Subscribe to Matt Fregon's Page

all fields required

Subscribe

or continue to home page >
Authorised by Matt Fregon MP, 1/40 Montclair Avenue GLEN WAVERLEY VIC 3150

Media Centre

ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2021

MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:53): I move: That the debate be now adjourned Motion agreed to and debate adjourned. Ordered that debate be adjourned until later this day.

Member’s statement: First responders and Greg Dean

https://youtu.be/jRCKvqcurdU MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (10:05): I rise to recognise and acknowledge the incredible work being done in the community by our first responders, our SES and their volunteers following our recent once-in-a-century severe weather event here in Victoria. The storms and flooding from 9 June resulted in the SES’s busiest 24-hour period on record, and there have been more than 9200 requests for assistance from 9 June until yesterday. It was a sleepless night for many of our amazing Monash unit volunteers, who dealt with close to 40 requests for assistance in a matter of hours. Early last year I joined the Premier and the member for Oakleigh at the Monash SES to meet with unit commander George Haitidis and his fantastic crew. They come from all walks of life, bringing with them many different skills, interests and backgrounds. However, they are united by a purpose of volunteering their time and skills to support our community. I, and I am sure my colleagues would agree, cannot thank them enough for their continued efforts and dedication to our districts.

Member’s statement: First responders and Greg Dean

https://youtu.be/jRCKvqcurdU MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (10:05): I rise to recognise and acknowledge the incredible work being done in the community by our first responders, our SES and their volunteers following our recent once-in-a-century severe weather event here in Victoria. The storms and flooding from 9 June resulted in the SES’s busiest 24-hour period on record, and there have been more than 9200 requests for assistance from 9 June until yesterday. It was a sleepless night for many of our amazing Monash unit volunteers, who dealt with close to 40 requests for assistance in a matter of hours. Early last year I joined the Premier and the member for Oakleigh at the Monash SES to meet with unit commander George Haitidis and his fantastic crew. They come from all walks of life, bringing with them many different skills, interests and backgrounds. However, they are united by a purpose of volunteering their time and skills to support our community. I, and I am sure my colleagues would agree, cannot thank them enough for their continued efforts and dedication to our districts.

