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Legislative Assembly

19 February 2019
Steve McGhie  (ALP)


Mr McGHIE (Melton) (15:59:26): Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity to address the house. As this is my first speech as a parliamentarian, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. It is a great honour and privilege for me to stand here today to address the house on behalf of the people of the Melton electorate. As some of you would be aware, I was a very late entrant as the ALP candidate, and when the proposal was put to me that as I stand as the candidate for Melton I was greatly humbled and honoured, if not a little shell-shocked, with only three and a half weeks until the election. My decision was required fairly quickly, to say the least. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly one of the biggest decisions that I have had to make in my life. Luckily I had the night to think it over. The following morning, still contemplating my decision, I asked my wife her thoughts, and without hesitation we both agreed that this was the direction for the next chapter of our lives. To be elected in what was a very short and tough campaign was very sobering. There were 11 other candidates and they all ran strong campaigns, but in the end Labor won the day. I am very grateful for the support given to me personally by the Melton constituents, and I would like to thank them wholeheartedly for their continued support for the Andrews Labor government. There is a great weight of expectation upon my shoulders, and I am committed to work tirelessly and to do my utmost to fulfil those expectations. I wish to acknowledge the lengthy service of the previous member, Don Nardella, and wish him well in his retirement. I have a working-class background, being born and bred in Braybrook in the western suburbs. There were six children in our family, my twin brother and I being the youngest. My mother was a cleaner at a bank in the city. My father was a motor mechanic at General Motors Holden for over 30 years, and prior to that he served in the Royal Navy. Our parents brought us up to be independent and capable from an early age. Our family was instilled with trade union and Labor values. My mother always made sure that all of her children looked out for and supported others, with the belief that you achieve better outcomes when you work with and support people collectively. My brothers and sisters and I were heavily involved in sport, particularly footy for my brothers and I and netball for my sisters, which we all started playing at Maidstone Primary School and in the streets near where we lived. Sport was a huge part of our lives in those days, and it still is today. I have always been extremely active in my local sporting communities. Unfortunately our childhood was abruptly interrupted when our mother suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 48 in 1973. In those days a doctor was required to authorise an ambulance to take a patient to hospital. Unfortunately the treating doctor misdiagnosed my mother and told her that she had a strained muscle in her arm. Despite the doctor’s misdiagnosis, my mother knew she was dying, and while she was still able she called us all in to say our goodbyes. She slipped into a coma and was taken to hospital by ambulance later that night and died in hospital. Thankfully our health system has come a long way since then. In my early working life I worked as an orderly at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Seeing paramedics coming into casualty whilst undertaking their roles really inspired me, and I commenced training as a paramedic in Melbourne in February 1981. I undertook my training in Sunshine and worked a lot in the western suburbs over a period of 15 years, serving the communities of Melton, Bacchus Marsh, Sunshine and St Albans. Additionally, I undertook roles at Air Ambulance in the rosters department. It was a fantastic job. I liked the shift work and the camaraderie. Every day was different, and there was never a dull day. In terms of moments that stood out for me in the job, dealing with the deaths of children was difficult. In the 1980s there seemed to be a lot of cot deaths—SIDS cases. Sadly, around that time I attended the deaths of two young boys aged seven and eight who had been hit by a train. There was a triple fatality in which all three adults were dead when we arrived at the scene. You always remember those cases. On the other side there were memorable highlights. People say delivering babies is a highlight, and it most certainly is. But for me, I found bringing a patient back to life was my greatest highlight. Basically the role of an ambulance paramedic is all about helping people, seeing the relief on people’s faces when you walk into a house. You put your hand on their shoulder, and straightaway you see them ease. Just attending and being able to comfort people was wonderful. The ambulance profession has changed immensely since my days on the road. The hours worked, the new technology, the knowledge paramedics need, changes in medical practice, the range of drugs utilised and the constant scrutiny they are under all make it a lot harder. I would say the life span for paramedics in the job when I started was 30 years. Now it is probably 10 years due to the incumbent pressures and workload they have to contend with. From 1993 to 1999 I held the position of shop steward across metropolitan Melbourne. I always tried to support and look after my colleagues. At the end of 1995 I joined the ambulance union as assistant secretary, and in 2005 I was elected to the position of general secretary—a position I held for 13 years before retiring in July 2018. Thanks, Premier. And I will not mention the caravan, all right? In 2008 I was elected to the position of president of the National Council of Ambulance Unions and served its 15 000 members for 10 years. During this tenure I championed a number of key issues, including preventing the privatisation of the ambulance services, addressing occupational violence against paramedics, the introduction of national paramedic registration and supporting the mental health of paramedics by mainstreaming mental health as a core OH&S issue. These are issues that the Andrews Labor government has strongly supported. During the period of 2012–14 under my union leadership the Code Red campaign to end the crisis in the Victorian ambulance service was the single largest union campaign in the lead-up to the 2014 state election. You may remember it because every Victorian ambulance had written messages on their windows to inform the public of the crisis. I worked