Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I welcome the opportunity to reply to the budget. It is important we address our minds to the overall plan for the future and our financial position. As I do, I have read right through the budget papers and my comments are focused on the budget, our future and some matters of particular interest to me. There are many I could mention but I will leave those for a later time.
There is no doubt this budget hands out a lot of money to a lot of people. I commend the Government for meeting its election promises. I commend the Government for spending a bit more than last year. I commend the Government for adopting a more coordinated approach to renewables, climate and future industries, but that is about it. Overall, I see this budget as a wasted opportunity.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, as I mentioned when we moved the Suspension of Standing Orders to enable this bill to be dealt with today, I do not have an issue with the preparation of these bills, the way it has been done, as the Leader says herself, it is an administrative process.
What I have concern about is that, should these bills need to be enacted because we have a COVID 19 outbreak in the state - and that could be any time from today and the end of October, if the budget and appropriation bills that go with it receive Royal Assent. That is quite a period and you see how quickly things go pear-shaped. Ask the ACT residents, ask the Victorians, ask Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and certainly ask any person living in New South Wales.
Ms FORREST - Madam Deputy Chair, I take this opportunity to speak on a bill that I would never let go normally in the past. You could not expect me not to in some respects. I will probably take about 10 minutes, so that would work well for the Leader.
Moving to the content of this bill, I have mixed feelings. One can certainly not assert that the Government does not keep its promises, however. On one hand there are some bits that continue policies that have already not worked. The First Home Buyers Grant was, as all independent economists have been saying for years, nothing more than a first home vendor’s grant.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, it is no surprise we see this bill presented for the obvious reason that the 2014 bill was fundamentally flawed, as a number of us pointed out at the time. I was not aware that the 2019 debate was guillotined. It was in 2014 too. It is like a case of déjà vu. I accept and understand the challenge many businesses and workplaces are experiencing when protesters invade their workplaces and prevent them going about their work. This is unacceptable. We need to respond to this more effectively.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, my contribution on this bill will be brief.
When we hear about the abhorrent things that continue to go on in our state - some historic, some more recent - particularly in institutions that we would like to think are safe places for our children such as our schools and our hospitals, places like that, all of us are forced to stop and take account of what we are hearing.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I also acknowledge the work of the member for Windermere over many years on this major health issue. It is not something he has been working on with this bill; it is something he has been passionate about since my time here. It is not something that has suddenly become apparent to him - he has always been a bit of stickler for this, and for foxes.
I hope I can get through my speech. Members will notice I have a cough. It is completely unrelated to smoking and it is also unrelated to COVID-19. It is asthma and I am having a bit of a challenge with it.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I am all for making bold decisions; however, it often happens - and I do not think it is coincidental - that those people pushing for bold initiatives stand to benefit the most. They are usually a different set of people from those who pick up the tab when something goes wrong. That is the problem I have with this bill. It is easy to sell renewable energy as being second only to motherhood - who could possibly argue with it? If saving the planet were 100 per cent dependent on us achieving 200 per cent renewable energy generation, I would not hesitate. But it is not, it is a matter of priorities.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, this bill is one of the most challenging areas of public policy I have considered in my 15-plus years here, and we have had a few of those over the years. This is certainly not a criticism; it is a complex and fraught area of public policy. The consideration of euthanasia, however described, has been and will continue to be, a complex matter, as well as controversial. I have been personally challenged by this question -that is, euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying - more than once in my time here.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I watched with great interest when the National Cabinet was putting this suggestion forward. Many in my electorate struggle financially at the best of times. Unemployment is high, it is getting higher under the impact of COVID-19. It frightens the pants off people who may need to travel. I raised this in the briefing. I thank the Leader for the briefing. It was helpful to clarify some points about any person who needs to access specialised cancer treatment that can only be provided at a facility like the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, they have let a tax bill go past without comment.
We are all very well aware of the impact of COVID-19 on business. Those decisions must have been terribly difficult for the Premier to make - to shut down hundreds of businesses overnight and effectively put people out of work. I know it was a very difficult decision for him. It was the right decision, but it does not take away its difficulties. Any of us who walk around the streets in our towns hear stories of not only significant hardship but also amazing support for business, too.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I make the observation that the impact of COVID 19 has been quite astounding and far-reaching to the point that everyone at the podium, except for the member for Nelson, now has facial fair. That is the COVID-19 look.
