12 March 1991 - Current
ADDRESS BY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION Mr ANDREWS (Leader of the Opposition) -- I am delighted, firstly, to join the Premier in acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, to pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and to thank in particular Bonnie Fagan for her welcome to country. I also acknowledge Cr Mark Harris of the City of Ballarat and Professor David Battersby, the vice-chancellor of the University of Ballarat, and again join with the Premier in thanking all those concerned for their input with the set-up and the logistics involved in organising a regional sitting like this and also for the hospitality we have enjoyed here. I am grateful to the Premier for his acknowledgement that this regional sitting program commenced back in 2001, and I think it is a great example of an innovation that can strengthen our democratic institutions and lead to a greater understanding in the community of exactly how the Parliament of Victoria works. But it is also a great thing for us as members of Parliament. One of the great privileges of the office that I hold now, and other offices I was privileged to hold in the previous government, is that it allows me to travel to all parts of the state and to see regional Victoria, both the regional cities and the smaller country towns, and get a true sense of all the qualities that make those communities so special. So for all of us who came here today it is much more of a gift from Ballarat to us rather than anything we might, if you like, give to the city. For us to be able to see, feel
and experience the vibrancy, the energy, the great passion and the history of the city and this region is a great thing. Of course I am sure the galleries will be filled with very keen observers today, and that is very important as well. The regional sitting program is a wonderful program, and I congratulate the Premier for continuing the efforts of previous governments. I am sure our Legislative Council colleagues will have a similarly fulfilling experience in that other great regional centre, Bendigo. I mentioned a moment ago that one of the great privileges of my current role, and my other roles over time, has been to visit all parts of our state and to move throughout regional communities. Having grown up in regional Victoria I have a keen sense of the importance of the regional parts of our state -- not just big cities but also much smaller towns -- and whilst I have never lived in Ballarat, this is a special place for me and my family. My mother's family are all spud farmers from this area, and their hands are stained with the cold red dirt from Bungaree, Dean and Springbank, and whilst I have not lived here this is a special community -- special to our state, special to all of us personally and certainly special to me. My grandfather was a spud farmer and had to leave the farm because of difficult times to become a train driver, first steam and then the sparks, down in Melbourne. He always referred to his family in Ballarat and families like those we knew on the land -- working hard, toiling for generations to build a better future for their kids -- as 'my people'. I think that enduring sense of identity -- those special qualities that Ballarat holds so dear -- is still strong, proud and vibrant today, all these years later. The history of this city is the history of our state in many ways. The Premier has detailed information about the period from the gold rush right through to agriculture and manufacturing. This is a city that tells a much broader story -- a story of hope; a story of great challenge; a story of enterprise; a story of investment, toil and struggle; and a story of great achievement. That is something we should all take a moment to reflect upon as we spend this day in such a great city. The other opportunity we have today, as we spend some time in regional Victoria as a Parliament, is to reflect not just on Ballarat but also on regional Victoria and the special needs of regional Victoria. In my experience this community and communities right across regional Victoria have a reasonably healthy scepticism about the work that governments do, but they have significant expectations about the role of government. They have a fundamental belief that what governments do matters and that the choices that governments make are very important. There is an opportunity for us to reflect upon that today. We can look at all the strengths of this community and at the opportunities and choices we as a legislature make and reflect upon how we might find opportunities within the challenges that Ballarat faces and opportunities within the challenges that regional Victoria faces in what are undoubtedly uncertain times. I will give an example of the power of government action and the fact that I think regional Victorians, whilst sceptical, have a fundamental faith in the fact that governments can influence the outcomes and opportunities, perhaps most of all in regional areas. Ballarat Health Services is not simply a place where people in this community receive the dedicated, specialist and acute health care they need but it is also the biggest employer in this local area. It is that way in which we should view the role of government, particularly the state government, in terms of investments, choices and priorities. We as a Parliament, including members of the government, have enormous power in terms of delivering and supporting, in complex and innovative ways, growth, strength and prosperity in regional communities like this one. Our decisions are very important and perhaps they become more important the further away from the Melbourne CBD we get. It is a simple point, but an important one. Today's regional sitting is an opportunity for us to reflect upon all of those things. I also say -- and the Premier touched upon this -- that there is great history in this city. There is history in terms of the growing democracy in our state. The Premier mentioned miners and the growth and development of a proper franchise in our state. He mentioned Sovereign Hill and the dedication to that important and colourful period in our history. So we owe Ballarat a great debt in many ways. We should also take some time today to reflect on the fact that the Ballarat community, as the custodian of that chapter of our history and so many other important chapters, has a great reverence for the past, is the custodian of it and celebrates our history very well. We should all be indebted to this city and its people for that. Similarly as a state we should be indebted to Ballarat and grateful for the role it has played, as the Premier indicated, as an economic powerhouse from the 1850s of the gold rush to food, fibre, manufacturing, agriculture more broadly and service economies. This is a powerhouse in every sense. It is one of our great
regional cities with a strong history and a very bright future. In regard to the point I made earlier about the decisions governments make, I say governments can influence and make it just a little bit easier for a community like this to be stronger, to build a better and even more prosperous future and perhaps even a more golden future than we had in times past, which we have reflected upon. If you will indulge me for a moment, Speaker, we as a parliamentary Labor Party are very proud to have served this community and to have made decisions in its interests. In coming here today I drove past IBM, the State Revenue Office, what was Rural Ambulance Victoria's regional headquarters and the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, and in terms of other services and facilities I have spent some time at the hospital and local schools. Like the Premier I have made several trips to Ballarat in recent days, and it is with some pride that we reflect upon the decisions and choices that we made. They are powerful; they are important. Whilst self-praise is no recommendation, Speaker -- I have a healthy appreciation of that -- we are proud to have made those investments. Together with the enterprise, hard work, skills, innovation and in many respects the confidence and the courage of the business community and the workers -- well-organised workers, can I say -- in this city, working together in a strong partnership, we were very pleased during our time in office to be able to make a mark on this city and to leave it in, might I boldly suggest, a better place than we found it. We are very pleased about that. Equally I am sure those on the other side of the house will be very pleased with some of their decisions and the work they have done. That is what regional cities and growth are all about. It is not about one government and one period in time; it has to have been a consistent effort both here in Ballarat and in so many other parts of regional Victoria. If I can just conclude by saying Ballarat is a city that tells a much broader story. As I said at the outset, the history of Ballarat is in many respects the history of our state, and we will talk about gold later on. The regional sitting programs are very important, not just because the communities get a better sense of what the legislature does but also because they are a great opportunity for us to spend time collectively in regional Victoria, to show our strong support for regional Victoria as a Parliament and to celebrate all the great things that are happening in regional Victoria, including its vibrant multiculturalism, strong arts culture, innovation, investment, strong service industry and those industries that are synonymous with our economic story, such as manufacturing and, as the Premier indicated, food, fibre and agriculture. All of those things we celebrate during our one day together. That is an important contribution that we can collectively make. I thank all of those who have welcomed us to Ballarat. I congratulate the Premier on putting in place a regional sitting program. It does the government great credit, and we look forward to a day of debate. This is a day where we will deal with some important issues. It is a day where we as a Parliament will clearly show this community and all regional communities that Victoria extends well beyond its capital city, that we value our thriving regions and that we are all here together to support them to grow, to be fairer, to be stronger and, as the Premier noted, to reach out to the world.