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Liberal Attacks on Police, Firefighters and Paramedics

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — I grieve for the people of Victoria who have such a negative, carping, angry, loose with the truth opposition and specifically the way those in the Liberal Party treat our emergency services workers. It is a pattern. The shadow Minister for Emergency Services, the member for Gembrook, said that career firefighters were not on duty for the first 6 hours on Black Saturday. That is absolute, utter garbage. It was not the first time he had said that either, as we heard. Last June he twice laid blame on paid firefighters about Black Saturday. He only apologised last month and only on Facebook.

I would like to read out parts of some correspondence which I received from a firefighter:

… I read in absolute disgust the comments made by Brad Battin … I, along with many of my colleagues, attended a number of fires and incidents during that time and what he said has left me feeling gutted and a strong sense of helplessness and worthlessness. You have no idea what me and my crew saw and felt on that day and following days … one of the tasks we had was to check for spot fires and locate deceased persons. Needless to say, we found both. Those horrid memories will stay with me until the day that I die.

I simply cannot believe that he made these comments erroneously and think that they were made out of the hatred that he feels for professional firefighters and a willingness to say and do whatever it takes to score political points. He will never have my respect.

They fought fires that weekend. They were tasked with locating dead bodies as well. Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine being told that you have to go and find dead bodies after you have fought fires and then to be told by someone in Parliament that you were not even there? How low do you have to go to score such cheap political points?

The opposition failed to provide context and background to these important matters because it does not suit their argument. We never hear from them about all the excellent work that career firefighters do. We do not hear from them about the over 5000 emergency medical response calls the career firefighters take every year. We do not hear from them about firefighters finding people in life-threatening situations, finding people deceased due to self-harm or suicide, or finding themselves in all sorts of awful and horrific situations every day, every week, every year, year in and year out. While those opposite sit on their comfortable green leather seats and go back to their comfortable offices in their comfortable cars, they point the finger at those very, very fine first responders, those very, very fine firefighters, those very fine Victorians.

How is the view from the cheap seats of Victorian politics? How is the view from the all care and no responsibility opposition benches? That group, that party, is not fit to govern. The loose Leader of the Opposition is about as far away from being ready to govern as anyone could be. He has proven himself unfit to be the head of government of this great state of Victoria. We get it that you disagree with what we are actually doing. You disagree with our agenda — we get that. But your argument should be with us — not with firefighters and not with emergency services workers.

But it did not stop there with the lies about Black Saturday. Within hours of an incident at Melbourne Airport, as the Minister for Police said in her grievance, and not knowing any details, the opposition leader was out to make a point. He had had no briefing; he had not even requested one. He was on the warpath. You know how he gets: grinding his teeth, face going red, shouting, loose and all that.

Mr Edbrooke — I do know.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — That is right; the member for Frankston does know. The opposition leader found another issue on which to make a political point. This was not against Labor though; it was against Victoria Police. Within hours of the incident happening he had attacked the conduct of police officers, those people who put their lives on the line for us every day. You need look no further than what happened at Brighton on Monday night. Those officers he had bagged and criticised at the Melbourne Airport incident were the same ones who turned up at Brighton to take a bullet and take fire on Monday night. Again, how low can you go? What an absolute disgrace! Three officers were shot, and less than a week earlier the Leader of the Opposition and his entire team were criticising Victoria Police.

Then you have got Prime Minister Turnbull in Canberra who offers his remote analysis of any situation well behind the front line. Do not worry about the police who train for these incidents every day. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition and Malcolm Turnbull have it under control.

Mr Edbrooke — They are qualified.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — They are qualified. Imagine that you are in the middle of a crisis incident and consider the horror when instead of the best and brightest of emergency responders, police and firefighters, coming up to assist in that situation, up comes the Leader of the Opposition and his frontbench to solve the problem. They roll up their sleeves, and he would have made sure the cameras were there to capture his red-hot anger, like he does at the back of the Parliament building, and with all his ranting he would make a bad problem worse.

Mr Edbrooke interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — He would be, as the member for Frankston says. The Leader of the Opposition does not have solutions. He has problems — that is all he ever has. So thanks, but in times of crisis I will trust the experts and the expertise of our emergency services and not the armchair buffoons across the chamber.

Mr J. Bull — Armchair experts.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Armchair experts. But who would be the Liberals’ best and brightest in a crisis? The member for Warrandyte perhaps? He would be turfed out in 5 minutes for being disruptive. Then there is the member for Burwood. The member for Burwood would delay the response to an emergency with pointless points of order. You can tell that that party is in demise when the best they have got to bring up as a shining example is all the way back to Menzies. When they have run out of any fresh ideas, they go back to Menzies. Or maybe it is the member for Mount Waverley, who thinks it is okay to intimidate young women who disagree with him politically.

Ms Spence interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Exactly, they have a right to hand out material about their political beliefs. He went past them at the station and intimidated them. He started taking photographs of them.

Ms Spence — Bullying behaviour.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Bullying behaviour, as the member for Yuroke said. Or is it the member for Malvern? He had already signed the side letter to make sure that if things did not work out so well, they would be okay. But there is one member who has all the qualities for a crisis: Mr Davis, a member for Southern Metropolitan Region in the other place. He would be a world leader because he has such a talent in playing everybody.

Mr J. Bull — Disco Dave.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Disco Dave, lending his — —

Ms Williams — He does his best work in opposition.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — As the member for Dandenong reminds me, he does his best work in the opposition. A journalist I was speaking to the other day about Mr Davis said something very similar. The journalist said Mr Davis was not anywhere near as active when he was a minister. He lends his sympathetic ear or shoulder to those who have a problem with anything. Honestly, Mr Davis is the Iago of Australian politics — that sneaky, snivelling, bitter character from Shakespeare’s Othello. There is nothing genuine about his concerns. It does not matter what the protest is or what problem his government has created, Mr Davis is there to offer his leech-like services, preying on the misery and anxiety of different groups in Victoria.