MUTUAL RECOGNITION (VICTORIA) AMENDMENT BILL 2021

https://youtu.be/IkTAXmEEHGE MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (14:54): I also rise to speak on the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021. It is great to hear about the aspects of this bill that will benefit the people of Tarneit from my colleague over there. Over on the eastern side of town we have tradies who will definitely benefit, just like in the west. The Treasurer, as others have said, has brought to us a small bill but a very important one, and it is also very encouraging to hear the bipartisanship in the room on this bill and that the opposition will be supporting it, or not opposing it, depending on how they have worded it today. But either way, that sounds very encouraging. It is interesting—I had a plumber at my place on Saturday to do things that I cannot do, because I am not very skilled with hardware, and we got chatting about this bill. I was always a software person; there are others who do hardware better than me. We had a bit of a leaky tap, and he came to fix that for us. We had a chat about this bill, and he was very interested. We had a discussion about the benefits for tradies like himself. He also was quite proud of the fact that Victoria has some of the highest plumbing standards in the country. Not only was that very pleasing for me to hear, but it was also, I think, in the vein of bipartisanship, good to hear the member for Ripon talk about this bill. When people come here, obviously the standards that they meet will be the standards that we have in this state. Nonetheless, this is an important bill. The duplication of registrations and licences for potentially crossing a river does not make a lot of sense. I think if we all had to go and get a licence for New South Wales in order to drive in New South Wales, we would be not very happy about that, or likewise a registration for our car, if we took it to a different state. So we can all agree that removing barriers, red tape and bureaucracy is crucial to Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and automatic mutual recognition will support this economic recovery by not only reducing barriers to licensed workers employed in multiple states but also eliminating the need to pay multiple registration fees, as I said, therefore reducing costs for workers, consumers and businesses and encouraging workers, I would argue, by making it easier for them to come to this state. With our Big Build, with the amount of work that is going on in this state for our tradies Victoria is a very attractive place to work. The mutual recognition bill is an important step to enabling that flexibility for the sector’s highly skilled and somewhat mobile workforce. Not only can it reduce duplication and administrative costs through the development of national standards, but importantly mutual recognition can introduce more productive competition amongst jurisdictions, resulting in an enhanced and more efficient regulatory environment in the long term. Economic analysis which was commissioned by the commonwealth government indicated this reform is expected to directly benefit over 168 000 Australian workers each year and add more than $2.4 billion to the economy over the next 10 years. It does that obviously by removing unnecessary red tape, and it will support more jobs and ensure our economies continue to rebound faster and stronger. The report also notes that in Victoria nearly 20 per cent of our workers, around 600 000 workers, hold an occupational licence and could benefit from automatic mutual recognition. Under the proposed agreed model of this recognition the local regulator will no longer issue a Victorian registration to an interstate worker operating in Victoria, but instead interstate workers that are licensed in their home state will automatically be deemed to hold a licence in Victoria. We had a gentleman come to my office last year who was a plumber and got his ticket in WA. He was accredited at multiple levels, but he had difficulty in getting that same registration over in Victoria, so there is one person that we directly had some contact with who will presumably benefit from this law. The government’s number one priority in this work has been to ensure the ongoing integrity of the Victorian licensing schemes and protections, and with this at the forefront of discussions we have worked with other jurisdictions through the national cabinet process to ensure we get the right balance, including safeguards to allow Victoria to maintain its important consumer safety, public safety and other community protections in our existing schemes. Now, I just want to quickly go to something that I think is quite relevant to the discussion we are having today, in that we have people who learn trades in other jurisdictions and then obviously with the passing of this bill—and let us hope it passes speedily—they can come here, and they will be able to work here. But there is a segment of the community that I would argue probably does not get touched by this bill, and there is still more work to do. Now, our ADF personnel undertake a range of training during their service, and many choose to pursue formal qualifications. The transition to civilian life also provides an opportunity for veterans to develop new skills through tertiary or vocational education. However, despite the vast training and hands-on expense gained by our defence force personnel, many leave without the ability to utilise these skills. I mean, you would think that if somebody gets taught by our defence force to be a chippy or a sparky or a plumber that at the end of their service—when they have given up part of their life to serve our country—they would have something to show for it, for their skills, in their ongoing life. But unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. Now, research into former ADF peacekeepers has found a strong association between employment status and several mental health conditions, including PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency. So being able to leave the services with a career or a vocation that you continue from the skills that you have learned is very important, and it is something that we are not doing enough of yet. Now, a study identified that 44 per cent of recently transitioned personnel have experienced a period of unemployment of three months or more since leaving the ADF. Now I just want to reference Minister Leane from the other place, our Minister for Veterans, because in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee he said the Andrews government are committed to supporting— … veterans’ wellbeing— and initiatives and aim to facilitate— … their successful transition to and participation in civilian life. And I know that Minister Leane is very active in our discussions with the federal government to try and get this hole filled. I obviously back Minister Leane 100 per cent in this. We should have a situation in this country where young men and women who give their time and service to the country leave with a vocation. Now, there may be concerns, I would guess, from our people in the defence force that people might come just for the degree and then leave. I would argue you still get people for three or four years for that, and you are going to have some very qualified people. I mean, as a person who used to employ people, if I was an employer and I was looking at two resumes and they both have the same licences and registrations, and one of those people had been in the services for three years, I would hazard a guess that that person would be punctual, would understand authority, would turn up on time and would know their stuff. I would see this as a big ticket for anyone, for any young person. And although in our state we have free TAFE, so it is a lot easier for people to go and get their TAFE degrees, that is not always the case in other states. So something like this at a national level, I think, would not only help our young people, it would also help our armed services. So I think it is fantastic to know that Minister Leane and the Andrews Labor government are not only working on mutual recognition for every tradie in Victoria but also pushing our commonwealth closer and closer to recognising the valuable skills that our young men and women develop while they are serving our country. Not only do I commend the work that has been done on that cause, I commend this bill to the house.

