12 March 1991 - Current
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 people. 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
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.