He has done it with taxis. He protested outside the Oakleigh electorate office last Saturday, despite the fact that his government created many of the issues that are now plaguing the taxi industry. He is playing taxi licence owners and he knows it. On Saturday, with Mr Davis present — —

Mr Gidley — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I take offence at the mistruths put by the member for Oakleigh when he named me, and I ask for them to be withdrawn immediately.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! The member has asked the member for Oakleigh to withdraw.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — I withdraw. I am happy to refer people to an Age article of 30 June 2011 titled ‘Questions raised over MP’s station clash’, and the record can read for itself.

Ms Williams — People can make their own determination.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — They can make their own determination. On Saturday, with Mr Davis present at the Oakleigh electorate office, the office was vandalised. I am led to believe that it was a protest organised by Mr Davis himself. I have therefore written to Victoria Police today asking for an investigation into the conduct of Mr Davis in either being complicit in, promoting or condoning vandalism of a government office. He may not be aware of it, but there are laws against this stuff.

Mr J. Bull — It was outrageous.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Absolutely outrageous. Mr Davis himself took photos of individuals vandalising the office and even posted these photos to social media. Imagine that, an elected member of Parliament standing by at a rally he has organised and taking photos of people vandalising a parliamentary office and not stopping it, instead grinning and posting the picture on social media. This is the quality of the Leader of the Opposition’s frontbench. This is the quality of the alternative government of Victoria. These are matters that are now in the hands of Victoria Police, and I will leave it for them to investigate.

I am not so petty as to worry about Mr Davis’s use of indecent language against me in a public place. I would, however, refer him to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Infringement Offences) Bill 2011, a bill I understand he supported. The law sets a fine, currently at $310.96, that can be issued on the spot by police to those using indecent language.

But back to Mr Davis’s conduct. He has been spending time with members of the No Skyrail team, despite his government doing nothing about level crossings in my community — not one thing. He joined with the No Skyrail team and was spreading mistruths like Labor was going to build 20-storey buildings and was going to merge all the stations at one super-station. Any stupid, ignorant, uninformed idea you could possibly think of was spread by Mr Davis. And not once has he come back in any forum, not once has he come back to Parliament, on social media or even in a foulmouthed rant on Facebook, like he did the other day, to say, ‘Sorry, I was actually wrong. I was wrong about super-stations. I was wrong about 20-storey car parks. I was wrong about a whole range of these things’. Not once has he had the decency to come back and say, ‘No, I made a mistake’, or, ‘I was wrong’.

He had organised meetings about planning in Glen Eira up until a few weeks ago, letterboxing my community to say, ‘Please come and discuss planning because it’s out of control’, despite the disastrous changes made by his government, under the now Leader of the Opposition when he was planning minister, with the botched residential zone changes that precipitated the largest ever increase in apartment development in Glen Eira and in Carnegie in my community. But like a leech with amnesia and with the memory of a goldfish, Mr Davis will attend every protest he can find, even if his own record is inconsistent with the very cause that he is pretending to sympathise with at that time. Not once does he offer a solution. All he does is prey on and inflame vulnerable people, as I have said, and play on their anxieties.

How does this relate to emergency services? There is a pattern here. The coalition have attacked firefighters and police. What about our ambulance officers? Remember the ambulance crisis? It was not just the ramping at hospitals and the terrible emergency response times, it was a minister who was not on the side of the paramedics who work long hours, who see some truly awful things, and who are there at life and death moments for many of us. They are there to take the calls and take on the situations that we ourselves are not willing to take on. How did Mr Davis describe them? He described them as money grubbers. You are overworked because the government will not invest in your service, and this imbecile just called you a money grubber. Rather than taking some responsibility about the lack of funding for ambulance services in Victoria — —

Ms Victoria — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the member is not in the chamber to defend himself, but I believe the use of a word like ‘imbecile’ is fairly unparliamentary. I would ask you to bring the member back to using parliamentary language in this place.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! I ask the member to continue his contribution and be mindful of the terminology that he chooses to use in his contribution given the comments from other members, but I will not uphold the point of order this time. I just call on the member to reflect on that comment and continue his contribution.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — I will give Mr Davis far more respect and regard than he has given me, and that is not a reflection on him; it is a reflection on my ethics and my conduct. No wonder the ambulance service was in crisis — no wonder. Not only because Mr Davis, as the Minister for Health, did not invest but also because he denied there was a problem. In fact he attributed blame and went straight to the heart of the character of ambulance officers by calling them money-grubbers. The fact that they were underpaid to the tune of 25 per cent less than the services provided in other jurisdictions of Australia did not worry him. So the Liberals have achieved a trifecta, which is rare in Victorian political history. They have gone after paramedics, they have gone after firefighters and now police. That is their style — cheap political points. They do not have solutions; they just have problems. They come in here and profess to diagnose the tactics and the operational expertise of our emergency services across those three branches as if they have some special knowledge that is beyond any knowledge that training and experience — —

Mr J. Bull interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — All those years of training, as the member for Sunbury says, all those years of corporate knowledge built up in those three arms of the emergency services, they discount that to nought. They come in here and look for the next crisis, look for the next opportunity, just to wave around their brand of fear, their brand of politics that is so unconscionable. It is a brand of politics that I am sure the Victorian people do not support, and I am sure they will not see fit to support this group in 18 months time.

I grieve for Victoria and our emergency services workers should that ragtag opposition ever get elected again.

Bail Amendment Bill

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me pleasure to speak on the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017, and I will start the way I normally finish, by commending the Attorney-General. I will commend him now because he is in the chamber. I commend him on his work on not only this bill but also, in effect, an enormous number of bills that come through the Parliament. At the risk of embarrassing the Attorney-General, I have not met anyone who has a better grasp of the criminal justice system, the bail and parole framework and the matters that are at the very heart of this bill.

