Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:30): I rise to speak to this motion and reluctantly support the motion. I think the scrutiny of the Parliament, the scrutiny of the executive, is as important to the safety of our community as the chief health officer’s advice about this Parliament. I will be very interested, because we knew that this Parliament was due to come back today. We knew that this house was due to sit today. We were very clear about that in our adjournment motion back in June. There was adequate time, I would have thought, for the chief health officer to have provided us with added information about how we could have sat in a more safe way. Now, I would have hoped there could have been some technical solutions, particularly for our regional members in this house. I have been conducting deliberative meetings for committees as the chair of a committee for the last month. We have been voting, and those votes have stood. Those votes are valid, and we have done them online. We should have been able to do that here.
When we see that the chief health officer has provided advice on how supermarkets can open safely, how banks can open safely, how bottle shops can open safely, how horseracing can continue safely, how greyhound racing can continue safely, I would have expected the government to have asked the chief health officer, ‘How can the Parliament sit safely?’. The executive have every right to call a state of disaster, but without even consulting with the Parliament, without even any concern for the place that Parliament sits in the role of governing this state, I think that is frightening. I think that is as scary—well, not as scary, but it needs be taken into account when we consider how we navigate our community safely through this pandemic, and part of that is the scrutiny of government.
Now, it was quite some months ago—in fact it feels like a lifetime ago—that we put forward that there be a multiparty oversight committee that would continue to meet over this time. Now, that was rejected by the government. In many ways we may not have been here if that had not been rejected. We saw New Zealand operate this way. We have seen the federal parliament operate with an oversight committee. We have seen the ACT government meet throughout this. New Zealand has been able to do it. So I feel that we could have done this in Victoria. We could have done this.
My office is getting numerous calls on a daily basis of questions: ‘How do I do this? How do I do that?’. I would like to be able to ask those questions in Parliament. Now, I am pleased that we will be debating another motion later about questions on notice and being able to maintain those during this period. I want everybody to be safe. I will do my best to incorporate everything that I can, but frankly, if we think that it is not important for the Parliament to be sitting, then we might as well call off the 2022 elections, because if we think that the executive can just run the state, well then I can think of some other uses for this house. Maybe it should be just put aside for social housing. Now, I know that is not what the community thinks, and I know the community thinks it is important that there is oversight, that there is scrutiny and that we do bear the advice of the chief health officer. And I would implore the government to provide further advice from the chief health officer on how the Parliament can operate safely—how it can operate safely in the same way that a bank can, how it can operate safely in the same way as a supermarket can. That is what I would like to see, and I would very much hope that we do sit in a fortnight’s time. However, I understand, and we are changing this adjournment motion, that we will leave it for the President to make those decisions about this. As I say, I reluctantly support this motion.