Hansard Search

12 March 1991 - Current

Page 1202
27 April 1993
ASSEMBLY Second Reading COLE
  Mr COLE -- When in opposition the government vehemently opposed amalgamations.

Its members attended  public meetings and  made  their attitude clear  when they
said,  When the proposal goes to the Upper House we  will stop it. Whether it be
Geelong, Melbourne, Morwell or Swan Hill we will stop it; we will block it .
Of course the National Party went over the  top! An  amalgamation in rural areas
would really  knock its power base, and I look forward to  the Premier taking on
rural councils;  I am sure the Deputy Premier will  be at the front of the queue
when the government amalgamates councils in National Party strongholds.
I  remember reading a report in which certain people said,  We do not have party
politics; we are all members of the National Party,  we know what is happening .
We  know  how  difficult  this  subject  must  be  for  the  Minister for  Local
Government,  being  a  paid-up  member of the National Party, and with  so  many
people in country shires and boroughs worried about losing what power and office
they now hold!

That  was  the  reason  in   the  mid-1980s  for  vehement   opposition  by  the
conservatives to amalgamations. They cried,  We want a two-year review process .
The  honourable member for  Mornington made an  interesting  and quite  humorous
speech when he spoke about the way the former Minister for Local Government, Jim
Simmonds, rushed  things through. In all the time I  knew Jim  Simmonds I  never
knew him  to  do anything  quickly,  including the conduct  of  local government
inquiries. He set up a commission which  travelled around Victoria and explained
its purpose to Victorians.
Rights and  wrongs aside,  had we  in government attempted to do what this  Bill
seeks to achieve, the then opposition would have opposed it.
  Mr Kennett interjected.

  Mr COLE -- You are on record as having done that! The Premier said that had we
done it  in this way he would  not have opposed it. What a load of nonsense! The
then opposition said that a two-year  inquiry was too short a period -- but this
proposal was conceived in only  5 minutes! The conservatives are very good, when
discussing reforms and change, at saying,  Don't do it; it's a bad measure , but
when they get into power they do exactly what was originally proposed. They talk
about allegiance to the Queen  and get upset but they  will roll over the  whole
community  in  Geelong without  any  regard whatsoever for  the  needs of  those
The Premier reacts to many problems by saying,  Get the bulldozers, charge along
and with  a bit of luck everything will turn out right because everyone has been
waiting for change anyway . He  thinks  the  introduction  of this Bill now will
avoid creating a controversial election issue in three years, or

Page 1203
whenever the coalition falls apart and is thrown out of office! The opposition strongly argues that a plebiscite should have been conducted on the amalgamation issues. Such a poll would not have detracted from what the government is attempting to ram through this place because of its total control in both Houses. The attitude of the government towards the Borough of Queenscliffe, with only 3500 residents, is the harbinger of things to come because the powerful Liberal Party forces in Queenscliffe were able to argue that they are different from Geelong people. The Liberal Party power base there said, If you think you are going to take Queenscliffe away, think again. If you do it to us you will be in trouble--. So someone got on the telephone, and what happened? For no apparent reason other than Liberal political purposes there is the absolute anomaly of Queenscliffe not being included in the amalgamation. Why is it that 350 000 people can be excluded from amalgamation? No-one could possibly argue that it makes logical sense on any ground of planning or economies of scale to do so. It is the political imperative -- and don't the conservatives love it! They say they act with propriety but when the telephone rings and it is the power forces within the Liberal Party on the other end the government jumps. Hence, for no logical reason the Borough of Queenscliffe is preserved in perpetuity. The sea will take it away before the Liberal government will, and the depth of the sea changes by one inch every 10 000 years, about as quickly as a Liberal Party policy emerges! Honourable members interjecting. Mr COLE - Oh, for the good old days when we knew what to expect from the conservatives! Now we never know which way they are coming from. I am also concerned about -- -- Honourable members interjecting.