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