Thursday, 18 November 2021

The PRESIDENT (Hon. N Elasmar) took the chair at 10.05 am and read the prayer.

Announcements

Acknowledgement of country

The PRESIDENT (10:06): On behalf of the Victorian state Parliament I acknowledge the Aboriginal peoples, the traditional custodians of this land which has served as a significant meeting place of the First People of Victoria. I acknowledge and pay respect to the elders of the Aboriginal nations in Victoria past, present and emerging and welcome any elders and members of the Aboriginal communities who may visit or participate in the events or proceedings of the Parliament.

Photographing of proceedings

The PRESIDENT (10:07): I have permitted some visitors into the gallery today for Mr O’Donohue’s valedictory speech. Please note the parliamentary staff will be taking some photos of the occasion. Thank you, and welcome.

Petitions

Following petitions presented to house:

Breast screening

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council that the Andrews Government has failed to fully reinstate the funding for health protection services which will see 29,000 fewer Victorians have the ability to access a breast screen service.

Victorians know that preventative measures such as breast screenings are vital and potentially lifesaving.

We therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Andrews Government and the Minister for Health to reverse the cuts to women’s health and fully fund the program so all women, at all times, have access to this essential program.

By Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (26 signatures).

Laid on table.

Lara waste-to-energy facility

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council Planning Application 1004200 from Prospect Hill International for the construction and operation of a 400,000 tonne per annum waste-to-energy (WtE) facility at Lara in the City of Greater Geelong.

Despite a community conference organised by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), there are many unanswered questions, including—

(1) Where will the waste come from? Local councils have zero waste policies with plans to recover food, glass and other resources.

(2) Where is the social license for this project? Lara residents are still dealing with the aftermath of the last disastrous waste facility, which is costing taxpayers millions to clean up. They don’t want the plant to become a massive stranded asset.

(3) How can this plant be a transitional waste solution when it will operate for more than 25 years? Incineration destroys the material forever, locking in an unsustainable linear approach and impeding innovative circular economy solutions.

(4) Why is there no front-end sorting of waste? It is unacceptable for council waste to be dumped directly into the hopper without removal of dangerous and toxic materials.

(5) Why is there no agreement with Powercor for energy off-take? Despite years of planning, Prospect Hill International has no agreement in place.

Waste to energy facilities using combustion and high temperature incineration should not be imposed on local government authorities like the City of Greater Geelong. The Government should ensure that thermal waste-to-energy facilities are only located within municipalities where there is a clearly demonstrated demand and suitable feedstock.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Government to ensure that Planning Application 1004200 from Prospect Hill International is not approved until community concerns are fully addressed, an Environmental Effects Statement is undertaken, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning finalises the waste-to-energy framework, all other recycling and waste diversion options are investigated and agreements are put in place with local authorities in relation to feedstock, water usage and energy offtake.

By Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (232 signatures).

Laid on table.

COVID-19 vaccination

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council the issue of COVID-19 vaccination being made mandatory and vaccination passports being introduced in Victoria. The prolonged State of Emergency and the reduction of the standard checks and balances of power, inherent to our democracy, has allowed the Government to dangerously threaten human rights and liberties by enforcing mandatory vaccination and proposing the introduction of a proof of vaccination system. Sovereignty over one’s body and freedom of health care choices are basic human rights that a democracy cannot afford to lose, even in the name of public health, as it sets a dangerous precedent. Likewise, the introduction of a vaccination passport, or similarly mandated proof of vaccination, to allow or prevent an individual access to everyday activities such as work, healthcare, education or recreation, amounts to creating a two-tiered society and setting Victoria on a path to legalising segregation and discrimination. It is crucial that the public be extensively educated, consulted and respected regarding their own health and rights, including individual liberties such as choice and privacy. Vaccination is likely to be chosen by most of whom are given the choice.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Government to abandon mandatory vaccinations and the development of vaccination passports that would give agencies, businesses, organisations and individuals the right to limit access to goods and services according to COVID-19 vaccination status.

By Mr LIMBRICK (South Eastern Metropolitan) (2315 signatures).

Laid on table.

Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council the proposed permanent pandemic legislation, the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021.

The past two years have shown us that the directions under the State of Emergency have been disproportionate and ineffective at protecting our community, and the public health data has been almost non-existent. When the curfew was deemed to encroach on human rights without any benefit to public health, the Government was ordered to release the data, however the curfew continued.

The proposed legislation gives too much power to one individual, the Premier of the day and contains elements that specifically target and disadvantage certain members of our community. When the State of Emergency expires, any bills related to future pandemics should be specific and evidence-based and proportionate to the threat to public health.

Legislation that can be enacted without any threat to public health will only cause problems for Victorians. These current COVID-19 directives have been introduced without the required supporting public health evidence and have been opposed by independent organisations and individuals including the legal community. There will be no such recourse if the permanent pandemic legislation passes.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council oppose the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021.

By Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (1969 signatures).

Laid on table.

Residential property rules

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council the rules owners corporations and private building managements are imposing on residents which limit their ability to move in and out of properties.

Some apartment buildings do not allow tenants to vacate the property on weekdays whilst others do not allow tenants to move in on the weekend, or vice versa. This is illogical.

These types of rules must be banned. In accordance with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, which states that “every person lawfully within Victoria has the right to move freely within Victoria … to enter and leave … and … to choose where to live”.

Heavy penalties of $1 million for entities and $10,000 for individuals should be introduced to ensure these types of properties move quickly to instate changes to their policies.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Government to ban owners corporations and private building managements from imposing rules on apartment tenants that limit their ability to move in and out of managed properties.

By Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (58 signatures).

Laid on table.

Papers

Children’s Court of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:10): I present, by command of the Governor, the Children’s Court of Victoria report 2020–21. I move:

That the report do lie on the table.

Motion agreed to.

County Court of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:10): I present, by command of the Governor, the County Court of Victoria report 2020–21. I move:

That the report do lie on the table.

Motion agreed to.

Magistrates Court of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:10): I present, by command of the Governor, the Magistrates Court of Victoria report 2020–21. I move:

That the report do lie on the table.

Motion agreed to.

Supreme Court of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:11): I present, by command of the Governor, the Supreme Court of Victoria report 2020–21. I move:

That the report do lie on the table.

Motion agreed to.

Judicial College of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:11): I move, by leave:

That there be laid before this house a copy of the Judicial College of Victoria report 2020–21.

Motion agreed to.

Judicial Commission of Victoria

Report 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:11): I move, by leave:

That there be laid before this house a copy of the Judicial Commission of Victoria report 2020–21.

Motion agreed to.

Professional Standards Councils

Reports 2020–21

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (10:12): I move, by leave:

That there be laid before this house a copy of the Professional Standards Councils report 2020–21 and the Victorian Professional Standards Council financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2021.

Motion agreed to.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

2020–21 Sustainability Fund Activities Report

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (10:12): I move, by leave:

That there be laid before this house a copy of the 2020–21 Sustainability Fund Activities Report.

Motion agreed to.

Committees

Environment and Planning Committee

Inquiry into the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Victoria

Ms TERPSTRA (Eastern Metropolitan) (10:13): Pursuant to standing order 23.29, I lay on the table a report from the Environment and Planning Committee on the inquiry into the health impacts of air pollution in Victoria, including an appendix, extracts of proceedings and minority reports. I further present transcripts of evidence, and I move:

That the transcripts of evidence lie on the table and the report be published.

Motion agreed to.

Ms TERPSTRA: I move:

That the Council take note of the report.

In regard to the committee process, I just want to give a brief overview to members in the chamber and also those who may be watching at home about the important work that the committee conducted during the inquiry. Overall Victoria has relatively clean air by world standards; however, this does not mean that Victorians do not suffer health impacts from air pollution. Certain areas within Victoria are particularly susceptible to poor air quality, and consequently there are severe health outcomes. Similarly, certain events can create conditions that lead to quite severe health issues for Victorians.

This inquiry heard from a significant number of health experts, as well as from ordinary Victorians, about the impact and potential impact of poor air quality. During the inquiry a number of key causes of air pollution were identified—namely, power generation from coal-fired power stations, industrial emissions, vehicle and transport emissions, the use of wood heaters for domestic heating and bushfires and planned burns. The work of the inquiry provided a snapshot of some of the causes of air pollution to highlight the impact that poor air quality can have on Victorians.

I will highlight some of the recommendations that arose from the inquiry shortly, but it should be noted at the outset that not all of the issues of concern have been able to be fully addressed in this inquiry. While the committee has made some observations about Latrobe Valley, for example, the committee recognises that the issue confronted by the region is very complex and longstanding and that further work would need to be done to address this very specific set of concerns that the community have. The committee acknowledges in the report that community members in the Latrobe Valley have experienced frustration over a number of years in regard to some projects of concern. However, the committee has not gone into detail about these projects, as the committee felt that it did not have the requisite expertise or time that would be necessary to dedicate to properly undertake such a task to do it justice.

The committee received a number of submissions related to the health impacts of the use of wood smoke from domestic wood heaters. The committee makes a number of findings and recommendations in regard to the issue, recognising that wood smoke from domestic heating is a significant contributor to air pollution in built-up areas in Victoria. Having said that, though, the committee recognises that not everyone can simply go out and replace their woodfired heaters with other forms of heating, as this can be expensive. The findings and recommendations recognise this reality, and in addition and more specifically the committee has recommended the government consider a rebate scheme to phase out wood heaters from homes in built-up areas. This could be done by helping replace home heating systems when houses are put up for sale, for example.

The committee also discussed the impact of vehicle emissions. This was particularly of concern in the western suburbs of Melbourne, which have a long history of poor air quality and are a significant thoroughfare for heavy trucks due to the location of industrial areas and the largest port in Australia, the port of Melbourne. The committee has been made aware of some significant planning concerns as well as the impact of particular fuel types, notably diesel, which contributes to poor air quality. Clearly the movement towards zero-emission vehicles is a crucial element of the mitigation strategy. The committee acknowledges the government’s comprehensive Victoria’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Roadmap, which was announced earlier this year. This is a crucial element of reducing emissions and poor air quality in Victoria. The committee made a range of recommendations aimed at mitigating the impact of motor vehicle pollution, including further promoting the uptake of electric vehicles and a range of measures to reduce vehicle idling, especially near schools.

Finally, I would like to thank all members of the committee for their collegiate and cooperative approach to the inquiry and the willingness they showed to discuss and debate issues. As in any parliamentary inquiry, there were differences of opinion, but these were expressed respectfully and with the best interests of the Victorian community at the core.

I will just quickly touch on some of the recommendations that were made. As I said earlier, the committee made 35 recommendations in total. Some of the key ones relate to the following, and we are encouraging the government to consider these: stricter air quality enforcement measures; a potential scheme for conditional licences for heavy industry and opportunities for localised air quality improvements; actions that will lead to continuing improvements in air quality for residents in Melbourne’s inner west; community consultation and the need to tailor support appropriate for local communities where required; assistance for people from low socio-economic backgrounds to assess and improve air quality in their homes, including subsidies for high-efficiency particulate-absorbing filters and potentially transitioning away from wood heaters in built-up areas, as I previously mentioned; the feasibility of establishing clean air shelters in various locations; the potential for planning scheme changes that take account of traffic emissions in approvals, particularly with vulnerable populations such as children; raising awareness of the impact of idling in vehicles around children in vulnerable populations; considering anti-idling legislation and clean air zones; upgrades and improvements in the Victorian air quality monitoring network as well; and also, significantly, to encourage the Victorian government to continue to work very hard with the Australian government to ensure that we do not have cheap combustion vehicles dumped in our market.

Finally, I would like to thank the committee secretariat for their diligence and assistance. I would like to thank Michael Baker, the committee manager, for his management of the inquiry. I would also like to express my gratitude to Vivienne Bannan, inquiry officer, and research assistant Caitlin Connally for excellent work in compiling the report. In addition, I express the committee’s appreciation to Sylvette Bassy and Cat Smith for excellent administrative assistance throughout the inquiry.

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (10:19): I rise to speak on the air pollution inquiry report. I thank the committee for their work and every member of the secretariat. I want to especially thank Michael Baker, Vivienne Bannan, Caitlin Connally, Sylvette Bassy and Cat Smith for their incredible work to conduct this inquiry within a short frame of time. While it was time limited, it was extensive, and the report speaks to the expansive nature of the research work and attempts to capture the depth of submissions and the breadth of submissions we received, which were really, really welcome. So thank you very much.

This inquiry exposed the devastating health impacts of air pollution in Victoria and also the frustration of communities who have had to tolerate and suffer because of poor air quality for years on end—decades even—without governments listening and acting quickly enough. We heard about the causes of air pollution, all within our control to reduce and prevent, and I think that is an important lesson from this inquiry. Brown coal power stations, vehicles and transport emissions, woodfired heaters and industrial emissions are all some of the most significant causes of poor air quality in Victoria. Governments for years have refused to act to implement strong pollution controls—things within our control to implement, and for some reason governments refuse to act.

Communities have been asked to endure and tolerate poor health outcomes compared to the rest of the Victorian average because of where they live. I learned a lot through this inquiry about the inequality that is created and exacerbated, the inequalities of health that are caused by government inaction. It is not acceptable for anyone, particularly these communities that have endured so much suffering and disadvantage because of the failure of governments to act.

We needed stronger findings and recommendations in this report, as I have canvassed in my minority report. We need to do this. We need to take action now to do justice to the submissions and the communities that have worked for years to improve air quality in Victoria, and I hope that we will be able to act on these recommendations.

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (10:21): I would like to make a few comments on the report tabled today, and in doing so I would like to certainly thank the very astute and diligent secretariat, particularly Michael Baker and Vivienne Bannan, and also Caitlin Connally, Sylvette Bassy and Cat Smith for their always diligent executive work.

The Nationals and the Liberals are pleased that the committee adopted the report in terms of the recommendation from the Latrobe Valley community that there needs to be an independent environment effects statement on the used lead-acid battery secondary smelter. Now, this is an important thing that the government has tried to sidestep. The community were in significant opposition to this. The EPA put through the planning permit. The Latrobe Valley council put up their opposition to this and said no, there would not be a planning permit through there, but what did the Andrews government do? The Minister for Planning overrode that decision and called in the planning permit. This recommendation in this report is vital, because the community deserve a full understanding of the aspects of the environmental and social importance of what this will do to the community. There is a school 1.5 kilometres from the proposed factory.

Maggie Jones and members of the ALiVe committee were able to present to the inquiry, and I thank them. And I give a special, special mention to resident Peter Leviston, who through his meticulous research and strong leadership on behalf of his community is an exemplar of dignified activism. We need to see more dignified activism. This gentleman bestowed that upon the community and this report, and I thank him very much for it.

Ms SHING (Eastern Victoria) (10:23):(By leave) I rise to speak in relation to this report, which has dealt with air pollution, including in the Latrobe Valley, an area which both Ms Bath and I are privileged to represent. One of the things which I want to focus on by way of response to some of the issues that Ms Bath has raised is the clear distinction that work associated with an environment effects statement process was determined to be beyond the scope of this committee’s work and beyond the contemplation of the terms of reference—and it is interesting that Ms Bath should in fact seek to create the impression that this was something which the committee ought to and should have and indeed could have contemplated.

What I would also like to do is to put on the record the fact that the used lead-acid battery facility process is currently the subject of an ongoing community liaison committee group. It is unfortunate that Ms Bath has not in fact sought to engage with the community in any sort of collective way, other than perhaps fielding selective items for grabs and for quotes in order to outline her objection to this matter, when in fact it was a former Nationals member who stood next to the mayor and approved use of this heavy industrial site for heavy industrial purposes. I look forward to this issue being resolved through the proper processes of the community liaison committee work prior to the EPA issuing any final works notice.

I also thank Maggie Jones, the ALiVe group and all members of the Latrobe community who have participated in the group community meetings that I have set up, established and run, including with council, the Latrobe Valley Authority, workers from the EPA and people from the company and on behalf of the community, including sustainability networks, environmental groups, community members, members of the Hazelwood North Primary School community and others who have raised very real and very significant concerns about the proposed development of this used lead-acid battery recycling facility on the land.

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) (10:25): I also rise to speak on the report. I want to join my colleague in congratulating the committee staff and acknowledging the great work that was done by them, led by Michael Baker, the committee manager; Vivienne Bannan; Sylvette Bassy; and Cat Smith. These individuals have done tremendous work supporting the committee not only on this report but on the various other reports. We have had a very busy couple of years on this committee, and I just want to pay tribute to the great work they have done. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues on the committee who have worked collectively and in a very good way to actually come up with a good report. Also, I would like to acknowledge the great contribution by community organisations from all over the state who submitted to the committee. In particular in my Western Metropolitan Region a number of groups put in submissions and provided evidence about the air quality in west Melbourne.

I am pleased that the state government has responded to the great work that was done in relation to the air quality in the inner west and that all the recommendations will be implemented. This report has 35 recommendations and 16 findings, and I am looking forward to the government’s response to this report, which I am optimistic will be accepted. The government will continue to work to make sure Victorians can actually enjoy cleaner air. One of the big issues, for example, was in relation to air quality for wood heaters, particularly in urban areas, and the committee has addressed that. So with these few comments again I want to thank my colleagues. I commend the report to the house.

Motion agreed to.

Papers

Papers

Tabled by Clerk:

Albury Wodonga Health—Report, 2020–21.

Alexandra Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Alpine Health—Report, 2020–21.

Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council—Report, 2020–21.

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency—Report, 2020–21.

Ballarat Health Services—Report, 2020–21.

Barwon Health—Report, 2020–21.

Barwon South West Waste and Resource Recovery Group—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Bass Coast Health—Report, 2020–21.

Beechworth Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Benalla Health—Report, 2020–21.

Boort District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Casterton Memorial Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Castlemaine Health—Report, 2020–21.

Central Gippsland Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Central Highlands Rural Health—Report, 2020–21.

Cladding Safety Victoria—Report, 2020–21.

Cohuna District Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Colac Area Health—Report, 2020–21.

Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Community Visitors—Report, 2020–21 (Ordered to be published).

Confiscation Act 1997—Report, 2020–21, by the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, under section 139A of the Act.

Corryong Health—Report, 2020–21.

Country Fire Authority (CFA)—Report, 2020–21.

Court Services Victoria—Report, 2020–21.

Crimes (Assumed Identities) Act 2004—Reports, 2020–21, under section 31 of the Act, by—

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Victoria Police.

Djerriwarrh Health Services—Report, 2020–21.

East Grampians Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

East Wimmera Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV)—Report, 2020–21.

Fire Rescue Victoria Act 1958—

Fire Services Implementation Monitor—Report 2020–21–Year one: Setting the foundations, under section 142 of the Act.

Year Two to Five Fire Services Reform Implementation Plan, November 2021.

Fisheries Act 1995—Report on the disbursement of Recreational Fishing Licence Revenue from the Recreational Fishing Licence Trust Account, 2020–21.

Game Management Authority—Report, 2020–21 (in lieu of that tabled on 28 October 2021).

Goulburn Valley Health (GVHealth)—Report, 2020–21.

Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority—Report, 2020–21.

Great Ocean Road Health—Report, 2020–21.

Heathcote Health—Report, 2020–21.

Heritage Council of Victoria—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Hesse Rural Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Heywood Rural Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Inglewood and Districts Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Judicial Entitlements Act 2015—Judicial Entitlements Panel’s Own Motion Recommendations to the Attorney-General Report, September 2021, under section 33 of the Act.

Kerang District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Kilmore District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Kyabram District Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014—

Practitioner Remuneration Order 2021 (in lieu of that tabled on 10 November 2020).

Practitioner Remuneration Order 2022.

Local Jobs First—Report, 2020–21.

Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Maldon Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Mansfield District Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Mildura Base Public Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Mildura Cemetery Trust—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Moyne Health Services—Report, 2020–21.

National Health Funding Pool—Victoria State Pool Account, Administrator of—Report, 2020–21.

National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner—Report, 2020–21.

NCN Health (Nathalia Cobram Numurkah)—Report, 2020–21.

North East Waste and Resource Recovery Group—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Northeast Health Wangaratta—Report, 2020–21.

Office of the Public Advocate—Report, 2020–21 (Ordered to be published).

Omeo District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Orbost Regional Health—Report, 2020–21.

Peninsula Health—Report, 2020–21.

Portland District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Radiation Advisory Committee—Report, 2020–21.

Royal Botanic Gardens Board Victoria—Report, 2020–21.

Rural Northwest Health—Report, 2020–21.

Seymour Health—Report, 2020–21.

South Gippsland Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

South West Healthcare—Report, 2020–21.

Stawell Regional Health—Report, 2020–21.

Subordinate Legislation Act 1994—Documents under section 15 in relation to—

Statutory Rule Nos. 135, 136 and 138.

Order approving the First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code, of 26 October 2021, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Order Declaring Certain Motor Vehicles Not to Be Motor Vehicles—Electric Scooter Trial, of 29 October 2021, under the Road Safety Act 1986.

Surveillance Devices Act 1999—Reports, 2020–21, under section 30L of the Act, by—

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

Victorian Fisheries Authority.

Swan Hill District Health—Report, 2020–21.

Tallangatta Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Terang and Mortlake Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003—Report, 2020–21, by Victoria Police, under section 37F of the Act.

Timboon and District Healthcare Service—Report, 2020–21.

Tweddle Child and Family Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

VicForests—Report, 2020–21.

Victoria Legal Aid—Report, 2020–21.

Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA)—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–‍21 report, together with an explanation for the delay.

Victorian Building Authority—Report, 2020–21.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)—Report, 2020–21.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission—Report, 2020–21 (Ordered to be published).

Victorian Law Reform Commission—Report, 2020–21 (Ordered to be published).

Victorian Pharmacy Authority—Minister’s report of receipt of the 2020–21 report.

Victorian Planning Authority—Report, 2020–21.

West Gippsland Healthcare Group—Report, 2020–21.

West Wimmera Health Service (WWHS)—Report, 2020–21.

Western District Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Wimmera Health Care Group—Report, 2020–21.

Yarram and District Health Service—Report, 2020–21.

Yarrawonga Health—Report, 2020–21.

Yea and District Memorial Hospital—Report, 2020–21.

Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board—

Minister’s report of receipt of the 2018–19 report, together with an explanation for the delay.

Minister’s report of receipt of the 2019–20 report, together with an explanation for the delay.

Business of the house

Notices

Notice of motion given.

Notices of intention to make a statement given.

Members statements

Diwali

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (10:32): Happy Diwali! Shubh Diwali! I thank the many, many members who celebrated with our multicultural communities at this special time. Communities from the Subcontinent—from India, from Pakistan, from Bangladesh—celebrated the festival of light over darkness, of good over evil. Members will remember that normally, in non-COVID years, we would celebrate Diwali here in our Parliament. We have been unable to do that for a couple of years, but I thank the many members who joined their local communities in celebrating that special time of Diwali across Victoria.

Bert Newton

Mr ONDARCHIE: On another matter, I pay tribute to Albert Watson Newton, AM, MBE. Bert, who passed away on 30 October this year, and I had opportunity during our careers to spend a little bit of time together. We worked on projects together. He was a man that was very gracious with his time and very giving of his time. The times when I ran into him at the races he would give me horse tips that were never successful. I say ‘God bless’ to Bert and his family. May he rest in peace. Vale, Bert Newton.

Farm worker entitlements

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) (10:33): I rise to speak on the Australian Workers Union’s historic win in securing a minimum wage for all farm workers across all farms in Australia. Just a bit of background for the house, farm workers in Australia are paid under piece rates but over the last 10 years or so have been falling behind and their earning capacity has actually fallen below the minimum rate. A report recently released by Unions NSW found that in some cases farm workers were being paid as little as $1.25 an hour. Employees working in some of Australia’s harshest conditions reported being without access to adequate living facilities. It was described as a form of modern slavery. There cannot be room for this type of exploitation in our country. This is not the Australian way.

The workforce is mostly made up of migrant workers and some of our most vulnerable communities that come to Australia to start a new life for themselves and their families, and they should be given fair opportunities. Workers are now legally entitled to a minimum wage of $25.41 an hour, and that will be life changing for our workers who work hard to live with dignity, working full-time hours and living below the poverty line. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the AWU leadership, and from the Victorian AWU Mr Davis, on running that case at the Fair Work Commission. I want to commend the Fair Work Commission full bench on handing down that historic decision to make sure workers get fair pay for fair work.

Remembrance Day

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (10:34): A young lieutenant colonel at Wangaratta’s cenotaph on 11 November called Remembrance Day Australia’s most significant war commemoration. Scottie Morris, army school of ordnance commanding officer at Gaza Ridge barracks near Wodonga, a former assistant attaché to the United Nations, told about 200 attendees of the Great War’s toll. Twenty million died. No corner of the European, North American or colonial world remained untouched by the years 1914 to 1918, and it endures.

As Lieutenant Colonel Morris observed, from the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 we became the memory keepers of a collective experience. 103 years later, school students Patrick Timmers and Abbey Collins from Cathedral College in Wangaratta read In Flanders Fields, and many local schools and college representatives laid wreaths. Rural City of Wangaratta traffic marshals stopped vehicles in the street for the last post. There was 1 minute’s silence at 11 o’clock, and reveille was played with such skill by trumpeter Ben Thomas. Thank you to the Wangaratta RSL and Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral dean Ken Goodger for hosting this observance.

By gathering, we reinforced a tradition that endures unceasingly, sharing, as Lieutenant Colonel Morris said, our common respect for service in conflict, for the toll it took on those who fell and for those who were left behind to pick up the pieces. Lest we forget.

International Men’s Day

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (10:36): The 19th of November marks International Men’s Day, a day to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of men and the contribution men make to our world, to our community and to families. International Men’s Day reminds us of the critical role men play as positive role models in our community. It reminds us of the critical role fathers play in teaching and demonstrating to their sons the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. It also reminds us of the burdens that men bear. I was shocked at the start of the week by the sudden loss of a talented young man, a loved son, a husband, a father of two young boys, a mate to so many, a gentleman and a high-flyer in every sense of the word. The burdens men carry are often unseen and unremarked. International Men’s Day prompts us to remember these burdens as well as the vital role men play in our community.

Movember

Mr TARLAMIS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (10:37): Movember is here again, as you most likely have noticed from what is taking shape on my upper lip. The annual event raises awareness as well as funds to assist with game-changing work in men’s mental health, medical research and groundbreaking tests and treatment for prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Globally men die five years earlier than women, and what makes it worse is that the reasons are largely preventable. In Australia three out of four suicides are men. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer before 85, and testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men. We can all take action to live better, healthier, happier and longer lives.

Since 2003 Movember have funded more than 1250 men’s health projects around the world, changing the status quo, shaking up men’s health research and transforming the way health services reach and support men. Movember has prompted billions of conversations about men’s health, encouraging men to understand the health risks they face, talk more openly about their health and take action when necessary. These conversations have paved the way for Movember’s ambitious 2030 goal of reducing the number of men dying prematurely by 25 per cent.

This is the third year that I have taken part in Movember as I attempt to grow a mo for the cause, much to the amusement of many and the dismay of my beloved wife. I have done so because we all have a role to play in raising awareness about these important issues so that our fathers, brothers, sons and partners are not facing the health crisis that is not being talked about and so that they are not dying too young, long before their time. So please support and participate in Movember efforts whichever way you can and support men’s health. We can all make a difference, but we need your help.

Remembrance Day

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (10:39): On the 11th of the 11th I was very pleased to attend the Traralgon RSL’s acknowledgement of Remembrance Day, and I did so at the Traralgon RSL because unfortunately the returned service personnel were not able to go to the cenotaph under these COVID conditions. I was pleased to do it, and I was pleased to support and be a witness to the service with Lieutenant Colonel Doug Caulfield, sub-branch president Ron Culliver and many, many other families and veterans.

Mr O’Donohue

Ms BATH: I would also like to, without stealing his thunder, just put on record my thanks to my colleague Mr Edward O’Donohue for his work in our collective Eastern Victoria Region. When you talk about people with integrity, they often say ‘high integrity’ or ‘great integrity’. You either have integrity or you do not. Ed O’Donohue has it in spades, and I have been very pleased to work with him throughout my six-year time here and his period before that. I have seen him on the floor at 4 o’clock in the morning debating the CFA bill with the relentless and meticulous desire to have a good outcome for our country people, for Victorians and for Eastern Victoria Region, so I say thank you to you, Ed O’Donohue.

Timmy Rakei

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (10:40): For my members statement today I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Timmy Rakei from Bayswater, who was sadly killed during a hit-and-run while working as a traffic controller only last week. Timmy has been described by those who knew him as generous, kind hearted, a loving father and a giving friend. He was a young man with a wife and four children, and their lives have been changed now forever. This should never have happened. Such a tragedy is an important reminder to all Victorians of the consequences of speeding. Speed limits are there for a reason. When they are ignored you put the lives of others at risk. Every worker deserves to go to work and come home safely. That is their right. Please, we all have a responsibility to each other when we drive on Victorian roads.

Kath Roberts Reserve and Keith Ewenson Park

Dr KIEU (South Eastern Metropolitan) (10:42): Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to reopen the upgraded Kath Roberts Reserve in Beaconsfield and Keith Ewenson Park in Upper Beaconsfield on behalf of Minister D’Ambrosio, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. The reserve has been upgraded and specially designed for younger and older children, featuring a brand new play space as well as shelter, seating, landscaping and connecting concrete pathways. The funding is from the local council and also is part of the Victorian government’s $10 million parks revitalisation grants program aimed at upgrading and revitalising 41 existing local parks to enhance Victoria’s open spaces and livability. The $10 million parks revitalisation grants program forms part of the $154 million state government suburban parks program, which will create over 6500 hectares of new and upgraded parks and trails as well as a ring of suburban parks around Melbourne. The upgrades have come just in time for the summer season and provide a perfect opportunity for kids and families to enjoy the outdoors. They are a wonderful addition to the local community and a lively and open space for all.

Mr O’Donohue

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (10:43): I want to make a couple of points today. The first is to compliment my colleague Mr O’Donohue for his time in this place. It has been a pleasure, and I have huge pride in having worked with you. Godspeed.

Government performance

Mr DAVIS: Secondly, I want to talk about the Auditor-General’s Report on the Annual Financial Report of the State of Victoria: 2020–21. This is a report that alerts us to the risks to the state of the growing debt and the financial difficulties that we may well face under this government as it increasingly mismanages the finances of the state. It is very clear that the net debt is growing significantly. It is also very clear that the debt is not being managed well. Of course there are costs associated with COVID, and we all understand that. But there are also massive costs around the mismanaged major projects that this state has. The waste and the mismanagement of those projects, the failure to scope them properly and the lack of value that we are getting for the enormous sums invested are a problem for the state in the long run.

Extremism

Mr DAVIS: Finally, I want to alert the chamber to the threats that are coming to my electorate office and to my staff in my electorate office today—the number of left-wing people who are calling my office and threatening my staff. It is an absolute outrage. It is shocking, the outrageous threats that are being made and the words that are being uttered to my staff. They should hang their heads in shame.

World Prematurity Day

Ms TERPSTRA (Eastern Metropolitan) (10:45): I rise to make a brief statement on what was World Prematurity Day yesterday. I know I am a day late, but sometimes when we are talking about premature babies, a day can make a huge difference. Prematurity impacts parents of all ages, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations and economic circumstances. More than 26 000 Australian babies are born prematurely every year, and 7000 of those premature babies are born in Victoria. I can say that it is an issue that is close to my heart. As a first-time mother I had a premature baby who was 10 weeks early, and I can say that the roller-coaster that parents go on once they have a premature baby is very uncertain and very challenging. You not only have to cope with becoming a new parent but you very quickly have to learn about all the medical stuff that happens with premature babies and their management. So I just want to give a big shout-out to parents of premature babies. There are so many developments in the medical management of premmies these days that the outcomes are so much more improved than they ever were. Touch wood, I can say that my son has no ongoing impacts arising from his prematurity, even though he was 10 weeks early.

Ms Shing: He has more than made up for it.

Ms TERPSTRA: He has indeed. But I can say it is a very scary sight when your child has to be in a humidicrib for long periods of time. So I just want to say a huge thankyou to all of those workers who work with premature babies in our wonderful public health system. It is a real credit to our system to have such wonderful people caring for sick and ill babies.

Regional health services

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (10:47): Today the government has dumped dozens of reports relating to country and regional health services, hospitals.

Mr Davis: They are starving them of money.

Ms CROZIER: They are starving them of money, Mr Davis. Again it shows the government will just dump these reports on a day that is a bad news day for them. In this list of hospitals there are two hospitals, Bass Coast Health and Peninsula Health. I have had the pleasure of speaking to that community with Mr O’Donohue, who as Ms Bath has said, has represented his community absolutely magnificently throughout the time that he has spent in this place. Can I also echo the words of Ms Bath in terms of Mr O’Donohue’s diligence, intelligence, decency and his being a true gentleman, not only in this house—he has earned the respect of so many in this place—but out in the community. Mr O’Donohue has been a magnificent representative. We will all be very sorry to see him go. His family and his friends who are in this chamber today, who are about to hear his final speech, can be very proud of all he has achieved.

Remembrance Day

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (10:48): I had the great pleasure of attending a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Hampton RSL sub-branch, where president LCDR Helen Ward honoured the memory of the fallen, including local veterans who have, sadly, passed over the past year. I should also do a shout-out to Dr John Basarin, OAM, who does a lot of service at the club. The mayor of Bayside was in attendance, as well as MPs at state and federal levels, and 101-year-old Lesley Falloon, former mayor of Sandringham. It was also lovely that she acknowledged the dogs and their handlers that had been killed at war. You do not always think about those aspects, and it was just lovely that she raised that and brought it to my awareness. We also had the lovely salty smell of the sea, and it created that ambience there. It was a very special and tender moment, and I am grateful to have been in attendance as well.

St Kilda pier

Ms TAYLOR: I also now want to do a little acknowledgement of an announcement we had this week by the Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne, following the two-stage public tender process, of the appointment of the lead construction partner for the new St Kilda pier, with offsite work starting shortly and works alongside the existing pier scheduled in early 2022 and due for completion by 2024. I also acknowledge the hard work of local member Minister Martin Foley for his strong advocacy on this project. I should say that through construction St Kilda’s famous penguin colony will be closely monitored and cared for by Parks Victoria and Earthcare St Kilda. They do incredible work.

Members

Mr O’Donohue

Valedictory statement

Mr O’DONOHUE (Eastern Victoria) (10:51):(By leave) President, can I thank you and members of the house for this opportunity to give a valedictory, and can I thank my colleagues Ms Bath and Ms Crozier for their kind words.

People often say that we have an obligation to those who come before us to do our best and to leave things better than we find them, and I want to recognise a few people who have come before me. Reg Free was like a grandfather to me, and I think of him when I drive past his old, modest farmers cottage in Craigie Road, Mount Martha. Although Reg only died 20 years ago, he would barely recognise the Mornington Peninsula today. He lived a life of hard, relentless physical labour that few of us now experience. He and so many like him helped to build the community in which I live and have been so proud to represent.

