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.

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