MUTUAL RECOGNITION (VICTORIA) AMENDMENT BILL 2021

https://youtu.be/IkTAXmEEHGE MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (14:54): I also rise to speak on the Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2021. It is great to hear about the aspects of this bill that will benefit the people of Tarneit from my colleague over there. Over on the eastern side of town we have tradies who will definitely benefit, just like in the west. The Treasurer, as others have said, has brought to us a small bill but a very important one, and it is also very encouraging to hear the bipartisanship in the room on this bill and that the opposition will be supporting it, or not opposing it, depending on how they have worded it today. But either way, that sounds very encouraging. It is interesting—I had a plumber at my place on Saturday to do things that I cannot do, because I am not very skilled with hardware, and we got chatting about this bill. I was always a software person; there are others who do hardware better than me. We had a bit of a leaky tap, and he came to fix that for us. We had a chat about this bill, and he was very interested. We had a discussion about the benefits for tradies like himself. He also was quite proud of the fact that Victoria has some of the highest plumbing standards in the country. Not only was that very pleasing for me to hear, but it was also, I think, in the vein of bipartisanship, good to hear the member for Ripon talk about this bill. When people come here, obviously the standards that they meet will be the standards that we have in this state. Nonetheless, this is an important bill. The duplication of registrations and licences for potentially crossing a river does not make a lot of sense. I think if we all had to go and get a licence for New South Wales in order to drive in New South Wales, we would be not very happy about that, or likewise a registration for our car, if we took it to a different state. So we can all agree that removing barriers, red tape and bureaucracy is crucial to Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and automatic mutual recognition will support this economic recovery by not only reducing barriers to licensed workers employed in multiple states but also eliminating the need to pay multiple registration fees, as I said, therefore reducing costs for workers, consumers and businesses and encouraging workers, I would argue, by making it easier for them to come to this state. With our Big Build, with the amount of work that is going on in this state for our tradies Victoria is a very attractive place to work. The mutual recognition bill is an important step to enabling that flexibility for the sector’s highly skilled and somewhat mobile workforce. Not only can it reduce duplication and administrative costs through the development of national standards, but importantly mutual recognition can introduce more productive competition amongst jurisdictions, resulting in an enhanced and more efficient regulatory environment in the long term. Economic analysis which was commissioned by the commonwealth government indicated this reform is expected to directly benefit over 168 000 Australian workers each year and add more than $2.4 billion to the economy over the next 10 years. It does that obviously by removing unnecessary red tape, and it will support more jobs and ensure our economies continue to rebound faster and stronger. The report also notes that in Victoria nearly 20 per cent of our workers, around 600 000 workers, hold an occupational licence and could benefit from automatic mutual recognition. Under the proposed agreed model of this recognition the local regulator will no longer issue a Victorian registration to an interstate worker operating in Victoria, but instead interstate workers that are licensed in their home state will automatically be deemed to hold a licence in Victoria. We had a gentleman come to my office last year who was a plumber and got his ticket in WA. He was accredited at multiple levels, but he had difficulty in getting that same registration over in Victoria, so there is one person that we directly had some contact with who will presumably benefit from this law. The government’s number one priority in this work has been to ensure the ongoing integrity of the Victorian licensing schemes and protections, and with this at the forefront of discussions we have worked with other jurisdictions through the national cabinet process to ensure we get the right balance, including safeguards to allow Victoria to maintain its important consumer safety, public safety and other community protections in our existing schemes. Now, I just want to quickly go to something that I think is quite relevant to the discussion we are having today, in that we have people who learn trades in other jurisdictions and then obviously with the passing of this bill—and let us hope it passes speedily—they can come here, and they will be able to work here. But there is a segment of the community that I would argue probably does not get touched by this bill, and there is still more work to do. Now, our ADF personnel undertake a range of training during their service, and many choose to pursue formal qualifications. The transition to civilian life also provides an opportunity for veterans to develop new skills through tertiary or vocational education. However, despite the vast training and hands-on expense gained by our defence force personnel, many leave without the ability to utilise these skills. I mean, you would think that if somebody gets taught by our defence force to be a chippy or a sparky or a plumber that at the end of their service—when they have given up part of their life to serve our country—they would have something to show for it, for their skills, in their ongoing life. But unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. Now, research into former ADF peacekeepers has found a strong association between employment status and several mental health conditions, including PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency. So being able to leave the services with a career or a vocation that you continue from the skills that you have learned is very important, and it is something that we are not doing enough of yet. Now, a study identified that 44 per cent of recently transitioned personnel have experienced a period of unemployment of three months or more since leaving the ADF. Now I just want to reference Minister Leane from the other place, our Minister for Veterans, because in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee he said the Andrews government are committed to supporting— … veterans’ wellbeing— and initiatives and aim to facilitate— … their successful transition to and participation in civilian life. And I know that Minister Leane is very active in our discussions with the federal government to try and get this hole filled. I obviously back Minister Leane 100 per cent in this. We should have a situation in this country where young men and women who give their time and service to the country leave with a vocation. Now, there may be concerns, I would guess, from our people in the defence force that people might come just for the degree and then leave. I would argue you still get people for three or four years for that, and you are going to have some very qualified people. I mean, as a person who used to employ people, if I was an employer and I was looking at two resumes and they both have the same licences and registrations, and one of those people had been in the services for three years, I would hazard a guess that that person would be punctual, would understand authority, would turn up on time and would know their stuff. I would see this as a big ticket for anyone, for any young person. And although in our state we have free TAFE, so it is a lot easier for people to go and get their TAFE degrees, that is not always the case in other states. So something like this at a national level, I think, would not only help our young people, it would also help our armed services. So I think it is fantastic to know that Minister Leane and the Andrews Labor government are not only working on mutual recognition for every tradie in Victoria but also pushing our commonwealth closer and closer to recognising the valuable skills that our young men and women develop while they are serving our country. Not only do I commend the work that has been done on that cause, I commend this bill to the house.

Adjournment-Mount Waverley Reserve Master Plan

https://youtu.be/X7yFs1F7N4M MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (19:02): (5922) My adjournment item this evening is for the Minister for Community Sport, and I ask the minister to update the house on the progress of the Mount Waverley Reserve master plan project. In the lead-up to the 2018 election I was delighted to give an undertaking to the sports clubs who use this important reserve in Mount Waverley that the Andrews Labor government would provide funds to allow Monash council to develop a master plan that would show the council’s vision and objectives for the sport and recreation facilities and infrastructure at the Mount Waverley Reserve. There are three clubs who use this reserve, and not only those but the community—the Waverley Blues Football Netball Club, the Mount Waverley Cricket Club and the Mount Waverley Tennis Club—and they were very excited with not only the promise but also the delivery of the funds for the council for the master plan development. Sport is such an important part of the fabric of our community, as we know, and I am told by the clubs that they and their members submitted a lot of feedback when submissions were requested. With a clear vision of potential future works for this reserve, we will be able to see the Monash council’s vision for the future. I know the community shares my interest in seeing the final conceptual plan, and I look forward to the minister’s response.