I think of my grandmother Margot O’Donohue, the first married woman to graduate from law school in Victoria. Her subsequent admission to practice was so unusual that it was widely reported in the daily papers.

I also think of my parents. People often still stop me at functions and talk about what great people they are—kind, understated and respected. They instilled in me the importance of community. They have given me the best example and every opportunity. I am so lucky. I hope over the last 15 years I have been able to do justice to the work of people like Margot, Reg and my parents, while helping to leave things just a little bit better for those, like my children, who come after.

When I started in this role I was told by many to keep my private life private. Having done so, my only regret is that I have not publicly said enough about my family and what they have done for me over this journey. I am so fortunate to be married to such an amazing, selfless, talented and loving woman as my wife, Jen. She has never complained when I have rung on countless occasions to say, ‘I won’t be home after all’—I am sure something all of us can relate to. As an intelligent and astute reader of politics and people, Jen’s advice and counsel to me have been invaluable. Indeed at many functions, particularly Liberal Party functions, it has often been said to me that if I ever wanted to retire Jen should replace me—‘She’s fabulous’. And indeed she is. She has missed her chance. She has sacrificed so much to enable me to be my best, and I look forward to returning the favour in the coming years.

I have also refrained from publicly singing the praises of our four incredible children, who while still young are already teaching me so much about life and forging their own way with maturity, compassion and poise. To Charlotte, Claudia, Tommy and Sebastian, I cannot wait to see where your life journeys take you—and always remember to reach for the stars. I take this opportunity to also thank my parents; my two awesome, supportive, successful brothers, Nicholas and Jonathan; and Jen’s family—all of whom without their support I could never have served in the Parliament for so long.

One of the most remarkable things about being a member of Parliament is the people you meet, from the constituent who has lost everything and is in urgent need of help to the citizenship ceremonies where the joy from new citizens is palpable, and it is always such a strong reminder of how lucky we are to live in this country. Every person’s story is unique and important and deserves respect. It has been such a rich experience to get to know and work with people from every aspect of society.

I want to describe a couple of groups of people or individuals that I have worked with. I have worked with the 39th Infantry Battalion Association over the last decade to sponsor two year 10 Cardinia shire students every year to walk the Kokoda Track, with the aim of developing future community leaders and to honour those have served and defended Australia, particularly those who served during the Kokoda campaign. The scholarship is named after two local veterans, and twice a year we hold an event in my electorate office to either launch the scholarship or announce the winners. Sadly as the years have gone fewer veterans are still with us, making it all the more important to honour their legacy by teaching subsequent generations about what they did for our country. While some worry about the so-called ‘younger generation’, when I catch up with the previous winners of this award I always walk away thinking our future is in very good hands.

It is often said that during a disaster you get to know the true character of a community, and the communities that I represent have shown again and again their resilience, concern and regard for each other. Over the last 15 years the Eastern Victoria Region has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters, from the Gippsland floods of 2007, 2012, 2018 and 2021, the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and the 2020 Gippsland bushfires to the storm event of earlier this year that caused so much destruction across the Dandenongs and the Yinnar district. During this time I have met many remarkable CFA, SES, CWA, Red Cross, police and other first responders going about their work to protect the community. It is such a privilege to represent such people.

Like all MPs, I have worked with the community on a number of projects. Today I want to talk about just one: the Officer Specialist School. Prior to its opening many children with significant disabilities from West Gippsland and the south-east of Melbourne were spending up to 2 hours each way every day on a bus to access appropriate education in inner Melbourne. The Officer Specialist School has changed that. It is an outstanding school for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. It is a great example of what community can achieve, and I was pleased to work with my friends Brad Battin and Martin Dixon, together with Cathy Smith, who led the community campaign for that new school. One of the happiest events I have attended as an MP was the opening of the school by Premier Denis Napthine, who himself has a lifelong commitment to people with a disability.

I am grateful to have served as parliamentary secretary to transport minister Terry Mulder for 2½ years. I learned a lot from Terry, and he was a wonderful mentor. His grounded, commonsense and practical approach is sadly, I believe, increasingly rare.

Following a resignation from cabinet in April 2013 I had a call from Denis Napthine’s executive assistant, Carmel. She said the Premier wanted to see me immediately. I went into his office and Denis said, ‘Ed, I want you to join cabinet’. I thought to myself, ‘This is very exciting’. He went on to say, ‘Ed, I want to appoint you as the Minister for Corrections, Minister for Crime Prevention and Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation’. He said, ‘Ed, these portfolios are perfect for you’. I was waiting for Denis to say, ‘You’ve done a great job as an MP. You’re very smart. You come with real skills’. He looked me in the eye with a straight face and said, ‘Ed, it’s widely known that the majority of prisoners are Collingwood supporters, and given that you’re Collingwood too, you will be able to relate to them and work with them’. He then went on to say, ‘I want you to be the Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation because with an Irish name like O’Donohue you have a natural understanding of both drinking and gambling’. I thanked Denis very much and left his office. Later that day I remember feeling stressed at the press conference where Denis announced me as the new minister. I must have looked stressed as John Ferguson interrupted the conference and said, ‘Ed, you need to relax. This is supposed to be a good thing. Enjoy it’.

The day after I was sworn in at Government House I was briefed on the then unknown fact that the shocking murder of the much-loved Jill Meagher was committed by a recidivist sex offender who had been on parole, a fact that once known rocked the community and shook its confidence in the justice system. This heinous crime followed the rapes and murders of scores of women at the hands of parolees over the previous decade. Fixing this system then became my focus and a focus of the Napthine government.

In May that year I commissioned a review of the parole system by former High Court judge Ian Callinan. Eight weeks later his report was handed to government, and shortly after it was made public. His report was remarkable for its brevity and clarity about what had to be done to fix this broken system. It is a good lesson for all of us that it does not always need a royal commission, two or three years of investigations and tens of millions spent on lawyers to implement change. Sometimes it just needs political will, clarity of purpose and clear objectives. By the end of 2014, eight separate pieces of parole-related legislation had passed, implementing virtually all of Mr Callinan’s recommendations, which coupled with additional funding of $84 million transformed the parole board’s operation.

A key recommendation was to require the board to publicly report how many serious criminal offences had been committed by parolees in the previous year. In 2013–14 a shocking 60 serious, violent and sex offences were committed by those on parole. In the 2020–21 year zero offences were committed by parolees. The results of these reforms implemented by the coalition government and, to its credit, maintained by the current government speak for themselves. The first full-time chair of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria, Bill Gillard, his successor, Peter Couzens, and his long-term deputy, Frank Shelton, together with their teams have done a remarkable job, and the community owes them a huge debt.

It has become commonly accepted by the left and many others that so-called tough-on-crime policies do not work and are counterproductive. But a stronger, more risk-averse parole system has indisputably cut crime, saving the community trauma and loss. The Auditor-General in a 2015 report acknowledged the significant improvements to the parole system that these changes delivered. These reforms have stood the test of time.

In early 2014 I had responsibility for the legislation to keep the Hoddle Street killer in jail until he posed no risk to the community. Naming someone in legislation should be done in rare and exceptional circumstances, but this was a case that warranted it. In government we tried to introduce new innovations to the prison system to tackle growing recidivism, a problem that has only got worse over the last seven years. The new Ravenhall prison introduced a number of new programs to drive behavioural change, but unfortunately many of these have now gone by the wayside. There is so much more that needs to be done to stop the cycle of crime.

As crime prevention and liquor and gaming minister new programs were commissioned to reduce crime and address the causes of offending behaviour, from family violence prevention funding to localised community responses to improve community safety, to strengthening the agent-of-change principle for the live music industry, to tackling the scourge of problem gambling. I worked closely with Premier Napthine on many of these issues, and he always gave me great support.

Perhaps one of the greatest privileges of being a justice minister or shadow minister from 2013 until just recently was the opportunity to get to know so many dedicated, courageous victims of crime and their advocates—people such as Noelene Nolan, the late Ron Fenton, Di McDonald, Maria Aylward, George Halvagis, Janine Greening and many, many more. Their capacity to continue on and advocate for change despite unimaginable loss should encourage all of us to do our best and to focus on what matters. I am proud to call many of these advocates friends.

While it is much harder to effect change from opposition it has not stopped me from trying, and over the last seven years I have introduced, I am advised by the papers office, 17 private members bills, with several of these bills passing this place, while others were catalysts for change by the government, such as the important no body, no parole laws. Having been Shadow Minister for Police, I affirm my respect for the thin blue line and for the unknown risks these brave men and women encounter every day when they put on their uniform.

But today I want to give a shout-out to a near-invisible group in our community that plays such an important role in the justice system. Every day thousands of prison officers, psychologists, behavioural change professionals and many, many others who work in the corrections system go to work to protect the community and to help offenders get their lives back on track. Their job can be dangerous, but it is very important, and we owe these wonderful people a vote of thanks.

To be Victoria’s alternative first law officer for three years was a great privilege. The Attorney-General holds an important place in our democracy as the bridge between an independent court system, the Parliament and the executive. I had particularly big shoes to fill following on from my talented friend John Pesutto, who I hope is soon back as a member of the other place, and Robert Clark, who was an excellent Attorney-General and has a remarkable capacity for work.

During my time as the Shadow Attorney-General I was helped by many lawyers, most of whom were motivated not by politics but to ensure there was sufficient scrutiny of the executive. I thank them all. I also want to acknowledge Michelle Loielo and her legal team for having the courage to take on the resources of the state of Victoria when she challenged the legality of last year’s curfew. The case revealed there was no medical basis for it.

I thank my former clerk, John Dever. John plays such an important role in the Victorian legal community, supporting literally dozens of legal groups. His insights into what is going on in our courts are valued and respected by both sides of politics.

The Parliament’s committee work can find cross-party solutions to important public policy questions, which can in turn be the foundation for long-term beneficial reform. I was pleased to chair the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee for 2½ years and the Legal and Social Issues Committee for four years. It is such a pity the community does not see more of this work where MPs across the political divide work together in the community’s interest. The recommendations made by the LSIC under my chairmanship paved the way for Victoria’s assisted dying laws, which empower individuals and reduce suffering. They are compassionate and respect the rights of the individual. This model has been the foundation for similar changes across Australia.

The parliamentary staff that service these committees do a great job. I particularly want to thank Richard Willis and Lilian Topic.

Being an MP affords the opportunity to be involved in other issues of public and international interest. In December 2009 I was honoured to host His Holiness the Dalai Llama to visit and address MPs at Parliament House. It was interesting to see during the lead-up to this visit the subtle and not so subtle pressure the Melbourne Chinese consulate brought to bear on many MPs to boycott the visit. While this visit enjoyed support across the Parliament, it was a pity the then Minister for Health, Daniel Andrews, was unable to meet such an important world leader. Perhaps his actions as Premier explain why.

Recently I have supported the people of Hong Kong in the fight against their quickly disappearing freedom by establishing and co-chairing with colleague David Limbrick the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Hong Kong.

I want to thank the Liberal Party for its faith in me. I am only an MP because of the support of thousands of wonderful Liberal Party volunteers who believe in me. I hope I have repaid that belief with my work, actions and deeds. I particularly want to thank my electorate chairman and my good friend, Mr Scott Rossetti, and the electorate executive from Eastern Victoria for their unending support during my time in Parliament. It means an enormous amount to me.

The Liberal Party does not have unions. It does not have Green groups, and nor does it, despite the perception, have big business. What it has is everyday citizens who believe in the values of the party, and to each and every one of those members I say a sincere thankyou. While it is dangerous to single out people, I want to acknowledge a few members who have worked and supported me so much: former Monbulk MP Steve McArthur and his wife, Sophie; former leader Alan Brown; Howard and Judy Carter; John and Betty Schurink; Sarah and Ray Krummins; Jack and the late Margaret Mitchell; Anne Macarthur, OAM; Mary Aldred; Cr Dale Harriman; Louise Rijs; Frank Greenstein; Ashley Lamers; and all those others who have supported me.

To the capable and dedicated leaders under whom I have been so lucky to serve, to Ted, to Denis, to Michael and to Matthew, I thank each of you for your faith and your trust in me and your unswerving commitment to the people of Victoria. None of us in this place, in this Legislative Council, know the pressure that is brought to bear on the leader of a major political party. It is relentless and always difficult, and I have been proud to serve under those four very capable people.

I want to thank my loyal and hardworking staff for whom I have nothing but the highest regard, respect and admiration. Over the last 15 years they have helped thousands of fellow Victorians, including many of the most vulnerable members of our community. They have always acted with integrity, compassion and understanding.

Soon after being elected in 2006, at the suggestion of Mr Rich-Phillips I met Susanne Lafontaine, and we worked together for the next 10 years. Sue is fiercely loyal, the perfect gatekeeper, a wonderful support with enormous experience and a good friend. She started her career working in Henry Bolte’s private office when she was 18. How is that for experience?

My two full-time staff over the last seven years have been Julia McIntyre and Glenn Corey. Julia’s dad is the much-loved Martin Dixon, and so she grew up around politics. She has an innate understanding of what is and is not needed. Nothing is a problem. I trust her with my life and all my passwords—I hope IT is not listening to this broadcast. I am so fortunate to have worked with her.

Glenn Corey is one of the best and longest serving electorate officers in the Parliament, having served for 25 years. He was chief of staff to then Minister for Police and Emergency Services Kim Wells, and his understanding of Victoria Police and the justice system is nothing short of remarkable. Glenn is known across the Parliament as intelligent and a man of integrity, as Labor’s then new Minister for Police, Wade Noonan, graciously acknowledged in his address-in-reply speech in 2015.

Now, while there are some people who have kindly expressed remorse at my decision to retire—or false expressions of remorse at my decision to retire—one of my staff, Helen Reid, is over the moon. Helen has been with me since 2007, and like Sue she has a wealth of experience and deep community connections. She has previously worked for Rob Maclellan and Ken Smith. Helen, who recently turned 75—and she has given me her consent to say that—has been trying to retire for years. So Helen, I wish you and Ted a very happy retirement and all the best for the future.

To Lilly, Bridget, Tony, Nana, Lynne, Katrina and other staff who have worked with me over the years, a sincere thankyou.

To my ministerial staff, led by the incredibly capable chief of staff, Phoebe Dunn; my media adviser, the best in the business in my view, James Talia; my dedicated advisers Paris, Nathan, Bridget, Lynne and the team, a sincere thankyou. Without your support and smarts we could not have achieved what we did. While a ministerial office is always busy, two of my staff managed to find some time to socialise and have subsequently married and had two beautiful children, which is a fantastic story.

I also want to acknowledge some former and current colleagues. I shared an electorate with Philip Davis, and he was the Leader of the Opposition in this place when I was elected. Philip, Elizabeth and their daughters have supported me and given me great counsel every step of the way. Andrea Coote was and has remained a great mentor. Andrea is astute, she knows what people are thinking before they have thought it and she is always positive.

The federal Minister for Health and Aged Care and member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, has been a great source of advice, and we have worked closely. It was such an honour to represent the Victorian government at Greg’s father the Honourable Alan Hunt’s state funeral. I have always done whatever I can in this place to preserve Alan’s greatest legacy, the creation of the green wedges.

To current and former colleagues Denis Napthine, Terry Mulder, Ken Smith, Mary Wooldridge, Gordon Rich-Phillips, Michael O’Brien, Matthew Guy, Martin Dixon, Brad Battin, Gary Blackwood, Georgie Crozier, Louise Staley, Kim Wells, David Southwick, Bridget Vallence and so many others, thank you for your friendship and support and work together in our electorate.

To the clerks, the Hansard staff, the red coats, catering, library, security and all who work in this beautiful historic building, you help us to do our job better and you play a very important role in the functioning of Parliament that few appreciate or understand. While we as MPs may come and go, you are the custodians of the history and traditions of this place, which are so important to its operation. You do a great job and deserve the gratitude of the community.

While talking about this place, some have suggested from time to time that it should be abolished. But the legislation we are about to debate after my speech confirms the importance of a house of review, as did legislation earlier in this Parliament—the proposed gag laws, which were defeated on the floor of this house. Despite having been through all of the government processes, cabinet, the Labor Party room and the lower house, it took the Legislative Council for common sense to prevail. So this place plays a very important role in our democracy and a very important role in checking the executive.

To the people of Eastern Victoria Region, thank you sincerely for electing me on four separate occasions to represent you in the Parliament of Victoria and for giving me the opportunity to be part of positive change in our region. I have been overwhelmed with calls, emails and messages from constituents following announcing my intention to leave this place, all of which are deeply appreciated. Your resilience during the pandemic has been an inspiration, and we can look forward to the future with hope and optimism.

We are fortunate to live in a liberal democracy, and the freedoms it guarantees are fragile and should never be taken for granted. But sadly, most people are dismissive of politics. I hope this changes in the future, and we as MPs and the broader community must do better to engage. Decisions are made by those who turn up, and for our democracy to be strong and vibrant more people need to care and to be involved.

As I leave Parliament I congratulate my successor, Cathrine Burnett-Wake, who I am sure will do a great job representing the people and the communities of Eastern Victoria. She will bring fresh energy, perspective and skills. If I may offer a word of advice to those who come after us, it would be: be true to yourself, do not listen to just the loudest voices and trust your judgement.

When we turn and look to the future, I think about this amazing building, the Victorian Parliament, that was constructed in less than a year in the 1850s at a time when Melbourne’s population was no more than 50 000. It was built by people of enormous vision and ambition. Let us also be people of vision and ambition for the future of our great state, Victoria, and all those who call it home.

President, with my last words in my last speech as an MP I again thank you and the chamber for this rare privilege to give this speech and to serve the community. I wish everyone well, but I particularly wish my friend Matthew Guy and the Liberal-Nationals team every success at the November 2022 state election. Thank you very much.

Members applauded.

The PRESIDENT: I call Mr O’Donohue to come forward, please. Mr O’Donohue, this is a small gift. You will find in this a certificate for your service and a small gift to thank you for your service to the Victorian Parliament and to the people of Victoria. On behalf of all of us, I wish you and your family all the best.

Business of the house

Orders of the day

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (11:19): I move:

That the consideration of order of the day, government business, 1, be postponed until later this day.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (11:19): I do not believe this order of the day should be postponed. This is an important piece of legislation the government declared urgent earlier in the week, and now the government has had a significant change of heart because it believes the legislation might be defeated. In fact it should be defeated. It is a very poor piece of legislation, and there is no way that this should be adjourned today. This piece of legislation is a grab for power by the Premier, and it does put at risk the state’s way forward. It puts at risk our economic recovery, our rebuild, our recovery and our refocus as a state after the pandemic, and indeed whilst the government may well have struck deals with three Labor-voting independents, this legislation is poor legislation.

It is a grab for power by the Premier, and there are not sufficient checks and balances in the legislation. It in fact should be cleanly defeated today, and that would be the preferable outcome for Victoria. The opportunity should be here for the chamber to debate it. The opportunity should be here for the chamber to consider it. The opportunity should be here for the chamber to amend it, at least in some respect, but preferably to defeat it and enable the state to have the very best way forward, the best chance to recover, the best chance to rebuild. This legislation creates uncertainty. It will enable the Premier to repeatedly lock down the state. Indeed its very existence lays out the way forward for the Premier to lock down the state repeatedly. We say that if the government wants to—

Ms Shing: On a point of order, President, just further to Mr Davis’s contribution, this is a procedural motion, and in fact Mr Davis himself has gotten to his feet to argue exactly the point that I am raising now, which is that it should not stray into debate of the substantive issues but rather be confined to the procedure itself.

Mr DAVIS: On the point of order, President, it clearly is a procedural debate, and the point I am making is that the procedural debate, I am arguing, is against the—

The PRESIDENT: Mr Davis, thank you. Mr Davis to continue. There is no point of order.

Mr DAVIS: President, as I say, this is a very important bill. It is a bill that is misconceived by the government. It is a bill that compromises the state’s future. The opposition would be very prepared to talk to the government on these matters if the government had chosen to engage with the rest of the chamber, the rest of the Parliament—other than the three Labor-voting independents. I make the point here that the very best and preferable way forward for this bill today would be for it to be brought on, to be amended or not, and preferably ultimately to be defeated and go away.

Dr CUMMING (Western Metropolitan) (11:22): It would seem that at the start of this week this bill was urgent but now it is not. But I would welcome the Attorney if they wish to defer it, if they are actually going to call me up and speak to me, seeing as there were others that were spoken to—

A member interjected.

Dr CUMMING: Excuse me. No, I have not had a phone call, like others late last night, and I will not actually be taking rudeness from the floor by others in this chamber saying that somehow I should go outside onto the steps—

Mr Melhem interjected.

Dr CUMMING: Well, you know what, go outside on the steps, Mr Cesar—Cesar—because you need to listen—

The PRESIDENT: Just talk on the motion.

Dr CUMMING: Mr Melhem.

Members interjecting.

Dr CUMMING: Oh, Mr Cesar is wonderful. Go out on the steps. Mr Leane, go out on the steps and speak to the community. Do not keep telling me—

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Mr Leane: On a point of order, President. I mean, to invite me to go out on the steps where people want to hang me and kill me is the dumbest thing I have ever heard in here. I have been here a long time, so inviting me to go out and get hung—

The PRESIDENT: Dr Cumming, please concentrate on the motion.

Dr CUMMING: Mr Leane, that is exactly the point, because you do not understand.

The PRESIDENT: Dr Cumming, concentrate on the motion.

Dr CUMMING: I am. We are talking about deferring this so others can consult maybe the community or maybe other members of Parliament. It would seem that it is consistently this propaganda campaign—

A member interjected.

Dr CUMMING: Kill the bill, yes. Get the piece of paper and chop it in half. That is what they would like. They would love you to shred it, if you actually can understand that.

Mr Leane: Who are you talking about?

Dr CUMMING: It is called the community. I do not mind if we need to spend some more time for this government to understand what the majority of the community want when it comes to this bill. Take your time and understand. Go outside and understand. I have no problem with that. But I will not have anyone here trying to continue on with their propaganda campaign and trying to make others here feel that they are doing something wrong.

A member interjected.

Dr CUMMING: What? Is it more snickers, is it? Oh, excellent. Thank you. All I am happy about is to actually talk to the Attorney. I would love to talk to you about my amendments. There has been no conversation, no discussion—nor with the Premier and his advisers sitting in the box. I am a member of Parliament. I have put a lot of work into this. I represent my community, so give me the respect that my community deserves.

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (11:25): I will be supporting the motion put by Ms Taylor to adjourn government business order 1. It remains the case that legislation to protect the health and safety, the lives, of Victorians is paramount and is urgent, but it has come to my attention that there is an Independent member of Parliament who despite not participating in the parliamentary processes for some time has indicated his intention to be involved, and he has not yet taken up the opportunity to be briefed on the bill. It would be appropriate to adjourn debate to offer that member of Parliament a discussion with government.

I welcome Dr Cumming’s contribution in relation to deferring this bill. As always, Dr Cumming, I am happy to speak to you. In that sense we would be seeking to move to item 2, which is also a significant piece of legislation in this house, and I would welcome support for the motion to allow some conversations to continue on the important bill.

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (11:26): This is a farce—an absolute farce. On Tuesday the government and the Leader of the Government stood up and said that this was an urgent bill to protect Victorians, yet two days later they are adjourning the matter off. They will not even go through proper process, and they are trying to amend a bill when there are amendments in this house—

Ms Symes interjected.

Ms CROZIER: Well, I say again: a farce, just because you will not allow the process to occur. You have said that a member has not had a briefing. Well, the opposition had half an hour’s briefing, Attorney-General—half an hour’s briefing. And when I have followed up on that briefing I have had silence from the government on questions that have not been followed up from the briefing we had. This whole process is a farce. This whole process is a shambles.

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Mr Meddick: On a point of order, President, I am not seeking to interrupt Ms Crozier. It is your contribution. You have got a right to be heard. I have a right to hear what you have got to say, and I am sick to death of interactions over the chamber over this.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr Meddick. I uphold your point of order. I think members are entitled to listen.

Ms CROZIER: Well, I will repeat what I said then, for Mr Meddick and others. This process is a farce. It is a shambles. This government’s process has been a shambles. It has been selective.

Mr Leane: Your whole process has been a stunt.

Ms CROZIER: It is not a stunt, Mr Leane.

Mr Leane: You were talking to the same provisions two weeks ago.

Ms CROZIER: The whole process in terms of bringing this bill into the house, argued by the government on Tuesday as an urgent matter, is now being shunted off into the sunset. It just demonstrates the shambles this government is in, the botched process that has been undertaken for the entire pandemic legislation and the disregard that you and others have had for the Victorian community. You are showing it again today.

Ms SHING (Eastern Victoria) (11:29): Just in relation to the motion that has been put to adjourn until later this day, which is an important point to make, I would pick up on Mr Davis’s contribution earlier in which he actually indicated that the opposition would like to have discussions with the government in relation to the substance of this bill and that that in fact draws upon—again as Mr Davis rightly points out—a number of public comments that have been made, including by the Leader of the Opposition, to precisely that end and by others on that side of the chamber.

I also note that this is in fact a point worth making around the availability of briefings. Dr Cumming has gotten to her feet and indicated she too would like to have the opportunity to continue discussions, and I am sure that alongside those on the opposition benches there are opportunities to have further discussions, including as they might relate to answering questions that go beyond the detail of what has been published on this proposed legislation and beyond the detail of the reportage that has obviously been part of mainstream discourse for a long time now and which has in a number of instances contained significant and substantive errors.

It is in fact really important that we provide members with the opportunity to hear directly from those who are part of the development of this legislation, including as that relates to the leader of this house, including as that relates to the work of the Minister for Health in developing this framework and including as it relates to matters which the Premier, the chief health officer and others have put on the record around the need for pandemic-specific legislation. The challenges that we have here relate, again, to an understanding of an intricate framework, which is not without its detail there to be understood and there to be the subject of further discussion.

Ms Crozier has indicated to Mr Davis that a briefing has been provided and that questions raised by Ms Crozier are yet to be answered. To that end, again we do need to provide you with answers to those questions, and this postponement until later this day will enable that process to be undertaken in a way that, hopefully, Ms Crozier, will acquit your concerns, at least in relation to the issues you raised at the briefing.

Again, to go back to the detail of what Mr Davis has said as Leader of the Opposition in this place, there is an opportunity for further discussions to take place. The opposition, through Mr Davis, has indicated that it would like to be part of those discussions, and in fact it therefore follows and is a logical consequence to seek to postpone this bill until later this day to enable, in good faith, those discussions with not just the opposition but Independent members who sit on the crossbench, including a member who has not been here for the vast majority of the time in which this discussion around pandemic-specific legislation has been debated, including as it relates to earlier extensions to the declarations of the state of emergency and including as this relates to the framework by which regulations can be established and restrictions as required in the most reasonable of circumstances can be put upon Victorians to the end that they meet public safety and public health requirements and the objective of proportionate risk.

I would support the motion being put today, and I would in fact again invite those on the crossbench and in the opposition to reflect upon the fact that we have had requests for further information. We have had requests to continue the discussion, and we have in fact had points made by Mr Davis and others earlier this week that further discussion is warranted. I would invite everyone to reflect upon what was said by those opposite in the course of the urgency debate, what we have seen reported overnight and the need to very clearly offer opportunities for those who still have questions, who still require information and who would still like to be part of discussions around this important legislation to reach out to the government as we seek to do the same in order to address substantive and procedural concerns as they may have been expressed.

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (11:33): The irony of Mr O’Donohue’s wonderful valedictory, where he talked about the integrity and the importance of this place, being immediately followed by the government turning this into a shambles, into a circus, is incredible. Let me quote the Attorney-General from Tuesday:

That the bill be treated as an urgent bill.

Of course this legislation should be afforded adequate time to be debated and scrutinised by this chamber.

She went on to talk about the opposition’s view about that, and she said this:

The bill has been available for 20 days. I am not sure what an additional two days will deliver to those opposite.

That is what she said on Tuesday. Now she is looking to adjourn the bill off. She went on to say:

In conclusion, it is not my intention to play games with a pandemic response bill. I consider that to be irresponsible. I am seeking agreement of the house to make this bill urgent so we can move to the second-reading debate forthwith. I propose that the bill be made an urgent bill.

That was Tuesday. Here we are two days later and suddenly it is not urgent anymore because they have gone, ‘Uh-oh, we didn’t consult with all of the crossbenchers. We only consulted with three, and now it is really important we spend time’, they say, ‘to consult with the crossbenchers’.

Well, they left most of them out; they ignored most of them. I expect those crossbenchers who supported the urgency of the bill on Tuesday to support the urgency of the bill today, because they made the point of how important it is to get on with it, and suddenly it is not that important for this government. This government is a shambles. They have got their calculators out. They miscalculated the numbers because they forgot one—one of the many they have forgotten to consult with since March of this year. They should be ashamed. We should get on with it right now. They do not want to know it, because they have stuffed the whole process, as they have done to most of Victoria.

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (11:35): The motion moved by Ms Taylor on behalf of the government is the greatest example of hypocrisy this place has seen in a very long time. Less than two days ago the Attorney-General came in here and moved that this bill be treated as an urgent bill. The Attorney-General got to her feet and was happy to sweep aside parliamentary process with the single argument that the people of Victoria needed certainty. The Attorney-General herself said, ‘We’re sweeping aside process and we’re treating this as an urgent bill, because the people of Victoria need certainty’. Forty-eight hours later they apparently do not need certainty, because the government’s political calculations have fallen apart.

We had the Premier in the other place on Tuesday or yesterday say this was urgent, ‘We don’t have the luxury of the time of consulting with everyone’. They were the words of the Premier—publicly reported, widely understood—saying, ‘We don’t have the luxury of consulting with everyone; this is urgent’. But here we come today and suddenly we have an argument from Ms Shing that the government wants to consult, the government wants to answer questions. Well, two days ago the government had no interest in answering anybody’s question. Its only interest was in pushing the bill through, because it thought it had the numbers. Now it does not think it has the numbers and it wants to stall until it can try and recreate the numbers.

We saw, as Mr Ondarchie said, three members of the crossbench on Tuesday support the notion that this bill was urgent, and it will be fascinating to see if they continue to believe this bill is urgent today—whether they continue to hold the position that this is urgent or whether they roll over with the government, as most people expect they will, to support a motion of adjournment for the political convenience of the government.

As we know, some members of this house were involved in consultation for most of this year. This has not been an oversight by the government in not consulting Mr Somyurek or not consulting other members of the crossbench or not consulting members of this side of the house. It was a deliberate political strategy which has now fallen apart. And let us be clear: the position of the Liberal-Nationals coalition is unchanged. We want this bill defeated and we want it defeated as quickly as possible. This is nothing more than a desperate stunt by the government to stitch together some numbers to try and save this shameful bill. We oppose it, and we look forward to its defeat as quickly as possible.

Dr BACH (Eastern Metropolitan) (11:38): Over the last many months I have heard so many calls from Ms Crozier, from multiple members of the crossbench, as I heard again earlier this week, for consultation with the government and to be involved, yet on every occasion the government actively decided—and they have been very open about this—only to negotiate with three members of the crossbench. So the hypocrisy is plainly obvious to all, surely, of these silly, convenient, expedient political games this morning.

I will address some of the comments of Ms Shing misrepresenting the opposition’s position. Of course on any number of occasions we have called to be engaged in discussions with the government about what comes next, and on every single occasion we have been rebuffed. We have also been clear that when it comes to the bill on the table of the house now we are opposed to it, that we will seek to make it less bad—we have many amendments—but ultimately we are opposed to it, to come to the point that Ms Shing has made. There are many questions that we have. We would like to put them in the committee stage.

But the rank hypocrisy, given the previous position of the Attorney and given the previous position of the Premier himself that we cannot simply consult with everybody, because of the recent statements of Mr Somyurek must be seen and called out for what it is. This was urgent two days ago. The government should maintain that position. We should bring on the debate, have the debate and test the position of the house.

House divided on motion:

Ayes, 20
Cumming, Dr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Noes, 17
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Barton, Mr Grimley, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Bath, Ms Hayes, Mr Quilty, Mr
Bourman, Mr Limbrick, Mr Rich-Phillips, Mr
Crozier, Ms Lovell, Ms

Motion agreed to.

Bills

Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Ms SYMES:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (11:47): I had expected that today we would be debating the pandemic legislation, and I thought that this was something we would be debating on Friday. Fortunately the amendments that we propose are available, and I would ask that they be circulated at a convenient point when the clerks are able to do so.

Opposition amendments circulated by Mr DAVIS pursuant to standing orders.

Mr DAVIS: The Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021 is an omnibus bill. There are a number of significant parts to this bill, and I am going to step through those bit by bit. The purpose of the bill is to impose a windfall gains tax on the increase in the value of land resulting from rezoning. It amends the Duties Act 2000, the Essential Services Commission Act 2001, the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, the Land Tax Act 2005, the taxation acts as well, the Valuation of Land Act 1960, the Water Act 1989 and the Water Industry Act 1994. There are parts to this bill that we agree with. We agree with some of the changes on build to rent. We agree with some of the changes that put taxation on some gaming areas—keno, for example. We think that they are relevant steps. But we do not support, firstly, shackling the various taxes together, forcing people in the end to vote for one and another shackled together, good taxes and sensible additional taxes—for example, in the keno area—but at the same time to face the full impact of taxes that the government seeks to raise through the windfall gains tax.

The point I would make about this windfall gains tax is it is a dirty big tax on family homes. That is what it is—it is a dirty big tax on family homes. Developers will pay more tax, which will be passed through and increase the costs of new homes for young families. It is amazingly hard already. It is the case that the government’s new tax will seek to clobber every new development, including many that have gone through a significant process already, and they will take this 50 per cent tax on any increase in value that is alleged to have occurred through any rezoning process.

Now, I note that there is a growth areas infrastructure contribution (GAIC) that is in operation in the growth suburbs already, and I note that the government seeks to impose this windfall gains tax everywhere else in the state. That means in infill sites in metropolitan Melbourne, it means in our regional cities, it means in our small country towns and it means also in those places where new developments are brought on in country Victoria too. The truth is the opposition has consulted extensively with the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Property Council of Australia, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Association of Victoria and many others, and many councils from around the state have had a lot to say about the windfall gains tax. I could quote from many of them, but let me just pick, for example, the Great South Coast Group. It talked about the affordable housing shortage. It said:

There is now a structural imbalance …

Councils … are concerned that the introduction of a windfall gains tax—

this is in the Great South Coast region—

will act as a further impediment to the supply of residential land and further compound the housing shortage. Investor and development confidence in rural Victoria is continually challenged by the relatively small scale and high costs of developments that are experienced outside metropolitan Melbourne. We request that consideration be given to excluding regional and rural areas from the proposed windfall gains tax.