This bill does some very important things, but before I get to those important things, I am going to take the lead of the member for Broadmeadows, who is very, very well spoken, and compare the member for Mount Waverley and those opposite to the Trump-esque style of politics. It was really disappointing to hear the member for Mount Waverley again speak the rubbish that he tried to prosecute in this chamber the other week. Now I have had the displeasure of hearing him twice perpetuate the same rubbish.

On this occasion though I have the evidence to record in Hansard. I want to hold him to account, and I want to inform his community, because he is doing the exact opposite, as the member for Broadmeadows said.

Mr Edbrooke interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — The member for Frankston says he is on a different planet. I think he is. This is absolute rubbish. Let us be reminded of what he said. He said a senior member of the Labor Party is strongly suggesting that four stations in Monash will close and become a super-station. There are two untruths in that. Firstly, what does ‘a senior member of the Labor Party’ mean in relation to the Andrews government? A senior member of the Labor Party could mean anything. In the member for Mount Waverley’s mind what he is actually talking about — let us call a spade a spade — is Cr Geoff Lake from the City of Monash. At a formal council meeting a few weeks ago he put on the public record his view that we should have super-stations. Good on him. Geoff is an articulate and intelligent councillor and a long-time member of the Labor Party. I have got nothing against Geoff, but he is not a member of the Andrews government. He is not the police minister. He is not the Attorney-General.

Mr Mendacious over there, the member for Mount Waverley, is not honest and accountable enough to name the person, so it leaves the observer or the media wondering who this senior Labor person could be. Is it the Minister for Police? No, it is a councillor at the City of Monash, who has as much influence on police policy as my grandmother does. That is about where it rests.

Mr Foley — Your grandmother is a fine woman.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Yes. This is the kind of rubbish that does not belong in this place — this grey kind of ‘pull a bit of truth out of here and make it a full truth over there’. That is the first thing.

Secondly, and this is the most outrageous, this is the very thing that the member for Mount Waverley was accusing Cr Geoff Lake of putting forward. The member for Mount Waverley’s government put it forward under former Premier Denis Napthine. Here is the evidence — there is far more than what was in the Age, but this is one example. An article by Nino Bucci published in the Age of 11 August 2014 — who was in government on 11 August 2014? The member for Mount Waverley was in government — was headed ‘Police stations in Melbourne’s east under threat’. This is important, so I might read a bit of this article:

Four police stations in Melbourne’s east would close and be replaced with the first of Chief Commissioner Ken Lay’s ‘super sites’ under a plan being pushed by force command.

Only two months after Premier Denis Napthine declared that no stations would close under a coalition government, it has emerged that police may ignore concerns of local MPs and almost $2 million of station upgrades in the past year to build a ‘hub’ in Notting Hill.

The move could have major ramifications in several key seats ahead of the November 29 election, as other battles regarding police resources rage across Victoria.

Glen Waverley, Mount Waverley, Oakleigh and Clayton stations —

that is interesting — they are the exact stations the member for Mount Waverley was referencing as being part of Labor’s plan; they were in his plan —

would close under the plan, replaced by a ‘super site’, a vision for policing revealed in the blue paper, released by Mr Lay in June.

The article goes on, and they had even worked out a site:

Detective Senior Sergeant Iddles said the Notting Hill station would be located on a site near Bunnings on Ferntree Gully Road, almost directly in the middle of the four stations under threat. The blue paper …

and it goes on. Further down it says:

A Victoria Police spokesman said a feasibility study was being conducted on the Monash police service area, with no decisions made on the future of stations. There was no time line for the study.

Oakleigh station, which received a $316 000 upgrade from the coalition in October, is in the marginal electorate of the same name and is held by Labor MP Ann Barker — —

Mr Dixon — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, the member has been speaking at some length about police stations in Mount Waverley, and this is a bail bill. I am not sure of the relevance of his contribution.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! There is no point of order.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Ordinarily I think that would be a reasonable thing to suggest, but given that the member for Mount Waverley opened this entire debate on police stations, I think you get the point.

In a nutshell what has happened here — and it is the second time it has happened — is that this member has taken completely out of context what a local councillor, who just happens to be a member of the Labor Party in his private time, has said and linked it to a policy proposition put forward by the member for Mount Waverley’s then government, the Napthine government. He has put the two together and somehow a plan has been hatched. This guy is worse than Baldrick; he is all over the place.

Mr Pakula — At least he knew something about turnips.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — That is right. As the Attorney-General says, at least Baldrick knew something about turnips. But I digress.

Mr Southwick — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I think we have heard enough here. This is about relevance. We need to bring the member back to the bill rather than have him criticising members in this house.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I ask the member to return to speaking on the bill.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Thank you for the indulgence, Deputy Speaker, but I was addressing a substantive issue raised by the member for Mount Waverley. As the member for Broadmeadows and other speakers said, this bill not only achieves practical security for the Victorian community but also comes on top of significant investments in other resources across police and across the court system, including really important programs like the court integrated services program and others which support the diversion of young offenders away from the criminal justice system.

This government is not a one-trick pony. We cover the entire framework of the criminal justice system, and this bill is a significant part of that. As other speakers have said, this bill will insert a purpose and guiding principles section into the Bail Act 1977, clarify tests for granting bail, clarify powers of police, bail justices and courts to grant bail, implement recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Family Violence relating to bail and clarify provisions relating to the bail conditions, as the Attorney-General outlined extensively in his second-reading speech. This is one of a number of initiatives this government has undertaken in response to the issues of crime.

Of course there is crime. No-one is hiding that. The only people who hid the issue of crime were those opposite. One more point on the member for Mount Waverley: he misquoted and essentially verballed the Chief Commissioner of Police when he said that he got up in a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearing and made all these allegations that our government did not fund police and that we cut police. What the Chief Commissioner of Police said was that we in Victoria have the second-lowest youth crime rate in Australia, apart from the ACT. He also said at the PAEC hearings in February — and the chair of PAEC is in the chamber — that crime in Victoria started trending up in 2011. Who was in power in 2011? Those opposite were.

