What an incredible week.
After my first speech I was feeling a bit more comfortable around parliament and for a while even managed to find my way around the underground halls without getting (too) lost.
That all come to crashing halt by Thursday, at which point I found myself asking for directions at the front desk of the Premier’s office. His staff looked more confused than I was.
Here is a quick (TL;DR version) of what we Greens achieved last week.
- Took the first step to legalise pill testing in Victoria
- Requested the Government trial pill testing at a fixed site such as the Richmond safe injecting centre.
- Spoke to 3 different Bills, including one on police powers
- Asked my first question in Question Time – on the Murray Darling fish kills
- Held a positive meeting with the Minister for roads, Jaala Pulford, regarding (among others) a separated bike lane down Sydney road
- Moved to amend the Governors speech so it made reference to climate change
Last week we began the process of legalising pill testing in Victoria. Samantha Ratnam “first read” the title of a Bill that will establish pill testing at both a fixed site and mobile testing at festivals.
We’ll call this ‘Daniel’s Bill’ to honour Daniel Buccianti, who died due to an overdose at a music festival in 2012. When his mum Adriana, now a tireless advocate for pill testing, opened her front door to find two police officers who informed her of her son’s death, she made a promise that she would fight for legislation that could have saved him, and dreamed of it being named Daniel’s Bill. We Greens are privileged to honour her promise.
If you’d like to show your support to Adriana and pill testing, we’ve written an email you can send to Premier Andrews here.
The day before introducing this Bill I had asked the Minister for Health to introduce pill testing at the Richmond safe injecting centre or a similar facility, as this was one of the recommendations of a recent parliamentary inquiry into drug law reform.
Video: Adjournment Speech – Pill testing and the medically supervised safe injecting centre.
Making Sydney Road safer for cycling.
Our meeting with Roads Minister Jaala Pulford was positive and she seemed keen to get stakeholders together and progress the discussion around a separated bike path down Sydney Road. She was also interested to find out about the impact of the pending level crossing removal works on the Upfield bike path. I also raised two well-known intersections that are quite dangerous and the concerns held by the local community.
We’ll chase this up over the coming weeks.
On Wednesday I asked my first question in question time, it went like this,
“The Australian Academy of Sciences reported this week that taking too much water out of the Darling River for irrigation, leaving too little to flow downstream, was the “root cause” of this summer’s massive fish kills. The millions of dead fish included Murray Cod, some several decades old, that had survived previous droughts, but they didn’t survive the bleeding dry of this vital river system.
Minister, you have repeatedly opposed allowing irrigators to sell more water back to flow down the Murray Darling and yesterday you said that Labor and the Nationals should be on the one side on this issue.
My question is: why does this Labor Government persist in backing the same failed policies as the Liberals and Nationals that have caused this crisis?”
Her answer took advantage of the fact that the fish kills were in NSW and we’re in Victoria, but conveniently side-stepped the fact that Victoria has considerable influence over the plan covering the whole Murray Darling basin and she has consistently opposed further water buybacks (increasing environmental water) all over.
Video: Question without notice – Murray Darling fish kills
Bills introduced by the Government.
I also had the opportunity to speak on a number of Bills introduced by the Government.
Here, I learned a very important lesson, if you don’t stand up quick enough, you’ll miss your opportunity to speak.
Hesitate just for a second (as I did) and the speaker will not see you, quickly moving on to the next item of business.
Not ideal when you’re speaking to a Bill that could give pay rises of up to 30% to politicians when public servants get a measly 2.5%.
Politicians work hard, but so do public servants and no-one is giving them a 30 per cent pay rise.
Video: My Speech on the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal and Improving Parliamentary Standards Bill.
Amending the Governor’s Speech
Observers of state parliament will be interested in something that happened on Thursday afternoon.
My colleagues Sam Hibbins and Ellen Sandell gave speeches as part of the “address in reply”. This is an opportunity for every MP to respond to the Governor’s speech on the opening of parliament before Christmas.
That speech is written by the government and sets out the government’s plan for their current term. They barely mentioned the environment and failed to mention climate change. So Sam and Ellen pointed out, that with heatwaves, mass deaths of fish and flying foxes and other environmental crises, this was inadequate, and parliament should move to amend the Governor’s speech.
This was last done in 1932, so it’s a rare parliamentary procedure. The amendment will be voted on (and surely defeated) in a few weeks. But if our government can’t acknowledge crises of this magnitude, who is looking after us? This episode embodies exactly why I ran for parliament.
Those were my highlights from this week in parliament; it was hectic, sleepless, and I learnt more than I care to.
Stand up fast. Don’t ask directions at the Premier’s office. And don’t expect answers that aren’t loaded with political point scoring in question time.
Tim Read MP.