Program

Ms Garrett (Brunswick) — I am pleased to rise to make  a contribution to the debate on  the  government business program. I note the comments of the previous speaker that the opposition  perhaps says  one thing and does another, and we on this side  of the house experience that  quite a  bit from  the government.  For example, the government says it has the numbers on certain things, and then it is proven that it does not have command of the house or the numbers in the house. As the manager of opposition business so eloquently put it earlier, the manager  of government business has certainly indicated that it could be  anything on any particular day, given the way this Parliament rolls at the moment.

That brings me to a very significant issue. We have sat through many discussions and debates  about the government business program. In particular the manager of opposition business  has had to stand to argue that there be genuine discussion, debate and focus on the most important issues that affect  Victorians. Important issues come before this  house  on  a  regular  basis, and unfortunately on many occasions  the  opposition  has had  to  stand  firm and  oppose  the government business program because of the  manner  in  which  the government has sought to have those issues ventilated.

They are  often issues of  critical and fundamental importance  to the Victorian people, and far too  often not enough time has been given for proper scrutiny or debate. We will continue to  stand firm against the government on those sorts of matters, but we  note the palpable sigh of  relief that is coming from the other side of the house because on this particular occasion the opposition will not be opposing the government business  program. So government members do not have  to run around, as they have  been,  to make sure that they have the  numbers on the floor of the house on any given day in this chaotic Parliament.

In  particular I rise to echo and support the comments of the member for Ivanhoe regarding the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Further Amendment Bill 2013, which has been languishing on  the notice paper for months. While I will not go to the substance of the bill, it  is worth looking at  some time lines around how  this legislation came to the house.

I  was  a member of the then joint-party parliamentary Law Reform Committee that delivered unanimous  and comprehensive  recommendations to  government regarding this legislation and changing the rights of donor-conceived people.

There was  supposed  to be  a  comprehensive  response from  the  government  in September 2012. All that  was forthcoming was a  single-page document, which was tabled  in  this  Parliament without  any  reference  to or  discussion  of  key stakeholders, and which sought  some further work to  be done, primarily looking at the views of donors. That then  languished again  for months and months until finally  a bill  was introduced  into Parliament last year. While it did  not go anywhere  near  far  enough  towards  the  recommendations  that  the  all-party committee had made, it made some changes in this area.

We need to remember also that  these issues were comprehensively  discussed when the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill was debated and passed in 2008.

There was then literally years worth of work  undertaken  during  two  terms  of government, with  two different committees  looking at these issues. This matter has been dragging  on  for  those  people  who are fundamentally affected by the substance  of  this bill.  That  significant group of  people  are fundamentally affected because  the bill  goes to the very core  of their  identity and  their rights.

We  are now three and a half  years  into this term of government. We  have  had comprehensive reports and we have had some watered-down legislation  introduced. I fear it is because,  on this issue as on so many  others,  the government does not know the  strength  of the numbers it has on the  floor and is worried about testing those  in regard to this piece  of legislation. But in  our view that is not a good enough reason not to have this issue brought forward for debate.

It  is of critical, fundamental importance to a very significant group of people — people who are emailing almost daily and  asking when the legislation will be brought forward and  when  they  will have the opportunity to hear their elected representatives debate and discuss and focus  on  the  issues  that  are of such importance to them.

The opposition calls on the government to bring this bill on for debate. We will be raising this matter in future debates about the  government business program. This  is a serious matter for those on  this  side of house and the people  they represent. We urge the  government  to  treat  the  bill with the seriousness it deserves.

Motion agreed to.

Hansard, 6 May 2014