I am proud of the Andrews government’s wholehearted response to the issues of safety and crime. I am proud of this bill, I am proud of the work of the Attorney-General, and I will not tolerate rubbish perpetuated with no substance, as the member for Broadmeadows said, by those on the opposite side. I commend the bill to the house.

Anthony Foster Condolence

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (By leave) — Anthony Foster was an incredible person — a father and a husband who stood up and spoke up about child abuse and the Catholic Church. Together with Chrissie, they took on the powerful forces of the church with a humility and dignity that is uncommon. They stood up for their daughters, but by those actions they also stood up for all child sexual abuse victims, their families and all decent people. When I reflect on Anthony and Chrissie Foster, as has been said, I think of that well-known line: all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Chrissie and Anthony Foster are good people, but they did something — something that changed everything.

Anthony Foster was a good man. As the Premier often says in this place, the greatest asset we have as Victorians is our people. Anthony was one of our greatest assets. Leadership is not about positions or titles; we know too many examples of people with titles and positions who are not leaders and worse still who abrogate their responsibilities. Chrissie and Anthony were not asked to be the champions of change and justice within the church and within the corridors of power of our nation — no-one expected that of them after all they had been through as parents to three beautiful children — but that is exactly what they became.

I will never know the pain, the loneliness and gut-wrenching heartache that Anthony and Chrissie went through and Chrissie still goes through. There are many in this place who know a lot more about this pain, and I would like to acknowledge my predecessor Ann Barker and the member for Box Hill for their leadership and understanding of the torment the Fosters went through.

At the suggestion of Ann I read the book Hell on the Way to Heaven, written by Chrissie Foster and Paul Kennedy, about the family and their search for justice. I have not read a more powerful and heart-rending book in my life. I have heard the expression people use about books being page-turners, but with this book I literally could barely bring myself to turn each page. I found myself sighing deeply after each page. I found myself having to put the book aside for a little bit before picking it up again. And I was just reading it; I was not living it. No-one should go through this — no-one.

The book brought into remarkable focus for me just what incredible people the Fosters are. I knew Katie Foster when she was a customer at my cafe in Oakleigh over 12 years ago, but after reading the book I could not look at the Fosters in the same way. When I would see Anthony, Chrissie or Katie in Oakleigh, I was in awe of their bravery, their courage and their superhuman strength. I did not know Anthony well, but on the occasions I met him I felt exactly what Paul Kennedy said his initial impression was of Chrissie and Anthony — that they had extraordinary grace. I am so very, very proud of the leadership shown by both of them.

Most of us in this place choose politics because we want to make change. Anthony Foster made change without an office or a title. He made lasting change. He made profound change. He knocked on the doors of power in the Catholic Church and in the Victorian and national parliaments so graciously, so persistently and with the quiet dignity and power that rests in every authentic, decent person. He knocked on the doors of power until they had no choice but to open the doors and face this brave, brave man — this leader.

To Chrissie, Katie, Aimee and the rest of the family I offer my deepest condolences on behalf of the Oakleigh community.

Presumptive Rights and Fire Services Legislation Amendment

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak briefly on the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017. This is another election commitment delivered by this government. This bill does two very significant things. One is obviously to deliver on our election commitment to a presumptive rights compensation scheme, a compensation framework for firefighters. The other is to reform and modernise the structure and governance of Victoria’s fire services, as announced by the Premier and the Minister for Emergency Services the other week.

The bill abolishes the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and establishes Fire Rescue Victoria and makes other consequential changes to positions and titles. The bill also provides for the transfer of all relevant operational staff from the existing 35 integrated stations of the Country Fire Authority (CFA), as we have heard before. The bill, something that those opposite neglect to mention, strengthens the role of volunteers by inserting an additional objective for the CFA board to support the effective and sustainable recruitment, development and retention of volunteer officers and members to deliver capability in the provision of the authority’s services. And that is not all in terms of volunteers. There is a whole range of other things, and I will get to some of the commitments shortly.

But the part of this bill of which I am proudest is the presumptive rights aspect. The bill will apply a presumption to compensation for both career and volunteer firefighters who develop one of 12 cancer types and who meet the qualifying period by cancer type. This scheme will apply to eligible firefighters diagnosed on or after 1 June 2016. So we are true to our election commitment in terms of that time frame. The bill also provides for an advisory committee to support the application process for volunteer firefighters and provide an expert opinion to WorkSafe on special consideration claims made by exceptional exposure events.

This is profound change, and it is a shame that it has taken this long to get it done. We are the second last jurisdiction, I understand, to make this change. It is not surprising to me that this change is being made by a Labor government, because generally compensation schemes and progressive measures like this for emergency services are made by Labor governments. The fire services statement the minister made when he announced these changes with the Premier also supports the Country Fire Authority significantly with $100 million in new assets and supports and a dedicated $56.2 million CFA support fund to provide additional brigade and volunteer support, improved health and safety and training.

Of course we are beefing up what the opposition called surge capacity, something they would not know much about because they chronically underinvested in fire services. We are boosting the availability of appropriate fire services across a larger part of Victoria than ever before. This is on top of all the other investments we are making that we announced prior to the election — the 450 additional firefighters, CFA trucks, expanding emergency medical response and increasing the fire services budget from about $930 million under the former coalition government to $1.1 billion in the 2016–17 budget and $1.14 billion in the coming budget.

We also closed Fiskville and remediated the site. We have bought the land for the new training facility, a $40 million allocation. We have made a whole range of other investments around supporting the CFA, the MFB and fire services generally, so it is quite galling to listen to those on the other side talk as if they are the best friends of the firefighter and the best friends of the CFA and volunteers generally, particularly the member for Lowan who I think said, ‘We could have had presumptive rights by now’, and the member for Bayswater who said, ‘We proudly support presumptive legislation’.

