I rise in the chamber today and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so, because the chamber in which we gather today is part of the Victorian Parliament. It is part of the very foundation—institutional foundation—of our democracy in this state and in this nation, and the bill that is before the chamber today is a bill that not only seeks to undermine our democracy and the very institutions of our democracy, being the Parliament, but also seeks to undermine the freedom of Victorians. What this bill proposes is for the state of emergency to be extended in Victoria for another six months. The reason why I have an issue with this extension of a state of emergency in Victoria is that it places significant power in a very, very few—significant power in the Premier and his COVID cabinet cabal, and it also places significant power in a small number of unelected bureaucrats.
Now, this is the first time that the Victorian Parliament has sat since June. It is now September, and the Parliament has sat for only 20 days in this calendar year. This Parliament sits at a time when the mood of the Victorian people, in my mind, can best be summarised as a mood of total uncertainty—total bewilderment verging on anger, frustration and, worse, hopelessness. From the outset—and I want to be absolutely crystal clear about this—when I speak in this place, I do so representing the views of 46 100 residents of the Sandringham district and I do so seeking to represent the thousands of Victorians who have emailed me in the circumstance of these lockdowns. And I say on their behalf: if ever a politician had demonstrated before the Victorian people that he was arrogantly out of touch with the trouble and the pain that Victorians feel, it is the Premier of this state. He strutted the stage, seeking to be the hero coming to save us all from damnation, save us all from this global pandemic, but instead what he has been shown to be is anything but that, and Victorians know it. Victorians know what he is really, really like.
This sort of arrogance and conceited attitude on the Premier’s part is not confined to him, sadly. It runs like a river of deceit throughout not only the cabinet but the Andrews Labor government. Perhaps the greatest worry is that he is so invincibly ignorant of the problems that this state faces, but my fear is that we will have more problems before things get better. Yes, these are my words, these are my assessments, but they are the assessments, they are the sentiments of the many, many thousands of people who have contacted me and my small but hardworking team in recent times.
Victorians place their trust in governments to get us through this, and we were so close. We were so close to getting to the other end of it, just like other states in this wonderful commonwealth of ours, and something went wrong in Victoria. What really hurts me is that I think that there is a very clear connection between the start of this second wave and Victorian Labor’s own internal party problems. There was a 60 Minutes story which highlighted some internal problems within the Victorian Labor Party. It led to ministerial sackings and ministerial resignations. It led to Labor and the Victorian Labor government focusing on themselves and the Premier focusing on himself, and not focusing on what Victorians put them there to do—not focusing on the health and the wellbeing of Victorians. So is it any wonder that shortly after that, shortly after they focused on themselves, Victoria suddenly found itself in a second wave of coronavirus and in stage 4 lockdowns?
Perhaps that is the most disheartening, the most distressing and disappointing thing of 2020—that it was politicians. When they started to focus on themselves, they forgot about focusing on what the Victorian people put them there to do. Let that be a lesson for every one of us. Let that be a lesson for every one of us who has the great privilege to serve our people in this place, to uphold the traditions that our forebears, that our forefathers have fought and have died for. Let that be the inspiration for every speaker today who contributes to debate on this bill that seeks to undermine our freedoms and seeks to undermine our democracy.
It is really clear why we are in stage 4 lockdowns now. It is very clear to every Victorian what sparked this second wave. We know, because we have been told. We have been told by Department of Health and Human Services officials themselves in evidence to the COVID inquiry that 99 per cent of cases in this second wave have been genomically linked to hotel quarantine, and since then 547 related deaths in Victoria have followed. In Victoria today another 59 deaths were added to that tragic total.
Every day at the government’s press briefing we hear the same numbers. We hear tragically the amount of Victorians who have lost their lives. We hear the amount of new cases of coronavirus in this state and we get the total amount of coronavirus cases across this state that are ongoing. But I tell you what we never hear: we never hear of those small businesses who have been shut down and who will never open again. We never hear a daily tally of those people who have lost their jobs. We never hear a daily tally of those people who have lost their lives to suicide because of the circumstance that we find ourselves in here in this state. We never hear a daily tally of those Victorians who are at greater risk of family violence because of the circumstances that we find ourselves in. And I put it to this chamber, Acting Speaker—I put it to you, I put it to the government, I put it to my colleagues and I put it to Victorians who are listening here today—those numbers are much more important, because those numbers are the numbers that will shape the recovery or lack thereof that this state enters into once we have seen the back of the acute stage of coronavirus mark 1.
Those are the numbers that are going to shape our state, not in the months ahead, but in the years ahead—the ongoing flow-on effects, health impacts. Not just the health impacts, but the economic impacts that are going to be felt in every high street shopping centre and that are going to be felt in every community, mine included. In my district of Sandringham there are some 9000 sole traders in the bayside community. In Kingston there are some 10 000 sole traders. These are the people who are hurting the most. These are the people who will be the human face of tragedy in the coming months. These are the people who have been left behind by the Premier and Labor. These are the people that we will need to focus on, and those people can rely upon the Leader of the Opposition and Victorian Liberals to get them through the next stage of their recovery, their business recovery and Victoria’s recovery, because they will never have a friend in a Labor government. The Labor government will have you believe that there is wide agreement that these lockdowns should be continued. Well, there are 300-plus eminent doctors who disagree with them, and I would like to make that letter that they have written to the Premier available to the house for all members to see.
In closing I simply say this: not only is what is proposed an affront to our democracy, it is a significant restriction on our freedom. We must do better, but sadly I do not think we will be doing any better under this government.