonderful community that I lived in.

Medicare is still an issues for all of us, which the member for Bendigo raised. Yes, it was meant to be a universal service, and, yes, I believe if you're in real trouble you can get help. But now, with the election of the new government, there have been changes to the arrangements for doctors and where they can and can't work. For us, the changes they've made that allow doctors to go to more suburban areas like Frankston, parts of the Hunter and those sorts of places where they couldn't go before of course mean that doctors will move from a regional area and go and work in a place like Frankston. Frankston is a beautiful spot. I don't like to use the word 'crisis', but it means we have a major difficulty confronting us in that we cannot attract doctors to regional areas. I shouldn't complain, because at least my people could travel 50kms and get to a doctor. But there are people in parts of Australia now who would give their right arm to be able to travel just 50kms to a doctor. So I realise this is an issue right around regional Australia. They want the opportunity to attend a doctor.

The services that are provided when people can't get in to see a GP now or, as the member for Bendigo said, have to move from a bulk-billing to fee-paying clinical centre—these are all issues affecting families that can least afford this. They need to be able to get to a bulk-billing centre. More than that, if they can't get in to see the doctor or they can't afford to go to the doctor, they'll go to the emergency department of the hospital.

Emergency departments in hospitals right around Victoria are already running at 101 per cent. They're already in real trouble. There are many reasons for that. There are people who are unvaccinated and can't work in the health system anymore. There are people who are exhausted or have COVID, or long COVID, and are not working in the health system at this time. So we're begging and borrowing staff from other centres. In aged care it's the same situation; they're short of staff. I don't have to go into hospitality and every other area that we're looking for people—it's the same thing. I heard an ad running on radio saying that if you work in hospitality or have some experience in hospitality, go and offer yourself. It doesn't matter where you go in the seat of Monash, there's a sign saying, 'We are hiring.' People are desperate for workers to be employed in hospitality.

Our hospitals are running on the smell of an oily rag. But I've been around long enough to know that the Andrews government, and the governments before his, took a lot of money out of the health system and ran it down. Now we're paying a terrible price for that, although last weekend we had an election campaign and the result didn't seem to worry the people of Victoria. The response was—I could be disappointed with the result of the election campaign—the Andrews government returned with a slightly smaller majority but a very strong majority in its own right.

My side of politics was smashed. That's the only way I can put it. They weren't beaten, they were smashed. We've got a lot of work to do as a party to earn the trust of the Australian people. A few minutes ago I received news that a highly regarded former member and now new member for Hawthorn, John Pesutto, has just claimed victory. I think we're doing very well in the seat of Pakenham, which is my home town. I think we should get over the line there. I believe we're only a few votes behind in Bass, and I think we'll get over the line there as well. That will be defeating a Labor member of parliament who's been an excellent local member down in that area. Politics is a most difficult game. It's hard to get into, it's hard to stay there and it's very easy to be thrown out. You and I have both learned that over the years, Deputy Speaker Vasta.

Elections and interactions between parties are important. I had a big complaint today from someone who likes to contact me quite often. He said that he was disgusted with question time and the behaviour of the opposition. I've been in nearly every parliament since 1990. Question time is a robust exchange, where people have the opportunity to ask the government of the day questions and eke out their own place in this House. The public see question time. What they don't see is all the cooperative committee work that goes on in this House. They don't see the interaction between shadow ministers and ministers. They don't see the cooperation on the big issues of the day, where the members in this House—ministers, shadow ministers, prime ministers and opposition leaders—are putting the nation first in their consideration of what they're doing. Nobody sees that, because the press runs only the division and the approaches there.