I could go on. Council after council, development groups and obviously the construction industry are very concerned that this will be in effect a body blow to development in this state—that what it will mean is in effect developments will freeze. It will mean there will be less supply coming through. It means in fact that what will occur is that the developments that are already underway will also be clobbered with this. We know that many developers have already expended considerable resources in actually getting a development to a significant stage. That is not appropriately recognised in this proposal. There is a census date or an announcement date, and from that point on people will be clobbered, but developments that are already well advanced, unless they have actually got the planning approval now, will be caught up in the net of this, and this is a significant impact on the community.

We will oppose the tax. We will oppose this. We will seek to amend it through a series of amendments, and I will step the chamber through those amendments quite clearly so that it understands. One of the amendments that we will move is that we will try and cap the level of tax at the same level as the GAIC. The GAIC is lower than what is proposed in this amendment here, and we will seek to cap it at that level. We will also seek to make sure that the taxes that are raised, that are collected in a particular area are actually expended in that area. The idea that you would tax regional Victoria, take the tax back to Melbourne and spend the money back in Melbourne would mean the infrastructure improvements would not occur in the way that we would believe is appropriate, so we would seek to hypothecate the resources and make sure that they are spent in a constructive way in that respect.

It is also true that we believe that if a developer incurs some liability in this regard it could be well and effectively expunged by a works-in-kind program. This works in other areas, other arrangements, and we will propose that a works-in-kind or a word-in-kind arrangement be able to be entered into by the Treasurer with developers where a liability has been incurred. The arrangement would work so that if X liability has been incurred and if developments and works are done on the site at a time concurrent with the development of an estate, for example—a new residential estate—ovals or parks or community centres or other pieces of infrastructure could be built by the developer as they are doing the works on that site and that that would thereby defray some of the costs.

There would be recognition for that work, and that would subtract from any liability that had occurred. This we think is actually to the benefit of the developer, to the benefit of the community and to the benefit of the new community that is moving in. We think that it actually is an efficient way of conducting arrangements, and we think that, all round, these are a sensible set of steps to undertake.

We are very conscious of the need to hypothecate some of the resources that are collected through such a tax, and we are very conscious of the need to ensure that there are proper lodgement times. We have got amendments that will seek to change the arrangements that are there in terms of the time period that developers can actually lodge objections or dispute arrangements.

We have also said that the keno tax collections—and let me be clear about this, we support this step—should be hypothecated into mental health, and we think that that is a sensible and practical way forward. There is a long history of gaming-style taxes being hypothecated into health projects, whether it be hospitals or other health projects, and in this circumstance we think that this is a sensible arrangement to go forward with—hypothecation, a cap at the size of the GAIC and a requirement that the money collected be spent in the municipality in which it is collected. We are very concerned that a lot of money will be collected out of country Victoria and that indeed the money will not find its way back to relevant local infrastructure in those country or regional areas.

So this is again a sensible bill in respect of the keno step, and we support that. But we do not support the big new tax on family homes. We do not support the tax that will limit the supply of land in country Victoria and limit the supply of arrangements that are already underway in the city. We do not support constricting the supply of land in that way, and we do not support the raising of taxes that will flow straight through into a big bad new tax on family homes.

I make the point also that not only do we seek to hypothecate the resources that might be collected through this and seek their spending in a particular municipality but we also, I think importantly, have a recognition that the works-in-kind mechanism is a sensible one—capping works in kind, a sensible way forward in terms of hypothecation, the arrangements that will in that sense make the bad edges of this better.

It is our preference that there not be such a tax. It is our preference that there not be such a tax imposed on those homes and that those new young families in particular in the country and in metropolitan Melbourne are not forced to pay for this tax, but what is happening here—let us be quite clear—is the state government has mismanaged the budget. They are now going after tax after tax after tax. There have already been 39 new taxes, including this one, if this gets through. The government’s plans for tax are serious, and they are actually very impactful on a recovering economy.

We have got an economy that has been hit for six in Victoria. We have got high unemployment, and the way to get more housing supply and more jobs is not to put new taxes on. The state government is mismanaging many of its major projects, and the money that is being chewed up through that process is actually having a very significant effect on the budget. So their desperate need for more money is driving this. More money means more taxes, 39 new taxes, and now a big bad new tax on the family home is the plan that is being put forward by this government.

I say we will oppose this bill because it is that big bad new tax. I say also that this is a bill that we will seek to amend. We think it is wrong that a series of measures of this type have been shackled together in this way—a few good things, but a lot of bad things that will actually hit very hard—and we say that that is not the right way to proceed. Regarding the amendments that we will move, we will seek to ask some questions that are relevant to those in committee—

Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Goldmining

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:00): My question is to the Minister for Resources. Minister, the new gold rush in Victoria is providing great excitement in Victoria and around the world. Investors the world over want to do business in Victoria—this is an old industry for Victoria—but they are worried about the lack of transparency and the red tape in Victoria, and I ask therefore: Minister, why did the north-central Victorian goldfields ground release take nearly two years to complete?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:01): I thank Mr Davis for his question and his apparent interest in the environment in which investment can occur in Victoria, given the uncertainty that he prefers to create and the company that he and his colleagues keep. The answer to Mr Davis’s question and his interest in this tender, in short, are that this is a very detailed process with many steps along the way and it takes time to give thorough and due consideration to such a release. I would add to that that there are elements of this that are matters that are commercial in confidence, and therefore I will limit my comments to that, other than to make some general reflections on Victoria’s gold rush. In doing so I congratulate Mr O’Donohue on his 15 years in this place and his final speech to us and his reflections on the gold rush and the majesty and ambition for Victoria in the 1850s that have led us to be in this extraordinary chamber. The gold that has been developed in Victoria’s history since the 1850s is around the same amount of gold as is thought to continue to be available, which is quite an extraordinary thing to contemplate.

The release and finalisation of this tender process is a very, very exciting next step. Albeit in another part of this state but very much on the theme of Victoria’s gold rush, I had the opportunity to visit the Stawell goldmine last Friday, to go underground and to see exactly how this work is done and also to hear a bit from industry about their plans and their goals and their ambitions but also their very deep commitment to working with traditional owners and local communities and operating within a regulatory environment that takes absolutely seriously and has at its forefront and every step of the way rehabilitation and environmental protection.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:03): I do not think you have really answered the question, but leaving that aside, Minister, will you release the rationale for your announcement late last month on the two successful tenderers for the four ground release options?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:04): I thank Mr Davis for his further question. I will not be releasing further information. As is appropriate for a matter such as this, the role of the minister is very much at arm’s length from the process. For those that have an interest in this process, there is publicly available information on Earth Resources Regulation’s website, and I would encourage people to familiarise themselves with what is public. Those things that are not public are part of that commercial-in-confidence tender process and will remain confidential.

Firearms licensing

Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (12:04): My question is for the Minister for Police. The licensing and regulation division, LRD, of Victoria Police manages Victoria’s firearms registry. The firearms registry has a single purpose: to keep track of firearms. Its job is literally to not lose firearms. Despite that, LRD has somehow managed to lose track of 100 000 firearms. There are also a litany of other record-keeping mistakes. This, as you can imagine, causes serious problems. If you turn in, destroy or sell a firearm and the government fails to update the record, they will think you have a firearm when you do not. They could charge you with illegally owning these firearms or with illegally disposing of them, and you would be put in a position where you would have to somehow demonstrate the government made the mistake. Or the opposite happens: someone has firearms but the record is lost, deleted or edited incorrectly, calling the entire purpose of the registry into question. Minister, have you commissioned or will you commission an audit into the reasons these firearms are missing?

Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:06): I thank Mr Quilty for his question to the Minister for Police. I will refer that matter to her, and I am sure that she will respond as per the standing orders.

Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (12:06): It is not just bad record keeping or firearms that owners lose. Confiscated weapons frequently go missing. An audit of a gun store confiscation showed that police seized and then lost 81 firearms. In another case a security business owner reported possessing 16 firearms that LRD records show are in police possession. Police appear to have no idea where firearms are, even when those firearms are held by the police. When they are not busy losing firearms, LRD is busy telling criminals where they can find them. In 2017 the personal details of 9000 firearms owners were released via email. There is a widely held view amongst law-abiding firearm owners that sources within LRD are providing information to criminal organisations. I am told there is little or no control over who within LRD accesses records or why. If records were being deliberately leaked, there is no internal process to catch it. Minister, what are you doing to address these failures of the firearms registry and of the licensing and regulation division?

Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:07): I will refer this to the Minister for Police in terms of an answer to the question that is being posed, but I will also refer the very serious allegations that are embedded in the supplementary question that you have submitted today.

Ministers statements: regional telecommunications review

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:07): I am very pleased to update the house on the Victorian government’s submission to the 2021 regional telecommunications review, which takes place every three years and is all about reviewing connectivity services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia. We welcome the opportunity to advocate for better connectivity for our regional and rural communities. The Andrews Labor government is committed to improving connectivity for Victorians no matter where they live, and that is why we are calling for the commonwealth government to give people in regional and rural Australia better access to vital telecommunications, especially during emergencies.

In our submission we call on the commonwealth government and the telecommunications industry to work together to ensure people can access multiple mobile providers during emergencies such as natural disasters. Over the past two years Victoria has experienced devastating emergencies such as bushfires and storms. We are advocating for change because we know firsthand how important it is for people to be connected to loved ones and information during a crisis—something that has become more common as we are living with an increasingly erratic and changing climate. We are calling for the commonwealth to make this happen, as it must be led at a national level. Our position is a solution for mobile emergency roaming to improve access to communication services during emergencies and better support community safety to be implemented. People can always call 000 regardless of which provider they are with. This type of connectivity could be extended to other mobile and broadband services during emergencies so people could also call emergency services or loved ones, check websites and receive alerts from whichever network is available.

In the meantime we are helping improve mobile and broadband coverage in Victoria by fast-tracking connectivity across the state through our $550 million Connecting Victoria program. The program has involved consultation with many Victorians to learn more about mobile and broadband connectivity gaps and challenges they are experiencing. People told us consistently that mobile coverage during emergencies is a critical issue. The Victorian government’s submission to the 2021 regional telecommunications review is available online on the regional telecommunications review website, should members wish to familiarise themselves with it.

Employment

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:09): My question is for the Minister for Employment. Victoria has become the most unemployed state in the nation due to the devastation wrought by this government’s lockdowns, the longest in the world. ABS data released last week shows that Victoria has lost roughly the equivalent of the population of Shepparton or Mildura of employed people over recent weeks. Over the period of the survey over 49 000 Victorian jobs were lost. Furthermore, existing casual and part-time workers continue to lose, as more than one in 10 want more hours but cannot get them—the highest rate in the nation. So, Minister, isn’t it a fact that what you are doing is actually not working and you need to take serious steps to fix the problems that your government is creating?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:10): This is from a bloke who goes to rallies with the noose people and comes and talks to us about a safe business operating environment. You are a clown.

Mr Davis: On a point of order, President, it is a very serious question about unemployment. The minister may want to make snide comments in some way, but actually—

Members interjecting.

Mr Davis: I did not actually go to that. I did not. But it is a serious question about unemployment. If the Minister for Employment does not want to answer it, that is a problem.

Ms PULFORD: I am very keen to answer this question because we are absolutely determined to provide an open economy where businesses are trading, where they are re-engaging people and where those hours are increasing, and everything you people have been doing runs counter to that objective. Earlier today the Premier, the health minister and the acting chief health officer announced the next step in the road map, which will kick in at midnight tonight—no thanks to you people at all, absolutely none. The unemployment data that was released last week reflects the reality of the circumstances Victorians have been living with. But it is I think important—

Mr Davis: The circumstances you created.

Ms PULFORD: Oh, yes, with our pandemic-creation superpower! What sort of lunatic are you? You are an—

Members interjecting.

Ms PULFORD: Mr Davis and his mates, including those outrageous, violent, racist people with whom the Liberal Party have been consorting, are very keen to create—

Ms Crozier: On a point of order, President, Ms Pulford is very agitated today. We understand why, because the government stuffed up this pandemic legislation. However, I ask you to ask Ms Pulford to withdraw that last comment in relation to the Liberal Party and a number of people that have been out the front that she is associating everybody with. That is not in order, and I would ask you to ask Ms Pulford to withdraw those ridiculous comments.

Mr Gepp: Further to the point of order, President, it is fact that Mr Davis and a number of Liberal Party members from this chamber and the other chamber have been out the front with those people who are perpetrating violence and threatening members of this place and their families and their staff, and it is quite appropriate for Minister Pulford to draw the chamber’s attention to that. There is no point of order from Ms Crozier. She should not have to withdraw anything.

Mr Finn: On the point of order, President, I can assure you and I can assure the house that I have had absolutely no involvement with anybody who has been in any violence at all. In fact when I was out there the other day it was more like a party than anything else.

The PRESIDENT: On the point of order and on your explanation, Mr Finn, as well, the minister did not name anyone. But, at the same time, I ask the minister to concentrate on the question, not on the rally.

Ms PULFORD: The business environment in which Victorian businesses operate and provide employment to people is highly relevant, and that is why we have been seeking to ensure that businesses are supported and people are supported through record investments in employment programs. If the Liberal Party spent more time with the business community and less time with people that are not the business community, they would know the single biggest issue facing Victorian businesses is a workforce and skills shortage.

Mr Finn interjected.

Ms PULFORD: The Liberal Party keep telling people there will be lockdowns when all of the evidence suggests otherwise. Indeed the road map announcement today suggests otherwise, as indeed have the road map announcements for months. So you can go and tell people there will be lockdowns, but we are interested in working with the business community and in working with employment service providers to support people into work who through no fault of their own have found their hours reduced or their employment reduced.

I would also make the point that the unemployment rate is currently lower than it was this time last year as we were coming out of last winter’s lockdown. It is lower than when we came to government. It has been an incredibly challenging period for people, but we are making record investments. We have all sorts of programs and initiatives by industry sector and by geographic region to ensure that this recovery is as inclusive for people as possible. Wherever we can, we promote secure and ongoing employment, and to suggest the Liberal Party gives two hoots about anyone out of work is absurd.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:16): A very strange response by the minister. But let me just say that she is right to say these people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In fact it is the government’s fault in significant measure. I say that 113 000 fewer Victorians are in work or actively seeking a job over the last six months as Victoria remains the only state with negative population growth. Minister, isn’t it a fact that the Andrews government is objectively the worst performing government in the nation?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:17): No, it is not. Our government has sought to ensure the safety of the Victorian community, the protection of jobs and the creation of jobs, and all you people have done the whole time is undermine our every effort to do so, including as recently as Tuesday, as recently as today, on multiple occasions. In fact with the last division in this chamber you were seeking to have a situation where people are looking for jobs in Victoria and businesses are seeking to trade in Victoria where there is no mechanism to manage the pandemic. What a reckless—

Members interjecting.

Mr Davis: On a point of order, President, the minister has diverted onto the bill that was there. But let me be quite clear: that bill was her lockdown bill, a lockdown bill to close the state down further.

Ms Terpstra: On a point of order, President, there are two issues I want to raise. Mr Davis is again aggressively pointing in this chamber, and I ask that he cease that aggressive pointing. And he cannot direct the minister how to answer the question. He might not like the answer, but bad luck.

Mr Davis: On the point of order, President, whilst accusing me of aggressively pointing, the member actually aggressively pointed herself.

The PRESIDENT: I call the minister to come back to the answer. And, please, respect.

Ms PULFORD: Businesses are open and trading and they are doing it safely and people are entering those places safely, and there is an enormous demand for people to meet the jobs needs of those organisations. We are working with industry to help them get people into work. We are working with people who through their own personal circumstances have never worked before to meet what is a very significant demand for people in work.

Land transfer duty

Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (12:19): Let us all stay calm for my question. It is not too stirring, I do not think, but we will see how we go. Earlier this year a motion initiated by me was passed in this chamber which asked the Victorian government to publicly urge the federal government to strengthen laws against money laundering in property transactions in order to defend the rule of law and tackle financial crime.

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Mr Hayes, who are you addressing your question to?

Mr HAYES: To the minister representing the Premier. My question is: what has the Premier done to call on the federal government to crack down on this problem?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:19): I thank Mr Hayes for his question and his calming influence on this chamber. I will pass your question on to the Premier and provide a response in accordance with the standing order.

Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (12:20): Thank you, Attorney, for your calming answer. Recent media reports that show that gangs have laundered billions of dollars via the property market, with AUSTRAC estimating $1 billion alone in 2020 and the AFP seizing $116 million in real estate assets in 2021. Along with the Crown Casino money laundering and other reported cases, such as the $62 million criminal operation that was uncovered last month in Melbourne in what was declared to be one of the largest money-washing syndicates uncovered in Australia, it is not fanciful to say we have some serious criminal conduct being uncovered in Victoria. Will the Premier please inform us how the state is to collaborate with AUSTRAC, financial industry partners and law enforcement to stop this criminal exploitation of the financial system?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:21): I will also pass Mr Hayes’s supplementary question on to the Premier. There might be a bit of crossover. We will see what sort of answer we can produce for you.

Ministers statements: Kangan Institute Broadmeadows campus

Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:21): I rise to update the chamber on the progress of Kangan TAFE’s new Health and Community Centre of Excellence in Broadmeadows. I am incredibly proud that the Andrews Labor government is investing $60 million to deliver a better TAFE campus in Broadmeadows. It is such an important project. We know that the health sector is growing and needs an additional pipeline of skilled workers, and we know that Kangan TAFE is a critical provider of health training in Melbourne’s north. This facility will mean more local students getting the local skills that they need for local jobs, including at Northern Health.

This week we reached the next stage in making this project a reality. I was pleased to announce that Architectus has been appointed to design the new facility. The facility’s design will include laboratories, flexible learning spaces, outdoor recreation facilities and facilities for students in areas such as nursing, mental health, pathology, disability and aged care. I cannot wait to see the designs of this magnificent facility. Construction will begin in early 2023 and will create 300 local trade jobs. Broadmeadows is a proud community, a community that knows how important its local TAFE is, and this community deserves a world-class TAFE campus. Only a Labor government would ever deliver this project, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Member conduct

Dr BACH (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:23): My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, you were asked a few days ago whether you would cooperate with an investigation into the red shirt rorts were it to be reopened. Your response, reported in the media, was qualified. You said that as the first law officer of our state you would judge any request from the police to cooperate, and I quote, ‘on its merits’. Attorney, are you above the law?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:23): I thank Dr Bach for his question and the opportunity to respond. I think in terms of the way you have framed the question that is not my recollection of exactly the order of questions and answering, but I understand what you are trying to ask. I was asked a hypothetical question about whether I would cooperate with police if asked. It is a complex question in a hypothetical situation, because as a lawyer, as someone that has been asked to give legal advice to people in the past, I would always advise anybody who was approached by police to come and have a chat and anybody who was arrested by police to seek legal advice and to follow that legal advice or at least consider their options in the context of receiving legal advice. So it was a very difficult question to answer in a hypothetical sense, because it was not a situation that I could respond to having had any experience.

Dr BACH (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:24): I do thank the Attorney for her response. I understand your response; I do thank you for it. When questioned by police, however, isn’t it the duty of all members of Parliament, but in particular the first law officer of our state, both to cooperate and also to tell the truth?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:25): I think that is the thing. It is a question that you are putting to me without any basis. In a general sense I would encourage everybody to cooperate with any legal authority that they are asked to, but that does not mean that you do not have rights. Although I believe that members of Parliament should have the highest standards in our community, that does not mean we do not have the same rights as everybody else in the community. Of course in police inquiries and police investigations I would seek to cooperate, but I would not give away my rights to seek legal advice and consider what options I had in that regard. But again, with the questions you are asking me, I do not have any practical experience to draw on, so I am trying to answer your question by answering in the same way I would if somebody asked me and they were in a position where they were asked to speak to police. I would always say you should seek legal advice.

Commercial passenger vehicle industry

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:26): My question today is for Minister Pulford, representing Minister Carroll. Some of you may be aware of an article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald titled ‘Every day, two sexual assault or misconduct complaints hit Uber’. An audit by the New South Wales point-to-point transport commissioner showed that in New South Wales alone Uber had 516 complaints of sexual misconduct and assault in a six-month period, almost three a day. In 94 per cent of the sexual misconduct complaints Uber let their drivers stay on their platform. In fact drivers stayed on the road even after multiple complaints, including one who was offering free rides in exchange for sex. This is disgusting, vile and abhorrent behaviour. Given that New South Wales Uber is receiving an average of almost three reports of sexual assault and misconduct a day, my question is: how many notifiable incidents have been reported by Uber to Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria in the past year?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:27): I thank Mr Barton for his question. I did see the article that he referred to, and there are some very concerning observations made in that article. I will seek a written response from Minister Carroll for you.

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:27): Thank you, Minister. Currently the public do not have access to the notifiable incidents reported by different market players in the commercial passenger vehicle market. It is my view that the Victorian public is entitled to this information. In New South Wales these statistics are publicly available. If a market player is reporting a large number of sexual assault and misconduct complaints, the public should be aware of it. If the market player is allowing drivers who have been reported for sexual assault to continue to service the public on that platform, the public should be aware of that. If the lack of safety requirements such as tamper-proof cameras or GPS tracking has led to one sector of the market experiencing higher rates of sexual assault and misconduct, the public should be aware of that. So my supplementary is: will the minister require that these notifiable incidents be published online to ensure public transparency and accountability?

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:28): I thank Mr Barton for his supplementary question and interest in this matter, and I will seek a written response to that from Minister Carroll as well.

Ministers statements: silicosis

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:28): Silicosis is a catastrophic, debilitating lung disease that has already cost too many workers their health and in some cases their lives. We know that people who work with engineered stone, commonly used for kitchen benchtops, are at risk of exposure to silica dust, which can lead to deadly lung and respiratory diseases, including silicosis. Since the start of 2021 four workers have tragically died from silica-related illness, and WorkSafe has accepted 59 claims for silica-related diseases.

These tragedies remind us why the Andrews Labor government has taken action to ban the dry cutting of engineered stone and is rolling out greater protections for workers. This week the government has further strengthened those protections by launching Australia’s first licensing scheme for businesses working with engineered stone. The changes are backed by rigorous auditing and compliance activities and mean that Victorian employers will be required to prove compliance with safety measures to obtain a licence to work with engineered stone.

Because awareness plays such a crucial role in preventing occupational hazards, the changes will require businesses to provide information to job applicants about the health risks associated with silica dust while also ensuring that their employees are given adequate training to control these risks, and I note the large number of CALD workers in this industry and the need to make sure they understand the hazards. These changes build on the government’s action to reduce silica-related disease, which includes an enforcement blitz and free silica health screenings that more than 1300 past and present stonemasons have registered for through WorkSafe and the Alfred occupational respiratory clinic. The Andrews Labor government is committed to tough action on the use of engineered stone and will continue to act to protect workers from this deadly disease.

Animal rights activism

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:30): My question is to the Attorney-General. The inquiry report into animal activism was handed down 21 months ago, and recommendation 5 of that report outlined the need for on-the-spot fines. As Victoria’s top lawmaker, why hasn’t legislation been introduced to give farmers protection against extreme animal rights activists who trespass on farmers’ homes, on their businesses, and breach biosecurity?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:31): I thank Ms Bath her question and her ongoing advocacy in relation to farmers and people in her electorate. Of course when the inquiry motion was put to this chamber it was the government that sought to expand that motion to make sure that the committee had a full range of terms of reference to consider all of these important issues. As the previous Minister for Agriculture I am on the record as condemning such behaviour. Entering people’s farms, which are very regularly their homes, in the name of animal activism and causing fear and concern to those farmers is completely inappropriate, and there are other ways to demonstrate your objection to certain things. I also in my previous role worked with the Victorian Farmers Federation and others in encouraging greater community awareness of the wonderful work our farmers do. They are the caretakers of the land and champions of animal welfare in many regards.

In relation to your question, Ms Bath, it is a common misconception that as the Attorney-General I am responsible for every law that comes into fruition and comes through the Parliament. Just ask my family; I get asked about road laws and things like that a lot. I do not have responsibility for every law that comes into the Parliament. I do understand that the question that you asked was a similar question to one put to the relevant minister, the Minister for Agriculture, who has carriage of responding to the recommendations in that report. Of course with any crossover with the department of justice in relation to consideration of laws and how they may interact with pieces of legislation that I am responsible for, those conversations have been happening. I will leave announcements in relation to the delivery of this commitment to the relevant minister, the Minister for Agriculture.

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:33): I thank the minister for her response. Being safe in our homes, in our businesses, on our farms that are also our homes for farmers is a very, very important issue that needs to be addressed. It has been 21 months and indeed approximately 18 months since the government’s response to this report supported that recommendation. When can the government give a surety that this will actually be introduced and farmers can have on-the-spot fines to create that additional safety barrier for their homes and their families?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:33): Thank you, Ms Bath, and I do thank you for, in your supplementary question, effectively paraphrasing the answer that I gave in relation to my agreement with you in relation to farmers’ rights and the fact that for many of them their home is their workplace and deserves protection. I have already answered your supplementary question by telling you that I am not the relevant minister. Although I am interested in the legislation that all ministers bring to the chamber to deliver on important reforms and provide benefits to the Victorian people, it is not my job to inform you when another minister’s legislation will be coming forth.

Building cladding

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (12:34): My question is for the minister representing the Minister for Planning. I have recently been contacted by residents living in buildings affected by the flammable cladding crisis who are concerned about the rollout of the cladding rectification program. Residents are reporting a significant delay between receiving a risk assessment rating from the Victorian Building Authority and receiving any time lines or funding commitments from Cladding Safety Victoria. I have heard that councils are now enforcing building orders on affected buildings and pushing owners to begin rectification works despite owners not receiving any CSV funding for the expensive rectification, remembering that rectification is required because of failures of building regulation. Residents are concerned that CSV is stalling because they no longer have enough funding to cover the promised rectification works and that residents may end up having to cover the works themselves. Minister, has CSV got enough funding remaining to cover rectification works for all buildings that need it?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:35): Thank you, Dr Ratnam, for your question, and I will be very happy to refer that matter to the Minister for Planning for a detailed answer.

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (12:35): Thank you very much, Minister. I appreciate the follow-up. If owners do follow council orders and arrange for the works themselves, I have heard they will be unable to seek subsequent reimbursement through CSV, as there are strict rules relating to retrospective funding. This forces residents to choose between living in dangerous conditions or being thousands of dollars out of pocket. Minister, will there be additional funding allocated to allow CSV to issue retrospective funding for works carried out by owners?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:36): I will also refer Dr Ratnam’s supplementary question to Minister Wynne for a response.

Ministers statements: suburban development

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (12:36): Today I would like to update the house on the government’s suburban revitalisation program in Melton. $640 000 is being invested into Melton through the government’s suburban development revitalisation program. The Melton Revitalisation Board has been working closely with the City of Melton on new projects that will engage Melton’s youth and support local businesses.

Here are some of the great projects: streetscape improvement works along High Street and McKenzie Street; the Melton town centre employment program, a partnership between YLab, ArcBlue and Job Prospects to design policies related to recruitment and training of young people in local businesses; the shopfront improvement program, engaging a retail specialist to work with traders to provide practical advice and support and facilitate improvement of shopfronts; the improving accessibility project audits up to 50 local traders to highlight opportunities to improve accessibility in their businesses; and a community planning proposal to deliver various initiatives in the local area, ranging from pop-up events to school holiday programs and handy community tools, such as interactive maps.

Across the metropolitan area the suburban revitalisation program has invested $25 million to deliver similar projects with similar partnerships. I thank the revitalisation board, and I would like to acknowledge the chair, the member for Melton, Mr McGhie. What a fantastic member for Melton he is—the change he has made to Melton—an ex-paramedic. It is good to have various skills. We have all sorts of different skills. We have tradespeople, we have paramedics and we have lawyers.Yes, we have lawyers.

Written responses

The PRESIDENT (12:38): Regarding today’s questions and answers: Mr Quilty to the Minister for Police, Ms Tierney, two days, question and supplementary; Mr Hayes to the Premier, Ms Symes, two days, question and supplementary; Mr Barton to transport, Ms Pulford, two days, question and supplementary; and Dr Ratnam to planning, Ms Stitt, two days, question and supplementary.

Mr Davis: On a point of order, President, we have seen the decision of the chamber to move the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 to later this day, and I wonder if the leader as a courtesy might indicate whether it is intended to be debated this day or on a future day.

The PRESIDENT: We dealt with the motion, and it passed. There is no point of order.

Members interjecting.

Mr Gepp: On a point of order, President, Ms Crozier, as she was rising to her feet and leaving the chamber, screamed out an inappropriate reference to members of the government, and she should be asked to withdraw. It was unparliamentary and uncalled for, and she should be asked to withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: Ms Crozier, I heard the point of order. If you did that, can you please withdraw.

Ms Crozier: I am happy to withdraw, but I do object to Mr Gepp’s commentary around me screaming in the chamber.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ms Crozier. You withdraw.

Members interjecting.

Ms Pulford: On a point of order, President, as Ms Crozier was departing the chamber for a second time, having withdrawn her insult to the government when she called us liars, she then walked out saying, ‘But it’s true’. So I do not think she really withdrew it very well. I think you should get her to do it again.

The PRESIDENT: Ms Crozier walked out. She did withdraw. I appreciate your comment, Minister, but she walked out. I will talk to her.

Constituency questions

Northern Victoria Region

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (12:41): (1526) My question is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. Despite great emotion and white-hot anger due to the Labor government’s decision to eradicate the Barmah brumby, trapping of the horses has commenced. Last sitting week I presented a petition of 2463 signatures calling on the minister to abandon plans to remove the brumbies from the Barmah. On 4 August 2020 I presented a similar petition with 14 671 signatures. And who can forget the rally held on the steps of Parliament in May this year when a petition was presented, bearing 176 800 signatures, calling for the government to leave the Barmah brumby alone? Sadly, local horse experts expect foals to be crushed to death while trapping continues. The Barmah Brumby Preservation Group have built a dedicated haven for the Barmah brumbies and they are saving these horses’ lives. Will the minister give an undertaking to come with me to the preservation group’s facility and to meet with and work with the group to preserve the bloodlines of the Barmah brumbies, including leaving a herd in the Barmah forest?

Western Metropolitan Region

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (12:42): (1527) My constituency question is directed to the Minister for Education, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers and Deputy Premier, the Honourable James Merlino. My question relates to the portfolio responsibilities of education. The Victorian government is supporting children arriving in Victoria with low levels of English. The children will be supported to learn English and integrate into mainstream schools with the assistance of English as an additional language, EAL, teachers and multicultural education aides. Newly arrived EAL students can access intensive English language programs provided by an English language school or centre or the Victorian School of Languages through the new arrivals program across the government school system. My question to the minister is: can the minister please provide me with an update on how children with low-level English in the Western Metropolitan Region can take advantage of this great initiative? The Victorian budget 2021–22 invested $25.2 million in continued support for government students who do not speak English at home to ensure they have the same opportunities as native English speakers.

Western Victoria Region

Mr MEDDICK (Western Victoria) (12:43): (1528) My constituency question is for the Minister for Agriculture and relates to an illegal slaughterhouse in Balyang East, near Geelong. I do not much like any slaughterhouse. Nothing humane happens in them. But the public comfort themselves with the knowledge that the workers are protected by standards and union representation, that the facilities are inspected for safety and bioprotection and that the animals, while still suffering, have the protection of some minimal and still frankly inadequate standards of welfare. But none of this applies in an illegal slaughterhouse, which I sadly have to continue to bring to the government’s attention. Anywhere from 10 to 30 sheep are being killed every week in this house of horrors. There are no guarantees of safety or hygiene when people are buying meat from there. I can only imagine the suffering of animals in an unexpected and off-the-grid slaughterhouse. Minister, will you shut this facility down as soon as possible and prosecute those responsible for its operation?

Northern Metropolitan Region

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (12:44): (1529) My constituency question today is for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety. Local residents in Thornbury in my electorate of Northern Metropolitan Region are really frustrated with the traffic and congestion and the time it takes to get to work and to get home. We recently conducted a survey in the Thornbury area. We have had some great responses, and I am grateful to those people that have responded. A lot of traffic from Melbourne’s north goes through Thornbury every single day, travelling on either St Georges Road, High Street or Station Street to access the east or the city centre to get to work. Locals have been telling me through this survey that the roads are just clogged and it is a nightmare for them to get around, get to work during the morning peak hour and also get home. Traffic is just getting worse. The action I seek from the minister is to direct the Department of Transport to urgently investigate the light sequencing and safety of intersections at High Street and Dundas Street, High Street and Darebin Road, High Street and Clarendon Street, and St Georges Road and Normanby Avenue. When I have asked for this in the past I have got a response that says, ‘Oh, we’ll do a study over the next three years about light sequencing’. It takes too long. This is urgent. I ask the minister to do this urgently.

Southern Metropolitan Region

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (12:46): (1530) My question is for the Minister for Training and Skills. I note the importance and rich history of the site of Prahran TAFE in my local community in Prahran, and having personally advocated in this space over the past couple of years, it is very clear to me that my constituents share a bold vision for a flourishing, eclectic and exciting cultural precinct—a cultural precinct which undoubtedly will do its part in breathing new life into the Chapel Street precinct, which had sadly been ailing even before this pandemic began. Having met with tenants on the site, various community leaders, the local council and other stakeholders, these many meetings have been grounded in recognising the values—our Victorian values—of providing quality higher education, ensuring local jobs and fostering the creative spirit. I commend the passion and work of these stakeholders in ensuring a viable future for the Prahran TAFE site. My question for the minister is thus: what action is this government taking to support the future of Prahran TAFE?

Northern Victoria Region

Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (12:47): (1531) My constituency question is yet again for the Minister for Health. Every day I am contacted by constituents who are being denied health care because they are unvaccinated. In some cases even children are turned away. A visually impaired five-year-old in Wodonga has had her eye appointment cancelled by her local specialist’s office. She is not even eligible for the vaccine. She is collateral damage in this government’s crusade against the unvaccinated. Another constituent, who needs regular injections to avoid going blind, has been denied treatment. Parents are having difficulty accessing GP appointments for their children because of burdensome testing requirements. Across Northern Victoria we have seen that cancer diagnoses have fallen in the last two years, not because there is less cancer but because there is less screening. It seems we are killing the patient to cure the disease. Northern Victorian health professionals do not want to cancel these appointments, but they feel they are forced to do so. Minister, why is it essential for our pandemic response to restrict health care for a five-year-old in Wodonga?