Adjournment-Mount Waverley Reserve Master Plan

https://youtu.be/X7yFs1F7N4M MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (19:02): (5922) My adjournment item this evening is for the Minister for Community Sport, and I ask the minister to update the house on the progress of the Mount Waverley Reserve master plan project. In the lead-up to the 2018 election I was delighted to give an undertaking to the sports clubs who use this important reserve in Mount Waverley that the Andrews Labor government would provide funds to allow Monash council to develop a master plan that would show the council’s vision and objectives for the sport and recreation facilities and infrastructure at the Mount Waverley Reserve. There are three clubs who use this reserve, and not only those but the community—the Waverley Blues Football Netball Club, the Mount Waverley Cricket Club and the Mount Waverley Tennis Club—and they were very excited with not only the promise but also the delivery of the funds for the council for the master plan development. Sport is such an important part of the fabric of our community, as we know, and I am told by the clubs that they and their members submitted a lot of feedback when submissions were requested. With a clear vision of potential future works for this reserve, we will be able to see the Monash council’s vision for the future. I know the community shares my interest in seeing the final conceptual plan, and I look forward to the minister’s response.

 

ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENERGY FAIRNESS) BILL 2021

https://youtu.be/-MAXvHC1UV0 MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:17): I rise also to speak on the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Bill 2021. What a pleasure it is to follow the member for South Barwon, my whip colleague. It is a privilege to assist him in his duties in this noble house. A member: What a suck. Mr FREGON: I know. I wonder if that helps, but anyway. Mr Dimopoulos interjected. Mr FREGON: That is true. We are all doing very well. It is more important, I should say, that we are here to represent the people of Victoria and obviously in my case the great people of—God’s own country—Mount Waverley. From Bayswater to Tarneit, St Albans to Oakleigh or from Broadmeadows to the good people of Narre Warren or even Lowan, we are here to help them in their day-to-day lives—in keeping their energy prices fair and reasonable and hopefully lower, and making it easier to work in the energy environment and the industry that we have. Other people have mentioned changes to that industry over the years—some good, some not so good. I would also just comment on the energy during this lockdown that my staff have been using while I have been working from home. I am just going to take this very short opportunity before I go back to the bill to say thank you to my staff. You are working very well. I really appreciate the work you do, and I should go back to the notes that Lisa has prepared for me. In 2018 we made a commitment to Victorians. We made many commitments to Victorians, which we are ticking off without any doubt and which we are delivering, and I will get back to that word ‘delivering’ hopefully towards the end. We promised that a re-elected Andrews Labor government would deliver the biggest regulatory shake-up of the energy sector in Victoria’s history by providing stronger punishments for retailers who do the wrong thing and better protections for customers, while extending the power saving bonus to help more customers get a better deal on their energy bills. And I give a second shout-out to my staff on that, because of the amount of people who they have helped on our behalf to get those power saving bonuses, which have made a real difference. I know the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, who is at the table, would be well aware of the amount of seniors and pensioners who have directly benefited from the $250 power saving bonus. So I encourage all members—and I know that I do not really need to because we are all doing this—to make sure that message gets out so everyone who is eligible can get that assistance for their day-to-day bills. This builds on our work to cut power bills for Victorians by installing solar panels, batteries and hot water systems on 770 000 houses across the state through our Solar Homes package. Labor is supporting all 11 recommendations of our independent review of the electricity and gas retail markets in Victoria, which found that intervention was required to make our system fairer for customers and recommended a range of measures to help cut power prices. Wrongful disconnections by big energy companies are consistently a major complaint, particularly for vulnerable Victorians, and that is why we are introducing tougher penalties to put retailers on notice. As part of Labor’s energy fairness plan we will double civil penalty notices to $250 000 for retailers who undertake wrongful disconnections, making it the highest fine in the nation. That really sets an example for those companies, and for the other states to follow suit, that when you go in the wrong direction and it hurts people, there should be consequences. We will ban win-backs, the so-called short-term discounts that end up slugging customers more in the long run. We will also put an end to retailers’ door-to-door sales and cold-calling telemarketers harassing Victorian families. There is one thing that my office has received a number of complaints on over the years—many complaints—and that is door-to-door salesmen and the cold-call phone calls from people who are trying to sell you something which most people do not want, and they call us. I notice that in the reasoned amendment the member for Sandringham put forward he talks about stickers, and I think the member for Burwood highlighted some of the sticker policies that seem a little strange. But we do have the ‘Do not knock’ stickers in my office, and I am sure a lot of other members do. If there is anyone out there who does want one, please give us a call and we can get them out to you. I do not think we need to put that in legislation. It is available. There are plenty of options there. Right now energy retailers are able to back bill up to nine months when they have undercharged their customers. Labor will reduce this to four months. The point of that is obviously so that customers are not forced to pay huge sums simply because the retailer mucked up and took a while to realise their mistake. Under Labor criminal penalties for energy retailers who mislead or deceive the Essential Services Commission or systematically and wrongfully disconnect households will increase to $1 million. Labor’s energy fairness plan will also provide the ESC with clearer investigatory powers as well as new powers to monitor and report on the competitiveness and efficiency of the Victorian retail energy market. Labor will appoint a fourth essential services commissioner—an energy cop on the beat—whose focus will be on prosecuting misbehaving energy retailers who have had it too easy for too long. We have already been helping Victorians save money on their energy bills by extending our $50 power saving bonus, which originally ended on 30 June 2019. Since the introduction of the scheme in July 2018 more than 220 000 Victorians have claimed that $50 bonus by using the Victorian Energy Compare website to find a better deal on their power bills. On average Victorians who use the independent comparison website will save $330 or more on their bills in the first year alone, with seven out of 10 finding a better deal by switching retail offers. One thing John from my office was saying the other day is that in the last few years he has— Mr Dimopoulos: Hi, John. Mr FREGON: John is an excellent electorate officer, and I could not do most of this without him. But over the last couple of years every 12 months or so he goes back to Energy Compare. He has told me that in the last three years that he has done this he has saved money every year. So it is a bit of a reminder for us all: if you have not run the Energy Compare website in the last six or 12 months or so, it is probably worth having a look, because there are better deals out there. Now, in 2021 we introduced the $250 power saving bonus for pensioner concession card holders and some healthcare card holders, including JobSeeker, youth allowance, Austudy and Abstudy recipients, to assist in paying their energy bills. We in the office send out birthday cards to our seniors—as a lot of, I know, members on all sides of the spectrum do—and in those birthday cards for 65-and-overs we have been putting mention of the power saving bonus, just to make sure people are aware of it. I tell you, it is a very nice day when you get a call from a 90-year-old who has lived in the Waverley area for 57 years and they say, ‘Oh, look, thank you very much for the card. That was very nice’. And you go, ‘Oh, well, that is the least I can do’, and they say, ‘And the $250: best present I got’. And you think, ‘Well, okay, it’s not exactly a present, so correct that’, but the fact is that was so useful to that person. For people who are pensioners, their income is basically fixed and, let us face it, increases over the years to pensions have not been what you would actually call generous, so having that $250 makes a huge difference to the yearly income for those people. To know that we are a government who understands this, who understands how much we can help with sometimes a relatively small amount of money, is a good thing. Mr Dimopoulos: It can make a big difference. Mr FREGON: It does make a big difference, member for Oakleigh. You are absolutely right. It is the little things that this government does, like the $250 power saving bonus for people, that I think just show our values time and time again. If there is a little way we can help, we will help. And so, on that note, obviously this is a very good bill. On the reasoned amendment, the member for Sandringham said ‘It delivers’. I do not see how you can deliver by actually saying ‘We’re not going to do anything’, but maybe that is the way they work on that side. Here we just deliver.

ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENERGY FAIRNESS) BILL 2021

https://youtu.be/-MAXvHC1UV0 MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:17): I rise also to speak on the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Bill 2021. What a pleasure it is to follow the member for South Barwon, my whip colleague. It is a privilege to assist him in his duties in this noble house. A member: What a suck. Mr FREGON: I know. I wonder if that helps, but anyway. Mr Dimopoulos interjected. Mr FREGON: That is true. We are all doing very well. It is more important, I should say, that we are here to represent the people of Victoria and obviously in my case the great people of—God’s own country—Mount Waverley. From Bayswater to Tarneit, St Albans to Oakleigh or from Broadmeadows to the good people of Narre Warren or even Lowan, we are here to help them in their day-to-day lives—in keeping their energy prices fair and reasonable and hopefully lower, and making it easier to work in the energy environment and the industry that we have. Other people have mentioned changes to that industry over the years—some good, some not so good. I would also just comment on the energy during this lockdown that my staff have been using while I have been working from home. I am just going to take this very short opportunity before I go back to the bill to say thank you to my staff. You are working very well. I really appreciate the work you do, and I should go back to the notes that Lisa has prepared for me. In 2018 we made a commitment to Victorians. We made many commitments to Victorians, which we are ticking off without any doubt and which we are delivering, and I will get back to that word ‘delivering’ hopefully towards the end. We promised that a re-elected Andrews Labor government would deliver the biggest regulatory shake-up of the energy sector in Victoria’s history by providing stronger punishments for retailers who do the wrong thing and better protections for customers, while extending the power saving bonus to help more customers get a better deal on their energy bills. And I give a second shout-out to my staff on that, because of the amount of people who they have helped on our behalf to get those power saving bonuses, which have made a real difference. I know the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, who is at the table, would be well aware of the amount of seniors and pensioners who have directly benefited from the $250 power saving bonus. So I encourage all members—and I know that I do not really need to because we are all doing this—to make sure that message gets out so everyone who is eligible can get that assistance for their day-to-day bills. This builds on our work to cut power bills for Victorians by installing solar panels, batteries and hot water systems on 770 000 houses across the state through our Solar Homes package. Labor is supporting all 11 recommendations of our independent review of the electricity and gas retail markets in Victoria, which found that intervention was required to make our system fairer for customers and recommended a range of measures to help cut power prices. Wrongful disconnections by big energy companies are consistently a major complaint, particularly for vulnerable Victorians, and that is why we are introducing tougher penalties to put retailers on notice. As part of Labor’s energy fairness plan we will double civil penalty notices to $250 000 for retailers who undertake wrongful disconnections, making it the highest fine in the nation. That really sets an example for those companies, and for the other states to follow suit, that when you go in the wrong direction and it hurts people, there should be consequences. We will ban win-backs, the so-called short-term discounts that end up slugging customers more in the long run. We will also put an end to retailers’ door-to-door sales and cold-calling telemarketers harassing Victorian families. There is one thing that my office has received a number of complaints on over the years—many complaints—and that is door-to-door salesmen and the cold-call phone calls from people who are trying to sell you something which most people do not want, and they call us. I notice that in the reasoned amendment the member for Sandringham put forward he talks about stickers, and I think the member for Burwood highlighted some of the sticker policies that seem a little strange. But we do have the ‘Do not knock’ stickers in my office, and I am sure a lot of other members do. If there is anyone out there who does want one, please give us a call and we can get them out to you. I do not think we need to put that in legislation. It is available. There are plenty of options there. Right now energy retailers are able to back bill up to nine months when they have undercharged their customers. Labor will reduce this to four months. The point of that is obviously so that customers are not forced to pay huge sums simply because the retailer mucked up and took a while to realise their mistake. Under Labor criminal penalties for energy retailers who mislead or deceive the Essential Services Commission or systematically and wrongfully disconnect households will increase to $1 million. Labor’s energy fairness plan will also provide the ESC with clearer investigatory powers as well as new powers to monitor and report on the competitiveness and efficiency of the Victorian retail energy market. Labor will appoint a fourth essential services commissioner—an energy cop on the beat—whose focus will be on prosecuting misbehaving energy retailers who have had it too easy for too long. We have already been helping Victorians save money on their energy bills by extending our $50 power saving bonus, which originally ended on 30 June 2019. Since the introduction of the scheme in July 2018 more than 220 000 Victorians have claimed that $50 bonus by using the Victorian Energy Compare website to find a better deal on their power bills. On average Victorians who use the independent comparison website will save $330 or more on their bills in the first year alone, with seven out of 10 finding a better deal by switching retail offers. One thing John from my office was saying the other day is that in the last few years he has— Mr Dimopoulos: Hi, John. Mr FREGON: John is an excellent electorate officer, and I could not do most of this without him. But over the last couple of years every 12 months or so he goes back to Energy Compare. He has told me that in the last three years that he has done this he has saved money every year. So it is a bit of a reminder for us all: if you have not run the Energy Compare website in the last six or 12 months or so, it is probably worth having a look, because there are better deals out there. Now, in 2021 we introduced the $250 power saving bonus for pensioner concession card holders and some healthcare card holders, including JobSeeker, youth allowance, Austudy and Abstudy recipients, to assist in paying their energy bills. We in the office send out birthday cards to our seniors—as a lot of, I know, members on all sides of the spectrum do—and in those birthday cards for 65-and-overs we have been putting mention of the power saving bonus, just to make sure people are aware of it. I tell you, it is a very nice day when you get a call from a 90-year-old who has lived in the Waverley area for 57 years and they say, ‘Oh, look, thank you very much for the card. That was very nice’. And you go, ‘Oh, well, that is the least I can do’, and they say, ‘And the $250: best present I got’. And you think, ‘Well, okay, it’s not exactly a present, so correct that’, but the fact is that was so useful to that person. For people who are pensioners, their income is basically fixed and, let us face it, increases over the years to pensions have not been what you would actually call generous, so having that $250 makes a huge difference to the yearly income for those people. To know that we are a government who understands this, who understands how much we can help with sometimes a relatively small amount of money, is a good thing. Mr Dimopoulos: It can make a big difference. Mr FREGON: It does make a big difference, member for Oakleigh. You are absolutely right. It is the little things that this government does, like the $250 power saving bonus for people, that I think just show our values time and time again. If there is a little way we can help, we will help. And so, on that note, obviously this is a very good bill. On the reasoned amendment, the member for Sandringham said ‘It delivers’. I do not see how you can deliver by actually saying ‘We’re not going to do anything’, but maybe that is the way they work on that side. Here we just deliver.