Turning my mind to this bill, I have mixed feelings about this bill. We have seen the Government demonstrate commendable resolve, making tough decisions during uncertain days in early April and March when the pandemic struck this state and continue to exercise caution in not bowing to every demand to open our borders prematurely. I commend the Government for that.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I understand the bill before us today is part of a series of further reforms to improve the performance of the state's planning approvals process, although we are assured that it is not broken.
I note that this matter has been considered by the Government for some time. Mention was made of a need for reform in a range of areas in early March in the Premier's State of the State address.
I much prefer to see an integrated and holistic approach to such reform. I am always concerned when we receive and are expected to deal with piecemeal reform, especially in this rather fraught area of planning.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I acknowledge the comments from the member for Elwick on a number of areas I was intending to cover, so I will not go into quite as much detail as I might have done.
From the outset I acknowledge this has obviously been quite complex legislation. That is why we are dealing with it this week, as opposed to last week. The briefings have been quite helpful in trying to explain the nuances of this legislation and, as the member of Elwick alluded to, we do not have legislation to be amended, it had to be a fresh bill - which in some respects is easier to try to take it all in context, but also potentially makes a larger body of work.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I apologise to members, but I want to make a brief contribution on the adjournment.
During debate on the COVID-19 bill last week, I raised some of the unfortunate matters that have been affecting nursing staff. Unfortunately the issue continues. I appeal to all members, and to the Leader in her role with the Government, to encourage a more a proactive approach to standing up for our nursing staff when they are being vilified by members of the public.
I read an article in The Age of 1 May, called 'Not out of the woods yet: health authorities probe 17 coronavirus clusters'. Of course that was in Victoria but I want to read you a couple of sections of this article and then I will make my comments -
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, here is my chance to talk on this one. Following my comments on my concern about passing that bill with its third reading tonight, this House has been treated with an enormous amount of disrespect. Governments past and present are slow learners with regard to how the Legislative Council works and the amount of effort we put in in this place in doing our job. That was highlighted tonight through the President and the work of the member for Windermere trying to get clear answers around consultation, around a matter that directly relates to this House and this House only.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I make a couple of comments at the outset. It is disappointing we are dealing with this legislation all in one day, and dealing with it after only getting it for first sight yesterday morning. I appreciate the briefings we had yesterday afternoon and this morning, but it is a pretty big task, particularly as it covers so many pieces of legislation. When you read them in context with the acts they are amending, it is a big piece of work.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I thank the Leader for arranging the briefing for us. It is a bit frustrating at times that we spend a lot of time on these things, but this is an important bill. We have had very limited time to look at it and it has some quite technical aspects to it that I needed to be confident with before we move forward. I will make some overarching comments before I comment specifically on the bill, but my contribution may be a bit disjointed because of the nature of the way we have been trying to glean information during the day. We all heard from the Police Commissioner, now State Controller, Darren Hine, who reiterated the seriousness of the situation we are facing, and that cannot be understated. I acknowledge the leadership shown by our Premier in dealing with this incredibly challenging circumstance we find ourselves in.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, we do indeed live in unprecedented times at the moment. I commend the Government for acting promptly to seek to assist businesses in whatever way it can, when effectively, not only is COVID-19 causing chaos for our state and the world, but it is also forcing the Government to make decisions they would rather not make.
We are seeing the Government being forced to make decisions to close down businesses, to stop the operations of businesses, and it has been hard for the Premier to make a decision to effectively put hundreds of people out of work and have no job.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I support the overall intention, the introduction, as I did with the Foreign Investor Duty Surcharge last year. We would not be here today if more notice had been taken last time of key stakeholders like the Law Society and others involved in discretionary trusts, who clearly identified these issues as a problem. We were in such a rush to ram the legislation through before 1 July that we did that, and here we are trying to sort out what some lawyers would describe as an unholy mess because they knew it was coming.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, as other members have mentioned, this is basically completing the work started last year, which was quite rushed, when the Anglican Church made a decision to fund its obligations under the National Redress Scheme. It needed to free up some cash and so it thought it would sell off a few churches and, by necessity the graveyards and burial grounds that were attached to the churches.
This was the reaction by the Government at the time to try to stop the Anglican Church, or certainly make it harder for it - which it has.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I commend the Government for continuing to act on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It is an area that has received significant attention and rightly so.
I reiterate the Leader's comments in the second reading speech - the royal commission's recommendations recognise governments, institutions and the broader community share responsibility for keeping children safe.