In Parliament

Motion - Address-In-Reply



Wednesday, 8 February 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:54):

It is a great honour, an incredible honour in fact, to rise again on the Address-In-Reply. It reminds me of standing here in this place just over four years ago in the very back corner and saying strongly to my community, in the first words that I spoke in this Chamber, that I had heard them – I had heard the message in my community, and the message they sent to me and to this Parliament was that they expected a representative who reflected their views and those of modern Victoria. I made a commitment that night to doing exactly that: to reflect their views and
to represent modern Victoria. It is an incredible honour, four years later, after making that commitment, to be returned by the good people of Brighton, Brighton East, Elwood and Hampton, and now Hampton East – an incredible honour.

I will let you in on a little secret. When I was elected, and I spoke those words I made a pact with myself that I would be a Member with only four years in mind. I felt that too many members of Parliament had eyes on decades-long careers and not what they would do in that time. They were thinking more about what they could do over time in terms of their own career rather than what they could do for their community. So, I made a pact with myself to represent my community for four years – I did want to put myself forward again, but to work with that in mind, to work to that four-year term, do everything I could and throw everything that I could at that four years. I hope that my community has felt that I have done that, and I do believe that in their returning me to this chamber I have been given the great honour of their believing that to be so.

It has meant that over time I have spoken up strongly on issues that have been difficult – difficult for the community, difficult for this Parliament and difficult for my party. When I stood in this Chamber four years ago, I said my party represented a quarter of this Chamber, and as I stand here now, I could say similar words – a proud party that has not increased its proportional share of the Chamber and therefore the representation in the community.

After the most recent election I spoke about what I believe to be an existential crisis facing the Liberal Party, especially following the federal election and a series of findings from the Australian National University which show that at the federal election one in four voters under the age of 40 voted coalition – and one in five people born after 1996; 32 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men voted for the coalition; and 16 per cent of women and 9 per cent of men voted for the Greens. Those are sobering facts for any party that was not successful in an election to consider but be honest about.

After the last state election, I felt that it was important to stand up for the things that my community wanted me to and for modern Victoria.

Over that term I spoke out strongly on issues and Bills that came before this chamber, including gay rights and environmental policy, as the Shadow Minister. I believe that a number of our policies that were put forward at the last election were state-leading policies, and it is disappointing that though some of the elements were pinched by the government, not all elements were. One of them, being legislating elements of climate targets into legislation, I think is something that the Government should consider, because the community expects it. The community expects transparency. They expect to know what is happening with policy, and one of the ways you can provide that to the community is through legislation to make it clear.

Other issues that I spoke about over the term were issues of animal welfare, and then, throughout COVID, two very difficult issues – the first being the mental health crisis facing children at that time, which was an extremely distressing issue. When I first started to speak about it there were difficulties in the Parliament in dealing with that issue, with it being raised – and I understand that. I raised the issue probably in a confrontational way because the children that were speaking to me in my community were doing so from such a point of distress and despair, I felt I owed it to them to follow their requests to speak out strongly on their behalf, and that is what I did.

The other issue that I want to mention is that of the deaths in the community from the delays in ambulance arrivals, especially amongst children, and I had the opportunity of raising that issue with the Premier at the end of the last term. That also was an extremely distressing issue.

What I hoped in raising those matters was that even though they were raised by the Opposition we could work together to deal with those matters, that we as a Parliament could work together, because one of the insights that I can provide to the Parliament is, having worked for such a long time in the Federal Parliament, there is an incredible difference between the ways the federal Parliament and the state Parliament operate.

The Federal Parliament works collaboratively across the aisle, not only in public but in private. It does not mean that there is not politics in issues or policy matters. There is politics – there is always politics; we are in the business of politics – but when it comes to policy, Members regularly talk and Members regularly meet, not only to talk policy but to talk about the welfare of each other. I mean, these are issues that we should as a mature Parliament be doing. On behalf of Victorians, we should be working together on those matters, which is something we do not do here. We do not do that here, not even remotely, which is so incredibly sad.