Grievance Debate- Opposition Performance

https://youtu.be/c7buKrtzPlM MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (17:46): Well, where do I start? I grieve also for the state of our opposition, but only so much so because my parents are lifelong conservative voters. Mr Rowswell: On a point of order, Acting Speaker, in relation to standing order 110, relating to irrelevant material or tedious repetition, I note that this is the fourth government speaker who has grieved for the same subject matter, being the Liberal Party or the state opposition, and I would ask you to pay close attention to the contribution of the member, as the Chair may— The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Dimopoulos): Thank you. There is no point of order. Thank you for your advice. Mr FREGON: Thank you, Acting Speaker. So as I was saying, my parents have been conservative voters for all of their lives. My father ran a small business, a chemist shop, for all of his life, as I have said before in this house. As much as I could try and convince them that this side of this bench is a much better choice, I do not think I will have a go. I think if I was preselected for Ferntree Gully, I reckon Mum would support me. Dad? Yes, he probably would, but it would be tough. Now, I grieve for the opposition because—and I agree with the member for Eltham—the state of the debate, as we have seen over the last number of years, has declined, and it has declined to what is almost a tribal Carlton versus Collingwood, Victoria Park, 1975, stoush. Mr Morris interjected. Mr FREGON: Well, I am not going to choose Carlton or Collingwood. I think the member for Eildon and I are both Hawthorn supporters, and we will not get into that. So what can we do about this? On our side of the bench, if you take the pandemic as an example, we try and explain. We have got the Premier, the Acting Premier, the chief health officer, the deputy chief health officer and every minister on a relevant basis, who day after day after day try and explain to the Victorian public, the Victorian people, about the viral mess that this world is living in that we are trying to suppress. And this is a national strategy—that we try and suppress this thing out of our state. Now, we hear a lot of examples of people who are doing it very, very tough, and there is no shortage of those examples. As a government we are supporting those people, and obviously we have to draw lines in that support. We can honestly and openly debate where those lines are drawn—that is what this house is for—but when we start debating the actual health advice, when we start debating what our doctors are saying, we start getting into very dangerous and farcical territory. Now, my son Sam, our youngest, was born with a defect in the—and I am not going to know the medical terms there—tube that went from one of his kidneys to his bladder. The amazing medical people that we have in our state spotted this in utero, and they said, ‘This might be a bit of an issue. The kidney’s not working as much as possible. We’re going to have to keep an eye on this’. So obviously as expecting parents Bec and I were pretty worried about this. But, okay, you trust in your health professionals, because that is what they do, that is what they are trained to do and that is what they spend their lives being trained to do—to give you that advice. So we said, ‘What do we do?’. He said, ‘Nothing yet. We wait until Sam is born. It might clear up, it might not’. Well, sure enough, Sam was born and the X-ray or whatever it was showed he had a kink in this tube. So at six weeks old little Sammy went into surgery. Obviously this was fairly troubling for us as new parents, but again, we trusted the health advice. I will give a shout-out to Dr Kimber out there. When we talked to him we said, ‘You know, this is really scary’. He went, ‘Oh, look, I do two or three a day’. Our doctors, our health professionals, our nurses and our ambulance drivers do this for a living. If we do not trust them, if we sow the seeds of doubt on a daily basis, it takes longer and longer to bring that trust back. If you sow fear and discord as a mantra, I would argue very strongly on behalf of my parents that you are changing the very nature of your group. And if you go down those rabbit holes, it is very, very hard to dig yourselves out because you have got a lot of other rabbits with you and they will not let you go. To make my point on this, on Monday there was a press release from the opposition that I and others thought just went a little bit too far into la-la land, so I would like to make a personal disclosure on that note. In 2012 I was walking out of my front door. It had just started raining. I was carrying two garbage bags. I put my front foot on the little porch step, it slipped and I fell. When I landed I noticed that my leg was going this way and my foot was going 90 degrees the other way, and I had broken my leg. Now, I was not overly impressed with this, as you can imagine. Can I just point out that on that day in 2012 I did not take a photo of the stairs— A member: What about a video? Mr FREGON: I did not have a video of the stairs either. Ms Ward: Did you ring the police? Mr FREGON: I did not call the police. I did not need to. I did call the ambulance, because I trusted our first responders. Can I just say also that today is Thank a First Responder Day and give a huge shout-out to our first responders. The two women who came to support me while I was lying there feeling a bit sorry for myself were fantastic. You could not have asked for more. They got me into the bus, and they said, ‘All right. We’re going to take you to hospital. We’ll take you to this hospital. They do legs’. Now, at no point during that exchange with the ambulance drivers did I say, ‘Well, can you show me the health advice, please?’