I draw on an article by Richard Willingham and Henrietta Cook in the Age of 21 August 2013 — so under the previous government — that says:

The Napthine government says it is not convinced there is a link between firefighting and certain types of cancers, despite international research and state government-commissioned studies finding a direct link —

and despite the commonwealth already implementing a scheme by the time this article was written. For a direct quote, because I think one of the opposition members said that is not accurate in an earlier contribution, I refer to this statement:

We are not convinced that there is a direct link between cancer and the firefighters.

Says who? The previous speaker and then emergency services minister, the member for Rowville, said that on Wednesday morning in the week that article was published.

That is why it is just galling for those opposite to say we would have had presumptive rights. No, we would not have; without a Labor government we would not have had presumptive rights. As if in any universe a conservative party — the Liberals and The Nationals — would introduce workers compensation schemes. The workers compensation framework we have in Victoria was introduced by the John Cain Labor government in 1985. This presumptive rights legislation and this framework of compensation are again being introduced by a Labor government. There is clear evidence here that the other side denied or — if I am historically accurate — cast enormous doubt on a link between Fiskville and cancer when everybody else knew it existed.

With those few words, I commend this bill to the house. I commend the care, dedication and diligence of the Minister for Emergency Services, the Premier and the government when it comes to the frontline services that support us in times of need.

Grange and North Road Intersection

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — (12 706) My constituency question is to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and it relates to the intersection of Grange Road and North Road in Ormond. I ask the minister: what type of investigation can the government or its agencies conduct into the safety of the intersection of Grange Road and North Road in Ormond?

While northbound on Grange Road a turning-lane arrow exists. On the southbound approach on Grange Road there is no arrow or lane for turning right. This means that cars turning right are forced to wait in the middle of North Road with a limited view of approaching traffic. This is a very important safety issue for me and the constituents in my electorate, so information on a safety investigation would be very welcome.

Victorian Government Budget 2017

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Appropriations (2017–2018) Bill 2017. To paraphrase something Teddy Roosevelt said at the turn of the last century, ‘Every time the honourable member opens his mouth’ — and I mean the honourable member for Kew — ‘he subtracts from the sum total of human wisdom’. The fact that members of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee will have to listen to him for the next 55 hours over the next two and a half weeks fills me with dread.

I am not surprised that the member for Kew and all his other colleagues talk about everything but the budget, because if I were in their shoes, I would be embarrassed to talk about the Andrews budget. It is a profoundly well-accepted budget. In fact I have lost count of all the articles that the Treasurer read out from the media about how well commended this budget has been across the business community, across community sporting groups and across the whole Victorian community.

Then you have got post-truth politics in action in this chamber like I have never seen them before, with the member for Kew saying that there is no media. Honestly, if he had one ethical bone in his body, he would be taking those media articles that the Treasurer, the Premier and all of us have referred to and saying, ‘Maybe I am actually fibbing just a bit’. I understand the notion of stretching the truth in politics, but those on the other side — and I will get to the member for Mount Waverley later in my contribution — have just gone beyond a joke to the point where they are doing themselves and the whole political class a disservice.

Nonetheless my contribution is not just about this budget. It is primarily about this budget, but this budget has to be seen within the context of not just this one but the two budgets before it and the one next to it, because you do not build a fair society, as the Premier has said, with one budget. You do not build a better society with one budget; you build it by forming a relationship with the community, with Victorians, and building budget after budget after budget with changes to society. That is what this government is doing. We are changing society every single day. No clearer is that evident than in the area of the prevention of family violence. We are changing society.

We did not set out to hoodwink people by making some election promises that we would never deliver just to get into office. We did the hard yards from the very, very beginning. This budget, like the two before it, is an investment in the Victorian community. When he was the Leader of the Opposition the now Premier rallied the team and did the hard policy yards. Acting Speaker Thomson, you were a part of that team, as was the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, who is at the table. I was not, but the team did an amazing job. It took a defeat in 2010 — and I have said this before in this chamber — and consolidated under the leadership of the Premier. It went around Victoria with its Labor Listens tour — —

Ms Graley interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Labor Cares tour, I thank the member for Narre Warren South. It did a stellar job. It did an incredible job in meeting with average Victorians. We heard the member for Kew talk about meeting with Victorians over the last six months. Whoopee! It was about time.

That Labor team, led by the now Premier, met with a whole range of people. It met with women and children around Victoria, in their living rooms and in town halls, and found out their needs. It found out about the enormous impacts of family violence. If you do not listen, you do not hear the things at the top end of town. That team was in the living rooms of Victorians, listening to the painful cries of women and children around family violence.

The Labor team met with apprentices and came up with innovative solutions to help apprentices retain their apprenticeships through, for example, initiatives like half-price registration and through funding TAFEs. These are really articulated and well-reasoned policies that come from speaking to people and listening to people. The other side do not accept that. They do not do that work.

That team, led by the now Premier, talked to average Victorians about the impact of the ambulance dispute. Do you remember that on the back of all the ambulances it said, ‘Resolve the ambulance dispute’? They actually sat and listened to people. They talked to regional Victorians about isolation and the lack of infrastructure. They talked to everyday Victorians about the environment. That is why we have the boldest targets on renewable energy of any state and the commonwealth. They talked to average Victorians and parents with kids with special needs about the impact that mainstream schooling has on their children. They talked to parents with kids — —

Ms Thomas interjected.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Absolutely, it was proper policy development, as the member for Macedon said. They talked to parents with children who are desperate for medical marijuana so that they can see some positive healing for their children. They talked to principals and teachers about their schools. They talked to outer suburban communities about their lack of infrastructure and then responded with aggregate road projects and tendering, as the Premier and the Treasurer announced months ago in the west, and I know that will be coming in other areas of Melbourne. They talked to victims of crime about the impact of the justice system and the enormous mess that the previous government left us with, a 44 per cent recidivism rate. They talked to average Victorians about the impact of those bail laws that failed us that were developed by the Baillieu-Napthine governments. In response we developed proper bail laws, developed proper resourcing for police. Everyday Victorians mattered in our consultations.