I notice sitting at the table on our side tonight is the member for Berowra, Julian Leeser. Julian Leeser has taken on the mammoth task in opposition of dealing with the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which I've publicly and strongly supported and will continue to publicly and strongly support. There's an issue where the Nationals have decided they will not as a party support it. In my party there are people who are for it and opposed to it. It leaves the shadow minister in a place where he has to gently negotiate through and find the information that the government is putting forward on how the Statement from the Heart and the Voice to Parliament can be reasonably enacted, where most members of the House will support such a proposition, and that's a very hard job for a shadow minister. I thought I'd just give a shout-out to the shadow minister this evening and say that I think he has made an amazing start to his senior position in the party, and I congratulate him on all the work he has done. I wish you and your wife and your beautiful children a wonderful Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you too, Julian. Having said that, I still won't get a Christmas card from him, but I'll do the best I possibly can, having praised him up. But he is a dear friend of mine, and I wish him all the best in his endeavours.

We as a parliament enjoy the company of each other sometimes, and the public does not see us in that way. I think we've lost the trust of the Australian people to a degree. This has probably always been the case around politicians. It doesn't matter where you put your vote, you end up with a politician and all the jokes that go along with that. I'm of the opinion that this is a proud profession to be in, in service of the people that I represent, that you represent, Deputy Speaker Vasta, and every member of the lower House represents—their constituents. Sometimes an issue in their electorates becomes foremost in their position, and they are at odds with their own party. We have processes where we can deal with those. In the Labor Party you can't cross the floor without leaving the party. That's what Andrew Fisher put in place, and that was accepted by the group that began the Labor Party in Australia. On our side, when Menzies came in, he said: 'I have another view. I believe that you should be able to dissent from your own party and still continue in the role as a member of that party.' I have needed to do that on occasion myself. There have been many before me who have chosen to take that road. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, because it's difficult and it's hard to do, but when you decide to make that stand it's usually for a very, very good reason.

As I said, we've had an election. The people of Victoria have spoken. I've spoken previously about the people of Australia having spoken with regard to the Morrison government. They made a decision, and they decided that it was time for the Liberal-Nationals to be no longer in the government's chairs. I entirely and completely accept that decision of the Australian people. It is a blessing to me that we have compulsory voting in this country, where everybody actually comes and participates in the process of democracy in Australia. Even though I've been defeated a few times, I've been part of the changes of government, and I've watched how new governments perform and I've watched how oppositions fall into place, because one of the most important things you can have in a democracy—and I'll come back to the Victorian election—is a strong opposition that is prepared to put its case and question the government on every step that they take, because that's what the Australian people expect of us. My disappointment in Victoria is that the opposition parties have been smashed to the point where the government has a very strong mandate to go ahead and do whatever it wants to do, because we now have a diminished opposition—although the National Party did very well, and they secured the seat of Morwell that they'd once held through Russell Northe. But you have to have that strong opposition, and I don't know at this stage whether we'll be able to mount the strength of opposition that we need to hold the government in Victoria to account.

It's been a long time since we had a change of government in Victoria, and it may be even longer now, because of the numbers that are there, before an opposition may—may—be able to rally the numbers to change the government in Victoria. In fact, the Liberals have only governed Victoria for three or four years out of the last 27 years. That is a long time for a government, and there can be arrogance about that in government. I hope that's not the case in Victoria.

I'd like to conclude by saying: whatever happens in this nation, whatever happens in each state, each of us has more things in common than things that divide us. I started speaking about the member for Bendigo. She went through the various issues, and I just have to say to you that we happen to be co-chairs of the asbestosis awareness group, which we have worked on together for some years now. I enjoy the interaction with Ms Chesters, the member for Bendigo, in that role, making Australians aware of the dangers of asbestos to them and their children if it's handled badly. So, to me, there is more in this place that endears us to each other, and the things that we have in common are far greater in this Christmas period. In this time when this parliament is wrapping up for the year, we recognise the importance of the relationships we have with one another, with our staff, with the Speaker and deputy speakers and with all the people who are, as I spoke of the other night, the keepers of the springs in this place. Without them, it would not work. So it is crucial that we remember at this time of year how important relationships are and how important our own relationships are inside and outside this house. So I take this opportunity to wish everybody a very merry Christmas, and especially a merry Christmas to the keepers of the wells.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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