. I was pretty sure I had just got it, so it was okay. They gave me the green stick. I do not know if anyone has had the green stick, but if you break a leg, the green stick is very handy. Ms Ward: Yep. That’s a painful leg. Mr FREGON: Yes. I had eight-odd weeks of not being able to move anywhere. Then I was in a moon boot, I think, for another four or five weeks after that. Ms Ward: Did you give press conferences? Mr FREGON: I did not give any press conferences and I did not need to actually ask the ambulance to release any of the details from where I had dropped in my house. That is how ludicrous it has got—that we are even supposing that there is some conspiracy, not just with the public figure, who apparently is meant to disclose everything that ever happens to them in their life, which again is ludicrous, but also with everyone else connected to the incident who are somehow involved according to some magical mystery ride of the consciousness of people who I cannot understand. I will also point out in my public disclosure that my grandfather’s name is Lindsay, and so is my son’s. I do not know if that is relevant. Ms Ward: What does that mean? Mr FREGON: I do not know, but that is where we have gone. I have heard a little bit about business today from some of the members of the opposition. And look, everyone has the right in this place, when they are standing in this place, to say what they think, and they should say what they think. I do not know if members have seen the Mitchell and Webb skit where they go, ‘Don’t know much? Don’t worry about it. Send it to “What I reckon” at the BBC’. It is like everyone can have a go. Someone says the sky is falling, someone else says it is not. Great, what a debate that is. But everyone has the right to say what they want when we are in this place. I have heard members from the other side, and I am not going to point out individuals because it does not matter. If one member from the other side or from our side is saying it, it is a collective effort. We do not always say the right things on this side or the other side. And if you do not say the right thing, you cop it and you fix it. I think we saw a minister do that today, correct something that slightly needed to be corrected. That is a good thing. I have done it myself in this house. What I find hard to accept is when I am told, sitting here and being looked at, that no-one on this side of the house understands small business. I think to myself, ‘Now, hang on a second, I know this one’. I ran a small business for 20 years. I was in the corporate world for 10 years before that. I reckon I might know. Is it easy being in small business right now? No, it is desperately hard, and I get emails, similar to other members, showing how hard it is. And it is heartbreaking for some of these people. But if you look around the world to countries where they have not contained the virus, it is not better, it is worse. The strategy that is taken up by the national cabinet on suppression works. When we are locked down, like we are right now, it is bitterly hard on many people. And to all the people in my district and the whole of Victoria that are finding it very tough, I am so sorry it is happening. We are sorry it is happening, but we must contain this thing and get rid of it, because that is the way out for you to get back to making your business profitable. We have seen that by how quickly we bounce back. Even the Shadow Treasurer accepted that we had snapped back, in her wonderful interview with Raf Epstein on 774. We understand, but you have to draw the line somewhere. We hear a lot that our brothers and sisters to the north in New South Wales are the gold standard in all things. Fair enough. What did they do? With the Northern Beaches, what was their business support? Well, it was a $3000 grant for the three weeks, I believe. And we have heard a lot today about the cap of $75 000 being in our structures. If I look through the list for eligibility for New South Wales support during the Northern Beaches lockdown, I see ‘have an annual turnover of more than 75 000’. It is the same. And this is part of what happens with the debate when you are just arguing against everything and for the thing that you think is better. Even though there might be similarities, you just skip those. And that is fine. You are trying to make your point, and you have got every right to make your point. But if your point does not make sense, people will wake up to it. The Leader of the Opposition has a thankless job, and it does not matter if you are federal, state or whatever. I have sympathy for the person who is in opposition during a pandemic—not a whole heap of sympathy but, you know, a little bit. But the conduct of a person who is potentially putting themselves up to be leader of this state should be equivalent to being the leader of this state, and I personally do not believe this is what we are seeing. I think recent events in the opposition would say that there might be a few others who think that too. Now that is for you guys, not for me, and good luck. But I— Mr T Smith: Guys and girls. Mr FREGON: Well, guys and girls—it is just a collective, member for Kew. Sorry I had to explain that to you. In closing, if I think about the many people in the same situation as my parents, who are lifelong conservative voters, I see them looking at Sky, Murdoch and the debate coming from the opposition, and I see them getting sad and angry and dispirited. So I think we will continue to try to explain, we will continue to try and help and we will do our best. But what we end up with is the simple fact that you cannot be liberal with Victorians. Question agreed to.