Of course one of the flagships of that Labor opposition, that team led by the now Premier, was they talked to average Victorians about the congestion and level crossings and the number of deaths at those level crossings, and in response developed the policy to rid this state of 50 level crossings. I could go on in a whole range of areas: rental laws, first home buyers. This is a government that did not wake up one day and think, ‘Oh, we’ve got the Treasury benches, let’s put a budget together that’s going to get us through’. No. This is a government that started its evolution years before we had access to the Treasury benches. It started its evolution in opposition and did the hard yards under the current Premier.

This is a story of building a government that has longevity, not the story of building a political campaign. We came to office with an agenda, an incredible and powerful agenda driven by people and the aspirations of average Victorians. Budgets are not a shopping list. It is not good enough going around the community and just adding up the sum total of what they are after because anyone could do that; any monkey could do that. A proper budget and the ones we have delivered so far are about applying the aspirations of Victorians, together with values, intellect and prioritisation, and ending up with a quality budget.

I bet those on the other side, in the privacy of their own offices, are thinking, ‘How on earth do they do it?’ — referring to us — ‘How do they do it? How do they get it so right? They fund social policy. They fund $2 billion in police. They have flagship programs like level crossings and family violence, yet they have lower debt than we had. How do they do it?’.

They must be so upset about that because they were once the economic managers. We have lower debt now than we did under them. We have higher growth than we did under them. We have higher employment by a long shot than we did under them.

Mr Pearson — Two hundred thousand jobs.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — That is right, 200 000 jobs, member for Essendon. And they think to themselves, ‘We can’t get a break. They not only cover off aspirations of Victorians, they do it economically responsibly’. Because that is Labor.

What is the alternative? Politics is about choices. No-one is going to have the perfect government, although this is as close to a perfect government I reckon as you could get. In Victoria at the moment the choices are clear. You have the Andrews Labor government or you have the hapless, angry, shouty Leader of the Opposition and his ragtag — whatever the term is — team. Or potentially in a horror scenario you could have a Greens bastardised government. The fact that the Greens vote with the Liberal-National Party coalition in the upper house more than they vote with Labor is testament to that association.

But you know we do not have to go too far in judging the opposition because they were in government four years ago. Most of them on the other side were in government four years ago, and what did they do? They were a basket case. I have referred to an article by Josh Gordon in the past in this place. Josh Gordon in the Age a few months ago said that the Liberal government back then were backending their important work like infrastructure projects. Others would have read the same article. Effectively it was all about political cycles and when best to do things to get a political benefit. That is no way to run a government, and it is definitely no way to run a state. According to the article, and I quote:

The challenge, so the thinking went, was to change the shape of the bell by extending the upswing, delaying the point at which the peak was reached, and slowing the eventual rate of decline.

In this, the former coalition government failed abysmally. If you charted its political trajectory, the bell shape would be tremendously skewed towards the start of the cycle, with a peak immediately after the 2010 election, followed by a tail of decline lasting almost four years …

That is a political strategy and a disastrous one, whereas we did not have a political strategy. We had a strategy to build longevity in a progressive Labor government, and that is what the team did in opposition and that is what the team that I am proud to be a member of now does.

There is an enormous amount in this budget for my community, an enormous amount: $10 million for Oakleigh station, $4 million for Huntingdale station, $7.6 million for the bus interchange, $10 million for the Alexander theatre redevelopment at Monash University, $1.5 million for Carnegie Primary School and $3.5 million for Hughesdale Primary School. That is not because we favour Labor seats. The member for Kew did not do any work to get anything for the guide dogs or for the Kew primary schools; he did no work. Not once did he meet with the Minister for Education and lobby. Not once did he bring the principals in here and lobby — not once.

Of course I have mentioned family violence, and there is $1.9 billion allocated, and the further level crossings we are doing. Before I come back to those, I do want to just address the absolutely horrendous untruths perpetuated today in a contribution in this place by the member for Mount Waverley. I have got to say this man must be living in an alternate reality. I just do not understand it. The stuff he was coming out with — I wish I had the transcript here — was absolutely atrocious. Mendacious is a very light term to use in relation to him. He must be living in a world where they did not lose the election — Dennis Napthine is still the Premier — because I just cannot understand where he is coming from. To be really frank, the member for Mount Waverley has all the hallmarks of Donald Trump.

Worse perhaps, even disregarding the low bar that Donald has set on integrity and truthfulness, the member for Mount Waverley spoke about police stations in my community. Let us go to the facts. This goes to integrity of political leadership. It goes to the voting public in the future when they will judge him and his team for the absolute rubbish perpetuated in this place by them.

In 2014 hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent by the Napthine Liberal government through Victoria Police to investigate the closure of four police stations in my community. That is a fact, a fact that I put in a press release in August 2014 when I was a candidate. Quoting from that press release:

Reports have indicated that the police stations planned to close in our area include Oakleigh, Mount Waverley, Glen Waverley and Clayton.

That was in 2014 when they were in power. The member for Mount Waverley got up today and said ‘that was our plan’ — he absolutely said that today in this chamber. How could that be our plan when we were not in power? But do not take my word for it. An article in the Age on 11 August 2014 — who was in power on 11 August 2014 but the Napthine government? — said, ‘Four key police stations may close’. Who was in government? They were. I remember I was out at the Oakleigh police station at the time with the shadow minister for police then, who is now obviously a minister in our government, guaranteeing all those stations.

I do not recall seeing the member for Mount Waverley at all. But he gets up here now in opposition claiming that was our idea. He also made the ridiculous comment that ‘we did the heavy lifting when it came to police’ during his term, referring to a $27.5 million upgrade of the police academy. Okay, fantastic: a $27.5 million upgrade. How does that compare to $2 billion worth of investment? Heavy lifting? This is why people get sick of politics. That kind of absolute rubbish and those kind of lies do nothing to serve him or the political class.

