Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:08): I am very pleased to rise to speak in favour of Mr Davis’s motion to hold a regional sitting.
As has been mentioned by previous speakers, the crossbench have also been talking about what we can do to support the regional areas and what we can do to learn directly from people from regional areas the issues that are important to them. I am from the city, but I have a country property. Before Christmas I travelled up through Gippsland and saw the preparations for what turned out to be some of the worst fires we have ever seen in that region.
I think this is an excellent idea. Victoria was the first state to start sitting outside its capital city. We were leaders in this type of initiative, and it is good to see that we will be leaders again, particularly when we know that these areas absolutely need our assistance.
I do hold some reservations about the behaviour in this chamber—do we really want to take that on tour? I would hope that when we look at what we are going to do with the regional sitting that we consider how we present ourselves, that we consider how we have a two-way conversation with those areas and with the community in those areas.
I am very pleased that the crossbench has agreed to actually go on a regional tour of the whole of Victoria to do the same thing—to introduce the crossbench to regional Victoria but also to hear from regional Victorians about what they think is important and the issues that we should be focusing on here in this chamber.
We know that while recovery is starting to occur in some of the fire-affected areas, it will take a long time to recover. We can start rebuilding, but even today we are still responding to threats of fires in Victoria. We are still on alert for fires to reignite. February used to be our worst fire season, so there is still a long way to go in our fire season. By October or November of this year we will see people really struggling with that recovery. Some of those mental health issues will be starting to really deepen. We need to ensure they are being addressed.
Local businesses have missed out on the dollars they would have gotten over Christmas. We know that for a lot of businesses in these tourist areas 50 to 60 per cent of their annual turnover occurs during the Christmas holidays, and they have lost all of that.
I think this is a great way of taking an esky up there or spending money there and bringing the whole of the Parliament. Yes, they can see what we do but I hope, more importantly, they see that we can be up there to support those communities and that we are up there to hear from those communities. Now I am not probably suggesting an open mic session in the Parliament but something that does give the community leaders the opportunity—
Ms Stitt: Oh!
Ms PATTEN: Possibly karaoke for Ms Stitt in the chamber may be an interesting way of bringing our community into the chamber in a more merry way. I for one will not be putting my hand up for that, and you will all be very grateful that I have refused to sing here.
Mr Limbrick: Sing?
Ms PATTEN: No I cannot sing I am afraid, Mr Limbrick.
In short I think that this is a terrific proposal. I am very much looking forward to going up there. I am very much looking forward to the road trip for the crossbench, where all of us—or as many of us as we can—will be joining together, getting onto a bus and going out to learn, to share and to spend. I am fully supportive of this motion.