MONETARY UNITS AMENDMENT BILL 2012 – Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Posted on 31. May, 2012 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I was just amazed to hear the previous member’s contribution. You can see from his body language that he did not even believe what he was saying. He is very wimpish, and he knows he is wrong. I am just amazed; he used to be so boisterous and forthcoming, yet he has made such a wimpish contribution. Those on that side of the chamber know that this is an awful, dishonest bill, and that is an understatement. Let me start with this quote:

The opposition strenuously opposes this bill for two reasons. The first is that it is an attack on fundamental constitutional principles of responsible government — principles that date back to the Bill of Rights of 1689. The second is that it is yet another unjustified burden being imposed on Victorian businesses and families by a cash‑strapped government that is desperate for more revenue to cover its spending blow‑outs.

I would love to take the credit for those words, but I cannot. They belong to the member for Box Hill, when he was speaking in this house in March 2004 in the debate on the principal act, the Monetary Units Act 2004, which this bill amends. Presumably he will be voting against this bill, but I wonder where he was when the bill was before cabinet. As Attorney‑General, did he advise the cabinet that the bill breaches fundamental constitutional principles? As Minister for Finance, did the member for Box Hill advise the cabinet that it would place an unjustified burden on businesses and families to help a cash‑strapped government? I suspect the answer to both questions is a big, fat no. That is why this bill stinks of hypocrisy.

Turning to fundamentals, when any legislation is brought before the Parliament both the Parliament and the community are entitled to a decent explanation of the need for it. In the 2004 debate the Leader of The Nationals, the now Deputy Premier, who is not in the chamber at the moment, complained about the length of the Treasurer’s second‑reading speech. He said:

It is a sure sign the government is in trouble in relation to a given piece of legislation when the second‑reading speech that brings it before the house is one page in length.

In the same debate the Leader of The Nationals also complained about the lack of scrutiny and public consultation, saying:

… this bill is a cop‑out, because what the government is doing is imposing these increases in fees and fines without any justification in the sense of allowing any objective examination of whether they are justified or not. It is doing so in an environment where it wants to remove itself from the public scrutiny which should properly apply in relation to matters of this nature. They should be put out into the public domain so that people have the opportunity to comment on them.

Presumably the Deputy Premier was silent at the cabinet meetings, just as he and The Nationals were silent throughout the last Liberal‑dominated government. However, it is not just the brevity that is the problem with the second‑reading speech; it is the government’s downright dishonesty. The Treasurer gazetted the increase to penalty units in March at $125.19. This bill now applies a substantial further increase of more than $15 per unit by fixing it at $140.84. The government has cloaked this increase in the mantle of law and order. No one believes that for a moment, no more than we believe in leprechauns or fairies at the bottom of the garden. So much for the Premier’s promise that there would be no spin by his government.

The real reason for the increase is revenue driven. We all know that, and that is why it is so dishonest to say it is about making Victoria safer. It is as though the government has briefly woken from its slumber and said, ‘Oh, dear me, Victoria is slipping into recession. We had better have a fine‑led recovery’. Maybe it is Victoria’s version of austerity, but it will not work. The tragedy for Victorians is that this government has no vision, no drive and no energy. Projects have languished at a time when the government should have been driving them to encourage investment, economic activity and employment. That is what is needed — not slugging Victorians.

I will briefly give two examples to demonstrate how warped the hike in penalty units is. Firstly, while increasing penalty units the government is slashing the road safety budget. Think about it! So much for making Victoria safer. Secondly, last month in the debate on the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 I made the point that the penalties for some offences had, without explanation, been more than doubled to 5 penalty units. So while in some cases there is a double whammy, it provides a hint of what should have happened. If the government believes there are problems with particular offences that require a greater deterrent in the form of increasing penalty units, then it should do the hard work to identify those offences and make the necessary amendments to the appropriate acts. Instead the government has chosen the lazy option, and in doing so its hypocrisy is on display for all to see. I oppose this bill in the strongest terms possible.


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