Western Metropolitan Region

Mr FINN (Western Metropolitan) (12:48): (1532) My constituency question is to the Minister for Planning, and I draw the minister’s attention to the vote of Hobsons Bay City Council to reject applications for development of precinct 17 at 571–589 Melbourne Road in Spotswood. I am informed by locals the minister has previously approved these developments of the old Victorian Railways workshops without any proper consultation or indeed any master planning of the site. Council has conducted the appropriate consultation with its residents and has come to the view that this proposal is not in the best interests of locals. In particular I commend the new mayor, Cr Peter Hemphill—and congratulate him on his recent election—former mayor Jonathon Marsden and Cr Daria Kellander, who I might be so bold as to suggest would be an outstanding mayor in future, for the work that they have put into representing the public interest in this matter. Minister, will you now respect the decision of Hobsons Bay council and reverse your decision to develop precinct 17?

Northern Victoria Region

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:49): (1533) My constituency question today is to the Minister for Water, and it is about the pressing need to extend sewerage and water provisions in Wangaratta. Wangaratta is one of the highest growth areas in the state, with a 23 per cent increase over the year to September 2021. There has been a 45 per cent increase in approvals for water and sewerage connections in the past three years, which has left the north-east water system at capacity. North East Water will need approximately $200 million to meet the housing needs of Wangaratta in the future, with $50 million required in the short term. Any delay will further affect the existing pressures on affordable housing and rental shortages, so my question is: what urgent support will the government be willing to provide to that development and growth so that we can have a continuation of that development for residents in Wangaratta?

Southern Metropolitan Region

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:50): (1534) My matter for a constituency question today is again for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, and it relates to the sky rail down in Mentone and Parkdale on the edge of my electorate. Warrigal Road is obviously an area that carries significant traffic, and the government had promised before the election that it would not build a sky rail in that area. For that reason I have asked the minister repeatedly whether she would come down and meet with the local community. I ask: if she is not prepared to do this, would she have a representative from the Level Crossing Removal Project come to a public meeting to discuss the proposed sky rail that was ruled out by her, ruled out by Mr Dreyfus and ruled out by the member for Mordialloc before the state election? I ask: if she will not attend, will she attend with a representative?

Eastern Metropolitan Region

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:51): (1535) My question is for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety. A constituent of mine, Graham, has contacted me on a fairly regular basis regarding the possibility of VicRoads replacing the traffic light globes with LEDs. It is my understanding that LEDs are already used on Eastern Metro roads for some traffic signals, but not all. I have been informed that LEDs are brighter, have a longer life and reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to requiring less energy. This appears to be low-hanging fruit. Making the switch from incandescent globes to LEDs will bring road safety and energy use benefits. My constituent certainly put to me that replacing globes in the Eastern Metro Region should be a priority. So the information I seek for my constituent is: will the minister confirm whether our traffic management system uses or is planning to use LED lights moving forward?

Western Victoria Region

Mrs McARTHUR (Western Victoria) (12:52): (1536) My question is for the Attorney-General and relates to the significant problem of drug-related crime in Geelong, Colac and surrounding areas, involving particularly the abuse of ice. The effect of this crime on individuals, families and whole communities is devastating. A number of years ago the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee of this Parliament recommended that the justice department look at opening a Drug Court in Geelong. My question is: what is happening? The problem remains, yet no solution has been proposed for Geelong. Attorney-General, we hear about your government’s funding for Drug Courts inside the tram tracks, but what will be spent in Geelong?

Eastern Victoria Region

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:53): (1537) A constituent from Hazelwood North, Ian McNabb, has written to me on a number of occasions in the past two weeks raising significant concerns about the pandemic management bill. He has repeatedly asked for briefings and meetings in some form—whether it be Zoom or telephone calls—with the Attorney to discuss this bill. Now that the bill has been apparently delayed—on Tuesday it was an urgent bill that had to be debated but today we have heard the government put forward a motion that was passed by the house to delay it—I am calling on and asking the minister: will she provide a briefing, via Zoom or through her department, to Mr Ian McNabb and the Hazelwood North community in which he lives so that they can have some of their very specific questions answered?

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Ms Bath, but I was just wondering about your constituency question. This is meant to be related to your electorate, but this is a statewide issue. I am struggling to understand.

Ms BATH: Thank you, President. My constituent has grave concerns about the impact that this bill will have on his movability around his region, which happens to be in the Latrobe Valley, and he has repeatedly asked me questions that of course I am unable to answer, so that is why I am relaying that question to the minister.

Sitting suspended 12.55 pm until 2.04 pm.

Bills

Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021

Second reading

Debate resumed.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (14:04): I am pleased to resume this contribution to the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021, which is adding many new taxes to the list of more than 39 new taxes that have already been brought in by this government. I will very quickly precis what I said earlier. There is much in the bill that we support. We support some of the keno changes, we support some of the water amendments and we support some of the other duties-related changes. We do not support the decision to tax men’s clubs and women’s clubs. Acting President Patten, you and I are members of a club that has both genders, so we can speak freely about this matter. But all the information I have seen on that point is that in fact it will be the women’s clubs that are most impacted by this. I am not sure that the government intended that, but that is what I think is going to happen. It does seem a particularly nasty, woke-type agenda that the government is pushing on this particular point.

As I said, with the keno tax we actually understand the need to ensure the point-of-consumption levying framework that is being put in place. That makes sense. We have also said that what is collected there ought to be hypothecated into a mental health usage. We have also been quite clear, though, that most of this bill is about new taxes—new big, fat taxes on family homes—and it will push up the cost of housing. There is no question it will push up the cost of housing and reduce supply not only across the metropolitan area but also in country Victoria.

I want to put on record my thanks to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), the Property Council of Australia, the Housing Industry Association (HIA), the Master Builders Association of Victoria and many individual property industry people who have provided me with analysis as to the likely impacts of this new windfall gains tax legislation. Whilst the government did make a number of small changes in the consultation process, the government has fundamentally left the structure in place for a massive new tax on these so-called windfall gains. Now, we do not believe that the gains are like the government has construed them. We think that they are much more modest in many cases, and we think that the imposition of this tax will actually have a chilling effect across many current developments and many future developments so there will be less supply coming through in the city and less supply in country towns. I read a letter from the Great South Coast councils before the break. They make the point very clearly that this is likely to impact on the supply of land in small country towns, and the increased costs are likely to be quite troubling for many of those towns that want to actually attract people to the towns.

The communication I received from those four industry groups on this says:

Over the past four months, our respective organisations have analysed the initial WGT proposal …

They said:

A common theme of our respective responses is that we still believe the WGT will result in higher housing costs for purchasers, higher overheads for businesses and represent a serious risk to landowners’ capacity to borrow money and grow their businesses.

They reviewed recent rezoning activity through a study conducted by Urbis on behalf of the property council and a case study analysis of six recent rezoning events, representing 4 per cent of expected rezoning events over the budget’s forward estimates. They found that the windfall gains tax is likely to raise $60.88 million on these six rezonings alone, so the industry is absolutely clear that the government’s figures are wrong. I think the findings are right, and I think that the tax collected will be much greater than the government is showing in their budget. I pressed the briefing staff on this, and I must say I was unconvinced by their response. So that is quite significant. The modelling goes on to say it is expected to collect approximately $1.5 billion in revenue in the three years from 1 July 2022, based on current rezoning activity. Even if you allow that this will chill some rezoning and chill some developments it is still a very substantial hit, noting that a huge chunk of the state’s revenue is already collected from the property sector and the development sector. The UDIA modelling shows that in a sample of just seven cases each project will be rendered unviable and will not proceed. This will reduce housing supply on those groups of projects by 6696 dwellings—including over 300 affordable, social or disabled access—and cost 20 000 direct jobs and nearly 100 000 indirect jobs.

The UDIA modelling shows that this will cost the state budget $170 million in forgone stamp duty receipts. And then the UDIA did some very important modelling in the Geelong growth area, with an increase in the price of an allotment of as much as $53 000, so normal mums and dads and families are going to pay more than $50 000 extra for a block of land in the Geelong region because of this government tax. In comparison, the growth areas infrastructure contribution levy per hectare is generally valued at $7000 to $10 000 per lot. This is due to the windfall gains tax discouraging or delaying the sale of undeveloped land between landowners and property developers that will push up the price of these new lots.

Now, there are many other points that have been made by the sector. We have tried to address many of the rough edges and problematic aspects of the bill—the appeal period, the period at which the levy will apply and the actual census date, as it were, for this to apply in our amendments. These are all sincere attempts to deal with, in one sense, micro problems in the bill and make it a better bill, but in essence the charge is still a killer, and it will actually knock out a lot of developments. There will be less supply coming through, and what supply does come through will be more expensive, and there will be a compounding effect of less supply allowing much greater increases than would otherwise be the case. So I am thankful to the UDIA in particular but also to the property council, the master builders and the HIA for the material that they have brought forward.

What we have also said in our amendments is that there are a few key things that we want to achieve. We oppose this tax and we will vote against it. Even though there are some good things in the bill, this omnibus approach of shackling things together forces MPs in the end to vote for or against the bill, and we think that the scale of the windfall gains tax is so great and so damaging that we must vote against even the good measures that are shackled to it.

But our amendments go to a few key points apart from those points of improving the bill in a micro sense. We actually try to deal with the revenue flow in a constructive way, and we say first of all there should not be a tax levied just on the wedge of increased value. That wedge also needs to take proper account of the costs that have been incurred—the holding costs, the development costs, the remediation costs. You know, I am aware of one site, a repurposing of an old industrial site, where there are significant remediation costs, and it is only fair that these be deducted from the windfall gain that is mooted as something that the developer will achieve. But I say the holding costs, the development costs, the remediation costs—all of those—ought to be subtracted before any levy is made.

We also say that the money collected ought to be hypothecated back to the municipality in which it has been levied. So if it is levied in Bendigo or it is levied in Castlemaine or it is levied in Geelong or elsewhere, the amount collected should be actually spent on infrastructure or projects in those municipalities. We think that that is a fair and sensible way forward.

We also say that there should be a proper works-in-kind program as well, so if there is an amount that is struck that is owed, that could be acquitted through a deal with the Treasurer that would enable a developer to undertake proper works on that development site and actually see—it might be a school, it might be an oval or a community centre, whatever it is—some useful works in kind. And that would in fact, we think, be a better outcome for the community, a better outcome for the taxpayer and a better outcome indeed for the developer. So we think this is one of those situations where you can actually get a win for everyone by a constructive way forward. These are all the sorts of amendments that are there, and obviously we will talk them through in some significant detail as we progress.

But I do think it is important to say that this government approach of just pressing forward no matter what—not listening to sectors, not listening to the community—is just mind numbing. Yes, there has been engagement with the industry groups, but fundamentally the government has not listened to the key points—that this is going to restrict supply and that it is going to push up the cost of land. Over here on one hand we have got a whole series of government programs to try and help people get into homes, and then on the other we have got these massive taxes being layered on that are clearly going to make it more difficult for everyday families to actually get the home that they want, whether it is in the city or whether it is in the country.

I think it is important to look at Victoria’s historical advantages too. We have had cheaper land historically and we have had cheaper options for housing, and that has been a major driver of the state’s growth. Now, we have seen in the population movements to 31 March, the recent population figures, a fall in Victoria’s population of 0.6 per cent—42 900 fewer people in Victoria at 31 March this year than at 31 March the year before. That is the first flat fall in population that we have seen in many, many years, and it stands in stark contrast to the other states. All of the other states had positive population growth—some small, some larger, but all positive. We are the only state that actually had a clear fall in the size of our population in that 12-month period. The new figures will come through for June, and I think that they will tell largely the same story. But in that circumstance, when we are trying to rebuild and trying to recover, why the new tax, the big new tax, on homes? A big, whopping, nasty new tax on homes is not the way to recover. I just do not understand the government’s thinking on this.

I know that they have got massive budgetary problems, and I pay tribute to the work the Auditor-General did in his report tabled yesterday in this place. He made clear the significant growth in debt. He made clear that part of that is due to COVID spending. He was critical of some of the COVID spending, not least in the other recent report that he has produced, which points to real deficiencies in control and oversight of COVID spending.

But beyond the COVID spending there is also the ongoing issue with the major projects, and the major projects are not being well managed. They are not being scoped properly from the start, they are not being costed properly from the start and these projects are blowing out massively. Wherever you look with them the costs have just ballooned hugely, whether it is the Metro Tunnel with its $3 billion to $4 billion blowout, whether it is the West Gate Tunnel with its massive $3.3 billion admitted blowout—but it is going to be much more than that, let me tell you—or whether it be the level crossing projects, where the government will not actually tell us how much they cost, even the 40-odd that are completed. You ask them the simple question, ‘How much did this one, that one and the other one that are finished cost?’, and they will not tell you. The reason they will not tell you is that the costs have all blown out very substantially, and that is because they did not scope them properly, because they do not have proper cost control, because they are using the wrong model to do many of these. They are using an alliance model that is very open to churn and additional costs being generated; it is like a cost-plus model on your home, if people understand what that means.

My point here is that the cost blowouts in the budget and on these major projects are actually weakening the state’s position, and they are going to mean, under this government, higher taxes and more taxes. That is what we are seeing with this bill: more taxes and a big new tax on homes in this one—a big, big new tax on new family homes. And pushing down the supply of land is going to have a compounding effect. There is poor budgetary management, poor project management and more debt than there should be for a particular number of projects. If the projects are managed properly, we end up with less debt or more projects for the same amount of debt; either is a better outcome than what we are seeing now, which is the hopeless mismanagement of so many of these projects.

The consequence of that is this government’s urgent need to get new taxes. They have got to get new taxes. It is important also to note that commonwealth grants this year are up. In the budget period just reported on both by the Auditor and by the state report commonwealth grants were up, so that is not the cause of the budgetary problem. It is partly COVID. COVID spending is understood; we get that. You have got to have proper cost control over COVID spending too, and they do not. But these major projects blowing out is a very significant area where proper cost control, proper oversight and proper checks and balances will lead to a better outcome.

We will seek to amend the bill. We have worked closely with the sector. I have put on record my thanks to the UDIA, the property council, the MBA and the HIA. I note the importance of working with that sector and coming forward with a package that will help get a better outcome. This is a bad bill. We will oppose it, but we will, in sincere good faith, try to amend the bill and improve it as best we can.

Dr CUMMING (Western Metropolitan) (14:21): I rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. Let me start by saying: wrong tax, wrong time. Yet another tax, or should I say taxes as there are a number hidden in this bill, including land tax, keno tax and changing tax exemptions on charitable institutions and private clubs. Victorians are suffering. Businesses are trying to get back on their feet right across the state. Now is not the time to be introducing a windfall gains tax. Every major stakeholder who has contacted my office is against this—the Property Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Association of Victoria and the Victorian Farmers Federation. The VFF was not even consulted until late September.

If this tax is introduced, it will be particularly felt in regional Victoria and Western Metropolitan. In regional Victoria it will be felt by the primary producers. It will be felt by those trying to fund their retirement. It will increase the cost of residential land and housing. Why is this government designing yet another tax? It is like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or rather some wild idea out of Dan Andrews’s tax factory. If you were going to introduce a windfall tax, wouldn’t you model it on the growth areas infrastructure contribution, a system that has been going for over 10 years? Then you could give the taxes to local government to be invested back into infrastructure in the community where they were earned.

This government has introduced nearly 40 taxes. What this government needs to do is learn good financial management, rather than taxing Victorians to pay for the mistakes that it has made, mistakes like overspending on infrastructure. The high-capacity metro trains program looks like costing another $67 million, and the Metro Tunnel needs another $1.37 billion. Regional rail upgrades blew out by $330 million and the duplication of the Cranbourne train line requires another $15 million to build a bike path. Another 11 000 new station car spots blew out by $263 million. Suburban road projects blew out by $127 million. The West Gate Tunnel Project went from $5.5 billion to $6.7 billion and could go up by as much as another $5 billion. When the government released the budget earlier this year they said:

The Government will ensure every dollar of investment is focused on delivering the services Victorians need, with a program of initiatives focused on reprioritising our efforts.

These measures will include reducing back office costs and spending on consultants. This will mean some workforce transition in Government will be required.

That was in May. How is that going? Is the government spending less on consultants and reducing staffing? In August the Age reported that the Department of Premier and Cabinet has nearly tripled in size since the government was elected. It employs nearly 1100 staff. More than 30 advisers or chiefs of staff have been appointed to senior, high-paying roles within the public service. I suggest that the government look at running their projects on budget and look at reducing their overheads just like other businesses have to. Then they will not have to keep bringing in new taxes.

I will not be supporting this bill. As we have seen throughout this pandemic, there has been a lot of spending that has been wasteful spending. We have already got a report on just the tip of the iceberg of wasteful spending throughout this pandemic. I will not be supporting this new tax.

Ms TERPSTRA (Eastern Metropolitan) (14:26): I rise to make a contribution on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. I have had the opportunity to listen to Mr Davis’s contribution and also Dr Cumming’s, and it seems a bit of a common theme that when I rise to speak on some of these contributions and matters that we are debating in the chamber, as we have seen with other bills, there seems to be a significant amount of misinformation, conflation of different topics and issues and statements made without foundation. I thought I might perhaps start my contribution by setting out exactly what we are doing and why so at least the people at home who might be watching this can get the facts.

What are we doing and why? As announced as part of the 2021–22 budget, the government is introducing a windfall gains tax on rezoning decisions that create a land value uplift of more than $100 000. Currently landowners can receive significant windfall gains when the value of their land increases due to government actions, including government decisions to rezone land. Existing state taxation mechanisms do not adequately capture a share of these value uplifts. The windfall gains tax will ensure a fair share of the value generated from government decisions to rezone land is invested into infrastructure and improved services which will benefit the wider community. That is a very important thing to note. There has been a lot of misinformation saying that we are just doing taxes and doing a grab, that it is a big, fat tax, but there is a basis for this. The government remains committed to this important value capture mechanism but proposes to make adjustments to the application of the windfall gains tax to balance its impact in the current economic conditions and in response to stakeholder feedback—again another myth, that we did not consult. Yes, we did.

The key changes that have been made to the policy that was outlined in the 2021–22 budget include that the tax will apply to rezoning decisions made from 1 July 2023, a year later than previously announced; land value uplift will be calculated based on capital improved value rather than site value; there is an exemption for residential land, including farmland with a residence, for up to 2 hectares of all rezoned residential land holdings; there is a tax waiver for charities where a charity continues to use and occupy the land exclusively for charitable purposes for 15 years after the rezoning event; there is a deferral of any windfall gains tax liabilities until the next dutiable transaction or until 30 years after the rezoning event, whichever is the sooner; interest will apply to any deferred liabilities at the 10-year Treasury Corporation of Victoria bond rate; subdivision of land will not cease deferral arrangements, with any liability apportioned amongst the subdivided lots; and there are transitional arrangements for rezoning in train by the announcement date where the taxpayer can demonstrate they have progressed the rezoning and incurred significant costs in so doing. So there is just a little bit of background, which might help people understand the actual reality of the situation—as I like to say, a bit of myth busting again today.

Just on how the mechanism will work—and then in a moment I am going to go to some stakeholder comments, which have actually been very supportive of the change, contrary to what we have heard here today—as I said, from 1 July 2023 the windfall gains tax will apply to rezoning decisions that create a land value uplift of more than $100 000. An effective tax rate of up to 50 per cent of the total value uplift will apply where a value uplift is greater than $100 000, ensuring rezonings with smaller value uplifts are not affected. Rezoning decisions before 1 July 2023 are not subject to the tax. For a rezoning with a value uplift between $100 000 and $500 000, the tax will apply at a marginal rate of 62.7 per cent on the uplift above $100 000, and above $500 000 a tax rate of 50 per cent will apply to the total uplift. The tax will not apply to rezonings of land to and from the urban growth zone within the growth areas infrastructure contribution areas, to rezoning of land to public land zones or to rezonings of land which correct an error in the planning scheme.

What I now also want to do, as I said earlier, is turn to some of the stakeholder comments, and I will add a bit more detail around consultation and the like. I will just read into the record some of the supportive stakeholder comments, which again dispel the myths that have been perpetuated in today’s debate. Others in the community taking an independent look at this have come to the same conclusion as the government, which is that it is a fair and efficient tax. Brendan Coates, director of economic policy at the Grattan Institute, wrote when the policy was announced:

… this is a good move. It should reduce incentives for corruption when planning applications are decided.

As a tax, collecting unearned windfall gains is extraordinarily efficient, so efficient it shouldn’t even be called a tax but a charge for a change in allowable land use, which is what it is.

He said that:

It’s a myth that charges for changes in land use raise home prices.

It is a total myth, again contrary to what Mr Davis has said. He further pointed out that:

The ACT Government has charged 75% for land value uplift for three decades without scaring …

any developers away. Director of research at Prosper Australia Emily Sims recently said:

The Rezoning Windfall Gains Tax is a win-win-win for regional communities. With this tax, communities share in unearned profits, local government development plans are supported, and corruption is no longer incentivised.

Local government planning departments around Victoria, such as Warrnambool, Bendigo, Hepburn and Shepparton, have shown that the regions have plenty of land already zoned for the growth they need.

Most councils have more than 15 years-worth of land supply already approved. Warrnambool has 22 years land supply available, Shepparton doesn’t need to rezone any new land until 2038, and even Surf Coast shire, one of the State’s fastest growing regional areas, has 14–19 years supply.

The best way to develop regional areas is to listen to the local planners because they know their communities best. Regional councils know where growth has to happen and they don’t need to be hounded by land speculators chasing a rezoning cash grab.

So again these are very important comments from stakeholders in regard to recognising the importance of this mechanism, which will actually help drive down corruption.

I just want to address what Mr Davis said as well about wanting to hypothecate any gains into communities. I mean, there will be differences in the actual gains made in various communities, depending on the value of the land and where the land is. So if you were to adopt what Mr Davis said, you would actually find inequities in the system where some communities would be able to perhaps generate or benefit from larger amounts of that windfall gain than other communities, and that would be inequitable. So having the government actually gather these charges or taxes, or whatever you want to say, then actually allows things to be supported in a more equitable fashion.

In terms of some of the other myths today around how this is going to affect home prices and the like, I note that some of the stakeholder comments directly address that. But we have ensured that the family home, as well as beach houses and residential investment properties, will not be impacted by this tax, by putting in place an exemption for residential land which includes a dwelling fit for occupancy at the time of rezoning, with the exemption applying for up to 2 hectares of residential landholdings and regardless of whether the dwelling is the landowner’s principal place of residence. Charities will be eligible for an exemption. They will not pay any windfall gains tax liabilities on their landholdings, so long as the land continues to be used for charitable purposes for 15 years after the rezoning event, recognising the important work that charities do.

Now, I also just want to address one of the comments that were made around these exclusive clubs. We will remove the land tax exemption for private gender-exclusive clubs, such as the Australian Club or the Melbourne Savage Club, to make sure they pay their fair share. Again, people who have the most capacity to pay should pay. These elite, discriminatory institutions are an anachronism, and they can afford to contribute their fair share to support services and infrastructure for all Victorians. Land tax exemptions will remain for charities, as I said, and for not-for-profit clubs that are not exclusive and not discriminatory. For example, this will not affect men’s sheds. Men’s sheds are doing great work to promote mental health and wellbeing. This policy change will impact less than 10 clubs and is estimated to raise about $1 million over the next four years, so we are all for busting elitism and discrimination when we talk about taxation mechanisms. It is a beautiful thing.

There has been some commentary around keno and the like. I will not go to those sorts of points, because I think mostly those things are by and large agreed, but again I note Mr Davis will have some amendments. We oppose those amendments, and of course the bill will go into the committee stage.

Just finally, in the few minutes that I have left, in our first term the Andrews Labor government delivered tax cuts to almost 40 000 businesses by increasing the payroll tax free threshold from $550 000 to $650 000. I spoke to a guy who runs a plumbing business in my electorate, and he was very much appreciative of that, because it meant that he could employ young people locally and put on more apprentices. So he thought that was fantastic, and that enabled him to employ more people. In the May budget we brought forward by 12 months our commitment to a further increase in the payroll tax threshold to $700 000. In our first term, in an Australian first, we cut payroll tax for regional Victoria alone, and we have now cut regional payroll tax down to just 25 per cent of the metropolitan rate, a year earlier than planned. The most recent cut will save regional businesses a further $30 million over and above previous savings and benefit around 4000 businesses. It will help regional businesses grow, encourage job creation and support economic recovery across regional Victoria. Under our landmark Homes for Victorians package, first home buyers that purchase a house that costs up to $600 000 or less do not have to pay any stamp duty, while concessions apply up to purchasing a house at the cost of $750 000. Since July 2017 these changes have helped more than 150 000 Victorians get into the housing market and have saved them well in excess of $2 billion.

Now, just on supporting workers and businesses through the pandemic, in the short amount of time I have left, the government has also shown Victorians that it is committed to using tax revenue to pay for infrastructure and services that people need. And I note the catcalls, that again we have got to throw in the lines about businesses blowing out and us managing things. It was quite the contrary.

During the pandemic we have shown that we would use the state’s balance sheet to protect the balance sheets of Victorians and businesses and households alike. The government came out straightaway to assure Victorian businesses that they are not alone in this, and over the course of the pandemic the government has provided well over $11 billion in direct financial support for businesses. The most recent package provided $2.27 billion over six weeks, provided jointly with the commonwealth, to more than 160 000 businesses. The support included $1.26 billion for business costs assistance programs, $600 million for a Small Business COVID Hardship Fund and $470.5 million for a Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund for October and November. So, as you can see, there is a comprehensive agenda by this government not only to support businesses but to support families, to look to where we can implement fair charges. As the Grattan Institute noted, this should not actually be called a tax, this actually should be a land use charge, but where we have implemented this we have made sure that, when we have made decisions to rezone land, we gather these taxes in a fair manner and assist communities. I will leave my contribution there, and I would commend this bill to the house without amendment.

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (14:40): I rise to talk on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. This is a bill that has a number of taxes in it and changes to taxes in this state, but I am going to confine my comments to the windfall gains tax.

Here we are again in the Parliament with the government putting out all its dirty laundry in one week. This week all focus has been on the pandemic legislation, which is the most dangerous and offensive legislation I have seen in my time in the Parliament, and at the same time the government also chose to debate this bill, which imposes a big new tax on landholders, under the cover of that other bill. In any other week this bill would have been the subject of intense media and community scrutiny, but this week the government will attempt to sneak it through under the cover of the pandemic legislation.

For a government whose leader stood on the steps of Parliament House on the night before the 2014 election and made a commitment to each and every Victorian that they would not impose a single new tax on the people of Victoria, it is ironic that this is the 19th new tax that they have imposed on this industry alone and somewhere around the 40th new tax they have imposed on Victorians.

This bill will affect the cost and supply of housing right throughout Victoria but will especially impact regional areas, where there is already a shortage of land available. This of course comes at a very inconvenient time, as many metropolitan people have chosen to make the move to regional Victoria to escape the effects of the government’s COVID lockdowns. The mass exodus from metropolitan Melbourne has already driven up the price of housing in regional Victoria, and this tax will drive it up even further. This tax will impose huge costs that will be passed on to the final purchaser and will price many first home buyers out of home ownership.

The tax will apply to any uplift in the value of land that exceeds $100 000 due to rezoning. Landholders whose land realises an uplift of between $100 000 and $500 000 are going to be taxed at 62.5 per cent of that uplift, and those that realise an uplift of over $500 000 will be taxed at 50 per cent. These are extraordinarily high taxes. Landholders will be liable for this tax as soon as the land is rezoned; however, they can defer the payment of the tax for up to 30 years, but the tax will be subject to significant interest accrued over that time, which will accrue at the same rate as the 10-year bond rate.

In many areas of my electorate—in Greater Shepparton, Echuca and Greater Bendigo—there is already a significant shortfall of land, quite contrary to what Ms Terpstra was just telling us, and the uncertainty of this tax will exacerbate that situation. This shortfall is not new, and that is why earlier this year the Liberals announced that if we are elected to government next year we will fast-track bringing 50 000 plots of land to market across regional Victoria, excluding the City of Greater Geelong, because we know the shortage of land is already a major barrier to growth in regional Victoria. This shortage of land not only inhibits growth but also affects the ability to attract workers to the region, as there are no affordable rentals in many areas for workers in many industries. The hospitality industry has been the most vocal in expressing this shortage. During the Economy and Infrastructure Committee’s inquiry into the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism and events sector, the shortage of affordable rentals for hospitality workers was a recurring theme in every regional centre we visited or heard from.

The shortage of affordable rentals in regional Victoria has also seen the social housing waiting list skyrocket in my region, and I would like to give a few examples of that. In Bendigo the total housing waiting list has more than doubled from 1119 to 2588 families waiting for housing. In Mildura that list has almost doubled, from 424 to 708 families. This is all under the watch of this government. In Swan Hill it has been relatively stable, with a slight decrease from 330 to 294. In Seymour it has more than doubled, from 224 families to 499. In Shepparton it has well and truly more than doubled—in fact it is about 2½ times—from 600 to 1568 families. In Benalla and Wangaratta it is up by about 90 per cent, from 458 families to 855 families, and in Wodonga it is up around 45 per cent, from 500 families to 725.

But of even greater concern are the priority access lists. In Bendigo the priority access list has actually more than quadrupled, from 400 to 1743 families waiting for access to social housing. These are some of the most vulnerable families in the state. These are people who are homeless, who are escaping domestic violence, who are living with a disability or who have special housing needs. They are unable to get access to social housing under this government because the government’s investment in social housing has been totally inadequate. In Mildura that list has more than tripled, from 100 to 361 of the most vulnerable families on that list. In Swan Hill it has risen from 115 to 154 families—that is a 34 per cent increase—and in Seymour it has risen from 67 families to 275 families. That has more than quadrupled. In Shepparton it has more than quadrupled again, from 180 to 829 vulnerable families waiting for social housing. In Benalla and Wangaratta it has risen from 122 to 457, so more than tripled; and in Wodonga from 152 to 325, so more than doubled.

Even worse is the percentage of the so-called social housing big build that is going to be built in regional Victoria. The government brags that they are going to build about 12 000 new homes. That will not even house a quarter of the 52 926 families who are waiting for access to social housing in this state—and by the way that figure has risen from 34 618 families under the Napthine government to 52 926 families under the Andrews Labor government. As I said, the whole Big Housing Build when it is finished in a few years will not even house a quarter of the families who are on the list now, let alone those families that will join the list between now and when those houses are built.

The government keeps saying, ‘Oh, but we’re going to build 25 per cent of those in regional Victoria’. I have got news for the government. Of the families on the waiting list, 35 per cent of them on the total waiting list are actually in regional Victoria. So if you are only going to build 25 per cent in regional Victoria, once again regional Victoria is being dudded. But even worse, 38.5 per cent of families on the priority waiting list are actually waiting for housing in regional Victoria, but this government will only build 25 per cent of those homes in regional Victoria. Once again regional Victoria is being completely dudded by the Andrews Labor government.

It is absolutely not just the opposition that recognises the dangers of this big new tax on housing and what that will do to people who are trying to get into the housing market. We have consulted widely with many of the key players in the area, and in fact the Property Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), the Housing Industry Association and Master Builders Association of Victoria wrote to the opposition saying that they:

… remain gravely concerned about the significant impact of the WGT on Victorian families, jobs and investment. We believe it will result in higher … costs for purchasers, higher overheads for businesses and represent a serious risk to landowners’ capacity to borrow money and grow their businesses, as we enter this important period of post-COVID economic recovery.

The UDIA wrote separately, saying:

UDIA Victoria opposes the Windfall Gains Tax, which is a tax on investment and housing supply. The Windfall Gains Tax will materially and negatively impact project viability, housing affordability, the creation of employment precincts and economic activity throughout Victoria.

We also note the rezoning tax’s likely unintended consequences which will disproportionately affect housing supply and affordability in regional Victoria and limit urban regeneration throughout Melbourne’s middle-ring, contrary to core planning strategies such as Plan Melbourne.

UDIA Victoria modelling shows that on the basis of just seven case studies, each project will be rendered unviable and will not proceed. This will reduce housing supply by 6,696 dwellings (including over 300 affordable, social or disabled access dwellings), cost over 20,000 direct jobs and nearly 100,000 indirect jobs and reduce Victoria’s economic output by nearly $7.5 billion. Importantly, we estimate that this will cost the State Budget $170 million in foregone Stamp Duty receipts, with a total economic loss to the state of $7.7 billion.

Regional Cities Victoria say that they are concerned that the revenue raised from regional areas will not be redirected into these communities, and they are keen to ensure that local government is exempt from paying windfall gains tax on the rezoning of land owned by a council.

The City of Mildura also says that the proposed windfall gains tax may have a long-term negative impact on landholders, developers and the price of housing and has requested that the proposed windfall gains tax be abandoned.

Wherever there is a tax imposed on goods and services or property, someone has to pay it, and it is always passed down the line to the end consumer. So this big new tax imposed by Labor is a big new tax on the families of Victoria.

Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:52): I am pleased to rise—I will try and make it brief—to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. As we know, the bill does several things, but I think one of the areas that probably I was most interested in and the Reason Party was most interested in, because it has been a policy of ours, was really working out ways to encourage build-to-rent programs in Victoria. This bill goes towards that. Build-to-rent along with build-to-buy schemes are innovative policy solutions, and I am seeing a number of these types of projects occurring in my electorate of Northern Metropolitan. It closes the gap between people who can afford to rent but cannot save the amount to get a deposit. Build to rent refers to, as the bill states, residential developments in which all apartments are owned by one entity, often a managed investment trust, and then leased out to tenants. This is different, obviously, to the most common build-to-sell method, where a developer builds a residential development and then sells the apartments.

We have seen some really innovative work done in this area and some really good designs, designs that are also designed to create some social cohesion in these spaces. I commend a company in my electorate, Assemble, which is operated by a great guy called Kris Daff. When you look at the way they design some of their buildings, they really look at some of the issues that I was going to yesterday around loneliness: when people come in, they will see their neighbours; there are lots of common spaces; it is expected that you might share tools to fix your bike or that you might share workspaces. It is around creating communities, and in build-to-rent models these are things that can be done effectively and, I think, very well. So I am pleased that we are seeing those tax concessions there.

Probably where the government could have gone further—and certainly Mr Daff mentions this—is in encouraging that from a social housing perspective, so really looking at increasing those concessions when social housing is a proportion of that. Sadly, I think the Greens with their amendment possibly go too far at 90 per cent. I would have liked to see 40 to 50 per cent, but it is something that I will continue to explore with the government going forward, how we can do that.

The bill, as Ms Lovell and Mr Davis mentioned, removes the charitable exemption for men-only clubs or for single-gender clubs. As Mr Davis mentioned, I am a member of a private club, but it has men and women as members. Apparently it was very progressive in 1996, but it seems a number of the men’s clubs still do not see that that is the way to go.