These are the facts. Under the last government — the Napthine government — $113 million was cut from police funding. That is a fact. Go back to the budget books — there was almost 500 staff cuts to Victoria Police, stations were closed — —

Mr Eren — Shame!

Mr DIMOPOULOS — An absolute shame — and there was no funding for even one additional police officer. I do not mean filling casual vacancies; I mean additional to the staffing profile. Not one.

Let us also go to the Monash region that the member referred to. Between 2011 and 2014, under the Liberal government, frontline police numbers in Monash dropped a whopping 23 per cent. Heavy lifting? No, I do not think so. Yes, 23 per cent — that is a fact from Victoria Police’s own statistics. That is not me saying it; that is Victoria Police saying it. And it was not just Monash. There were over 20 police service areas that suffered cuts to police of over 20 per cent.

But here is another fact: under this government we have already increased frontline police in Monash. We are reversing the damage. But do not worry, there is even more to come. The member also referred to Murrumbeena station in his contribution. I do not know whether the member is aware that it was under a government that his party led that Victoria Police closed Murrumbeena station twice. They closed it first and Steve Bracks’s administration had to open it, then they closed it again when they were last in government and we had to reopen it.

I might remind the member for Mount Waverley that the last time the Liberals — and I have said this before and those opposite were in horror, a sort of feigned indignation — that the last time the Liberals funded additional police in Victoria was as far back as 1982. I think the member for Mount Waverley might have been five or six then. I note the member has also been referring to statements from a private member of the Labor Party. He keeps saying senior Labor figures said this, that and the other. If I held every Liberal Party member to account for what they said and made it opposition policy — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Do you know what? I have got more to come. I have got a lot more private statements from Liberal Party members that I will just assume is Liberal Party policy. Those are the basic politics that people are sick of. You cannot do anything to escape a fantastic, popular budget, so you resort to awful, degrading tactics. You will pay for those come the next election, because people will not vote for you.

Federal Infrastructure Funding in Victoria

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — I rise to speak on the report on the 2016–17 budget estimates, and I do so with a tinge of sadness because last night’s federal budget did not really restore the imbalance that exists currently with infrastructure funding in Victoria. In the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee report on the 2016–17 budget estimates the Treasurer is quoted as saying:

I think it is important for the state to acknowledge that we do need to look at whether or not we are getting value for money from the assets that the state holds and whether or not we can work our balance sheet better in order to get a better return for the Victorian community.

I think one of the reasons the state has formed a view … that it is important to make sure that we are getting value for the assets that the state holds. I do not see ‘asset recycling’ as a cute one-liner. I see it as being something very tangible and real in the sense that, if we asset recycle, that is we are changing a current status, which could in fact be a leasehold, into another state asset that we have formed a view has better and more immediate economic value for the state.

Of course the Treasurer was referring to the lease of the port of Melbourne and the funds from that going into level crossing removals, a commitment we made to the Victorian people before we came to office and a commitment that I think absolutely is one of those that is similar to the prevention of family violence. This government is branded by those two commitments. If you ask any Victorian about what the Andrews Labor government stands for, if they know nothing else — and there is a lot we stand for — they know about family violence prevention and level crossing removals.

Of course the asset recycling initiative that the federal government announced was to receive 15 per cent of the sale or lease proceeds as a bonus for recycling an asset. It has been a bone of contention between the federal government and our state government here, and unfortunately it was not addressed last night. I think we have gone up 1 per cent, but we are still at about 8 per cent or 9 per cent of infrastructure funding provided by the federal government to states and territories, while we represent 25 per cent of the population of Australia. So our taxpayers are paying enormous GST revenues and income tax revenues to the federal government, and in return we are getting 8 per cent, or perhaps 9 per cent after last night’s budget, rather than the 25 per cent that New South Wales is getting comparable to its population.

If there is any misunderstanding in the community about who is to blame for this, it is absolutely clearly the federal government. The Victorian government has done everything possible to establish a framework where we can receive those funds. We signed the agreement with the federal government to receive those funds. We have set up the Victorian Transport Fund, and we have established Infrastructure Victoria, an independent, non-political group of experts to advise not just us but effectively the Victorian community on infrastructure needs over the next 30 years. We have a AAA credit rating. We have lower debt than that which we inherited. We have significantly higher economic growth than that which we inherited. I think when we came to office our economic growth was better only than Tasmania; now we are first or second in Australia. We of course have invested significantly of our own funds, so we are not just going cap in hand to Canberra. Our infrastructure investment over the last three years of this government is close to $9 billion. It was less than half of that under the previous government.

We have a big agenda of infrastructure projects. It is not as if we are struggling to find any and we have to dig up the ones from the bottom drawer. All our frameworks are in place, our vision is in place and our legitimacy is in place in terms of being elected on this big infrastructure agenda. All we are waiting for is a fair deal from Canberra. While it sounds like a political cliché, it is such a significant issue. We are being short-changed — I think the Treasurer said by about $6.5 billion. When we say that we are being short-changed, it is not the people in this room necessarily, it is the Victorian taxpayer that is getting 9 per cent rather than 25 per cent. Imagine the infrastructure improvements we could make if we got our fair share, particularly for a growing population, which Victoria has. So it is a timely reminder to keep putting pressure on the federal government to restore that imbalance.

Government Program May 2017

DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the government business program for this week. It is great to be back in the chamber after last Tuesday’s pretty successful budget, which has been applauded by the community across the board. Those on this side of the house have been out in their communities talking to people about the budget and what it means for them, and there is a lot to talk about, such as schools, police, hospitals, ambulances, of course, and the centrepiece: the $1.9 billion to specifically address the 227 recommendations of Australia’s first ever Royal Commission into Family Violence. Where have those opposite been? This group’s ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ press conferences were all conducted within 50 metres of this building. They have not left the parliamentary precinct.

Mr Paynter interjected.

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Bass will come to order.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — All of the justifications in their press conferences have happened out here. They have not been to their communities.

Mr Paynter interjected.

Debate interrupted.


