MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:14:28): I would like to begin this address-in-reply by acknowledging the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, who are the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which this Parliament meets, and to whom during the 59th Parliament I hope we can pay the ultimate respect of a fair and fulsome treaty process.
Congratulations to you, President. I have enjoyed working with you so far, and I am sure it is only going to get better. I am looking forward to it.
I would also like to congratulate all the members of the house on their election or their re-election. The outcome of the 2018 state election was complex, to say the least, but I hope the new composition of the house represents a new opportunity for cross-party collaboration, where policy rather than politics will be the principal driver. I have to say so far, so good.
I am incredibly honoured to be elected to represent the Northern Metropolitan Region. I love the north, and in speaking directly to my constituents now, I am so very grateful for your support. Thank you. It is a privilege in exchange for which I pledge to work tirelessly in the hope of effecting genuine change for the better—change that I hope can improve lives and save lives. I am proud that I can fly the flag of Reason, a party founded on evidence-based policy, equality and pragmatism.
In turning to my address, I thank the Governor for the speech in outlining the legislative agenda of this government in its second term—a government that I do acknowledge was re-elected for having a positive plan, for tackling infrastructure in a big way and for driving our economy in the process, but also a government that was rewarded for a progressive social reform, achieved I might add with a bit of a push.
Four years ago, when the Governor set out the agenda for the 58th Parliament, I do not recall mention of voluntary assisted dying, safe access zones, a supervised injecting centre or ridesharing reform—meaningful change that I believe featured prominently in the government’s re-election and reform in which I am proud that Reason played a leading role.
It is reform like this that I will continue to pursue in the 59th Parliament of Victoria.
The medically supervised injecting room in North Richmond categorically is saving lives and reducing pressure on first responders. It is also busily referring some of the most disadvantaged people in Victoria to the health and treatment services they need. I was very pleased to hear earlier this year the Leader of the Opposition commit to a fair assessment of the evidence resulting from this trial. My promise to the residents of North Richmond in the meantime is that to the best of my ability I am focussed on alleviating any issues that might arise around the facility. The centrepiece, I hope, is a hydromorphone trial for users of centre—an intervention that overseas has broken the nexus between heroin addiction and crime and has refocused chaotic lifestyles away from trying to score and onto things like finding work and reconnecting with family and at the same time has reduced the demand for heroin, meaning less local drug trafficking.
As the Governor’s speech marked the start of the new Parliament by outlining the government’s agenda for the new term, I too would like to take a few moments to address mine. On day one of this Parliament I first read a bill to legalise, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis in Victoria. Our costed policy would conservatively deliver $204.6 million to the Victorian budget over four years and in doing so would smash the $1.5 billion illicit market. It is reform that has community support and will take pressure off our police and courts. Recent research has shown that the legal availability of cannabis can reduce prescription opioid overdose deaths by as much as 30 per cent. It also results in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with alcohol, tobacco and other substances.
I have also introduced legislation for a spent convictions scheme in Victoria. We are the only state in this country that does not have such a scheme, but I am confident that with the broad cross-party support already articulated by many members of this chamber it is reform we can achieve in the near future. This is just one plank of the evidence-based criminal justice platform that I hope to achieve, the focus being reform that will address the causes of offending and reoffending, not just warehouse criminals. I am looking forward to working with the newly created Minister for Crime Prevention in this regard.
Sex work was decriminalised in New South Wales, the ACT and New Zealand decades ago, where sex-related businesses are treated like any other business rather than being subjected to specialist regulation. This is the modern, best practice approach to sex industry reform. Decriminalisation is recognised as the best model to keep workers and the community safe. This has been asserted by Amnesty International amongst many other organisations. I am convinced that we can achieve this reform in Victoria.
I will continue to promote small business and innovation as the drivers of our future economy. We must be responsive to the start-up sector and emerging industries and nurture the bright new ideas capable of catapulting our economy. I was certainly listening to Mr Dalidakis mention some of the already fantastic innovative businesses that exist in Victoria, many of which, I might add, are in Northern Metropolitan Region—from whole new industries that we could not have imagined 10 years ago to good ideas like electric scooters that elsewhere are already replacing short vehicle fares and reducing congestion and pollution in the process.
Electoral reform in Victoria is a must. Politicians should not be seen to buy their way into Parliament. This is why I have given notice of two motions to enhance community engagement in the electoral process, including a citizens jury review of the 2018 state election.
I will prosecute the case for religious accountability; drug law reform that treats addiction as a health issue not a criminal one; harm minimisation strategies, including pill testing; strong anti-discrimination laws; an ageing strategy; and action on mental health prior to the finalisation of the royal commission, including action on social isolation. My mantra is that prevention is better than a cure and a fence at the top of the cliff is cheaper and more effective than an ambulance at the bottom.
Most importantly, we must not let up on the climate emergency that we are facing. This summer Adelaide experienced its hottest day ever, and Queensland experienced unprecedented flooding that affected an area twice the size of Victoria and killed half a million cattle. Victorian infrastructure and industry must be audited with these types of extremes in mind and mitigation plans implemented. More than that, we as the state of Victoria must be leaders in addressing the existential threat of climate change. The forecasts are compelling, and the scenarios are devastating. We cannot forget for a second that the most important question of our time is how to restore a safe climate now, which must include a fast transition to zero emissions.
There are only 40 of us elected to the Legislative Council, and we should keep reminding ourselves of the great responsibility with which we have been entrusted by Victorians in permitting us to act on their behalf. Their welfare is the joint goal shared by us all, and I hope that we can work together to achieve a lot of good in this place and leave the incredible state of Victoria in a better place than we found it.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Address in Reply 1/5/19