Of course I brought a bill to this chamber last term to remove other charitable exemptions on land that was owned by religious organisations but used for commercial purposes and certainly land that was used just for the advancement of religion. I think Sanitarium is a great example of this. Here is an extremely profitable company that competes in the open market against other companies like Kellogg’s, Kraft and Nestlé. They do not have to pay land tax because they are a religious organisation and the money, they say, goes to advancing religion. Now, if you were using that money to solve homelessness or to help the disadvantaged or to set up hospitals or for health, then that I get, but not when it is used for this very loosely described intention of ‘advancing religion’. I understand Weet-Bix do not advance religion of course, although I think Kellogg’s did have some very bizarre ideas about what breakfast cereal could do. However, the fact that those profits go to some, as I say, loose term of ‘advancing religion’ I do not think should qualify those companies for land tax exemptions. Certainly where you worship should remain protected and those who, as I said, reduce poverty and protect health. I will continue to fight for changes around the types of exemptions that we provide.

But the thrust of this bill is to introduce a windfall gains tax on the uplift in land value resulting from planning scheme amendments that change the zoning of land. I certainly did meet with the Housing Industry Association, I met with many of the building industry groups—in fact I have had a number of meetings—and certainly when I met with them last year about this what they were facing was very different to what this bill is now. There have been some significant concessions. Certainly I know the Property Council of Australia acknowledged that, that there had been delays in the start of this, and much to probably the criticism of other organisations that said, ‘No, let’s start it now’. But obviously this proposal does not begin until 2023.

And let us remember that you do not work for a windfall. It is not like you grow something and then the land is rezoned. This is something you are given. This is effectively almost a gift. No goods are exchanged so there is literally nothing to be done. And we know that people buy land to speculate on it. We know that there are rent-seekers out there that purchase land on the hope that there will be a windfall, that there will be a rezoning. Or they go further than hope and they start campaigning and lobbying for that rezoning. It was not that long ago in this house that the City of Casey came under quite a bit of review and speculation. In fact the City of Casey has gone into administration for this exact reason—because it was found that they were being lobbied via paper bags of money for rezoning and other development favours. Given that the government is the one who makes the decision about the rezoning, I think it seems reasonable that it should get a cut of the profits to reinvest into the local community and across the state.

It is about sharing that sometimes absolute motza that people can make from a planning decision. This can be a win for the developers. I mean, the developers are the ones who actually do the hard work. They are the ones that actually plan it. They put the infrastructure in. They do the hard work. Those that are possibly just speculating on the land, the cowboy rent-seekers, now will not be able to take all the cream and leave the site with very little money. So when you see that huge gain from the landowner, it really shrinks what the developer can invest in that property. So I think this means that rather than profits going to overseas companies, property share portfolios, those funds will be reinvested into roads, plumbing and the environment.

I am certainly happy to say that, as I said, I believe that the property council has made very good points to the government, and I understand that the government has listened to those. I know the property council and others would like to see further changes, but I think this actually finds a very good balance.

In fact I was actually somewhat surprised about this, because I had a meeting with a developer just yesterday, Mr Tom Roe, who is down in the Geelong area—a big developer, passionate about growth. In fact he was the chair of the Urban Development Institute of Australia for the Geelong branch for some years. He could not spruik windfall land tax more. He is an absolute advocate, and when I put to him the property council’s arguments that they had to put to me, he whacked every single one of them away—and he knows a lot more about it than I do. So he was meeting with me to convince me to support this, and he said it actually would help developers. He said and I think the UDIA said—and I certainly think some of the opposition’s amendments go to this—it is somehow creating a growth areas infrastructure contribution that covers everywhere. So rather than just a GAIC for the growth areas, we would have one that covered the whole state.

Now, Mr Roe is not that keen on a GAIC. He thinks that is actually really bad policy, so he thought it would be even worse policy to expand that idea. He argued—I thought very, very well—that this type of tax is actually the fairest one and that it will not lead to a change in housing prices, it will not lead to a change in a reduction in development. All of the fears that have been placed up here, he says that that will not happen. And this was reiterated by the Grattan Institute and by Prosper Australia, who again made some really good points and went through a lot of the points that the property council raised with me. They are saying it is very unlikely that taxes will lead to higher house prices, and this was also confirmed by, as I say, Mr Roe, and also confirmed by Prosper, who again, does not have a dog in the race, unlike the UDIA and the property council, where a number of their members could be described as property speculators.

So this is just one of those pieces of policy where there is a simple solution to the problem, and this probably could have been done many years ago. It makes a lot of sense. We know that the ACT did this, and I know the ACT is still going through a housing boom and there are still properties being developed, because the land is being released by the government.

I am not going to stand here and stand in the way of this. I have listened to the industry. I have listened to Grattan, I have listened to Prosper and I have listened to property developers, as I say, such as Mr Roe, such as Robert Pradolin, and they have all said that this is actually the correct way forward. This is the way to ensure this.

I would just make one note. There is one area that I do think we should be considering, and this is because having done the homelessness inquiry we know that that transitional housing that people need when they are experiencing homelessness is desperately needed and we just do not have it. People are leaving hospital into homelessness. People are leaving prison into homelessness. People are leaving mental health facilities into homelessness. We cannot allow this to happen in this rich state. This must change.

Property developers are getting behind this idea. They want to retrofit their vacant properties while they are going through the planning process to provide transitional housing with wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness, for people escaping family violence, for people coming out of prisons and for people coming out of hospitals. And they are suggesting that a land tax concession in those circumstances would encourage more developers to do this. So rather than looking around the city and looking at those empty buildings that are getting ready for development—we know that planning can take five years at least for big developments—rather than those buildings just sitting empty while people are sleeping in the doorways of them, we could be encouraging more developers to take on retrofitting and putting transitional housing into those buildings while those people get on their feet to get into the private market, while we are building more social homes and also while those buildings remain empty. I will leave my comments on this at that.

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) (15:07): I also rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. The Andrews Labor government is committed to keeping our tax system fair and competitive and continuing to deliver for all Victorians, and the government is taking action to ensure high-end property developers share their windfalls with local communities. As announced in the 2021–22 budget, the government will levy a windfall gains tax on rezoning decisions that result in a land value increase of more than $100 000.

The windfall gains tax, which is currently scheduled to come into effect on 1 July 2023, will ensure that the community receive a fair share of the value produced by government rezoning decisions. Landowners can currently receive significant windfall gains when the value of their land increases as a result of government actions, including decisions to rezone that land. The existing state taxation mechanisms do not, in our view, capture an adequate share of these increases in value. This is why the windfall gains tax will ensure that a fair part of the value generated by a government decision to rezone land is invested in infrastructure and improved services for the benefit of the entire community, not just the individuals who suddenly as a result of a government decision receive a significant increase in the value of their land. The bill will amend various taxation laws in order to preserve the integrity and sustainability of the Victorian taxation system.

Now, there are a number of examples we can look at. I will give you an example. We can look at the rezoning of Fishermans Bend, for example, which distributed an enormous windfall to a few lucky landowners while leaving the state to foot the bill for delivering a public infrastructure project at these newly inflated land values. I think that is something this bill is trying to address. That is a classic one.

If landowners are lucky enough that their land is subject to subdivision, in the normal course of events their land value will go through the roof and they will make a significant amount. As part of that there is an existing taxation system and there should be enough to pay for the infrastructure, whether it is roads, sewerage, schools—all this infrastructure we need to put in place to make sure that the community that are going to live there basically have all the amenities they need. They are supposed to be self-sufficient. That will be really a good outcome so the government does not have to—whether it is local government or state government—invest a significant amount on top of that. It is all about sharing the responsibility and the cost.

This particular bill in most cases does not change the current taxation for most properties. Where the change is is in that example I have just given: Fishermans Bend. That is a classic example of where I think it is important that we do not finish up, as taxpayers, with the people who own that land making hundreds of millions of dollars in net profit. That is in addition to similar projects that might be happening throughout the state. So in these sorts of cases I think it is fair and reasonable that these landowners pay a fair price and we make sure they pay a fair price towards the delivery of these amenities I talked about earlier.

There was some concern about whether that will affect other areas. For example, people talked about whether it is going to affect, let us say, farming communities, the family home et cetera. The bill has enough safety nets in place to make sure that the family home, as well as beach houses and residential investment properties, will be exempt from this tax, by enacting an exemption for residential land that includes a dwelling fit for occupancy at the time of the rezoning, with the exemption applying to up to 2 hectares of residential landholding and regardless of whether the dwelling is the landowner’s primary place of residence. We also provide an exemption for land that is rezoned to any rural zone other than the rural living zones through rules, with the goal of exempting farmers who want to continue farming their property when it is rezoned from one rural zone to another. Charities will also be eligible for an exemption and will not have to pay any windfall gains tax liability on their landholding.

So this bill we believe strikes the right balance, making sure we are not punishing, with these examples I have just given, but making sure—going back to the Fishermans Bend example—that the taxpayer is not going to end up footing the bill for a significant amount of money to ensure the basic infrastructure that is required to be delivered for the people who are going to live in these sorts of areas. We are not going to pay that money instead of the landholders, who are going to walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars because of a government decision to redevelop that area into a residential area.

Now, there have been some claims, particularly by the opposition in their contributions, that our land supply will decrease because of the windfall gains tax. The answer to that is that it is simply untrue. It is not correct at all. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning undertake an annual land supply assessment for metropolitan Melbourne as part of their urban development program. That basically goes to investigate the supply of greenfield residential land in Melbourne’s growth areas, the pipeline of major residential redevelopment projects in established areas and industrial land supply. From the most recent data from that program it is estimated that between 18 and 25 years of land supply remains in the growth areas alone. This does not include the rest of Melbourne; it is just the land available in our largest urban renewal precincts like Fishermans Bend, where there is a plan for 80 000 residents and 80 000 workers.

At the end of 2020 there will be enough land to develop approximately 352 600 retail lots for dwellings to be built on, and there are 227 000 lots already zoned for residential use. At the end of 2020 there were an additional 40 185 proposed greenfield lots in Melbourne growth areas, bringing the total for greenfield land supply to 392 785 lots. So basically the allegation or the claim by the other side, or the opposition, that that tax is going to actually reduce the capacity or supply of residential lots in the state of Victoria is not true. There are nearly 400 000 lots, which I mentioned. That came from a Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning report, which they do annually, so I think the numbers are there, and that is taken over the next 25 years.

This bill is designed to make sure that landholders who gain significantly above day-to-day trading, if you want to call it that, or in exceptional circumstances—I go back to the Fishermans Bend example—pay their fair share. What is wrong with that? Ms Patten I think mentioned some of the developers who basically in these sorts of instances are saying, ‘We’re happy to do that. We think it’s a good thing’. Now, as I said earlier, if you want to go and buy a new block of land, for example, there is an amount that is earmarked that you have to pay. I do not think I have got the right figures, but it is in the tens of thousands of dollars. That is set aside and goes to Treasury to basically start delivering all these infrastructure programs, but in some cases that might not be enough. The other case, which I talked about, is where people as a result of a government decision are going to make squillions of dollars, and I think it is fair and reasonable that they should pay that extra amount.

The other area where we are making some changes is that the Victorian budget 2020–21 proposes a 50 per cent land tax discount for qualifying developments. That means eligible build-to-rent developments, completed and operational between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2031, will now receive both a 50 per cent land tax discount and a full exemption from the absentee owner surcharge for up to 30 years from 1 January 2022. That is another incentive to make sure there is enough supply in the market for people to have affordable rent, which is now a real issue in Victoria. We need to make sure that Victorians are able to access cheaper rent and make sure there is enough supply, and we need to give incentives to developers to develop residential apartments or houses to make sure we make them affordable. Build to rent is a new approach. Hopefully that will work, but I think over the next 10 years there will be enough incentives to encourage developers to actually put in place a new supply of real estate so people can access that market.

Now, a land tax exemption obviously will be continued for charity and not-for-profit organisations, so this will have no effect on them. I think there were some suggestions that men’s sheds would be affected by this. Well, I will give the news to people: that is not the effect or the impact of this legislation. In addition to that, this bill is designed to maintain fairness, integrity and sustainability in the taxation system, making amendments related to charitable exemptions and making sure that land leased for outdoor sporting, recreational and cultural purposes is exempt.

I will finish off by saying this: I think the opposition—Mr Davis—talked about this bill being about another tax, another opportunity for us to grab additional revenue et cetera. But they failed to actually address the key points in the bill. We are talking about specific occasions where, going back to the Fishermans Bend example, if your land value today is worth $1 million, and then as a result of a government decision to basically rezone that land overnight your $1 million property is suddenly worth $10 million, $20 million or $50 million, there is a lot of windfall in there. So as a result of that, if we say to that landholder, ‘We want you to pay additional tax to help in developing the infrastructure’, what is wrong with that? That is fair and reasonable. It is all about making sure that everybody pays their fair share. That is what we are asking in this bill. With these comments I commend the bill to the house.

Mrs McARTHUR (Western Victoria) (15:21): Mr Melhem has made every argument for the fact that if you are going to introduce a tax like this it has got to stay where you collect it. Every argument you have put is why you should support our amendment, Mr Melhem. I rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. Development is good for our communities and our state. If Victorians were not fleeing across the border from Labor’s authoritarianism, development would be especially desirable for a growing population. Development means more affordable housing, decongestion in existing suburbs and revitalisation of regional areas. As we have heard already in this debate, this tax may well discourage it, with consequences for the life chances for Victorians and for the economic growth of communities across our state.

But my problem is not just this principle; it is the way in which the tax is being enacted. To some extent an important issue has been identified: when a bureaucrat with the stroke of a pen rezones land that has been acquired for development and its worth increases exponentially, no honest profit has been made through hard work and clever investment. The community may well be entitled to a share of that arbitrary, abrupt and unmerited profit—the community, not the Treasurer to spend on cost blowouts on infrastructure projects in Melbourne, on unnecessary wire rope barriers in rural Victoria or $391 580, for example, evaluating our free-tampons-in-schools program. Money raised from a community should stay in the community. This is why the opposition is moving an incontrovertible amendment to hypothecate the funds to spend in those communities from which they are derived. Under the government’s legislation all captured increases in land value will go straight into the government’s coffers. This is criminal. The infrastructure necessary to ensure that rezoned land is habitable will still be required, but every other Victorian taxpayer will be required to bear the burden.

Evidently the true purpose of this legislation is to create yet another revenue-raising mechanism under the guise of an insincere moral argument about arbitrary profiteering. In May amendment C395 to the City of Greater Geelong planning scheme enabled the rezoning of 3000 hectares of land for residential use, resulting in 40 000 homes and 100 000 new residents. An estimated $3 billion value was created from the land rezoning, yet all of this has been lost. This is an extraordinary sum, and the government’s new and improved system would have sent not a cent of that money directly to Geelong, where the infrastructure needs to be developed. The government believes that any captured amount should go straight into consolidated revenue to be spent on any of its pet projects on the other side of the state, usually inside the tram tracks, and used to sandbag electorates, yet capital expenditure on infrastructure projects will be critically required by the local community to ensure the rezoned area and surrounding suburbs are liveable.

Rezoning land does not suddenly make it ready to be lived in. It is the same land, and yet increased population brings demands on roads, public transport, education, health and social services. These are not just state government costs; they will be borne by the local communities. Ratepayers will also be footing the bill. This bill completely fails to recognise this. For example, the taxation revenue will not go to the essential infrastructure project of the Bellarine link to connect Portarlington Road and the Bellarine Highway to the Geelong Ring Road, easing traffic and congestion and an array of other economic and quality-of-life benefits to local residents. It will not go to the Northern Aquatic and Community Hub at Waterworld in Norlane, which is shovel-ready but desperately requires the council’s committed $22.6 million to be matched. It will not go to Geelong’s Northern Arts, Recreation and Community Health and Wellbeing Hub. It will not go to a road noise barrier next to the Geelong Ring Road for people living in Fyansford. It will not build a Liberated Drive extension in Ballarat, which will unlock millions of dollars of economic development potential at Ballarat Airport. It will not go on local roads to fix the multitude of potholes that we endure or local schools or local services. All the revenue will go straight into the Premier’s piggy bank, which he will spend on whatever he likes to get himself re-elected.

The government is choosing to socialise the cost but privatise the profits. This is why Mr Davis’s amendment on work in kind is so important. They changed this bill from a cash grab—the 40th new or increased tax since the Premier’s infamous promise—into something which puts back into the communities directly. It makes far more sense to simply require developers to build for local community benefit, to work in kind, rather than to rake taxes from them, send them to Melbourne, skim them off the top and redistribute them back to the largesse of the Treasurer.

The bureaucratic waste is just painful to anyone who cares about low taxes and an efficient economy. Even morally it is wrong. Regional Victoria will have to come back with a begging bowl to ask our munificent state government to give back wealth generated in our own backyard. Just briefly—

Mr Leane interjected.

Mrs McARTHUR: Keep listening, Mr Leane. You will learn something. You are just profligate wasters of taxpayers money. You waste it. You do not spend it properly.

Just briefly, on some of the other provisions which do not relate to the windfall gains tax, clause 61 inserts into the Land Tax Act 2005 a requirement that land used by charitable institutions must also occupy the land for it to be exempt from land tax, following Justice Osborne’s recent Supreme Court decision in the University of Melbourne v. Commissioner of State Revenue case. This will potentially increase land taxes on charitable institutions significantly, particularly tertiary educational institutions which own valuable land and, as in the forenamed case, lease out land to commercial operations which perform charitable services, such as student accommodation.

Irrespective of any merits of this change, it is effectively a tax increase for those institutions, and it is regrettable that the government slips rather consequential but subtle statutory amendments into a bill about the introduction of yet another tax by this Labor government. This deprives parliamentarians of the opportunity to debate and consult about that change in isolation, given the distraction of an obviously larger issue. I am sure there are numerous other consequential amendments in this 100-page bill that impact taxpayers in a similar way, which may be undetectable to fresh eyes unacquainted with specific legislative provisions and their application. No doubt others will draw them out. Taxes are not simple levers that the government should fiddle with whenever they want more cash to splash and whenever they are in a massive debt situation like they are now. They severely impact people’s lives, and Victorians deserve certainty, let alone non-interference. After all, you have totally interfered with their lives for the last virtually two years. It is incredible.

Given this legislation makes a series of other consequential amendments to various tax legislation, I would like to take a brief moment to more broadly reflect on these acts. Victoria desperately needs to rethink its approach to taxation. Individuals, businesses, property owners and Victorians in general pay far too much tax in this state and they pay it in the wrong transactions. In report after report and review after review calls have been made across the country to re-examine revenue raising at the state government level to utilise more robust and efficient tax bases. To quote the Henry review:

Stamp duties are a highly inefficient tax on land, while land tax could provide an alternative and more stable source of revenue for the States.

In addition, that review argued:

State payroll taxes should eventually be replaced with revenue from more efficient broad-based taxes …

As we see in this legislation, the Labor Party has no appetite for real tax reform that reduces the tax burden on individuals and businesses, or any real vision for the state. The only taxation agenda under this government is more and more and higher taxes for Victorians.

I need not repeat, but I will, the Premier’s quote on the eve of the 2014 election. When asked to promise that no new taxes or tax increases would happen under the government he led he said, ‘I make that promise to every single Victorian’. What a statement. And what a lie, actually.

Mr Leane interjected.

Mrs McARTHUR: Since then the Labor government has introduced or increased 39 taxes in Victoria, Mr Leane—39 taxes—and this bill will make it 40. Well, hello. That is a disgrace, and I hope Victorians remember it well at the ballot box in November 2022, Mr Leane.

Mr Leane interjected.

Mrs McARTHUR: Do you think Victorians like being taxed to the extent they have been when they were promised no new taxes? I doubt it. Mr Shorten learned that lesson at the last federal election. I urge all members of the crossbench to support the opposition’s extremely sensible amendments.

Mr Leane interjected.

Mrs McARTHUR: Where are they, Mr Leane? I do not know. I am not sure on what possible grounds, besides contrariness, anyone could possibly vote against those amendments. Mr Melhem actually indicated why it was very important. Revenue raised from local communities should be spent in these local communities, not filling up the Treasurer’s piggy bank and not be redirected to inside the tram tracks to waste on all sorts of extraneous projects. If it is not spent in the community from where it is raised, urban fringe and regional areas will suffer enormously as they are deprived of vital capital expenditure while governments splash their money elsewhere. Labor will benefit and communities will suffer.

Dr RATNAM (Northern Metropolitan) (15:34): I rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021, a bill that is making a number of changes to taxation legislation. I would like to focus my contribution on two elements of this bill in particular: firstly, the introduction of the windfall gains tax; and, secondly, the amendments to the Land Tax Act 2005 to create new tax incentives for the build-to-rent industry.

The former is a very welcome new tax measure in Victoria and one that the Greens have been calling for for years. A windfall gains tax was one of the policies that we took to the 2018 election when we called for a similar tax on wealth created when a piece of land is rezoned.

It is just the latest example of a good idea put on the table by the Greens getting picked up by the government. The Treasurer of course rejected the idea when it was first proposed by us, but it is always heartening to see the government change their mind and introduce good policy. Of course our proposal went further, with a 75 per cent tax rate on the unearned wealth generated by the difference between the officially assessed land value before the rezoning compared to the land value afterwards. But even at a lower rate and being even further watered down since the original announcement, a windfall rezoning tax is good public policy. This is a tax that seeks to capture the millions of dollars that can be made at the stroke of a pen when a property is rezoned to a higher use. It is also a significant anti-corruption measure.

The issue of rezoning and the massive profits property developers can reap from land banking is particularly an issue where farmland or ex-industrial land is rezoned into the lucrative residential zone. Fishermans Bend is a prime example, where overnight the landowners became millionaires. The rezoning decision by the now Leader of the Opposition was described as unprecedented and misguided. And yet the community saw none of that wealth, which was instead pocketed by private landowners and property developers. Fishermans Bend was just one in a long list of dubious rezonings—Docklands, Fishermans Bend, Ventnor and the urban growth boundary rezonings—where more and more property developers and landowners have been eyeing off the honey pot. Developers know that under our current system they can buy ex-industrial land or unused farmland on the cheap and then lobby councillors and planning officials to get them rezoned for residential development. We saw this in practice most recently in Casey, where a local developer allegedly used bribes and gifts to secure rezoning decisions in his favour. So we are really pleased to see the government agreeing to sensible, progressive taxation reform by lessening the honey pot and properly taxing the windfall gains that are created through rezoning decisions.

I do note though that in the bill we are debating today there are a number of additional exemptions from that policy that was announced earlier this year. For example, it seems likely that the Melbourne Racing Club has negotiated an exemption from having to pay the tax on the sale of Sandown racecourse, as rezonings that were sufficiently progressed will be exempt from the tax. While we understand the government’s logic here, it is disappointing that an already wealthy body and one that makes its millions from the destructive gambling and racing industries has managed to avoid its fair share of tax. It is especially disappointing because part of the rationale of the new tax is about returning value to the community, which can be used to fund the new things suburbs desperately need—new public transport, parks and open space and other community services. When we are creating new suburbs—whether it is Fishermans Bend or the new suburb that will be created on Sandown racecourse—we are not just building more homes for private sale; we are creating new communities, and communities need schools, hospitals, parks and trains. And right now the new suburbs that are created as a result of major rezoning decisions are sorely lacking in the necessary infrastructure and services that make Melbourne so livable. There are no public transport, shops, cafes or restaurants, and the nearest supermarket is a 20-minute drive away.

This is also what happened in Fishermans Bend, where the rezoning meant we suddenly had plans for multistorey—six-storey—apartment towers, with no plan for any parks or open space, community services or necessary infrastructure. It seems obvious to me that a portion of the enormous wealth created overnight should be returned to the community and used to create much-needed public services and infrastructure instead of lining the pockets of already wealthy developers—or, in the case of Sandown, a wealthy and exclusive racing club.

I also want to note that we do not agree with the arguments put forward by opponents of this bill that the new tax measures will limit housing development in Victoria or that it will make housing more expensive. This is a complete misconception based on the belief that our housing system is simply a vehicle to make a small number of people richer. There is something extremely broken in our housing system if developers are throwing a tantrum over the prospect of having to pay a portion of a billion-dollar overnight profit back in tax for the public good.

When we keep treating housing as a commodity and a tool for wealth creation instead of as a basic need we end up with the housing market we currently have, where prices are ridiculously inflated and an entire generation has been locked out of owning their own home. In fact this commodification of the housing system is also what we see in the government’s new build-to-rent (BTR) program, the other part of the bill I will address today.

Build to rent is a program where new apartments are created specifically for the purpose of being rented out and owned and leased by the developer. In an effort to grow the industry in Victoria the government is offering the tax incentives contained in this bill—a 50 per cent land tax concession for 30 years and a full exemption from the absentee owner surcharge. The government suggests that this is about improving affordability and supply, but a closer look at the parameters of the program show that it will do neither.

The guidelines say that eligible BTR developments will be new or substantially renovated buildings with at least 50 self-contained dwellings held within a unified ownership structure and managed by a single entity. These management entities will be major developers like Lendlease or Mirvac. Billion-dollar multinational developers will now also reap millions in tax benefits. The build-to-rent program is effectively handing developers a blank cheque for huge profits by allowing them to transform into corporate megalandlords like we see overseas. In the US the biggest corporate landlords own about 420 000 properties in total, and in Germany the single biggest landlord has over 330 000 properties. It is difficult to understand why we would want to replicate this failed megalandlord model in Victoria.

We also have serious concerns about the impact this program will have on housing affordability. The only rule about rental agreements offered in build-to-rent apartments is that they must be for a duration of at least three years, so there is nothing to stop developers from creating luxury, exclusive apartment complexes and then renting them out for enormous rents. In fact we know it is likely, because this is what we have seen in other build-to-rent developments. In Sydney the first fully private rented block, built and owned by Mirvac, opened in 2020. While they touted benefits like having a pet or hanging a picture on the wall—that is, basic rights that a renter should have in their home—the benefits came at a cost of as much as 20 to 30 per cent more in rent. Similarly in London the build-to-rent developments were on average 11 per cent more expensive than other rental properties nearby. So it is really disappointing that in this bill, which has measures to implement progressive taxation and properly tax profits, there is also a measure that seems totally designed to make developers richer and make renting more expensive.

But this is not what renters want. In Germany, where there are a number of major corporate landlords, voters recently voted to expropriate hundreds of thousands of apartments owned by megalandlords and return them to public hands. This happened in the face of housing becoming increasingly unaffordable and out of reach for everyday Berliners, something that is happening right around the world and becoming increasingly bad right here in Victoria—and something that this build-to-rent program will do nothing to address. In fact it is merely a transfer of public money to billionaire corporate property developers at the expense of everyday Victorians and their ability to have secure, affordable housing.

To address these problems, I will be moving amendments to add eligibility criteria before a build-to-rent project can access the very generous subsidies in this bill, and I would like my amendments to be circulated now.

Greens amendments circulated by Dr RATNAM pursuant to standing orders.

Dr RATNAM: My amendments will introduce three additional criteria. Firstly, the buildings must maintain an occupancy rate of more than 90 per cent; otherwise we could easily see corporate landlords sitting on empty apartments while getting a tax exemption while their asset increases in value on their books. Secondly, there must be a commitment to affordability if public funds are subsidising these developments, so my next amendment requires the rentals to be set at rates affordable to very low, low- and moderate-income individuals and families. And finally, there is an amendment to set a rent cap. We have seen other build-to-rent projects where rents may start out fair but are quickly raised well beyond what is reasonable. We believe rent caps should be introduced everywhere, but at the very least when public subsidies are being made there is a duty to ensure they work for the public good, not for private corporate profit. This government has to remember that housing is a public service. Instead of abandoning aspiring home owners to a future of perpetual renting from mega corporate landlords, the government should be looking at how to transform our housing system to make it fairer, affordable and livable so that everyone has a place to call home.

We should be engaging in more progressive tax reform—like windfall gains taxes, like shifting from stamp duty to land tax—and we should be removing the tax incentives that make housing so expensive, like negative gearing and capital gains tax, instead of creating more.

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (15:45): My learned colleagues have already well and truly transacted this very vital reform coming through this bill, but I do just want to pick up on a couple of points pursuant to some of the things that were raised over there, because—I do not know—how did the opposition miss the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build announcement? It is almost like they have never heard of it. I know Minister Wynne has not been quiet. He has not been shy about this—none of us have been—because we know that of that we are committing $1.25 billion to regional Victoria to build homes where they are needed. Did you hear that? We are investing directly in regional Victoria, contrary to some of the assertions that were made over there. I nearly fell off my chair, because I was like, ‘Don’t they know about this huge announcement that Minister Wynne made?’.

And it is also going to kickstart local economies. I heard all this discussion about driving local economies—that is exactly what we are doing. So I am glad we have got this opportunity here to straighten things out, because I had not realised they had not heard this announcement. I do not know how they missed it, because we have not been subtle, let me tell you. Why would we? We want people to know about this, because it is driving so much, and in particular—not exclusively, but also—for regional Victoria. This includes a minimum investment guarantee to 18 local government areas for a total investment of—get this—$765 million. I do not know—that is pretty significant. I do not know about you, but to me that is pretty significant. And the remaining $485 million is not yet committed to special local government areas. These guarantees range from $180 million committed to Greater Geelong and $85 million to Greater Bendigo—isn’t that in regional Victoria; I thought it was—through to $15 million committed to each of Horsham, Swan Hill and Golden Plains, again in regional Victoria. Who knew? Over the four years of the Big Housing Build program we will deliver on these investment guarantees to all of the 18 LGAs. And I notice they are not paying attention, because the truth hurts, doesn’t it? The truth hurts. They do not want to know how much we are investing in regional Victoria. They want to turn a blind eye because it does not suit their narrative, does it?

Homes Victoria issued a call-out to developers, councils and landowners in regional Victoria to put forward any developments or vacant land that could be turned into social or affordable housing as part of an $80 million tender. Finally, Homes Victoria is actively engaging with local councils in these priority areas and will continue to do so to help deliver homes where they are needed most.

So I hope this time they have heard it, they have got the memo and they know we are absolutely investing in regional Victoria—actually across the whole of Victoria. So let us be clear. No more mistruths—let us have the facts on the table.

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (15:48): I am happy to make a contribution on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. It is an omnibus bill, but I will actually just keep my content today and my contribution in relation largely to the windfall gains tax. It is a tax on homes, on properties. It is another burden for Victoria with undesirable outcomes, and I underscore the ‘undesirable’; we have got a week of undesirable discussion in this place. It is a tax that drastically pushes up the cost of housing, particularly in rural and regional Victoria and particularly in my electorate of Eastern Victoria Region. We are already facing a critical housing shortage in our country towns and communities, and even off the back of what the government is doing to solve this whole housing shortage, through its total ineptitude and gross mishandling of the pandemic we see that Victorians are leaving our state in never before seen numbers.

There are something along the lines of 43 000 people who have packed up their home and put it on their back and have moved interstate. Now, that is not the right way to solve a housing shortage, and this tax is not the right way to solve a housing shortage—a tax on housing affordability that will drive up the price of real estate and lock people out of the market. It is already difficult to get into the market, and this tax will only make it more difficult.

We have seen in regional Victoria the rental markets really, really squeezed. We see multiple people going for a regular house in our local country towns, and the flow-on effect of that of course is that if you have got a job going in that country town, whatever it be—a professional job; a doctor coming into the town; a new teacher; a bank manager, I think we still have them; even great family workers who want to come in and work in the local community—it is very, very hard for anyone to get a rental property. And I will discuss that in more detail, having spoken with one of my local real estate agents.

This bill before the house is about Labor’s mismanagement of these city-based projects that we know so well. They make a gold standard on overruns and blowouts. The West Gate Tunnel—it is in the billions, the blowout. You know, it would have been unfathomable years ago that we would be speaking in these billions of dollars of cost blowouts—the Metro Tunnel, level crossings, the Suburban Rail Loop, and the list goes on.

I do recall a few years ago—it was probably in the last Parliament—when they sold the port of Melbourne, or they leased it for 99 years, and there was supposed to be a hypothecation of a little amount of 10 per cent that was going to go to rural and regional infrastructure. Now, what happened to that? It just got swallowed up by the machine that is the Andrews government waste and misspend.

The windfall gains tax is essentially calculated on the taxable uplift, or the value of the uplift, when land is rezoned—the difference between the capital improvement before and after the rezoning. The before valuation comes in the form of the Valuation of Land Act 1960 and the set point there or the value there, and then the post rezoning will be determined by the Valuer-General Victoria, again a place that I think was somewhat privatised under Daniel Andrews.

The tax will apply to uplifts that exceed $100 000, and between $100 000 and $500 000 you are going to be whacked with a nice 62.5 per cent tax on the value of the increase, and if you go over $500 000 you will be whacked with 50 per cent of the taxable value. You can choose to defer it, but of course deferring will occur with a large 10-year bond rate of interest, so it does not work.

The bill will be debated here, and I am sure there will be enough crossbenchers, as there seem to be at the moment, to let this go through, but there has been significant opposition out there in the real land. There has been significant opposition from the Property Council of Australia, the Housing Industry Association, the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Master Builders Association of Victoria, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, and in an open letter to the Andrews government they state that this is a detrimental tax both to affordability and to supply at a time when Victorians can least afford it. And as I said, regional Victoria is being hit as well.

The Victorian Farmers Federation have very sincere and reasonable concerns in relation to this Andrews government tax. They said it is creating a tax on liabilities and balance sheets of farm businesses, and if the government can try and whack those that feed, nourish and clothe us, they seem to be good at doing that. Once it is on that balance sheet as a liability, it will impede their ability to borrow and grow their own business, again thwarting that development that we need in rural and regional Victoria. If you look at job vacancies, as the VFF has very clearly highlighted, we see multiple primary industries that cannot fill their vacancies, as I have said before, because of these housing shortages. We saw this worker shortage across our whole supply chain, particularly in horticulture where we needed to have people come into the community and do that adoption of time-sensitive stock and produce to get it to market. These sorts of things are not going to be made better by this tax grab.

Laurie Eddy is from First National Real Estate in Traralgon and he has had a conversation with me, and I thank him for doing so. He talked about the squeeze on sales and rentals in the Latrobe Valley. He says he has seen a buyer fear that we have at the moment through the pandemic, through the Andrews government’s handling of it as well—that people are prepared to make quite outrageous offers because they are very concerned that they want bricks and mortar in their investments rather than any other sort of market that can deteriorate. Whilst that can be fine if you can afford it, for those that are trying to get into this market there has been an increase in the valley of roughly $70 000 to $100 000 in value, and it is pricing young people out of our markets. We want families to move to the country. This certainly has been a challenge. If we implement this windfall gains tax, Laurie has said it will deter people from potentially developing and splitting those blocks so that we can have dual occupancy. Now, part of the great idea around that is that we can increase our density in our towns rather than spreading too far into regions where we need to still be productive. There needs to be that balance.