Member for Bass

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Bass will leave the chamber for half an hour.

Honourable member for Bass withdrew from chamber.



Debate resumed.

Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — In fact if we peek under the chairs here, I reckon we will find their sleeping bags. They are too scared to go out into the community. They have got nothing to say. They are camping out in the parliamentary precinct. It is another busy week on our side, and we are not going to be distracted by the carping and the complaining and the distractions of the other side. Did you see the Leader of the Opposition in question time today — the alternative leader of this state, the alternative Premier? I think not. I cannot remember an angrier, more shouty Leader of the Opposition. In fact he is bordering on the unhinged. This man seeks to be the Premier of Victoria. He must be the angriest — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — The comment about him being off his game — I think he has been off his game since Ventnor, and in fact definitely since the commencement of this term of Parliament. In contrast, the stability this government provides — aside from the distractions the others are trying to pull us into — is a well-delivered, well-executed expenditure of $63 billion which has a measurable impact on the lives of Victorians. That is what we are about. In fact, as the manager of government business has outlined, this is another productive week with the government business program. We will be continuing with, as has been stated, the Family Violence Protection Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017, which we started last week, and had it not been for the delaying tactics of those opposite we would have proceeded further with that.

I reflect back to last week when the Treasurer, in delivering the budget — and it probably was not captured by the cameras — got to the family violence part of his speech. It speaks volumes about those opposite that they turned their backs on him and were talking and laughing. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition, through you, Speaker, to re-examine those tactics, because they looked very, very bad. To turn your backs, laugh and have private conversations during a speech on the most serious issue facing Victoria looks very bad on the TV screens of Victorians and looks bad in this chamber. It is actually quite disgusting, and I think they would be well minded to review those tactics.

Further on in the government business program, there is the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment (Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner) Bill 2017, which will create the Latrobe Valley mine rehabilitation commissioner to oversee the rehabilitation planning of three Latrobe Valley coalmines. This continues our significant investment in regional Victoria. It is a flagship investment that was announced in the Latrobe Valley prior to the budget. It is this government, through the Minister for Industry and Employment and through the Premier, that secured — and I do not think this has existed previously — the landmark worker exchange deal for those coalmines so that workers are not left out in the cold because of decisions made in corporations around the world that we have no influence on. But what we do have an influence on is actually making sure those workers are looked after, and that is what this government has done. The rehabilitation planning of the three coalmines was a recommendation of the inquiry into Hazelwood, as the house knows.

It is yet another busy week, and it is another week to reflect on the achievements and the continued hard work of this government and on the continued faith that the Victorian community, which elected us in November 2014, holds. I commend the program to the house.

Hughesdale and Carnegie Primary Upgrades

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — Last Monday I was back at Hughesdale Primary School in the electorate of Oakleigh. It is always a special thing to visit my old school. It was even better to be able to announce $3.52 million, funded in this year’s Labor budget, for an upgrade with a new two-storey building, eight classrooms and an elevator. I think the elevator was the most exciting thing for the kids when I announced it. Last year we provided money for planning and a year later funding. That is progress. It is a 93-year-old school, and I recall under the Liberal government in the 1990s it was threatened with closure. It now has over 500 students. There was not a lot of forward thinking with those school sites being sold off for development in the 1990s. I thank principal Craig Tanner, president Rozelle Azad, Sara-Jane, Angus and all members of the school council, the teachers, parents and kids for working with us closely over the last two years to get a fantastic result for the Hughesdale community.

Last week I also visited the Carnegie Primary School, another school that was threatened with closure by a Liberal government. It was only just saved and now it is almost at capacity. I was back there to announce an extra $1.5 million in capital funding to make their planned upgrade even better. In last year’s budget we provided Carnegie Primary School with $4 million, so that is now $5.5 million for this fantastic school. It will mean a new gymnasium, a performing arts centre and renovations to make a modern building for the prep students. Well done to Linda Jones, Michael McCarthy, school president Susan Harper, the school council, parents and students. I am thrilled for the school. It will continue to thrive with state-of-the-art facilities. I also thank the Minister for Education and the Treasurer.

Facts about Police in Oakleigh

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — (12 558) I wish to raise a matter for the Minister for Police. The action I seek is for the minister to visit the Oakleigh electorate to meet with local police officers and discuss the policing needs of our community.

As members are aware, though some opposite like to ignore it, the Andrews government is recruiting over 3000 new police officers in Victoria. This is the biggest recruitment of police in Victoria’s history. There is more equipment, better technology and more helicopters, vehicles and aircraft. This is a $2 billion investment. It follows on from the massive recruitment that took place during the Bracks and Brumby Labor government years.

As we know, the previous Liberal government failed to invest in police. They did not fund any additional frontline officers in their four long years of government. Funding was cut. Around 500 police staff lost their jobs. In my own community, police numbers dropped significantly between 2010 and 2014. Stations across Victoria were closed. And do you know what? They even effectively closed the Murrumbeena police station in my electorate in 2013. But what members might not be aware was that it was not the first time they closed this station. They had form. They had also closed it back in 1999.

Locals do not believe for a second that the Liberals have a real commitment to police in our community. They have shown their true colours on police for over a generation now. Let us also not forget that under the Liberal government in the 1990s police numbers were reduced by around 800 and stations were closed. If you want to look at the facts, you need to go back as far as 1982 to see the last time a Liberal government funded additional police officers. I believe the shadow Minister for Police had not long been in primary school at that time. Those are the facts. They are not alternative facts either. These are the real facts.

It is Labor governments that fund police, just as we fund paramedics, nurses, teachers and all sorts of public servants who look after us, and we have the record to prove it. I was very pleased to be with the minister at the police academy in Glen Waverley in December to welcome new police and protective services officer graduates. They are already on the beat. I would welcome the minister coming to the Oakleigh electorate to meet with me and local police. I know she has shown a real commitment to the police portfolio and to people. We have a government that is making a real effort on law and order, more than any other government before it.