I have talked about that in the Chamber before and hope to continue talking about that, because we will only do our best as a Parliament if we work together, because there is no font of all wisdom. No Executive is perfect. Every community has an insight into this State that is valuable, and the only way that any Government can truly represent all Victorians is if that Government works with
all members of this place, and I hope to see one day a Government and a Premier that is willing to do that. I do not say that as a way to slight the Premier. I do offer those words in the hope that he hears them and that we in this Parliament can do better at working together collaboratively.

Can I make a number of comments in relation to the community and give thanks to my community –and not only the members of my community who elected me. You have my assurance that I will continue to work on your behalf every day of the week. In fact, one of the things that I committed to when I was first elected was doing every constituent-related matter myself. It does mean that I work seven days a week and my wife very rarely sees me and neither do my kids, but I think I owe that to the community. I do not let my staff deal with constituent matters, which sends them absolutely wild, but I think I owe it to every person in my community who contacts me to know that they are contacting me and that the response is from me. So I thank them with my whole heart, and they have my commitment to seven days a week from me for my entire term.

But we are not elected to this place on our own. We are elected following the incredible work of parts of our community, including our parties, in my case the Liberal Party, and I would like to place on record my overwhelming thanks to my local electorate conference in the Liberal Party for their support and to the hundreds – literally hundreds – of people in the Liberal Party who supported me through the campaign and the hundreds of members of the community that are now part of our local movement.

We ran a local campaign, a very strong local campaign – one where, frankly speaking, after going through the Federal Election and watching the way that the teals campaigned, we learned, and I think anyone who is not willing to admit that is frankly a fool. You need to look at the campaigns around you. You need to look at the way people engage with the community and learn from that, so I made sure that my community was at the core of everything that I did in asking for their reelection, in the way that I spoke to them through advertising and materials sent out, but also as part of the on-the-ground campaign.

So, thank you to the hundreds of people that were involved in the party and in the community in helping with that. But a special thanks to Jean Hawkins, who my little kids call ‘spare Nanna’. So, she is the spare nanna, and she is one of my dearest and closest friends. Also, Phil Brown, who I met 25 years ago as a young teenager walking into my first branch meeting, has stayed with me for the full 25 years, which is extraordinary.

Also, and obviously the most important is your family. Your family suffer greatly, incredibly greatly, when you choose this job. They do not ask for this job, and my kids were almost born into me being deeply involved in politics. My kids are the most important thing in my life bar nothing – bar nothing. I heard one of the new members speak earlier about love and the importance of love and the endlessness of love, and I think those words were profound words. I think that we should all remember them in everything we do, everything we do in this place. So, to my wife Suzanne and my children, Sofia and Eva, you are my world, and you suffer for this job. One of the candidates unfortunately during my election campaign harassed quite badly my family, including my little children. They suffer in a way that they should not, and my love goes to them incredibly.

There are a number of things that I do want to let my community know that I will be fighting for over the term, and that is continuing to advocate for our schools. One of the members earlier spoke about the fact that their electorate had changed hands and therefore the government would consider funding in that electorate. Well, unfortunately that is actually the case. There are electorates held by non-Labor members that are not receiving the funding they deserve. School funding is directed five-sixths of the time into government-held seats in Melbourne. Schools deserve equal funding. Children deserve funding no matter what school they are from, and Brighton Primary is an example of a historic school that is in desperate need of funding. Elwood College and Elwood Primary are in desperate need. I do acknowledge the government, through years of advocacy, has committed funding now to Hampton Primary and Gardenvale, and I appreciate that funding. It was timely.

But we also need to consider the lack of funding when it comes to protecting our community, and we have seen incredible crimes in my community. We have seen a rapid growth of home invasions. Only this week the police confirmed that in areas like Bayside and Port Phillip, 324 vehicles had been stolen over a four month period. When these issues were first raised, the Premier said it was not happening and attacked a woman, a resident of my community, for raising it. He blamed her for raising it and said it was not happening. It has now been confirmed to be true. The coalition committed to a police station in our community, and I implore the government to consider the genuine crimes. I will end where I started and say I have heard the community again, and I will continue to reflect modern Victoria in everything that I do and everything that I fight for in this Chamber.

Members applauded.