I think I have got about 2 minutes left, and that should be enough to cover off on what I wanted to. The Nationals at our recent state council back in May recognised this very important point about critical land shortages, and, along with the Liberals, we have developed a policy around the development of 50 000 new land lots across rural and regional Victoria, making it easier to plan and build new homes. Often councils do a great job, but when developing new land spaces in our towns they need additional professional help, and our planning squads would be able to provide that. There is $5 million for flying planning squads to provide those on-the-spot skills to speed up and simplify the planning process.

I am very mindful and pleased that Mr Davis is going to move amendments, which I think he has circulated, about hypothecating the funds, and I know Mrs McArthur spoke about that in great detail before. It is important that the money that is made in the area is spent in the area. When we look at this government’s track record, we see that 25 per cent of the population in rural and regional Victoria have been given 8 per cent of the infrastructure funds. Eight per cent does not equate to the value that we need.

With that I want to reiterate the fact that the government unfortunately has caused mass migration out of our great state, which is a great shame, but also that the crossbenchers need to listen carefully and think about people in the regions and the importance of the hypothecation amendment. I ask them to support this very wise and sensible amendment.

Sitting suspended 3.59 pm until 4.17 pm.

Mr MEDDICK (Western Victoria) (16:17): The title and principal measure of this tax bill is the windfall gains tax, and that is the measure that I want to principally address today. The government brings a tax measure that will come into place in 2023 and will deliver significant revenue to the state over time. Unlike some in this chamber I do not oppose all taxation. What I do want to understand is whether this is a good tax or a bad tax. The real test of any new tax is: is it just, is it efficient and what effect will it have on society?

Taxing the windfall gains on rezoned land is very fair. This is wealth that seems to have been created at the stroke of a pen by the government. By making these rezoning decisions, which will happen from time to time as our planning for society changes and evolves, some landholders are made immeasurably richer through no effort of their own. Whenever we can tax pollution, extraction or monopoly we make the taxation base fairer. Apart from the proximate cause of these windfall gains, the rezoning decision, what is the more fundamental cause of uplifts in large landholdings? It is not due to the actions and efforts of the landholder. It is the development of the community, the building of infrastructure, the access to services, shops and homes. Windfall gains in land value are created by the entirety of the community and belong in large part to the community. This bill will ensure that the next generation of land bankers will pay their fair share. Never again will an example like the Kalkallo sisters occur, where they shared in a $300 million windfall due to rezoning. Under today’s legislation they would have to make do with just $150 million, which sounds like it is still a pretty good deal to me. Of all the taxes collected by state or federal governments, windfall gains taxes, along with other land taxes, are the most morally just, and their imposition is long overdue.

Is this tax law efficient? Most tax—certainly income tax, payroll tax and the like—imposes significant deadweight costs on society by taxing production, effort or productive investment. By taxing these things we get less of them, which is a cost to society. Windfall gains tax does not impose any deadweight costs on the economy, so this tax is efficient. What effect will it have on society? One thing we do know is that we must try and reduce the incentives for corrupt behaviour to emerge from developers and politicians at any level. Windfall gains have been a corrupting influence in the past, and this bill helps to reduce that temptation. So not only is this tax fair and efficient, it also has a tendency to reduce corruption. I note that this is not a tax on development but a tax on windfall gains. There is no theoretical or evidentiary basis to think that this will deter development of properties in the regions or anywhere else. Indeed, by deterring land banking, developers may well find better access to land for appropriate development throughout the state.

I note that the bill includes a range of measures to address edge cases of fairness and reasonableness of the tax. This includes deferral mechanisms and some exclusions for residential properties. These detailed measures in the bill will need to be reviewed in time to make sure that they have not created loopholes in the tax measure that impact on its effectiveness.

There is one other measure in this omnibus bill that I will address, and it concerns private gender-exclusive and gender-restrictive clubs. That these privileged men in their privileged clubs—where they get together to discuss who knows what, but probably their privilege—have also been claiming an exemption from land taxes that the rest of us have to pay is outrageous. This tax measure is well and truly overdue. I support this bill, and I commend it to the house.

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (16:23): I would like to speak about a couple of aspects of the bill before the house this afternoon, primarily the so-called windfall gains tax provisions. The annual financial report for the state of Victoria for 2020–21 showed the state ran a deficit of $14.5 billion. The budget for 2021–22 shows a forecast deficit of $11.6 billion, and we know from the first quarterly report that that is likely to be vastly exceeded: $3.8 billion the year after, $2.1 billion beyond that and a $2 billion deficit in 2024–25. So the government has incurred and is forecasting deficits of $34 billion over the forward estimates. It is most likely going to be worse than that.

We know that state debt is blowing out. In 2021–22 forecast borrowings exceed $19 billion, $10 billion the following year, $12 billion the year after that and $12.5 billion the year beyond that. So we have uncontained deficits over the forward estimates period, we have rapidly growing debt—with no sign of that debt peaking either as a share of gross state product or in nominal terms—and we have a Treasurer who is suddenly panicking about how he will balance the budget or at least constrain the budget in the years to come. That is why we have this bill before the house this afternoon.

In the budget in May a number of additional taxation measures were announced and introduced. As the house knows, with the budget being introduced in May, we also had the State Taxation and Mental Health Acts Amendment Bill 2021, which gave effect to the majority of those new tax measures. The count of new and increased taxes under this government is now somewhere up over 40. What was not included in that state tax amendment bill in May was the mechanism to give effect to the windfall gains tax because, like so many of the policy positions of this government, it was one that was thought up on the run to plug a hole in the budget and the work had not been done as to how the mechanism would actually apply. Six months after including the windfall gains tax in the budget only now do we have the actual mechanism to give effect to that increased tax. We know, as Mr Davis said, the government is forecasting the windfall gains tax will generate $124 million of revenue over the forward estimates period, but we also know that is likely to be vastly exceeded when the actual receipts are accounted for.

One of the big problems with the windfall gains tax is that it is a real tax on a theoretical gain. The trigger, as we know, for this tax is a rezoning and a subsequent revaluation by the valuer-general. So no real profit has necessarily been incurred and no real gain has necessarily been created. A theoretical gain has been created—a potential gain has been created—and that is the basis of a real tax liability. Yes, we know there is a deferral mechanism in the bill which would see that liability the subject of interest at the Treasury Corporation of Victoria 10-year bond rate, but the practical effect will be a real taxation cost on a theoretical gain. It is a gain that does not take into account the fact that somebody who has land rezoned for the purposes of development has incurred holding costs, has incurred risk in holding a property for the purposes of having it rezoned for development and of course will incur development costs to realise that theoretical gain. That is the subject of one of the amendments that Mr Davis is looking to move.

We know that in Victoria today around a third of the cost of a vacant housing lot, a new housing lot, is attributable to government charges, be they charges imposed at a local government level, be they charges imposed at a state government level or lesser at a commonwealth level. So $1 in every $3 that a new home owner, particularly a first home owner, pays on a new block of land in a new estate is attributable to government costs. It is a very substantial impost on new housing, a very substantial impost on first home buyers. The effect of this windfall tax—and I listened to Mr Meddick and Ms Patten in particular talk about this—is going to be to increase the cost of housing, or it will be to reduce the availability of housing. It is a simple proposition: if you reduce the return that can be made on new residential development, you will reduce the number of people that undertake that development or you will see a flow-through in costs of that development to the ultimate consumer, the first home purchaser.

Mr Melhem in his contribution talked about the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning report looking at land supply in Victoria. I was somewhat bemused to hear Mr Melhem refer to that DELWP report and to have confidence in that DELWP report because there are few examples anywhere of where relying on central planning by a government department which is forecasting land supply is a recipe for economic success. We already see the issues with housing costs in Victoria. We have seen over the last 12 months the explosive growth in prices of existing houses in Victoria. Until this year, when this government has decimated the Victorian community and the Victorian economy and we have seen an outflow of population, we had about 120 000 people coming into Victoria with a commensurate demand on housing. As a consequence of that we saw the increase in price.

So while Mr Melhem has confidence that DELWP in its forecasts has ensured there is an adequate supply of housing in this state and in metropolitan Melbourne, I do not share Mr Melhem’s confidence. I do not share the view that the central planning of this government is somehow going to ensure that we have the land supply and can maintain housing affordability, and this measure, which has been moved with a view to the budget bottom line, not with a view to housing availability and housing affordability, is merely going to exacerbate the problem that we have seen in the Victorian housing market in recent years and indeed particularly over the last decade.

The other aspect of the bill I would like to touch on is a curious one. It is the removal of the land tax exemption for so-called private gender-exclusive clubs. Like other members of this chamber, I am a member of a number of private clubs, and other members have spoken about that as well. We heard from Ms Terpstra, who said, ‘The government’s doing this’, and she spoke about the government’s ideological bent in respect of members of private clubs. What we did not hear from Ms Terpstra was the fact that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee in considering this bill has actually raised concerns that this measure, which seeks to remove this land tax exemption, is contrary to the provisions of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. The SARC has in fact noted that ‘all states generally exempt non-profit clubs from land tax without any conditions as to membership’. This government in seeking to discriminate on a membership basis as to whether a land tax exemption is available or not is acting arguably contrary to what is in the charter, and the SARC has written to the Treasurer seeking clarification as to the compatibility of this provision relative to the charter.

But the more important point here goes to this provision as it goes to one of the curious decisions the government made with its support packages for businesses affected by COVID—and those packages also excluded from eligibility so-called private gender-exclusive clubs. The fundamental misunderstanding there is about who is impacted by that decision of government to exclude those operations from those business support packages, because for some reason the government now seeks to make a distinction between a person who works in the kitchen of one of those clubs as opposed to another venue, people who work as waiters and waitresses in those clubs rather than another venue, people who work front of house, people who work back of house and people involved in housekeeping at those clubs. For some reason the government does not believe those jobs merit the same sort of support as similar jobs in other hospitality venues, simply because of the nature of the club, and I think the fact that the government’s ideology is blinding them to the impact these types of measures will have on the people who work in those clubs, the people who provide services in those clubs, is very unfortunate.

There is another aspect I would like to comment on with respect to this particular measure. I was amused by Mr Meddick’s concluding comment that the removal of this exemption is long overdue, because what has not been highlighted in this debate to date and what certainly was not highlighted by the Treasurer in his introduction of this bill is that this exemption from land tax for private clubs is not a longstanding one. In fact this exemption from land tax for private clubs has not yet been in place for 12 months. It was introduced by this government in its tax bill with the late budget last December. There was a pre-existing concession, but the full exemption was put in place by this government in December of last year when it went from a concession model for land tax on clubs to a full exemption model. So this is not a longstanding provision which this government is now, with its ideological bent, seeking to correct; it is actually correcting an error it made less than 12 months ago when it put in place the full exemption from land tax.

So while it might seek to dress this up in ideology, the reality is, I think we can conclude, it was actually an unintended consequence in that legislation last December, which the government is now seeking to correct, notwithstanding the impact it can have on unemployment, notwithstanding the fact that the government seeks to dress it up in its ideology.

So this bill has been cobbled together from the government’s need to fill a growing black hole. The reason we have the bill now and not six months ago when the government announced these measures is that it had not conceived how to put these measures in place. We do have a number of concerns with this bill, particularly with respect to the windfall gains provisions. Mr Davis has outlined a number of amendments to ameliorate some of the problems with those windfall gains measures. I look forward to the house supporting those amendments and overall opposing this bill on the third reading.

Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (16:36): I rise to speak on this bill and particularly the part that pertains to the windfall gains tax. This is generally a policy my party has supported for a long time. Sustainable Australia Party policy on this subject is, and I quote:

Capture for the public the land value gains (unearned profits) from planning and rezoning, rather than gifting them to private sector developers. This would include:

Introducing an ACT-style 75% developer ‘betterment tax’ in all states on the total land value gain (between current zoning use and the new approved use) received from favourable land re-zonings. The tax would be applicable only at the time of a new planning approval. This tax reflects the fact that the value of the new property rights allowing higher value developments is created by the community through the political process …

Now, while the bill before this house is not identical to that, and it is not as high a tax rate as that, in essence it captures the spirit of my party’s policy. Private sector developers have long been gifted the gains made in the land value due to government land rezoning decisions for far too long, and my congratulations to the Andrews government, who after seven years in power, are now introducing the type of policy which our party has advocated for for many years. There have been some hefty windfall gains made by developers during the term of this government, so this bill is better late than never, and I welcome it. So congratulations to the government there.

There are other good policies on my party’s website, and some may wish to have a look at them. Many are framed like this one to ensure a fairer society when it comes to housing and planning. Some of them relate to banning political donations from property developers, which, as has been tested in this house, is not supported by the major parties.

The government has been slow to act on the issue of so-called windfall gains or value capture or value uplift, but it has now—and congratulations. However, the timing does seem to suggest that it may be to capture the windfall gains generated by the biggest developer bonanza that will be gifted around the Suburban Rail Loop. And it is a pity that when it came to the rezoning at Fishermans Bend some years ago—the very definition of a windfall gain—the previous government did not take such value capture principles into account at that time. I often hear politicians on the right accuse the left of wanting to hand out free stuff, but the Fishermans Bend rezoning story proves that handing out of free stuff is not only the preserve of the left.

Recently ABC News published an article on its website by Daniel Ziffer which explains why such taxes as this windfall gains tax on land rezoning is necessary. The story was called, and I quote, ‘Taxes that reward asset-owners and punish wage-earners leading society into crisis, say experts’. The story began with the following quote:

House prices and the value of the share market have ballooned. But wages are barely growing.

The combination means a widening gap between those who make their money from assets and those who make it from their labour …

The story quoted Dr Angela Jackson of Equity Economics, who provided a historical perspective on the current situation of widening wealth inequality in our society, a wealth inequality which threatens social cohesion, and we have seen through this pandemic increasing instances of the breakdown of social cohesion here in Melbourne. Dr Jackson pointed out that from the 1970s taxes on wealth have diminished and we have seen an increasing tax burden fall on those who make their income by working. Dr Jackson pointed to former Prime Minister John Howard’s reduction in capital gains tax, which tilted the playing field even further in favour of people who make income from assets and against people who earn money from work. That is another reason why I am speaking in favour of the windfall gains tax the government is proposing, and I thank the Greens for raising the issue.

Property in Australia—in Melbourne and Victoria—has become an avenue for speculation. Speculation on development has gone wild and there are great profits to be made, much bigger than the share market, but it is a Ponzi scheme and it is backed up by government concessions like what I was talking about—the reduction in capital gains tax and other concessions where profit is made in property—and it is also backed up by industry’s demands for more and more population growth to provide customers for this property. Everyone says, ‘Invest in property’, but we really should be investing in smart manufacturing. That is what we should be investing in. Property investment is non-productive.

If a landowner has a huge uplift in the value of their land as a result of these government actions, then it is only right that the increased value should be taxed for the benefit of society as a whole. After all, it is the society that pays the price with loss of amenity, environmental damage and impositions on infrastructure. I also believe a windfall gains tax lessens the likelihood of developers bribing politicians—a real worry of mine—as the gains to be made from rezoning land are reduced. At the same time, a contribution to the services all society needs is derived from these government rezoning decisions.

The ABC story I referred to also quoted a Mr Rob Pallin, who is the well-off chair of retailer Paddy Pallin, who also believes the current tax system unfairly benefits asset owners over wage earners.

Australia used to consider ourselves a very fair and equitable nation—

is what he says—

but I think we’re losing that gradually. And I think we’ve got to move our way back towards it.

That is why I will be voting in support of this bill. This bill is a move towards the fairer and more equitable society that Mr Pallin was talking about. I grew up in such a society. I have seen it change for the worse over recent decades, and it is time for wideranging reforms, which this bill makes some contribution towards achieving. I commend the bill.

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (16:43): I rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. I will be supporting this bill today. The introduction of a windfall gains tax has long been needed. Over the years we have seen billions and billions of dollars being transferred from the pockets of taxpayers to the pockets of lucky landowners, a bit like winning Tattslotto. This bill will address this.

A windfall gain is when land is rezoned to expand its permitted uses and economic potential that results in immediate and significant increases in the land value. This increase in land value is a windfall gain that accrues solely to the landowner over and above any regular income or profits earned from the land. This tax will apply to an uplift in the land value resulting from a planning scheme amendment that changes the zoning of the land. The change in value from the rezoning will only be taxed if it is over $100 000, and owners of residential properties of up to 2 hectares are exempt from paying the tax.

An important aspect of this tax is that the owners can defer the payment. All owners will have the ability to defer payment, with interest, for up to 30 years or until the property is sold or transferred, whichever occurs first. The applicable interest rate will be the 10-year Victorian government bond rate. This means that if a large farming property previously valued at, say, $1 million is rezoned to become residential after lobbying of the local council, the owner, who now possesses a property with a value of $40 million, does not have to pay the windfall gains tax immediately. Instead they can wait until the time they choose to sell the property to a potential developer and then pay the tax after receiving profits from the increase in its land value.

Charitable institutions will be eligible for an exemption from the tax if they meet a number of requirements. This is a sensible provision. In recognition of the need for further rental developments, build-to-rent developments which are new or substantially renovated buildings with at least 50 self-contained dwellings will also be exempt and be eligible for a land tax exemption. The windfall gains tax will commence from 1 July 2023, providing the industry with enough time to make a smooth transition.

This bill will also be addressing some other things. This bill will introduce a keno tax. Online keno games will have to pay tax for customers based in Victoria. Online keno games has been a space of significant growth, and while in-person games are taxed, online keno games have not been. Once again, in my view, this is a sensible provision.

I originally had an amendment to this bill, and it was around wheelchair taxi fleets. We withdrew the amendment after discussions with the government and in fact discussions with the Treasurer. This Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021 includes provision to extend the motor vehicle duty exemption to private vehicles that are specifically converted for wheelchair access within 12 months after registration or transfer. I brought this to the attention of the Treasurer and pointed out that the taxi fleet which does wheelchairs does not have that same exemption. I thank the government, and I thank the Treasurer. What will be coming up is that with the current motor vehicle duty exemption for wheelchair-accessible vehicles not extending to vehicles providing unbooked commercial passenger vehicle services currently—taxis—and given the importance of maintaining the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, subject to cabinet process the government intends to extend the existing exemption to taxis in the upcoming Victorian budget 2022–23. I thank the government for recognising the very serious issue of maintaining our wheelchair fleet for those with disabilities throughout Victoria. I think that will be all that I will say today.

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (16:48): I rise also to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. It seems to me that this government have a dual agenda: either to lock you down or put their hand in your pocket. There is ‘Take more tax out of Victorians’ or just ‘Lock them down’, and that is what we have seen from this government in their whole term. It is really hard to understand this government, I have to say. On one hand they massively increase the borrowings to try and allegedly reboot the economy. On the other hand they sort of put some shackles on the private sector and stop them from growing, the worst of which we are seeing today in the proposed windfall gains tax, the WGT.

When I heard that we were going to speak on the WGT I automatically thought we were going to talk about the impending or continual cost blowout on the West Gate Tunnel Project. I thought when they said WGT it was the West Gate Tunnel, because we could talk about that for hours—about the mismanagement, the absolute botching of this project that is due to finish in 2022. It is now on the never-never, and people are paying for it through their CityLink fees. People in my electorate in the northern suburbs are paying increased fees on CityLink for a tunnel that (a) is overdue, (b) is over budget and (c) they may never see in their lifetime, it is going that badly. And we add to that the fact that they are taking soil out of the WGT and dumping it on people with no consultation, with no regard for the local community—toxic soil in Bulla and in Ravenhall, as Mr Finn rightly pointed out.

This is another example of a WGT that should not get support in this state. I wonder, when we talk about this windfall gains tax, if there is any single member of the government that has ever run a business—ever had to fight for their own wages, ever put their houses or all their assets on the line to try and generate their own income. Because if they did, they would know the first element of business when you are struggling financially is not to increase your prices, it is to manage your costs. This government simply do not understand how a business is run.

This tax is so bad for so many reasons. They say it is about getting more revenue and perhaps at one point leading to more housing availability, but I question that, because at some point the final purchaser is going to pay the price for this, as things are opened up and people are hit with this windfall gains tax. But what they have not done in any of this is explain to us how they are going to manage the cost line. If you look at the 2021–22 financial report to 30 September 2021, there is a bit of a story in that, and it is pretty grim reading. It shows that the net result from transactions in the first three months of this financial year was a deficit of $6.8 billion against a full-year forecast of $11.6 billion. They said the deficit for the whole financial year is going to be $11.6 billion. Well, at 25 per cent of the financial year it is already at $6.8 billion—60 per cent of the full-year forecast—with still nine months of Daniel Andrews and Tim Pallas trying to manage the money. It does not instil confidence in the investment community. It does not instil confidence in Victorians who are working their hardest just to try and pay their bills.

Victoria’s net debt position does not look any better. In only the three months so far of this financial year, as per the quarterly financial report, we have added $9.5 billion to the debt burden of all Victorians, with a total net debt—hang onto your seat there, Mr Finn—at 30 September being $82.2 billion.

Mr Finn: How much?

Mr ONDARCHIE: $82.2 billion, the highest debt level of this state in its whole history—$82.2 billion. Now, let us just equate that to what it looks like to people in Victoria. That means that every person has about $12 367 worth of debt individually. And what is Tim Pallas’s plan to pay for this debt? His plan is to make sure there are enough taxes going around now—and through the lives of my children and my grandchildren—to pay for his debt. This is the equivalent of Tim Pallas walking into some child’s bedroom tonight, opening up their piggy bank, smashing it into a thousand pieces on the ground and taking all the money out of it—because that is what they are doing. By the end of this financial year, if you follow the projections, net debt is expected to increase to $97.3 billion—to the value of about $14 500 for every person in this state. And we are only three months into the financial year. This government cannot manage money.

Now, you would expect that the members of the government would say, ‘Well, of course someone from the opposition is going to stand up and say that. Of course they’re going to stand up and criticise our ability’. But let us not take my word for it; let us take the report of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO), who handed down in September 2021 their assessment of the performance of major projects in this state. Let me tell you what it says. It says, when it refers to ‘Public reporting of major projects performance’, that the Department of Treasury and Finance:

… and public sector entities’ reporting to Parliament and the public about major projects’ performance is not clear and objective. In particular, there is no easily accessible or timely public reporting that gives a holistic understanding of major projects performance across the public sector.

Not only do we know the projects are going bad; they will not report them accurately. The VAGO goes on to say:

In summary …

Public reporting on major projects is limited by …

data presentation inconsistencies—

and is limited by—

a lack of clarity about who is responsible for each project

Now, we have seen that already in this state just in this term: when things happen and no-one knows who is responsible for them. Take private security guards at hotel quarantine, for example.

Mr Finn: ‘I don’t recall’.

Mr ONDARCHIE: As Mr Finn quietly interjects, the Premier says he does not recall, and nobody in the cabinet recalls who did it. Somebody decided to put private security in there, but nobody knows exactly who it was. But when push came to shove, what did they do? They shoved the Minister for Health out completely. So Ms Mikakos got the Tijuana, because she was the one pushed under the bus. I say to those ministers in this chamber: be very careful about running out the loyalty to Daniel. Be very careful, because I tell you what, when it comes to it he is going to throw you under the bus as well. Be very, very careful.

It goes on to say in the Victorian Auditor-General’s report that:

Public reporting on major projects is limited by …

a lack of information about projects’ performance against their targets

a lack of timely reporting

a lack of reporting about expected benefits

a lack of explanation of changes

And how is this for a doozy. One of the performance issues about major projects is limited by ‘data errors’. It also talks about a lack of sufficient disclosure or explanation of project details, a lack of clarity about the type of investments, about missing major project investments. All round this is a report that says, ‘This government, your government of Victoria, cannot manage money’, and when they find there is not enough money in the till they come back to you—every single time.

I refer to that, and it would be glib of me just to use that as a throwaway line. Let us talk specifically about projects this government are undertaking. The North East Link was promised to cost $5 billion. In the 2021–22 budget it is estimated to be $15.79 billion.

Mr Finn: Come again?

Mr ONDARCHIE: $15.79 billion, Mr Finn. That is a current budget blowout of $10.79 billion. The Metro Tunnel that they promised would be $9 billion—already in the current budget a blowout of $3.43 billion. Regarding the Level Crossing Removal Project, where they often say, ‘Oh well, it doesn’t really matter, as long as we’re getting rid of them’, look at the cost impost. They said it was going to cost $5 billion; it has currently blown out by an initial $3.3 billion. You will recall the east–‍west link. Many Victorians were expecting that by now that would have been built. This is the government that said they were going to cancel the contract, they were going to tear it up, it was not worth the paper it was written on. ‘It’s not going to cost you anything. We’re going to tear it up’. They paid $1.3 billion to cancel it. I remember talking to friends of mine that work in the financial district of London—Canary Wharf. They laughed and, whilst they had the currency incorrect, they said, ‘Are you the people that paid £1.3 billion not to build a road?’. Of course they meant dollars. But we are the laughing stock of the investment community. We paid $1.3 billion not to do something.

The West Gate Tunnel Project—one of Mr Finn’s favourite projects, I say sarcastically—$500 million they said it would cost. Let me get that right for you: $500 million—

Mr Finn: Shovel ready.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Well, you know what shovel ready is in this state. Five hundred million dollars it was promised, the cost of the West Gate Tunnel. The revised project cost was then $5.5 billion—from $500 million to $5.5 billion—but hold your horses, it does not stop there, because it is now at $6.3 billion off a base of $500 million. The Victorian Heart Hospital has not been built yet—I think we are still waiting for it. They said it would cost $150 million. Well, the estimate in the current budget is $564 million, a budget blowout of $414 million. The Cranbourne line duplication—$750 million they said; the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) said it is going to be over $1 billion. The Caulfield to Dandenong conventional signalling upgrade—they said $360 million; the budget now says it is about $608 million. The Murray Basin rail project, $567.7 million; $794.4 million in the current budget. The Mordialloc Freeway, they said $300 million; the cost blowout now is about $223 million. The Hurstbridge line upgrade, $530 million; the PBO said it is probably closer to $169 million over budget. The Cranbourne-Pakenham line, $132.3 million over budget; the Ballarat line, $114.4 million over budget; the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital redevelopment, $105 million over budget; the Gippsland rail revival project, $97.4 million over budget; the Bendigo–Echuca line revival, $84.3 million.

It sounds like I am doing a telethon here, but sadly this is not money coming in: it is money going out. The Ballarat Health Services expansion, $80 million over budget. Goulburn Valley Health, which I know Ms Lovell has been talking about, $58.2 million over budget. The Seaford stabling project, $52.6 million over budget. The Hoddle Street upgrade that was designed to improve traffic conditions on Hoddle Street—it has not made one iota of difference—is $48.6 million over budget.

A member: How much?

Mr ONDARCHIE: $48.6 million over budget. They said originally $60 million to save cars time—it has not saved any time at all. The current cost in the budget is $108.6 million. Frankston Hospital, $43 million over budget; Plenty Road upgrade, $40 million over budget; Warrnambool railway line, $36 million over budget; Casey Hospital, $33.5 million; Yan Yean Road, $31 million. The Fines Victoria project—there have been a lot of fines issued lately; some of them have not been collected, and we will let people deal with that—is $20.3 million over budget; $20.1 million over budget for the congestion package around the transport network; the future emergency alert, $18.2 million; and the Ballarat bus interchange, $17.4 million.

I could keep going and going. Sadly I do not have enough time, but I have got pages and pages and pages of budget blowout after budget blowout after budget blowout. I am told the weather might be cold over the next few days. It is probably going to be that cold that Tim Pallas will have his hands in his own pockets, it will be that cold, because that is what this government do. They just cannot manage money. It is just cost blowout after cost blowout on projects that are going south from a financial perspective, and what is their first port of call? It is not, ‘Gee whiz, we should stop and have a look at these projects. We should have a look at what the Victorian Auditor-General is saying. We should dive deep into these projects and make sure Victorians are getting good value for their money’. No, they do not want to do any of that. The first thing is, ‘Let’s hit the people of Victoria with more taxes’.

It is another tax, another tax, another tax, from the Premier who said the day before the state election in 2014 there would be no new or increased taxes under any government that he led. Maybe he cannot recall that he said that now. Maybe he cannot recall a lot of things that he has said, but I tell you what: Victorians are sick and tired of this government wasting money and then coming back to them for more. How about you do what people should do in the first instance and look at the cost line. The WGT, the windfall gains tax, should be opposed today, and they should focus on the other WGT, and that is getting the West Gate Tunnel Project right.

Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (17:03): I will be brief. The Liberal Democrats will never vote for an increase in taxes or a reduction in liberty. This bill will increase taxes, so we oppose it. It is that simple. The government tells us this bill is not about tax revenue—it is only a few hundred million, a drop in the bucket. We are happy to call that bluff. If it is not about revenue, then the government would not mind reducing a different tax by a similar amount. You could reduce registration fees, lower stamp duty, reduce payroll tax or abolish any of the petty taxes on anything from insurance to parking. If you did any of these things to offset the tax increase, then we probably could support this bill, but you will not do that.

The government cares about every dollar it can squeeze out of taxpayers, and that is all it cares about. This is a shame because there are many improvements that could be made to our taxation system that would not result in revenue increases. The Liberal Democrats recognise the value in efficient taxes. The best taxes cause less distortion in the economy, cost little to administer and internalise costs that would otherwise fall on third parties. Replacing the existing stamp duty with a Georgist land value tax would represent an enormous economic benefit to the state with no change to government revenue. Tax efficiency changes should be non-partisan no-brainers, but they are rarely considered because tax reform is not sexy and will not sell newspapers.

The government has aimed this tax at the evil property developers, speculators and land bankers who are profiting at the expense of ordinary Victorians who only want to build a house or buy a house. While I have no doubt that this kind of thing does go on—it may be difficult to see the big picture across the entirety of Melbourne, but land-banking developers become very obvious in smaller regional markets like Wodonga—it is wrong to single out the developers as the sole villains of the picture. Local and state government planning rules are the major culprit in limiting land supply and keeping prices rising. Many zoning decisions at the local government level are currently corrupt moves by councils to channel cash to developers, and giving the state government an incentive to cause windfall gains so they can tax them is unlikely to make things better.

Many so-called windfall gains are only the market jumping to where it would have been if zoning has not held the prices down. The windfall gains tax is not the worst tax imaginable, but Victorians already pay too much tax as it is, and imposing additional taxes on housing with no cuts anywhere else can only push up the cost of housing. There is no way that moving more money from developers to government cuts house prices. Without a corresponding reduction in taxes, we cannot support this bill.

The tax breaks for build-to-rent developments are probably largely pointless. It probably will lead to a small increase in property available to rent to lower income earners. It is certainly no silver bullet lowering housing costs.

We do not like sin taxes, so we are not really in favour of the keno tax. We think you should be cutting sin taxes, not broadening the base. Separately, we have an issue with the removal of land tax exemptions for gender-restrictive clubs. This is going to impact women-only clubs especially, which we can only assume is the collateral damage of a virtue-signalling measure. Or, if there is instead a wink and a nudge that it only really applies to male-restrictive clubs, it is an example of poor legislative practice and draws into question the integrity of the State Revenue Office commissioner in enforcing this. More generally I think that both women and men can sometimes have exclusive spaces without causing the world to end or derailing gender liberation. And if you would not want to belong to a club that excluded the opposite gender, you can demonstrate your virtue by not joining that club. This just seems a little mean spirited to me. I will note that I do not belong to any gender-exclusive or gender-restrictive clubs, but then again I do not think I belong to any clubs at all. In short, the Liberal Democrats will not be supporting this bill.

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:08): I rise to speak on the Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021. We will not be supporting this bill. However, I am using a bit of my time today to talk about something I regularly speak about and that is the disparity between regional Victoria and suburban and metro Melbourne. I am making these statements on this bill because it is the unintended consequence of disincentivising investment and development in regional Victoria—that is, even further than what currently exists.

As some may know, I recently asked the Parliamentary Budget Office to look into the financial inequity of government spending in regional areas of Victoria. The report found that regional Victorians receive around 11 per cent less government asset investment than their metropolitan counterparts. It shows that in the 2021–22 state budget the current government is investing $17 100 per person in assets for metropolitan residents and $15 351 for regional residents, and this is not new.

We know that regional Victorians are already worse off when it comes to basically everything: income, infrastructure, access to specialists, even their rates of heart attack. I recently found out, on World Heart Day, that heart disease deaths are at least 50 per cent higher in some parts of my electorate than in Melbourne’s inner east. I digress from housing, but you can see that in almost every facet of life regional Victorians are supporting their metro counterparts without adequate support for them from the government.

If we talk about housing, which is essentially what this bill really impacts, then we need to look at how this bill may impact the regional Victorian housing crisis, and I do not say ‘crisis’ loosely either. If you find a job in somewhere like Moyne shire, Colac Otway shire, Horsham, Warracknabeal or Nhill—the list goes on—good luck finding long-term accommodation. Regional Victoria has defied the government’s assumption that regional towns would be wiped out. They are prospering and their industries are growing, but they need housing. Housing is not just important for attracting and sustaining employment; it is important so that children in these townships feel they can stay and invest in the area they were raised but also for crisis accommodation—for example, I have heard since very early on, when I became an MP, that women fleeing domestic violence often have nowhere to go with their children, and I am sad to say that I still hear the same stories.

While I have to say I support the idea behind a windfall gains tax, where you hand back some of the profit on rezoned land to the people of Victoria, the way this is being done is inequitable. I do not think there is much opposition to the fact that if by the stroke of a pen you make $10 million overnight, you should have to return some of that to Victorians—the court of public opinion would be supportive of that change; however, when you introduce a tax that will only encourage the government to look to certain areas to develop because it is cheaper, that is where the problem lies.

I was glad to see the government go back to the drawing board after many conversations following the announcement of the tax at budget time this year. I will say that I appreciate the sensible changes made to the tax as a result of this extended consultation, including extending the time line to transition to this new model; a tax-free threshold of $100 000; the exemption of very small lots of up to 2 hectares with a dwelling on the land; the exemption of rezoning to a rural zone, with a few exceptions; exempting land that is owned exclusively for charitable purposes for 15 years after rezoning; but the one big exemption of concern is rezonings to and from urban growth zones within the growth areas infrastructure contribution areas.

The growth areas infrastructure contribution was brought in in 2010 to create a mechanism to collect money from developers that would go towards necessary and essential infrastructure. This was obviously needed as populations grew in those areas, and it was funded by the uplift of value in the area as a result of rezoned land within the urban growth boundary. The GAIC, as it is known, and the windfall gains tax have the same intent generally, but they are implemented quite differently and at different rates. The GAIC, for instance, has a set price per hectare depending on the type of land it is. Type A land has a $100 000 GAIC uplift rate per hectare, and this, certainly for developers, creates a further divide between these highly sought after parcels of land in urban growth zones and land in regional and rural Victoria, which lands in the too-hard basket.