with the then incoming Andrews government to ensure the members under my care received the working conditions they deserved and Victorians were provided with a vastly improved ambulance service. The seat of Melton is one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing areas in Australia, encompassing Bacchus Marsh, Brookfield, Darley, Exford, Hopetoun Park, Long Forest, Melton, Melton South and Merrimu and parts of Eynesbury, Kurunjang, Maddingley, Melton West and Parwan. The two most significant population hubs are the towns of Melton and Bacchus Marsh. In the city of Melton 7000 residents move in every year. It is predicted that by 2031 there will be more than 250 000 residents living in Melton. In comparison, in the same electorate the population of Bacchus Marsh, including Darley and Maddingley, is estimated at over 22 000. Bacchus Marsh faces unique challenges of its own, including dated infrastructure and facilities, together with ever-increasing traffic congestion. The demographics have changed over time. Now the median age in Melton and Bacchus Marsh is 39 and 43 respectively. The youth population of Melton is 26 per cent, and it is 19 per cent in Bacchus Marsh. As the member for Melton I will strongly advocate for investment in schools and hospitals, local jobs, skills and training, improved public transport, road and rail services, infrastructure and community services. These are the fundamental needs and rights of our society, and I will work tirelessly as part of the Andrews Labor government to ensure that we achieve positive and constructive outcomes. A significant issue in Bacchus Marsh is the need for road upgrades to cater for the increase in traffic and road congestion. Many residents raised this concern with me during the election, and I have seen firsthand the need for improvements in this area. The most significant issue in Melton is the provision of a public hospital. The Melton electorate does not have a hospital and requires a healthcare facility which can offer 24-hour emergency assistance. In October 2018 the member for Altona, the then Minister for Health, announced the provision of $2.3 million to start planning for a public hospital in Melton, and I am fully committed to seeing this facility become a reality for my electorate. Given the issues facing the Melton electorate I have my work cut out for me. However, I am confident in the knowledge that the only government that is capable of and committed to working towards solving these issues is a Labor government. A poignant example of the Andrews Labor government resolving issues in this electorate evolved out of the tragic death of two young men who died during our ambulance crisis in 2013 under the previous Liberal-National government. These young men were 18-year-old Brodie Wilson, who passed away on 29 June 2013, and 23-year-old Matthew Gibbs, who passed away on 9 October 2013. These young men tragically did not have an ambulance arrive in an acceptable time, and unfortunately they were unable to be resuscitated. It is the legacy of these two young men that when the Andrews government came into office in 2014 much work was done collectively to rectify ambulance response times so that tragedies such as these would never happen again, not only in Melton but across the state. I would like to acknowledge the campaigning of the parents of these young men, Steve and Jo Gibbs and Julie Wilson, and I believe Julie is in the gallery tonight. Along with Steve, Jo and Julie, I would also like to thank all the paramedics; Danny Hill, general secretary, and Olga Bartasek, assistant secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia—Victoria; the previous member for Williamstown, Wade Noonan; Ambulance Victoria chief executive officer Tony Walker; the Premier; and, of course, the member for Altona, the previous Minister for Ambulance Services, for their tireless efforts over a four-year time frame, resulting in drastically improved ambulance services across the state and in particular within the Melton electorate. The legacy of Matthew Gibbs and Brodie Wilson has improved ambulance resourcing levels throughout the Melton electorate dramatically. Response times have improved by 3 minutes in Melton and 4 minutes in Bacchus Marsh. This has resulted in better health outcomes and reduced loss of life not only in Melton but across the state. We owe much to Brodie and Matthew and the Gibbs and Wilson families. On a personal note my wife, Janet, and I have one daughter, Vivian, who is married to Peter, and we have two grandchildren, Thomas and Sarah. Sarah commenced her VCE studies this year, and Thomas just had his march out parade at Kapooka army base in Wagga on 8 February. We are very proud of our family, their values and their achievements. I have many people to thank for me being where I am today: firstly, my parents, James and Florence—if they were here today I know they would be proud—my brothers and sisters, who are probably thinking, 'Just get on with it’, and my fantastic colleagues at Ambulance Employees Australia—Victoria. A big thankyou to all the paramedics I have worked with over 38 years, both as colleagues and members, you are an amazing group of people. To my campaign team, in particular Broden Borg and Nathan Miles, thank you for your support and tireless efforts during my hectic three-and-a-half-week campaign, and of course all the countless volunteers that helped out. My appreciation is also extended to the Labor Party branch members in Melton and Bacchus Marsh for their support. To all the community organisations I met with during my campaign, including the Melton South Football Netball Club, Friends of Toolern Creek, Darley Football Netball Club, the Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation, Friends of Melton Botanic Garden, Melton Secondary College, Melton West Primary School, Exford Primary School, Staughton College, thank you for your incredible welcome and support. Finally, to my wife, Janet: I cannot thank you enough. I believe that only the Andrews Labor government, with its progressive policies, foresight and commitment, can deliver for all Victorians. This is why I am a proud Labor member and even prouder member for Melton in the 59th state Parliament. I want to leave this place knowing that I was able to contribute to the Andrews Labor government in making the lives of all Victorians better. I thank you, Speaker, and I thank the house. Members applauded. The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call the member for Gembrook, can I acknowledge a former member for Footscray, Marsha Thomson, in the gallery and also a former federal member for Gellibrand, Nicola Roxon.