REFERENCE ON PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES

I am pleased to speak on this motion moved by Mr Davis, and I do so by saying that joint house committees are renowned for their detail and in-depth inquiry into matters of importance, matters that cannot ordinarily be handled in the general cut and thrust of robust chamber process. To extinguish four joint house committees begs the question that hubris and blatant arrogance has gotten in the way of sound, transparent and good government. Why would this government be afraid of legitimate, expert inquiry? What do they have to hide?

I wish to make particular mention of the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee. To abolish this committee is to say that this government does not care about rural and regional Victoria, let alone the environment. There are so many vital issues that need to be examined and that could be explored by this committee to improve the outcomes for those who live, work and contribute to a better community outside the narrow tram tracks from where this city-centric government emanates. Issues that should be included are better and innovative waste management, the use of landfill levies, extractive industries, roadside vegetation, enabling infrastructure to facilitate sustainable regional development and decentralisation, state land and vegetation management, energy planning and delivery, fire prevention, the Great Ocean Road and other iconic natural landmark management et cetera.

This committee has done some excellent work in its three years of existence. I note the inquiry into the management, governance and use of environmental water; the inquiry into the sustainability and operational challenges of Victoria’s rural and regional councils; the inquiry into the control of invasive animals on Crown land; and the inquiry into the CFA training college at Fiskville. As a former rural councillor I can say how galling it was to know that our ratepayers were contributing around $1 million a year to the Sustainability Fund, which the EPA benefits from, in the form of a landfill levy, only to find that a portion of it got wasted on solar panels for trams in a recent budget. In fact they spent $166.2 million of this landfill levy in the last budget, but are we all better off as a result? Currently this government is sitting on half a billion dollars via this EPA levy, which has all been provided by Victorian ratepayers, and it would surely be a very good use of this committee to investigate a proper use of this money. The Municipal Association of Victoria president, Mary Lalios, has raised issue with this levy money the government is sitting on.

I thought it might also be constructive to learn what current and former members of this house think about the importance of committees. Mr Edbrooke, the member for Frankston, on 20 June 2018 said, ‘I think one of the most rewarding things you can do in Parliament is committee work’. Jenny Mikakos, member for Northern Metropolitan Region and now Minister for Health, on 23 February 2016 said, ‘I think all of us who participate in parliamentary committee inquiries know that we all learn so much about various issues. You really get immersed in the issues by listening to the people who are so directly affected by these issues’. Ben Carroll, the member for Niddrie, on 26 February 2015 said, ‘in many respects committee inquiries inform what the laws of this state should be’. A former member for Eastern Victoria Region, Mr Scheffer, on 12 June 2014 said, ‘One strength of parliamentary committee inquiries is that they produce reports that contain a record of what experts, community organisations and affected citizens have experienced and consider the issues that are the subject of the inquiry’. Mr Perera, the former member for Cranbourne, on 17 April 2013 said, ‘By definition, joint investigatory committees are set up to conduct in-depth investigations of matters of public importance before decisions are made on pieces of legislation to be introduced in this Parliament, therefore committees play an important role in our democratic system of government’.

20 February 2019