Appropriation (Parliament 2015-2016) Bill 2015

Ms GRALEY – I rise this afternoon to contribute to debate on the Appropriation (Parliament 2015-2016) Bill 2015. It is a pleasure to rise in this amazing chamber that we have the pleasure of calling our workplace to speak about how we fund and support the operations of the Parliament. I am always amazed when people visit the Parliament as my guests, or on school tours, at how often they say they have come to this longstanding institution for the very first time. They are amazed by just how beautiful and august this building is, what a deep and rich history it has and how it is, in every aspect, very much the home of Victorian democracy.

When we see the substantial amounts of money being allocated in this bill to support the Parliament and its workings, all of us on both sides of the house consider it to be a very important investment in not only the preservation of the buildings and the ongoing workings of the Parliament but also in the democratic traditions in which Victoria is so proudly a world leader.

I will make only a brief contribution, but in doing so I acknowledge and thank a number of people. I start with the staff, many of whom are in the Assembly with us today. I commend the work of the clerks. I often look at the clerks and wonder how they keep straight faces when they hear some of the things being said and some of the behaviour being exhibited — the zingers, the clangers and the sometimes unruly behaviour. They must think, ‘Goodness me, my children behave better than that’. Yet they manage to keep lovely, blank, serious faces and get on with their work of making sure the wheels of the chamber continue to turn. I thank the clerks.

I also thank the Parliamentary attendants. They assist us all a great deal with both little things and big things. If we have left something behind, they may be able to bring it in for us. They also make sure that we get our Hansard proofs so we can see exactly what we have said. It is a very good service, and they all do it with smiling faces. They are all very cheery. I like to think that even though we come from different backgrounds and different political parties, when we are here in the Parliament we all try to get along, and their very personal service is very appreciated, even to the extent that there is now a Western Bulldogs supporter as one of the attendants. We can share information with Pablo as we go in and out of the chamber. Until recently that has made for some good banter. Go Dogs! I hope we can deal with the Giants on the weekend. That will bring smiles to the faces of both Pablo and me, as well as the Minister for Police, who is sitting at the table.

The Hansard reporters, as many other MPs have commented, make us sound really terrific a lot of the time. Often having spoken you think, ‘I meant to say this. Did I say that? I was going to say that. Did that come out correctly? Did I get those figures in? Did I get those stats in?’. Sometimes when you are speaking it all becomes a bit of a blur, so when you read your speech, having been given the proof, you are always very pleasantly surprised, not by exactly what you may have said but by how it looks in Hansard, and that becomes the historical document that other people will read in time to come.

I also want to record my appreciation of the work of the parliamentary committee staff. I am not currently a member of a parliamentary committee, but in a former Parliament I served on the Outer Suburban/Interface Services and Development Committee and the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC). I visited PAEC the other day when the Minister for Education was in attendance, and I noticed that Valerie and her team were busy around the room, beavering away to make sure that PAEC was running smoothly, that everybody was in the right place and that despite the rough games that are often played, the proceedings were going smoothly. Already in the house this morning we have had a report from PAEC on the budget. There is no doubt that this very busy committee requires a great deal of commitment from MPs, but it also requires a great deal of skill and commitment from the staff who support it to get these very important reports to the Parliament so we can all be sure that the financial management of the state is available for us to investigate to ensure that it is on the straight and narrow.

One of the most important things that happens in this Parliament is the education program. Many schools in my electorate visit the Parliament, and I encourage them to do so. I have a lot of schools in my electorate, including big schools. I have primary schools with somewhere between 900 and 1000 students. They make a lot of requests to come into the Parliament with a lot of students. In my first term in Parliament I spent quite a bit of time undertaking tours, so I am very pleased to see that the education program has been expanded and schools know when and how to book. That lets me off the hook; I can just come in and do a 3-minute introduction to their local MP and what I do on their behalf, and then the attendants are more than willing and very much more than able to take them on a tour. As I said at the start of my contribution, the attendants are all very pleased to be here. I take this opportunity to remind them that while this is my workplace and our workplace, the buildings belong to the people of Victoria, who are pretty chuffed to think that in the state in which they live there is such a beautiful building and that they can come into as members of the public to see democracy at work.

I want to finish by mentioning my electorate office staff. The bill provides resources to make sure that our electorate offices operate efficiently and serve the people who we are elected to represent. In my case, David Iles, Nichole Hayes and Naureen Choudhry do an amazing job of making sure that every person who walks through the door of my office is welcomed with open arms and is given the time to be listened to. We try our very hardest to make sure that we can assist them in some way. People often come to your electorate office as a last resort. They have tried other means to get some assistance and a friend may have said to them, ‘Look, I ran into Judith at an event’, or they find in their letterbox a flyer that we have put out with all our details on it. They come to our electorate office or give us a phone call or send us an email, and it is my commitment to the people in my electorate that they get a response. I cannot guarantee that I can do it personally all the time, but I know my staff will go beyond the call of duty to make sure that my good name is preserved when they deal with every constituent as if they are the most important person in the world. I thank Naureen, David and Nichole.

Parliament House is a very important building and the Victorian Parliament is a very important institution that we look after. People have commented on the lack of grandeur that some of our fellow MPs experience in their working environment in the chookhouse.

Ms Thomas interjected.

Ms GRALEY — As the member for Macedon says, it keeps us grounded. But while it may keep us grounded, it should not make us sick. I look forward to the findings and recommendations that come from the investigation into the cancer cluster that has been suggested may exist in these buildings. I do not know where it is at, but I call on the Speaker and the President to get us the information sooner rather than later so we can take steps. We may all have thoughts about what is happening here, but rather than second-guessing it, we would all like to know what is happening in this building, or what is not happening in this building. I implore them to bring the findings and the recommendations from the investigation as swiftly as they possibly can to the Parliament.

 Without further ado, I commend the bill to the house.