Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Kulin nation, the land upon which we meet, and their elders past and present. It is a great privilege for me to stand here as the inaugural member for Sydenham, a new seat that was created during the redistribution before the last election. I thank the people of the Sydenham electorate for electing me as their member. It is a great honour, and I will continue my work in standing up for the people of Sydenham, as I will stand up for the interests of all Victorians in my role as a minister.
I would not be here today without the support of the large army of volunteers and ALP supporters in my area. I sincerely thank them all for being part of the campaign. No amount of thankyou letters or certificates can demonstrate how grateful I am to the dedicated members who fought hard to get Labor back into government. I thank all the volunteers who worked as part of my team in setting up street stalls, making phone calls, entering data and being at every pre-poll day with me, and obviously manning the booths on the day. They know the millions of things they did to help out, and I thank them very much.
I also pay special tribute to my electorate staff — Mark Gazic, Maddy Moore, Elvira Tsecoutanis, Despina Havelas and Don Townsend. I send an extremely special thankyou to Dianne Bell, my mother, without whom I would not be standing here today as the member for Sydenham. She has given me guidance on both the campaign trail and on life in general, so thank you, Mum. Both my husband and my son have stood by me through the long days of campaigning and continue to support me in my role as a minister, and I would just like to say that they both keep me laughing and keep me sane, as they did during the election. Thank you to all of my colleagues. It is a privilege to be part of the Labor team, and I look forward to achieving the things that are important to the people of Sydenham and the people of Victoria.
Locally, we committed to building a children’s and women’s hospital for the west, something of which I am extremely proud. As Melbourne’s west is the fastest growing area in Australia, Sunshine Hospital has the third highest number of births in Victoria, with 5100 babies being delivered in the last 12 months alone. The Andrews government has committed to building the Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which will provide 237 new beds, 39 special care nursery cots and 4 new operating theatres. It is a fantastic commitment and will be a proud achievement. We do this because we understand the needs of the west and the need for growth, unlike opposition members.
Another local priority for my area is to build the Taylors Hill senior school. As I said, Melbourne’s west is the fastest growing region across the whole of Australia at the moment, and we have committed to building a years 10–12 secondary school in Taylors Hill which will meet the demands of many of those kids who have to travel long distances in order to get themselves a public secondary education.
I also proudly stand here as the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I was shocked, upon coming into this portfolio, by where we are currently in our achievements and lack of achievements in Closing the Gap. Labor worked hard when it was in government on closing that gap and focused on progressing self-determination for Aboriginal Victorians. We looked at funding programs in maternal and child health, we looked at policies that would go to the core of reducing smoking rates and improving the general health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities within this state. We intend to build on those achievements of the past and work towards overcoming the unacceptable health, education and life outcomes and gaps that Aboriginal Victorians currently face.
As the new Minister for Industrial Relations, I can attest to the fact that some huge commitments were made in the lead-up to the election, and we are already delivering on them. The Andrews government believes in a fair, comprehensive safety net of wages and conditions, good-faith bargaining and the right to take lawful industrial action. That is why we have recently made a submission to the Productivity Commission and also a submission on the minimum rates of pay increases that the Fair Work Commission is currently undertaking. We also recognise the value and reward that the Victorian public service and its funded agencies deserve. Unlike opposition members, the Andrews government will not take workers for granted. We will work to ensure that we are at the negotiating table, and we will not embark on wholesale sackings like opposition members did when 4600 public sector jobs were lost.
Victorian people suffer when the government uses enterprise bargaining negotiations to wage war on its front-line workers. We will not be doing that. We will be at the table negotiating in good faith, as a model employer, making sure that we deliver in a timely manner. I am very proud to be the member for Sydenham and very excited about the work ahead in the years to come.