Wednesday, 19th June 2019

Ms GARRETT (Eastern Victoria) (17:51): Again it is bittersweet to stand up and speak on a bill like this. Obviously the council, the Shire of South Gippsland, has got to such a stage of dysfunction that it has let the community down and has let itself down, but what has not been let down is the process upon which the minister has embarked on this really important issue and how he has worked, as Ms Bath has pointed out, with people within the opposition, with the local member and with the local upper house members to come to what is really a very difficult final outcome.

It is a very large step to remove a democratically elected council. It is only done in the most significant of circumstances. How that is brought about is just as significant as the actual decision, because if that is not done well then the hurt it is piled on, the dysfunction is piled on and the issues that have led to this occurring continue. So, quite rightly, the minister established a very thorough and a very arms-length process involving absolute luminaries.

We do not need to go any further than the Honourable Frank Vincent, but we also had Ms Julie Eisenbise and Mr John Watson, who did outstanding independent work interviewing everybody, meeting with the community and meeting with the council to assist in making the determination. Their recommendation was clearly that the council needed to be dismissed and there needed to be that significant period of proper education and proper establishment of processes that will assist the new council coming in in 2021.

It was just on Saturday that I was opening the new netball courts at Leongatha, and people were talking really seriously about how dysfunctional it had been and looking forward to a new era. So I also echo what Ms Bath said. It is a beautiful part of the world, not just Victoria, with wonderful communities, and they deserve the best possible local government representation. So I commend the bill to the house.

It has been a big week for local government. We have had the reforms that have been put out to consultation. I know people get sick of me saying it here, but for those of us who have been on local government it is often the most important tier and the tier of government for people interacting and what their experience is, and I think the passion with which these new reforms are being introduced by the minister but also the bipartisanship on this particular legislation is about making sure that our communities get the best possible local representation, which they deserve.