For context, places like Hume, Melton, Mitchell and Wyndham have a GAIC, but because they have this tax developers looking in this area would not pay the windfall gains tax. I spoke to Ararat Rural City Council about this proposal, and it is safe to say they were very worried this would only hinder their goal to attract more workers and investment into their local government area. As a very simplistic example of how this could impact investment in Ararat council, under the proposed windfall gains tax you could have Ararat land worth $2 million, or $10 000 per hectare. After it is rezoned it could have a total land value of $60 million, or $300 000 per hectare. The value uplift would be $58 million, and so $29 million, or $145 000 per hectare, would be payable to the government on this tax.

Conversely, under the GAIC, an example the council supplied stated that a developer could purchase 16 acres of residential land for $640 000 per hectare in Beveridge within the City of Whittlesea. The GAIC would be $48 266 per hectare under the current rates. The difference between the two is clearly what the disparity could be per hectare, not even taking into account the greater profits that will inevitably be made in Melbourne’s fringes per acre over that in Ararat, but also the windfall gain is paid by the property owner. This person is not necessarily a developer. Think about the competitive advantage you have in Melbourne where the blocks are small, meaning less electricity lines need to be put in, less sewerage lines—you can squeeze more property into less land. Rural areas do not have these luxuries to attract development.

To repeat the phrase of not only Ararat council, this approach by the government creates a two-tiered tax system and certainly disincentivises investment in regional Victoria for housing and commercial developments. The government has said that those who pay the GAIC also pay other developer contributions, but we know that all planning schemes have provisions for contributions by developers, and indeed in a number of areas in the state this occurs—Surf Coast, Geelong, Ararat, Mildura, Warrnambool and plenty of others have a contribution scheme. Ararat, for example, have a public open space contribution which is up to 5 per cent of the unimproved capital value of the developable land. Not only this, but it seems my electorate is seeing blow after blow when it comes to housing. Many, many areas in my electorate were just excluded from the Victorian Homebuyer Fund.

This is a scheme where the government will share the equity of a property in order to help you purchase a property. Whatever your view of the tax itself, this leg-up should have been offered equitably. Stawell, a place with just three rentals available, which I might add is more than usual, did not get a look in. Aireys Inlet, Hamilton, Anglesea, Beaufort and Avoca are also on the blacklist. What is wrong with these towns? Should we not be encouraging people to buy in small towns like this? At the end of the day there is a maximum threshold for house prices, so it is not as if millionaires are able to exploit the scheme. Just recently the Council to Homeless Persons CEO, Jenny Smith, said rising rents and low vacancy rates were pushing more people into homelessness. She said, and I quote:

Vacancy rates across South Western Victoria have been below 1 per cent for over a year and rents have jumped 12 per cent.

Dare I make the point again that we need more housing in Western Victoria. Rural townships are screaming out for it, but instead we receive a tax system that will further ingrain them as undesirable places to invest money, and this is the opposite of what we need right now. It is for this reason that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party cannot support this bill.

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (17:16): I thank members for their contributions to the second-reading debate on this bill today. There are a number of amendments that have been proposed and foreshadowed during the course of the debate from the opposition and indeed from Dr Ratnam from the Greens as well, and I am sure there will be things that we will canvass in a bit of detail around those issues during the committee stage. But it is very pleasing to see the progression through the Parliament of this important legislation.

This was announced as part of the 2021–22 budget. There has been extensive consultation, as foreshadowed at that date by the Treasurer and indeed parliamentary secretaries Bull and Dimopoulos, and we thank them for their work on this as well in terms of consulting with stakeholders and experts. We certainly are very excited about the build-to-rent initiative that is part of this bill. The windfall gains tax is the central reform that the bill proposes, and that has been the subject of much of the commentary during the course of the afternoon’s debate, but in addition to those two measures there are also a number of minor and technical changes that are included.

There are a couple of things that I would just seek to clarify. A point of clarification for the record with respect to clause 40(1)(c): a request to council for a rezoning of land made on behalf of the owner of the land pursuant to a development agreement is considered to be a request made by the owner of the land for the purpose of clause 40(1)(c). Similarly, where significant costs—that is, relevant work and relevant costs—above the threshold are incurred by a person on behalf of the owner of the land pursuant to a development agreement, these are considered to have been incurred by the owner of the land for the purpose of clause 40(1)(c). For these actions to be considered to be the actions of the owner of the land, the development agreement must have been executed by all relevant parties and be in force. The commissioner of state revenue must be satisfied that significant costs have been incurred by the owner or a person on behalf of the owner prior to 15 May 2021. Landowners will therefore need to provide supporting documentation.

Mr Barton, in his contribution to the second-reading debate, indicated he had earlier been pursuing an amendment that he subsequently determined not to pursue, having had some discussions with my colleagues, and I thank him for his constructive engagement, as is indeed the way Mr Barton consistently does his work in this place. But I would like to make a few comments to provide that comfort to Mr Barton regarding the availability of commercial passenger vehicles that are fitted out as wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The government is committed to supporting quality access to CPVs for Victorians with accessibility and mobility needs. Currently we do this in several ways: a 50 per cent fare subsidy up to $60 through the multipurpose taxi program—in 2018–19, the most recent non-pandemic year, these subsidies were worth about $60 million; secondly, the lifting of fees of $21.80 for wheelchair-accessible vehicles and $10.90 for non-wheelchair-accessible vehicles for carrying wheelchair or mobility scooter passengers—in 2018–19 these subsidies were worth $21 million; thirdly, the performance-based booking system scheme, which rewards booking service providers for meeting KPIs relating to timely delivery of services in wheelchair-accessible vehicles—in 2018–19 this scheme paid out $1 million; and wheelchair-accessible vehicle subsidies, which pay non-metro operators the difference in purchase price between a conventional vehicle and a wheelchair-accessible vehicle—in 2018–19 these subsidies were worth $1.1 million.

The Windfall Gains Tax and State Taxation and Other Acts Further Amendment Bill 2021 includes provisions to extend the motor vehicle duty exemptions to private vehicles that are specially converted for wheelchair access within 12 months after registration or transfer. However, the current motor vehicle duty exemption for wheelchair-accessible vehicles does not extend to vehicles providing unbooked commercial passenger vehicle services—for example, taxis. Given the importance of maintaining numbers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles the government intends to, subject to usual cabinet process, consider extending the existing exemption to taxis as part of the 2022–23 budget. The government is committed to continuing to work with Mr Barton on this important issue, and in doing so I thank him for his advocacy on behalf of the commercial passenger vehicle industry but also the travelling public and particularly those who need particular types of vehicles to meet their needs. It is a matter that Mr Barton is very passionate about, and we thank him for that. We look forward to working with him in the way that I have just outlined. I commend the bill to the house and look forward to the committee stage.

House divided on motion:

Ayes, 21
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Elasmar, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Erdogan, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Gepp, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Hayes, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Noes, 16
Atkinson, Mr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bach, Dr Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Bath, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Bourman, Mr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Cumming, Dr Maxwell, Ms Rich-Phillips, Mr
Davis, Mr

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.

Committed.

Committee

Clause 1 (17:30)

Mr DAVIS: I have a few general questions on the first clause, and I think that this is probably the best place to move to for these. I want to understand the government’s methodology in its estimates of how much revenue will be raised, because the information provided to me by many in the property development sector is quite divergent from what the government is suggesting. The budget papers—and the minister has probably got those in front of her—have relatively modest amounts of collections available there. We asked at the briefing. In fact the government is sort of indicating it might even be revising down its estimates modestly. However, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) said in its modelling:

… on the basis of just seven case studies, each project will be rendered unviable and will not proceed. This will reduce housing supply by 6,696 dwellings—

on seven projects—

(including over 300 affordable, social or disabled access dwellings), cost … 20,000 direct jobs and … 100,000 indirect jobs and reduce Victoria’s economic output by nearly $7.5 billion. Importantly, we estimate that this will cost the State Budget $170 million in forgone Stamp Duty receipts, with a total economic loss to the State of $7.7 billion.

The Government has not provided any modelling whatsoever, let alone modelling to rebut this.

Although we ask the Opposition to oppose Parts 1 to 6 of the Bill, as well as any consequential provisions, we also ask for your support to prepare and table a series of amendments to improve the Bill if it proceeds to Committee Stage …

That is effectively what we have done. We have worked with the property sector to develop a series of amendments. But my first question to the minister is: how have the government’s revenue estimates been arrived at? Is there modelling, and if so, will the minister release it?

Ms PULFORD: At the May 2021–22 budget it was estimated that the windfall gains tax would raise around $124 million over the forward estimates. As I think Mr Davis indicated really in asking his question, this amount is expected to be lower as a result of the changes that have been made following stakeholder consultation. So on those changes to the policy parameters and the commencement date, further work will be undertaken to estimate the revenue that the new policy settings would generate, and the updated estimates will be published in the 2021–22 budget update. So forecast revenue will be calculated by the Department of Treasury and Finance consistent with the normal budget practice and based on best available data. I am advised that it is established practice for the Department of Treasury and Finance to not share its modelling publicly.

Mr DAVIS: That does not fill me with confidence, and I think the Treasury could have provided some detail of that. There is nothing to stop them doing that. I should say the UDIA went on:

Analysis by UDIA Victoria members indicates that a 50 per cent uplift tax on a hypothetical 20-hectare site in regional Victoria will equate to a tax rate of approximately $250,000 per hectare. This is more than double the GAIC levied in metropolitan Melbourne. We agree that land subject to GAIC should be exempt from the application of the tax, although as a matter of equity, a failure to cap the rezoning tax at the GAIC rate will place regional Victoria at a competitive disadvantage …

Why should we not accept the estimates of the UDIA that the tax is likely to equate to around $250 000 per hectare? If it is not that, how much is it, and how has the government arrived at that figure?

Ms PULFORD: We have, through that consultation and engagement with industry, provided some advice about how such calculations would be made. The best estimate at the time of the announcement was around $40 million a year, and as I indicated earlier, we will provide a further update based on updated data another year later in the forthcoming budget. I guess, Mr Davis, you are talking about a hypothetical piece of land that has experienced a hypothetical zoning. I understand that that is kind of the spirit in which you asked the question as well—

Mr DAVIS: Well, I am quoting a case study that has been put out by an industry association. That is why I am doing that.

Ms PULFORD: We expect it will vary from year to year, the revenue, and that is why the estimate has been given over the period of the forward estimates.

Mr DAVIS: How much does the government expect to collect per hectare on average from this?

Ms PULFORD: If I could just make a comment on that industry modelling that you are referring to. It, as I am advised, assumes that the tax will be calculated on increased value of the land over time when in fact it is at a particular point in time rather than separate durations, so the parcel of land immediately before and after the rezoning, and that is the only shift, not the other shifts that occur in the market, and that is why the modelling that you are quoting from industry gives quite significantly greater numbers.

Mr DAVIS: It is not my understanding of how the industry modelling is done, but nonetheless the question remains, Minister: how much per hectare is the government modelling it will collect?

Ms PULFORD: That will depend on how much land is rezoned each year, so it is a bit too hypothetical a scenario to be able to give you a dollar-per-hectare figure. Again, I am advised that when industry commissioned the modelling that you are referring to it was based on an assumption that has subsequently been explained to the industry as not an accurate interpretation of how this is going to work.

Mr DAVIS: I am not sure—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Mr Davis, hang on. Can we wait until the minister is finished and then I will give you the call.

Ms PULFORD: I am doing my best to explain this, so bear with us. The industry modelling was commissioned based on some assumptions about how this would work that just were not right, and industry has been subsequently advised about how it will work.

Mr DAVIS: Even if what you say is right—and I am not sure it quite is, but leaving that aside—there still must be modelling around a likely uplift per hectare that the government expects to achieve. Now, I understand there will be different numbers of hectares each year, but there must be some estimate per hectare of how much the government expects to take through this tax.

Ms PULFORD: It will vary depending on what zone a parcel of land, or a number of parcels of land, goes from and to and the location where it is. And the planning decisions have not been made, so we are talking about future planning decisions on zones, and it is not possible to jump into the future and imagine what those will be and what the value change will be in future years. So that is why I cannot give you a per-hectare average price, because those things will be determined by future planning decisions that will occur quite separate to the operation of the tax.

Mr DAVIS: And yet the government has modelling that estimates an amount to be taken for the budget, so you must have some mechanism for working out how much per hectare is likely to be taken. You must have some mechanism, otherwise you would not be able to work it out. Without doing some estimate, how can you possibly work out how much tax will be collected?

Ms PULFORD: Again, I repeat my earlier answer: at the time that the decision on this windfall gains tax was announced there was an estimate of $124 million over the forward estimates. That amount is now expected to be lower as a result of the changes that have been made, and the updates to forecasts—and they will be just forecasts—will be made in the budget and will reflect the policy changes that have occurred as a result of the consultation. I am trying to be as forthcoming as I possibly can, but without knowing where future zonings will be, what they will be and what the value will be before and after those at a future point in time, it is not possible for me to say.

Mr DAVIS: Minister, I am not going to labour the point, but essentially my point is as follows: you have got estimates of how much the government expects to receive, so, going backwards, you must have been able to calculate how much uplift there is to levy the tax, and there must be a certain amount of land that is in the modelling. Now, I accept the modelling might not be perfect and I accept it is looking into the future—I get all that—but there must be a volume of land that has been modelled and an uplift to have achieved an estimate at all and put it in the budget.

Ms PULFORD: If this assists: there are no estimates. This is not based on estimates of how much land is expected to be rezoned or what its value is. I guess one of the key inputs here has been looking backward rather than forward and then accounting for estimates of changes in land value and estimates of inflation.

Mr DAVIS: I will just record that I am unpersuaded, and I will leave it at that. The point, I think, here is our amendments to clause 1, so this is amendments 1 to 3. Deputy President, as I understand it, the advice is to put the question that the suggested amendments be agreed to, but I understand the clerks are proposing that if they are agreed to clause 1 will stand postponed. Is that correct? You might just want to elucidate the sequence of this for the chamber. Essentially, for the chamber’s benefit, these amendments relate to the purposes clause and the references to the windfall gains tax and seek to delete those references from the purposes clause.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The reason we would move your amendments 1 to 3 and then the clause would be postponed is that we cannot actually amend that clause. The amendments are only suggested, so the suggested amendments would go to the Assembly and they would adopt them.

Mr DAVIS: But we would move them nonetheless?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Yes.

Ms PULFORD: They are suggested amendments because procedurally it cannot be done. But in terms of the sequencing question that Mr Davis was asking, per the running sheet, numerical order is the plan. Is that right?

Mr DAVIS: In that case, I move:

1. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 1, lines 4 to 6, omit paragraph (a).

2. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 1, page 3, lines 6 and 7, omit subparagraph (vi).

3. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 1, page 3, lines 8 and 9, omit paragraph (h).

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I remind members that under sections 62 and 64 of the Constitution Act 1975, the Council does not have the power to make amendments to certain clauses of this bill that impose a tax or make appropriation from the Consolidated Fund. No question will be put on these clauses and any proposed amendments must be in the form of a suggestion to the Assembly. Standing order 14.15 sets out the procedure for dealing with suggested amendments.

Committee divided on suggested amendments:

Ayes, 14
Atkinson, Mr Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Bach, Dr Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Bath, Ms Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms Rich-Phillips, Mr
Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Noes, 22
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Leane, Mr

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 2 to 4—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 9(17:56)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

4. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 9, line 4, before “The rate” insert “(1)”.

5. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 9, before line 6 insert—

“(2) Despite subsection (1), the amount of windfall gains tax payable on land in regional Victoria that is rezoned by a WGT event cannot exceed the amount of the growth areas infrastructure contribution that would have been payable in relation to the land under Part 9B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 if—

(a) the land were in the contribution area within the meaning of section 201RC of that Act; and

(b) a GAIC event within the meaning of section 201R of that Act occurred in relation to the land at the same time that the WGT event occurred.

(3) In this section—

regional Victoria has the same meaning as in section 18(8) of the First Home Owner Grant and Home Buyer Schemes Act 2000.”.

Effectively these are moved together, as I understand it, on advice. What they seek to do: the amount of windfall gains tax payable on land in regional Victoria that is rezoned by a WGT event cannot exceed the amount of the growth areas infrastructure contribution that would have been payable in relation to land under part 9B of the Planning and Environment Act. What this means in effect is that the windfall gains tax is set higher than the GAIC. This is obviously quite unfair, because country Victoria and other parts of the city will be clobbered and disadvantaged exactly in comparison to the GAIC. So this seeks to limit the amount that is payable to the amount that would have been paid if it was a GAIC event.

Ms PULFORD: If I could comment, because I know it came up a bit in the second-reading debate as well, on this suggestion that this tax will fall disproportionately on regional Victoria, I just want to indicate to the house that that is not what will happen. The windfall gains tax applies to Melbourne as well as regional Victoria, with the exception, as members have noted, of rezonings to and from the urban growth zone within the GAIC areas. The GAIC area only covers a fraction of the land in Melbourne. DTF has looked at recent rezonings across Victoria and estimates that had the WGT been in place in the last three years 70 per cent of revenue would have come from rezonings in Melbourne and 30 per cent from regional Victoria. The revenue raised by the GAIC in Melbourne dwarfs the revenue projected to be raised by the WGT. The 2021–22 budget forecasts an average of around $340 million a year from GAIC compared to an average of around $40 million a year from this initiative over the forward estimates period.

Committee divided on suggested amendments:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Noes, 22
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Leane, Mr

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 10 (18:04)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

6. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 10, lines 8 to 10, omit all words and expressions on these lines and insert—

“The taxable value uplift of land is the value uplift of the land less any of the following deductions that are applicable—

(a) any remediation costs incurred by the owner of the land in relation to the land;

(b) any holding costs incurred by the owner of the land in relation to the land;

(c) any deductions prescribed by the regulations.”.

This amendment amends clause 10, and it specifically tries to deal with the issue of the value uplift in light of holding costs, remediation costs and costs prescribed by regulations. It seeks to deduct those from any levying of the WGT.

Ms PULFORD: Just briefly, the government will be opposing this. We have extensively consulted with industry in support of devising the final settings for the windfall gains tax. Remediation costs are already to be taken into account as part of the valuation process that the valuer-general undertakes.

The other point that I would make about the manner in which this amendment has been constructed is there is no definition of what remediation costs and holding costs are. Holding costs in particular are particularly ambiguous, and we are concerned that they could be interpreted to include almost anything.

The other point I would make about this is there is no period specified for determining the holding costs. We disagree with Mr Davis’s policy objective here, and we also are concerned that the way in which this amendment has been drafted would create a very big loophole.

Committee divided on suggested amendment:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Noes, 21
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms

Suggested amendment negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 11 to 25—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 (18:13)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Mr Davis, I invite you to move your suggested amendments 7 to 9, which are a test for your amendments 10 to 15.

Mr DAVIS: I move:

7. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 27, after line 29 insert—

property developer has the meaning given by section 29A;”.

8. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 27, page 21, after line 4 insert—

relevant property developer means a transferee who makes an election under section 30A(2);

relevant property development transaction has the meaning given by section 30A;”.

9. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 27, page 21, line 10, after “30(2)” insert “or a relevant property developer has elected to assume under section 30A(2)”.

The short story on this is that these amendments, 7 to 9, and the new clauses that flow from 10 onwards insert new definitions. These definitions have been sought by many in the property sector. They understand that where they have commercial arrangements with landholders and others there needs to be clarity in terms of this new tax, and this series of definitions has been carefully thought through to actually get a fairer outcome. Just confirming what the Deputy President says, I understand that the test for amendments 7 to 9 is also a test for amendments 10 to 15.

Ms PULFORD: The government will not be supporting these amendments. They propose a very, very broad definition of ‘property developer’, and we are okay with the current definition.

Committee divided on suggested amendments:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Noes, 22
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Leane, Mr

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 28 to 35—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Suggested new part heading and new clauses (18:19)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

16. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Page 27, after line 12 insert the following Part heading—

“Part 4A—Work-in-kind agreements”.

17. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Insert the following New Clauses to follow clause 35 and the heading proposed by amendment number 16—

“35A Definitions

In this Part—

Victorian Planning Authority means the Victorian Planning Authority established under section 4 of the Victorian Planning Authority Act 2017;

work-in-kind agreement means an agreement entered into in accordance with section 35B and includes that agreement as amended in accordance with section 35F.

35B Treasurer may enter into agreements

(1) The Treasurer may, in accordance with this Part, enter into an agreement with a person for the provision by that person of land or works or a combination of land and works to meet the whole or part of that person’s liability or expected liability to pay windfall gains tax (a work-in-kind agreement).

(2) A work-in-kind agreement may be entered into with other parties in addition to the person liable to pay the windfall gains tax.

Note

Other parties may include another Minister or a public authority or an owner of land affected by the work-in-kind agreement.

(3) The land or works to be provided under a work in kind agreement must be of the following type—

(a) capital works for State funded public transport infrastructure;

(b) works for transport infrastructure including walking and cycling but excluding major public transport infrastructure;

(c) works for community infrastructure including health facilities, education facilities, regional libraries, neighbourhood houses and major recreation facilities;

(d) works for environmental infrastructure including regional open space, trails and creek protection;

(e) works for economic infrastructure including providing access to information and technology and infrastructure supporting the development of commerce and industry;

(f) land and works for other infrastructure necessary or required for the establishment or maintenance of any infrastructure referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e).

(4) A work-in-kind agreement relating to windfall gains tax must be entered into before the day on which the tax is payable.

(5) A work-in-kind agreement relating to windfall gains tax may be entered into in conjunction with the deferral of that tax under Part 4.

(6) Before agreeing to enter into a work-in-kind agreement, the Treasurer must consult with any other Minister that the Treasurer considers has a relevant interest in the subject matter of the agreement.

35C Matters to be included in a work-in-kind agreement

(1) A work-in-kind agreement must include the following matters—

(a) a description of any works to be carried out under the agreement;

(b) a description of the land on which any works are to be carried out under the agreement;

(c) a description of any land to be transferred under the agreement;

(d) the due date by which the agreement or any stage of the agreement is to be performed;

(e) the agreed value of any land to be transferred under the agreement or the agreed value of any works to be carried out under the agreement or the agreed value of the combination of both of those things (as the case requires) (the value of the work-in-kind agreement);

(f) the method or methods for calculating the value of works to be carried out under the agreement if they are only partly carried out;

(g) dispute resolution procedures;

(h) any other matters that the Treasurer thinks appropriate.

(2) A work-in-kind agreement may include provisions setting out the circumstances in which the agreement is ended wholly or as to any part of the land affected by the agreement.

35D Work-in-kind agreement may contain restriction on land dealings

(1) A work-in-kind agreement may contain a term that restricts a person, who has entered into the agreement to meet a liability to pay windfall gains tax or another person who is a party to the agreement, from any dealing or dealings with the following land unless the person has obtained the consent of the Treasurer—

(a) land that is to be transferred under the agreement;

(b) land on which works are to be carried out under the agreement (other than Crown land);

(c) the whole or part of the land in respect of which the windfall gains tax is imposed.

(2) In this section, dealing, in relation to land, includes entering into any sale, transaction or arrangement, or obtaining or granting any lease, licence or approval, with respect to the land, or making any improvements of a durable nature to the land, but does not include any of the following—

(a) a sale of any of the land to the person to whom the land is to be transferred under the work-in-kind agreement;

(b) any approvals relating to a plan of subdivision of the land to enable a sale of land for the purposes of paragraph (a);

(c) any works required to be carried out on the land under the work-in-kind agreement or approvals relating to those works;

(d) the discharging of the whole or any part of the land from any mortgage affecting that land.

35E Copy of work-in-kind agreement must be given to Commissioner and Victorian Planning Authority

The Treasurer must give the Commissioner and the Victorian Planning Authority a copy of a work-in-kind agreement entered into under this Part.

35F Amendment of work-in-kind agreement

(1) The Treasurer may, with the agreement of the person who has entered into a work-in-kind agreement to meet a liability to pay the windfall gains tax and all other parties to the agreement, amend the agreement to vary the terms of, or the parties to, the agreement.

(2) The Treasurer must give to the Commissioner and the Victorian Planning Authority a copy of a work-in-kind agreement amended under subsection (1).

35G Ending of work-in-kind agreement

(1) The Treasurer may, with the agreement of the person who has entered into a work-in-kind agreement to meet a liability to pay the windfall gains tax and all other parties to the agreement, end a work-in-kind agreement.

(2) The Treasurer must notify, in writing, the Commissioner and the Victorian Planning Authority of the ending of a work-in-kind agreement under subsection (1).

(3) The power to end a work-in-kind agreement under subsection (1) is in addition to any other right that the Treasurer has to end a work-in-kind agreement in accordance with the agreement or at law.

35H Work-in-kind agreements to be recorded by Registrar of Titles

(1) The Treasurer must apply to the Registrar of Titles to record a work-in-kind agreement on any folio of the Register relating to the following land (the land affected by the work-in-kind agreement)—

(a) land that is to be transferred under the agreement;

(b) land on which works are to be carried out under the agreement (other than Crown land);

(c) the whole or part of the land in respect of which the windfall gains tax relating to the agreement is imposed.

(2) An application must—

(a) be in a form approved by the Registrar of Titles; and

(b) be accompanied by a copy of the work-in-kind agreement.

(3) The Registrar of Titles, on receiving an application that complies with subsection (2), may make a recording on each folio of the Register relating to land affected by the work-in-kind agreement.

(4) After the making of a recording in the Register—

(a) the burden of any covenant in the work-in-kind agreement runs with the land affected by that burden; and

(b) the Treasurer may enforce the covenant against any person deriving title from any person who entered into the covenant as if it were a restrictive covenant despite the fact that it may be positive in nature or that it is not for the benefit of any land of the Crown.

(5) The Treasurer must apply to the Registrar of Titles—

(a) if an amendment is made to the work-in-kind agreement, for the Registrar of Titles to remove the existing agreement from each folio of land on which the agreement is recorded and record the amended agreement on each folio of the Register relating to land affected by the work-in-kind agreement; or

(b) if a work-in-kind agreement is ended wholly or as to any part of the land, for the Registrar of Titles to, as appropriate, remove in whole or in part the recording of the agreement from any folio of the Register on which the agreement is recorded.

(6) An application under subsection (5) must—

(a) be in a form approved by the Registrar of Titles; and

(b) in the case of a work-in-kind agreement that has been amended, be accompanied by a copy of the agreement in its amended form.

(7) The Registrar of Titles, on receiving an application that complies with subsection (6), may (as the case may be)—

(a) remove the existing agreement from each folio of land on which the agreement is recorded and record the amended agreement on each folio of the Register relating to land affected by the work-in-kind agreement; or

(b) as appropriate, remove in whole or in part the recording of the agreement from any folio of the Register on which the agreement is recorded.

35I Restrictions on dealings with land

(1) A person, who is subject to a restriction on dealing with land that has been specified in a work-in-kind agreement in accordance with section 35D, must not, without the consent of the Treasurer, enter into or effect such a dealing with that land (within the meaning of section 35D) while the agreement is in force.

(2) Nothing in this section prevents—

(a) a mortgagee from exercising a power of foreclosure or sale in respect of the whole or any part of land that is subject to a restriction referred to in subsection (1); or

(b) an application to the Registrar of Titles for the registration of a charge in respect of unpaid tax (within the meaning of the Taxation Administration Act 1997) over the whole or any part of land that is subject to a restriction referred to in subsection (1).

35J Entering into a work-in-kind agreement does not discharge lability for windfall gains tax

The entering into a work-in-kind agreement by a person to meet the whole or part of a liability to pay the windfall gains tax does not discharge the person from that liability.

Note

It is not until the person performs their obligations in accordance with the work-in-kind agreement that the value of the land or works provided can be taken to be a payment towards the windfall gains tax owed (see section 35M).

35K Person must notify the Victorian Planning Authority of performance of agreement

A person who has entered into a work-in-kind agreement to meet a liability to pay windfall gains tax must, without delay, notify the Victorian Planning Authority in writing of the following—

(a) the performance of the agreement;

(b) the performance of any stage of the agreement that must be performed by a due date specified in the agreement;

(c) if the agreement is not wholly performed by the due date for performance, how much of the agreement has been performed.

35L Victorian Planning Authority must determine whether agreement has been performed

(1) The Victorian Planning Authority acting on behalf of the Treasurer must, after receiving notification under section 35K, determine the following—

(a) whether a work-in-kind agreement or a stage of a work-in-kind agreement, which has an agreed value under the agreement, has been performed by the due date for performance;

(b) if a work-in-kind agreement has only been partly performed by the due date for performance or before it has been ended in accordance with section 35G(1), the value of the land or works provided in accordance with the agreement.

(2) The Victorian Planning Authority must, without delay, notify the Commissioner in writing of any determination made under subsection (1).

35M Performance of work-in-kind agreement taken to be payment of windfall gains tax

(1) A person who has entered into a work-in-kind agreement to meet the whole or part of a liability to pay windfall gains tax is taken to have paid an amount of that tax that is equivalent to—

(a) if the agreement is wholly performed, the agreed value of the agreement; or

(b) if a stage of the agreement is wholly performed, the agreed value of that stage; or

(c) if the agreement is partly performed, the value of the land or works provided under the agreement as determined by the Victorian Planning Authority.

(2) A person is taken to have paid an amount of windfall gains tax under subsection (1) at the time at which the Commissioner receives a notice from the Victorian Planning Authority under section 35L(2) of its determination of the relevant matter referred to in subsection (1)(a), (b) or (c).

35N Person in default if work-in-kind agreement not performed by due date

(1) If—

(a) a person liable to pay windfall gains tax has entered into a work-in-kind agreement to meet the whole or part of that liability and fails to perform that agreement or a stage of that agreement in accordance with the terms of the agreement by the due date for performance; and

(b) the windfall gains tax has been deferred under Part 4—

the whole of the windfall gains tax becomes immediately payable as if the tax had never been deferred.

(2) Despite subsection (1), a person remains liable under the work-in-kind agreement to perform the obligations under the agreement.”.

This set of amendments relates to work in kind and inserts new definitions and arrangements, including the clauses that relate to work-in-kind arrangements. The opposition is of the view that whatever tax is levied, it may well be to the advantage of the community, the new residents in a development and the developer and the local council area where there is an arrangement struck with the Treasurer that actually says some or all of the costs that have been incurred are acquitted through works in kind. And this sets up a regime that comes from other legislation, so it is not novel in that respect, but it is a good outcome for both the sector and the community.

Ms PULFORD: The government is not supporting these amendments. Work-in-kind arrangements are a nice idea, but in practice the idea has not worked as well as one would hope. The government’s experience with work-in-kind arrangements with the GAIC is that they add administrative complexity to the provision of infrastructure, and for those reasons we will not be supporting that on this occasion.

Committee divided on suggested new part heading and new clauses:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Noes, 22
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Leane, Mr

Suggested new part heading and new clauses negatived.

Clauses 36 to 38—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 39 (18:24)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Mr Davis, I invite you to move your amendments 18 and 19, which are a test for your amendments 20 to 25.

Mr DAVIS: I move:

18. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 39, lines 1 and 2, omit “contracts of sale and options” and insert “arrangements”.

19. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 39, lines 5 to 17, omit paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

“(a) the land is subject to a contract of sale entered into before 12 October 2021; or

(b) the land is subject to an option to enter into a contract of sale granted before 12 October 2021; or

(c) the land is subject to a legally binding agreement for development of the land entered into before 12 October 2021.”.

This is further changes to the arrangements in which exemptions to windfall gains tax may apply, and as I understand it, it also tests amendments 20 to 25.

Ms PULFORD: The government will not be supporting amendments 18 and 19 and those that they test. As I have indicated on a number of occasions, we consulted extensively with the property industry and made a number of concessions, including around transitional arrangements, which balance the issues raised by the industry, the current economic situation and the need for a tax that is both fair and effective—for instance, the delayed commencement of the measure by 12 months.

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 40 (18:25)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

26. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 40, page 35, line 18, omit “analysis—“ and insert “analysis; and”.

27. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 40, page 35, lines 19 and 20, omit all words and expressions on these lines and insert—

“(h) works done to the land itself, such as remediation and land clearing;”.

These are also further definitional changes to relevant work in which exemptions to windfall gains tax may apply.

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 41 to 42—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 43 agreed to.

Suggested new clause (18:26)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

28. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Insert the following New Clause to follow clause 43—

“43A Proceeds of windfall gains tax to be applied in municipal district

(1) It is the intention of Parliament that the proceeds of windfall gains tax paid to the Commissioner in respect of land are applied to the provision of outputs in the municipal district in which the land is located or paid to the Council of that municipal district for the provision of works or services in that municipal district.

(2) In this section—

Council has the same meaning as in the Local Government Act 1989;

municipal district has the same meaning as in the Local Government Act 1989;

outputs has the meaning given by section 3 of the Financial Management Act 1994.”.

This amendment looks at the proceeds of the windfall gains tax and seeks to apply them to in a municipal district, so it zeroes the money into the area from which it is collected.

Ms PULFORD: The government does not support this, but we proudly stand on our record in terms of infrastructure delivery in communities right across Victoria, whether it is public transport, road infrastructure, schools, hospitals and the like. So we will not be supporting this.

Committee divided on suggested new clause:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Noes, 22
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Bourman, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Elasmar, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Leane, Mr

Suggested new clause negatived.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.

Ms TAYLOR: I move:

That the dinner break be suspended.

Motion agreed to.

Clauses 45 to 51—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 52 (18:32)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

29. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 52, page 50, after line 19 insert—

“6A.4A.10A Proceeds of tax to support mental health

(1) It is the intention of Parliament that the proceeds of keno tax paid to the Commissioner be spent on the provision of outputs that are consistent with and promote the objectives of the Mental Health Act 2014 and the mental health principles.

(2) In this section—

mental health principles has the same meaning as in the Mental Health Act 2014;

outputs has the meaning given by section 3 of the Financial Management Act 1994.”.

This relates to the keno tax and it seeks to hypothecate the proceeds from that tax. We support the tax that is applied here because it ensures the point of consumption, and we believe it should be directed to mental health.

Ms PULFORD: We will be opposing this suggested amendment because it is not necessary. The keno tax is already hypothecated, but to the Hospitals and Charities Fund. We are happy with the current arrangements, but I am not sure that the opposition fully appreciate that this keno tax is already hypothecated.

Mr QUILTY: As a rule we do not like hypothecated taxes. In this case we particularly do not like this one because of the perverse incentives it creates. Mental health becomes dependent on gambling revenues, which means you cannot cut gambling taxes without cutting mental health funding, and the mental health industrial complex becomes an advocate for increased gambling and increased gambling taxes.

