Australia Day

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — Can I reassure the residents of both Yarra and Darebin and residents in other councils that may be considering going down this track of making this change around the council-deemed celebrations on that day that they have the absolute right and the encouragement of this government to be celebrating Australia Day as they see fit. There will not be any council officers peering into people’s backyards while they have a barbecue. That is the scaremongering that comes from those opposite. Those opposite are more concerned with having some trevally with the underbelly than they are with community consultation and what goes on in local government.

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I thank the member for his question, but of course in any debate around such an important issue as Australia Day, consultation is the key. Leadership for change is about taking people with you, and unfortunately the Greens have not done this in Yarra or in Darebin.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! I ask members to cease shouting and interjecting across the chamber. I need to be able to hear the minister’s answer. It is very early in question time. I do not wish to remove members from the chamber this early, but I will if I have to.

Ms HUTCHINS — Let me be clear: as Minister for Local Government, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and as Minister for Industrial Relations, I stand by the right for an Australia Day public holiday — no doubt about that.

Mr Guy — On a point of order, Speaker, on relevance, the question was not around whether the minister wanted a day off; the question was whether or not 26 January is supported by this minister as Australia Day, as the day for our country to celebrate, not as a public holiday.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The Attorney-General will assist the house. With the assistance of government members, I call the Leader of the House.

Ms Allan — On the point of order, Speaker, the minister could not have been more emphatic in answering the question and in being relevant to answering the question. We all know the Leader of the Opposition is desperate for the world to look outside the bubble that he thinks we are all in with his mobster mates. We all know what he is —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms Allan — I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw what he just called me.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! Members will come to order. The member for Warrandyte!

Mr R. Smith interjected.

The SPEAKER — The member for Warrandyte is warned. The Leader of the House has asked for a comment to be withdrawn.

Mr Guy — I withdraw.

The SPEAKER — The Leader of the Opposition has withdrawn. There is no point of order.

Ms HUTCHINS — This is exactly why we are reviewing the Local Government Act 1989, because at the heart of this debate is the fact that we have councils that did not consult widely enough with their own ratepayers around this very important issue, and it is an important issue.

The federal government has really left a massive void in this area by not stepping up. It is not the role of the state government to be debating what date Australia Day should be; that is the role of the federal government, and we know that they are incapable of having respectful conversations with their community.

The Local Government Act review will look at how we can better enforce deliberative engagement between councils and ratepayers, and I look forward to those opposite supporting those amendments when I bring them to the house, because in this current situation, where we have had just last night the City of Darebin and last week the City of Yarra take these decisions without sufficient community consultation — and we are hearing that loud and clear through the media, through social media and through our communities — there is real need for councils to consult widely around such important change.