Suggested amendment negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 53 to 54—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 55 (18:34)

Dr RATNAM: I move:

1. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 55, after line 28 insert—

low income households has the same meaning as in section 3AA(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987;

moderate income households has the same meaning as in section 3AA(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987;”.

2. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 55, page 57, after line 9 insert—

occupancy rate, for dwellings in a BTR development, means the proportion of the dwellings in the BTR development that are occupied;”.

3. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 55, page 57, line 18, omit ‘70E;”’ and insert “70E;”.

4. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 55, page 57, after line 18 insert—

very low income households has the same meaning as in section 3AA(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987;”’.

These amendments pertain to affordability, as I mentioned in my second-reading speech. These amendments introduce an affordability requirement into the build-to-rent developments. Right now in the bill the only required term for a residential agreement in a build-to-rent development is that it has to be for at least three years. While it is good that longer term leases are mandated and should become a feature of all rentals, there is nothing in that that requires rents to be actually affordable to the many Victorians who currently live in rental properties.

We know Victoria is in a housing crisis, and while rents may have evened out during COVID they are likely to start rapidly rising again, and with that so many Victorians currently living in rental stress and in desperate need of affordable rentals will really need a huge increase in affordable housing in our state.

If the build-to-rent program is designed to improve rental affordability in supply, then surely the apartments created through the program should be rented out at an affordable rent. It is disappointing that the government has not made this a requirement and has instead paved the way for luxury, expensive apartment towers like we see in build-to-rent programs across the world. These amendments require the rentals to be set at rates affordable to very low, low- and moderate-income individuals and families and also introduce a rent cap to ensure homes remain affordable.

Ms PULFORD: I thank Dr Ratnam for the presentation she has made on her amendments. I am just wondering if we could have a tiny little bit less chatter, if that is okay. This is an important question and an important issue, and I just want to give it the respect of a proper explanation for why we are not supporting the amendment. We are absolutely committed to housing affordability, and I understand the intent of Dr Ratnam’s amendment is very much to advance greater housing affordability, and the government is very proud of our record with the Big Housing Build and lots of funding to social and affordable housing.

But what I want to indicate is that when the government’s build-to-rent working group looked very closely and very seriously at whether or not to include affordable housing provisions as part of this initiative, the panel’s recommendation was to look at increasing the provision of affordable housing through other means. As I indicated, there has been a lot and will continue to be a lot done. It is absolutely our hope and indeed our expectation that build to rent will improve housing affordability by increasing the supply of rental housing and putting downward pressure on rents. But our assessment of the impact of Dr Ratnam’s amendment—which would place very strict criteria—is it would suppress what we are hoping can be for Victoria a new industry and a new form of development.

We are trying to encourage and incentivise a new industry here. We are of the view that the Greens amendments will have an effect, if supported, that is counter to that objective, and I think while we can agree, Dr Ratnam, today on the policy objective through this measure and through a number of other things that the government is very proud to be doing, this would stop this new sector from being kickstarted, so we are not in a position to support it on this occasion.

Mr QUILTY: Just very briefly, we think that the ultimate result of these amendments will be to reduce the supply of property available. It will reduce the concession or will reduce the number of apartments built, and it will push up prices. It will have the opposite effect of what the Greens hope for, so we will not support it.

Committee divided on suggested amendments:

Ayes, 4
Hayes, Mr Patten, Ms Ratnam, Dr
Meddick, Mr
Noes, 33
Atkinson, Mr Gepp, Mr Pulford, Ms
Bach, Dr Grimley, Mr Quilty, Mr
Barton, Mr Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms
Bath, Ms Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms
Bourman, Mr Limbrick, Mr Symes, Ms
Crozier, Ms Lovell, Ms Tarlamis, Mr
Cumming, Dr Maxwell, Ms Taylor, Ms
Davis, Mr McArthur, Mrs Terpstra, Ms
Elasmar, Mr Melhem, Mr Tierney, Ms
Erdogan, Mr O’Donohue, Mr Vaghela, Ms
Finn, Mr Ondarchie, Mr Watt, Ms

Suggested amendments negatived.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 56 to 58—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 59 (18:43)

Dr RATNAM: I move:

5. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 59, page 62, line 16, omit “70F.” and insert “70F; and”.

6. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Clause 59, page 62, after line 16 insert—

“(f) collectively rented at an occupancy rate that is not less than 90 per cent at any time.”.

These amendments introduce a new requirement that build-to-rent developments maintain an occupancy rate that is not less than 90 per cent at any time. Apologies, as I misspoke during my second-reading speech—it is not less than 90 per cent at any time. We are concerned that under the current bill it is possible that the apartments within a build-to-rent development could be left empty for long periods while the owner-developers are still accessing significant land tax concessions. Too often rental properties are left vacant so they can appreciate in value without any annoying wear and tear from renters. If we are creating new apartments specifically for rental, the Greens believe they should actually have to be rented out before the owners can receive their tax concessions, particularly because these projects will be exempt from the vacancy tax. We also know that the current vacancy tax is a toothless tiger that has not stopped the practice of investment properties sitting vacant across the city.

Committee divided on suggested amendments:

Ayes, 3
Hayes, Mr Meddick, Mr Ratnam, Dr
Noes, 34
Atkinson, Mr Grimley, Mr Pulford, Ms
Bach, Dr Kieu, Dr Quilty, Mr
Barton, Mr Leane, Mr Shing, Ms
Bath, Ms Limbrick, Mr Stitt, Ms
Bourman, Mr Lovell, Ms Symes, Ms
Crozier, Ms Maxwell, Ms Tarlamis, Mr
Cumming, Dr McArthur, Mrs Taylor, Ms
Davis, Mr Melhem, Mr Terpstra, Ms
Elasmar, Mr O’Donohue, Mr Tierney, Ms
Erdogan, Mr Ondarchie, Mr Vaghela, Ms
Finn, Mr Patten, Ms Watt, Ms
Gepp, Mr

Suggested amendments negatived.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: They were also a test for Dr Ratnam’s amendments 7 and 8.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 60 to 62—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clause 63 (18:47)

Mrs McARTHUR: Minister, as we heard earlier in the debate, clause 63 of the bill inserts new section 73B to the Land Tax Act 2005. The effect of this will remove the right to exemption for gender-restrictive clubs or gender-exclusive clubs. Read with existing section 73A it is clear that land owned and solely occupied by a non-profit society, club or association can now be subject to land tax because the society, club or association limits its membership to a particular gender identity or sex. I accept that the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities does not give rights to clubs, but it does give rights to the members of those clubs. How does the minister explain the compatibility of this clause with the charter’s section 16(2), which notes that:

Every person has the right to freedom of association with others …

Ms PULFORD: The measures here that are being referred to do not have any impact on freedom of association. People are still able to go and socialise or join clubs with whomever they like, and the bill does not affect that.

Mrs McARTHUR: Minister, I did expect that response, but is it not more problematic with regard to the charter right in section 8(2), which notes that:

Every person has the right to enjoy his or her human rights without discrimination.

As you have explained, this clause does not interfere with the right to freedom of association. It does not bar it absolutely. It is simply a tax which will be applied. Surely, however, the effect of the new section 73B means that those people exercising their right to freedom of association are suffering a burden—the tax—which other people not exercising that right are not facing. In short, they are being discriminated against. How does this fit with the charter guarantee in section 8(2) that human rights can be enjoyed without discrimination? This does not appear to have been covered in the statement of compatibility or the minister’s second-reading speech.

Ms PULFORD: As is the case with all legislation, it is subject to a charter assessment and statement of compatibility, which was tabled in both houses, as is the usual way. I can appreciate the point that Mrs McArthur is seeking to make here, but I think it is a stretch to suggest this is discrimination. I would indicate though that the commissioner of state revenue is provided with a discretion to reinstate the exemption for clubs that demonstrate a community benefit.

Mrs McARTHUR: Thank you, Minister. So then again on clause 63, can I ask about new section 73B(1)(b), which states, I quote:

A … club is not entitled to an exemption … unless—

as you have pointed out—

the Commissioner determines—

the purposes of the club are such that it is consistent with community interests and expectations …

Can you explain what these community interests and expectations may be?

Ms PULFORD: In demonstrating a community benefit the commissioner—it is a plain English interpretation of ‘community benefit’—will have the capability to reinstate the exemption. But if I could just go to I guess the policy question here, which is perhaps what it is that Mrs McArthur has an issue with, these amendments are here so that the tax treatment of gender-exclusive and certain gender-restrictive clubs better align with the Victorian community’s expectations for diversity and inclusion of membership-based organisations. Gender-exclusive and gender-restrictive clubs will be brought into line with other private organisations that are liable to pay tax on their landholdings and to contribute to the base. I understand why Mrs McArthur is making this point and the view that she is seeking to represent in this place, and that is her right. But on this I suspect we will agree to disagree.

Mrs McARTHUR: Thank you, Minister. This is very subjective; you have just admitted that. Same-sex clubs, for example women’s clubs, will be discriminated against—their members will be—on the basis of their sex. There may well be clubs that are of a certain specific cause as well. There might be lesbian clubs, there might be homosexual clubs, there might be transgender clubs. Are they also going to be discriminated against, or will they be consistent with community interests and expectations? Just how subjective is this? Doesn’t this wording simply allow the commissioner to discriminate against groups they find politically or culturally unfavourable? Isn’t it following exemptions for the favoured few based purely on the commissioner’s subjective interpretation of community interests and expectations?

Ms PULFORD: Well, the simple answer is no. I would just expand on that by saying that the effect of the change is to remove a financial benefit from gender-exclusive and gender-restrictive clubs that is not available to other organisations, and any burden that attaches to individual members of a club will not be on the basis of discrimination. It is not possible under our discrimination laws to discriminate against a club.

Mrs McARTHUR: With great respect, Minister, it does appear that you have decided within this legislation to discriminate against distinct groups based on sexuality.

Ms PULFORD: That is just not the case. There is special treatment that exists. It is being removed. But the suggestion that this reform is about discriminating against people or some kind of culture wars thing is just patently false. I assume that is what you are getting at, and that is absolutely rejected by the government.

Mr DAVIS: Will the minister confirm that this new arrangement will apply to the Alexandra Club and the Lyceum Club?

Ms PULFORD: Are they clubs with restricted memberships?

Mr DAVIS: They are both clubs for women only.

Ms PULFORD: Yes, unless they are able to demonstrate their eligibility for the exemption.

Mr DAVIS: Has there been any communication with those clubs as yet?

Ms PULFORD: So your question was whether or not those two clubs were consulted? The answer is no, but I would indicate that this has been public since the budget. It is a policy treatment to remove a special benefit. Its impact will be very modest, and no-one is asked to discriminate against anyone else. People are still free to go and hang out with whoever they want.

Mr DAVIS: I will just record that the club that Ms Patten and I are members of, the Kelvin Club, which is a dual-sex club, will not get the new tax, but the two women-only clubs in metropolitan Melbourne will get the tax.

Ms PULFORD: The women-only clubs will be affected by this. The men-only clubs will be affected by this. The clubs that do not have a gender-exclusive rule for their membership will not.

Mrs McARTHUR: Minister, we just need you to absolutely confirm that you are discriminating against all-women clubs—and women within those clubs.

Ms PULFORD: I am pretty much done engaging in this, but I will put our government’s credentials on gender equity and gender equality up for critique compared to any other government in the country, not least of all the federal government, and certainly previous governments in the state of Victoria. Our record in terms of advancing gender equity in this state is without peer. So I absolutely reject that suggestion. It is actually a bit silly, and it does you no credit.

No question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Clauses 64 to 90—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Suggested new clause (18:59)

Mr DAVIS: I move:

30. Suggested amendment to the Legislative Assembly—

Insert the following New Clause to follow clause 90—

‘90A Time for lodging objections

(1) In section 99(1) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997, for “An objection” substitute “Subject to subsection (1A), an objection”.

(2) After section 99(1) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 insert—

“(1A) An objection on the ground referred to in section 96(1)(cb) must be lodged with the Commissioner within 180 days after the date of service of the notice of the assessment on the taxpayer, except as provided by section 100.”.’.

This inserts a new section 90A to clarify the time line for lodging objections to valuations used for the assessment of the windfall gains tax under the Taxation Administration Act. This is also, as I understand it, a test for amendment 100, which also relates to the time line. This has been requested by the property industry. The time line is very tight, and these are necessarily complex matters. 180 days is not a long time with a complex matter of this nature.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Mr Davis, I apologise. There is an error on the run sheet. This is a test for your amendment 31. I just got a little bit concerned there. We are only up to amendment 30 and we are talking about amendment 100. But it is an error on the run sheet.

Ms PULFORD: Sorry, just to clarify, Deputy President, this does or does not test amendment 31?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It does.

Ms PULFORD: It does. That is what I thought. The period that has been determined to be suitable here, 60 days, is the same objection period that applies to land tax. Anyone lodging an objection has the opportunity to provide further additional information and/or a supporting document after they have lodged their objection. Perhaps that satisfies anybody who is concerned about whether or not they can do that within 60 days, but we do not believe that there is a good reason to extend that out to 180 days.

Committee divided on suggested new clause:

Ayes, 13
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Bath, Ms Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Crozier, Ms Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Cumming, Dr
Noes, 24
Barton, Mr Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms
Bourman, Mr Maxwell, Ms Symes, Ms
Elasmar, Mr Meddick, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Erdogan, Mr Melhem, Mr Taylor, Ms
Gepp, Mr Patten, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Grimley, Mr Pulford, Ms Tierney, Ms
Hayes, Mr Ratnam, Dr Vaghela, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Watt, Ms

Suggested new clause negatived.

Clauses 91 to 110—no question put pursuant to standing order 14.15(2).

Reported to house without amendment.

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (19:08): I move:

That the report be now adopted.

Motion agreed to.

Report adopted.

Third reading

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (19:08): I move:

That the bill be now read a third time.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (19:08): I just want to make a couple of very quick comments on the third reading. The coalition is worried about this bill because we think it is a significant impact on housing costs. It will push the cost of housing up. We will certainly review this closely as we come closer to the election. Sensible, practical suggestions like works in kind can form part of a review.

Ms Pulford: On a point of order, President, we have been debating this bill pretty much all day in this place, including a not insignificant length committee stage. To the best of my knowledge the standing orders do not present Mr Davis or any member with an opportunity, on the question that the bill be now read a third time, to start a policy discussion. I would suggest that Mr Davis is not in order and that he has other opportunities in the Parliament, including a bunch that we have just been through, to put the views of the coalition or indeed the Liberal Party policy development on the public record.

The PRESIDENT: It is my understanding that it has been through, and the question has been put. It is unusual, but the member is entitled to make a quick contribution.

Mr DAVIS: I will be very brief. I will reiterate that I am very concerned and the coalition is very concerned about what this will do to property prices for families. It will increase the cost of homes, and I put on record our concern that the government is not able to provide firm estimates of these impacts. They cannot tell us how much per hectare, and they cannot tell us how much per building block this will impact. It is significant. Housing affordability is a significant issue going forward, especially at this time, when we have got population fleeing the state.

Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (19:10): Just in response to that, can I just again state the government’s very, very significant plan of works, initiatives and investments to support reductions in housing stress experienced by people in the Victorian community. There is a $5.3 billion investment into social and affordable housing and a range of other measures, including the one that Dr Ratnam and I spoke about at some time, which is a very exciting new initiative to increase long-term rentals and place downward pressure on rental housing affordability. It is a bit cute to come in here now after having spent the afternoon pushing the case for the property development industry and try to lecture us about housing affordability.

The PRESIDENT: The question is:

That the bill be now read a third time and do pass.

House divided on question:

Ayes, 21
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Elasmar, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Erdogan, Mr Patten, Ms Taylor, Ms
Gepp, Mr Pulford, Ms Terpstra, Ms
Hayes, Mr Ratnam, Dr Tierney, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms
Noes, 16
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Grimley, Mr O’Donohue, Mr
Bourman, Mr Limbrick, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Crozier, Ms Lovell, Ms Quilty, Mr
Cumming, Dr

The PRESIDENT: I am of the opinion that the third reading of this bill requires an absolute majority. I declare that the third reading has been passed with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the Legislative Council.

Question agreed to by absolute majority.

Read third time.

The PRESIDENT: Pursuant to standing order 14.27, the bill will be returned to the Assembly with a message informing them that the Council have agreed to the same without amendment.

Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021

Introduction and first reading

The PRESIDENT (19:21): I have a message from the Assembly:

The Legislative Assembly presents for the agreement of the Legislative Council ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 in relation to exceptions in respect of religion, and for other purposes’.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:21): I move:

That the bill be now read a first time.

Motion agreed to.

Read first time.

Mr LEANE: I move:

That the second reading be the order of the day on the next day of meeting.

Motion agreed to.

Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021

Introduction and first reading

The PRESIDENT (19:21): I have a further message:

The Legislative Assembly presents for the agreement of the Legislative Council ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 in relation to disclosure obligations and applications for orders relating to non-disclosure, to amend the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, the Supreme Court Act 1986, the Constitution Act 1975 and other Acts in relation to dual commission holders, to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Victims’ Charter Act 2006 in relation to sentence indications, to amend the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 in relation to applications for personal safety intervention orders, to amend the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 in relation to the Family Division of the Children’s Court and to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 in relation to giving evidence remotely in certain proceedings and for other purposes’.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:23): I move:

That the bill be now read a first time.

Motion agreed to.

Read first time.

Mr LEANE: I move:

That the second reading be an order of the day on the next day of meeting.

Motion agreed to.

Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2021

Introduction and first reading

The PRESIDENT (19:23): I have a further message:

The Legislative Assembly presents for the agreement of the Legislative Council ‘A Bill for an Act to amend Victorian casino and gambling legislation to implement recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, strengthen the oversight and regulation of casino operators and establish the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission and for other purposes’.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:23): I move:

That the bill be now read a first time.

Motion agreed to.

Read first time.

Mr LEANE: I move:

That the second reading be an order of the day on the next day of meeting.

Motion agreed to.

Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021

Introduction and first reading

The PRESIDENT (19:24): I have another message:

The Legislative Assembly presents for the agreement of the Legislative Council ‘A Bill for an Act to introduce a circular economy in Victoria, to provide for the Head, Recycling Victoria, to provide for a regulatory framework for waste, recycling or resource recovery services, to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts and for other purposes’.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:24): I move:

That the bill be now read a first time.

Motion agreed to.

Read first time.

Mr LEANE: I move:

That the second reading be an order of the day on the next day of meeting.

Motion agreed to.

Adjournment

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:25): I move:

That the house do now adjourn.

COVID-19

Ms LOVELL (Northern Victoria) (19:25): (1652) My adjournment matter is directed to the Minister for Health, and it concerns COVID-safe requirements for home Christmas lights and displays. The action that I seek from the minister is for him to provide clarity regarding the COVID-safe rules, including whether home Christmas displays that involve members of the public coming onto the property to view parts of the display will be treated as visitors to a home with unlimited numbers, as was announced today, or whether they will be treated as a public event requiring QR code check-in and vaccination status checks.

One of the great Christmas traditions throughout Victoria and indeed throughout the world is the many private homes that display festive decorations for the enjoyment of members of the local community. Home owners in every suburb, town and city through our great state publicly decorate their home with Christmas light ornaments, inflatable Santas and nativity scenes for children and parents alike to visit and admire. Newspapers print maps of these houses, and it is an annual adventure for families to travel around to different houses and immerse themselves in the Christmas spirit. These displays range in sophistication from basic lights to tinsel and large interactive displays that allow and welcome visitors to wander through front yards and sometimes carports and garages to view parts of the display.

Last week I was contacted by Geoff Skidmore, a constituent from Numurkah, who decorates his house each Christmas to create a wonderful festive experience for his visitors. Geoff informed me that he regularly has hundreds if not thousands of people visit his home every festive season, such is the popularity and quality of the display. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rules regarding social distancing, QR check-ins, vaccination status checks and the like, Geoff has attempted to seek advice regarding what COVID-safe measures he needs to employ for visitors to the display this year. Geoff has contacted various government departments seeking answers to his questions but has been unable to get any clarity from anyone he has spoken to. As Geoff himself pointed out when he contacted my office, there will be thousands of Victorians facing the same predicament and asking the same question of the Andrews Labor government, and they need to provide clarity so this wonderful tradition can continue. Mr Skidmore has a significant display. It does involve some parts of it being inside his carport or garage, and he wants to know the answer to this question immediately so that people in Numurkah can go on to enjoy the festive display at his home.

Solar Homes program

Ms WATT (Northern Metropolitan) (19:28): (1653) My adjournment matter for tonight is directed to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and the Minister for Solar Homes in the other place, Lily D’Ambrosio. Residents in my electorate of the Northern Metropolitan Region are deeply concerned about the impacts that climate change will have on their communities. We have seen even in Glasgow these last couple of weeks a federal government that is insisting on dragging its feet when it comes to climate, setting a net zero target but no real plan for us to get there.

Meanwhile, in Victoria this Labor government is at the forefront of climate action both nationally and internationally. Victoria has set ambitious emissions reduction targets of 45 to 50 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Importantly these targets are achievable, with a strong plan to get there. It is easy to set lofty goals when it comes to emission reductions. Plenty, including in this place, do. But these targets are pointless if you cannot deliver on them and make a real difference, and in this Labor government we know that a path to a net zero future needs a plan to futureproof our state’s economy and create secure, sustainable jobs. The government’s climate change strategy released earlier this year does just that.

Some play politics with climate change, and I am proud to be in a Labor government that is getting on with the job and delivering real change in our communities. A key part of this plan is indeed the Solar Homes program, which has already put solar panels on 164 679 households across the state. 4370 households have installed a battery, 1397 households have installed solar hot water and 658 small businesses have installed a solar PV system. This totals an impressive 170 446 installations across the program. The action that I seek from the minister is to update me on the impacts of the Solar Homes program and particularly the impact it is having on abetting carbon emissions within the Northern Metropolitan Region.

Corio Bay gas transfer facility

Mr MEDDICK (Western Victoria) (19:30): (1654) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Planning, Minister Wynne, in the other place, and the action I seek is for him to deny the application from Viva Energy in Geelong to establish a gas transfer facility in Corio Bay in the same manner that the AGL floating gas platform application was denied. There was a huge outcry and campaign when AGL announced their plans for a gas platform, and the government was bound, as always, to consider it on its merits. They had to consider all the impacts and balance them against the commercial aspirations of a large corporation and the disastrous outcomes for the environment and populations should something go wrong.

The two proposals differ in many ways, not the least of which are the characteristics of the location. Many visitors to the nearby area would see what at first glance looks like not much of the typical idyllic Victorian foreshore and, because of the abundance of houses, might think that the area is already in some sort of natural environmental decline. The north of Geelong has long been unfairly maligned and has been treated as a dumping ground for all that the more aspirational and affluent suburbs did not want. This is because historically the area was part of Victoria’s industrial heartland. But let me tell you: Geelong’s north is home to the most honest, hardworking, passionate and down-to-earth Victorians, and the establishment of a gas platform right next to their homes has them scared and angry. One breach of a single LNG compartment from a ship would result in an asphyxiating flammable vapour cloud extending a minimum of 2.5 kilometres from the source, straight into the heavily populated suburbs which are less than 150 to 200 metres from the proposal. The smallest of sparks would ignite a blaze so fierce that all buildings and human life would be consumed in a fire that cannot be extinguished but relies upon the entire fuel source being consumed before going out. Their lives are as important as anyone’s, and a large multinational has no right to put them at risk.

It has been said that the foreshore there is bereft of life—also the bay—and certainly it would seem a miracle that there would be life beneath those waters after all the chemical spills that have occurred there over the years. But life there does exist. Pockets of thriving habitat provide home for a varied population of bay dwellers that for many years were in decline but are all making a steady comeback, and that rejuvenation should not be threatened by the potential for a disaster. Will the minister listen to the people of the north of Geelong and deny this application, just as he denied the one from AGL?

Northern Metropolitan Region small business

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (19:33): (1655) Good evening. I have to say I was expecting to start my adjournment matter tonight with ‘Good morning’, but we are a lot earlier than I expected. My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Small Business. Small businesses in Reservoir are doing it very tough on Edwardes Street, on Spring Street and Broadway. There are many shopfronts that are empty and for lease, and many businesses are still struggling from the COVID lockdowns. Recently I invited the Reservoir locals to complete my community survey, and you know what? They were fantastic in responding to that survey. I thank them very, very much for replying to that survey. The people of Rezza have reported to me their concerns for the local economy, for graffiti and for the shopfronts around Reservoir station. The people of Reservoir are salt-of-the-earth people. They are great people, and they care for their local economy. The shopfronts in Rezza represent so much more than just small business; they are a great statement about the multiculturalism in Melbourne’s north. They need to be supported and they need to be protected.

The minister might remember that before the lockdown local businesses were hurt by the level crossing removals in Reservoir. People were barricaded from getting into their businesses for a long, long time. They are still hurting after that. I tabled a petition about that on their behalf in this house. The action I seek from the minister is to not just talk about small business but actually help the small businesses in Rezza. I ask that the government urgently provide grants and support to these small businesses—urgently. It will go a long way to protecting local shopfronts and creating jobs in Melbourne’s north, particularly for our younger Victorians.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (19:34): (1656) My adjournment matter is directed to the Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality and Minister for Health, the Honourable Martin Foley. This adjournment matter relates to the portfolio responsibilities of health. The Andrews Labor government is supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of young Victorians. The Andrews Labor government has launched a five-year plan called Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures to make sure that Victorian children and young people stay healthy, strong and well from their earliest years. We want to ensure that all Victorian children get to enjoy a happy and healthy childhood to lay the foundations for lifelong health and wellbeing.

The pandemic has been a reminder of how important health is. The turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of difficulties for our young population. Consistent with the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019–2023, Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures has a strong focus on creating supportive environments for healthy eating and active living as well as capturing complementary mental wellbeing initiatives. Good physical and mental health has long-term benefits for children and young people. It is important to build strong foundations through healthy eating and an active lifestyle. This helps in cognitive and physical development. Being healthy is a lifelong commitment, and the Victorian government is establishing strategic directions to help young people thrive. The action I seek from the minister is to provide me with an update on how this action plan will support the young people of Western Metropolitan Region.

Facial recognition technology

Mr LIMBRICK (South Eastern Metropolitan) (19:36): (1657) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police in the other place. Would the minister please provide data on facial recognition technology applications and capabilities currently being used or trialled by Victoria Police?

Melbourne Regional Landfill

Mr FINN (Western Metropolitan) (19:36): (1658) I do not need a survey to know what my constituents around the Ravenhall tip are concerned about. I raise a matter this evening for the attention of the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. It has come to my attention very recently that Cleanaway, the operators of the landfill at Ravenhall, are now moving towards dumping asbestos at that particular landfill. Already they are dumping PFAS-infected soil at that site, and of course it is not far, not very far at all, from residential housing. But as we have seen with the toxic soil dump in Bulla, residential housing does not seem to be a problem to this government. They can dump all manner of poison near residences and apparently get away with it. But I really think the minister has to draw the line at asbestos. We all know what asbestos is capable of doing to people, and we all know what dreadful trauma it can cause, the deaths that it can cause. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind as to what the danger is of this particular material.

I was just horrified, I have to say, when I heard that Cleanaway was going down this path. I think we really have to start putting people’s lives before companies’ profits. That is really something that is extremely important, and I would have thought from a Labor government that that would have been something that would have come to them naturally—but clearly not. As I say, we have seen this in Bulla. We are seeing it now in Ravenhall with first the toxic soil—the PFAS-contaminated soil—and now with the prospect of asbestos being dumped in the middle of residential areas.

It is beyond the pale whichever way you look at it. It is totally intolerable that we would have to put up that—that local residents would have to put up with that. How would anybody feel if they were to get a notice in their letterbox saying, ‘We’re going to dump asbestos across the road’? I mean, how would anybody feel if they got that sort of notice and they knew that the government would let them do it? It is not good enough. So, what I am doing tonight is I am asking the minister for the environment to step in to stop this material being dumped—to protect the lives and the health of local residents around the Ravenhall tip, because it is so important that we put them first.

COVID-19

Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (19:40): (1659) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health. I was contacted by Nick and Megan from Rutherglen who run a local cafe, Caffeine N Machine. It is a great new addition to the small community of Rutherglen and has a modern, industrial-style layout with classic car and vintage motorcycle displays. The menu offers a range of old-school bakery items, and the cafe offers great small-town hospitality. Nick and Meg started their renovation of the original mechanics site in the middle of 2020 and as such were ineligible for any support offered through grants during lockdown after lockdown in regional Victoria. Their determination to offer something new and exciting to their community saw them fight through the hardships imposed on them by the government, often when there was no COVID within 300 kilometres of Rutherglen.

Now, with the vaccine mandates being enforced across the hospitality industry, Nick and Megan face a new wave of problems. First it was the change of dates that left many hospitality venues understaffed due to the date of double-vaccination status being brought forward from 26 November to 22 October with little notice. They juggled staff to manage until all staff could receive their second vaccinations. Secondly, they are now facing the very real division that is being caused by having to police people’s vaccination status. At Caffeine N Machine they believe it is not their right or their responsibility to have to ask their loyal patrons and passing trade for medical information. The nastiness and abuse that their staff have received from people angry that they must show their vaccine status has escalated to the point of ridiculousness. Nick stated:

I have staff who are mentally not coping and junior staff that are needing protection. We are losing patrons hand over fist from either being forced to show a vaccination certificate to be allowed to be seated or customers leaving because someone is making a scene about needing to show vaccination status and it becomes socially uncomfortable for seated patrons.

Megan said:

It is stressful and intimidating working in the sector now. Junior staff who once argued over who would be working the till are now avoiding working front of house if they can.

Like many small businesses, they feel the government has passed the onus onto them without any support or information. The government is not getting up-to-date information to these businesses but is telling them to keep up with the latest restrictions and rules on the coronavirus website.

I have made it clear I do not support any of the restrictions and mandates around vaccination status and the divide they are causing in our community. Minister, you need to recognise the damage you are doing with the implementation of these mandates. Small businesses have been hit hard at every turn, especially our border businesses. They cannot keep going under this pressure. They are ready to close the doors and walk away. The action I am seeking is for the minister to take responsibility for policing vaccination status away from business owners.

Western Victoria Transmission Network Project

Mrs McARTHUR (Western Victoria) (19:42): (1660) My question is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and concerns the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project and the wider future transmission network plan in Victoria. There is now widespread commentary that the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project may be changed to uprate the transmission line from North Ballarat to Bulgana to a 500-kilovolt line. The minister will be aware of the anger this has caused to those who have listened and responded to the consultation to date, which described the construction of a 220-kilovolt line. I have previously asked whether the regulatory investment test for transmission process and community consultation will be reopened as a result of this material change. It also raises an interesting technical question which could have a significant long-term effect on the Victorian transmission grid. The action I seek from the minister is clarification on the announcement of this proposal, including whether a terminal station in North Ballarat will no longer be required and as a consequence if the routing of the Victoria to New South Wales interconnector west to Bulgana is instead being considered.

Latrobe Valley battery recycling plant

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (19:44): (1661) My adjournment debate this evening is for the Minister for Planning in the other place. Today we had the Environment and Planning Committee release the report of its inquiry into air pollution that had been conducted over some months with a multiparty line-up of members of Parliament. The one recommendation, recommendation 13, that I going to specifically going to speak to tonight in my adjournment is in relation to an environment effects statement (EES) on the proposed used lead-acid battery recycling plant between Morwell and Hazelwood North in the Latrobe Valley. The air pollution inquiry made it quite clear that there are certain areas in our state that have more compromised health outcomes due to air pollution and a lack of air quality over a period of time, and the Latrobe Valley, whilst a fantastic community, is one of those.

Chunxing is a Chinese-owned company. It has sought to put shovel down in an industrial place near Morwell, and that particular site happens to be approximately 1.7 kilometres from homes and from a primary school. The Environment Protection Authority Victoria have provided a works approval. Latrobe City Council have conducted a significant investigation through their planning department and presented that to councillors, and the councillors said, ‘No, we actually don’t believe that it’s in the best interests of the community to establish that plant’. Indeed Latrobe City Council have a health innovation zone, and they felt that that health innovation zone was compromised by putting this used lead-acid battery secondary smelter there.

The community has told me—and I thank various people from ALiVe and others that I have mentioned in the past here that I have worked with—that there has been a so-called consultation process. They have been to a member of Parliament from the Labor Party’s office and they have had communication with them, but the questions have remained overwhelmingly unanswered and they are quite frustrated that they have not been listened to.

Chunxing made a self-assessment and told the minister, ‘No, you don’t actually need to conduct an EES’, and he has accepted that. This community does not accept it. The minister has called in this used lead-acid battery recycling plant. He has said, ‘Go ahead. It’s fine. We’ll create jobs’. But my community is most concerned that due process was not done. Recommendation 13 of this inquiry calls on the government to conduct an EES, so I call on the Minister for Planning to implement recommendation 13 of this air pollution inquiry.

Zero-emission vehicles

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (19:47): (1662) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, the Honourable Ben Carroll, MP. The recent UN climate change conference has refocused the world’s attention on the actions governments should be taking to reduce carbon emissions, and the conversation around zero-emission vehicles has been front and centre. The Andrews Labor government has already recognised the importance of transitioning away from petrol and diesel vehicles as part of its transport sector pledge. The government has announced clear targets for light vehicle purchases, public transport bus transition and active transport trips. We also announced a $100 million package to commence the vehicle transition, including a $46 million subsidy scheme, $19 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, $20 million for a zero-emission bus trial, $10 million to commence government fleet transition and a $5 million fund to support the uptake of zero-emission vehicles in commercial fleets. An expert panel was also established to provide advice on further government actions required to achieve our zero-emission vehicle target. The action that I seek is for the minister to provide an update on the successful rollout of this important work program and the outcomes it has achieved to date.

Responses

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:48): There were 11 MLCs that externalised adjournment matters today towards six ministers, which is quite efficient. I will make sure that those ministers receive those matters and MLCs get a response.

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (19:49): I refer to the standing orders relating to timely answers in response to adjournments. I have four matters that I wish to bring to the house’s attention tonight: adjournment matter 1583, which is 37 days overdue; adjournment 1570, which is 38 days overdue; adjournment 1556, 44 days overdue; and 1530, which is 45 days overdue. One of those was to the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. The other three were all to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety. I am seeking an explanation from the minister at the table of where those responses are.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (19:49): I cannot answer the question about where they are on behalf of those two ministers, but what I can commit to do is ensure that my office contacts those two ministers’ offices, if not tomorrow then early next week, and ensure that Mr Ondarchie gets a response as soon as possible.

The PRESIDENT: The house stands adjourned.

House adjourned 7.50 pm.