Grievance Debate- Opposition Performance

https://youtu.be/c7buKrtzPlM MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (17:46): Well, where do I start? I grieve also for the state of our opposition, but only so much so because my parents are lifelong conservative voters. Mr Rowswell: On a point of order, Acting Speaker, in relation to standing order 110, relating to irrelevant material or tedious repetition, I note that this is the fourth government speaker who has grieved for the same subject matter, being the Liberal Party or the state opposition, and I would ask you to pay close attention to the contribution of the member, as the Chair may— The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Dimopoulos): Thank you. There is no point of order. Thank you for your advice. Mr FREGON: Thank you, Acting Speaker. So as I was saying, my parents have been conservative voters for all of their lives. My father ran a small business, a chemist shop, for all of his life, as I have said before in this house. As much as I could try and convince them that this side of this bench is a much better choice, I do not think I will have a go. I think if I was preselected for Ferntree Gully, I reckon Mum would support me. Dad? Yes, he probably would, but it would be tough. Now, I grieve for the opposition because—and I agree with the member for Eltham—the state of the debate, as we have seen over the last number of years, has declined, and it has declined to what is almost a tribal Carlton versus Collingwood, Victoria Park, 1975, stoush. Mr Morris interjected. Mr FREGON: Well, I am not going to choose Carlton or Collingwood. I think the member for Eildon and I are both Hawthorn supporters, and we will not get into that. So what can we do about this? On our side of the bench, if you take the pandemic as an example, we try and explain. We have got the Premier, the Acting Premier, the chief health officer, the deputy chief health officer and every minister on a relevant basis, who day after day after day try and explain to the Victorian public, the Victorian people, about the viral mess that this world is living in that we are trying to suppress. And this is a national strategy—that we try and suppress this thing out of our state. Now, we hear a lot of examples of people who are doing it very, very tough, and there is no shortage of those examples. As a government we are supporting those people, and obviously we have to draw lines in that support. We can honestly and openly debate where those lines are drawn—that is what this house is for—but when we start debating the actual health advice, when we start debating what our doctors are saying, we start getting into very dangerous and farcical territory. Now, my son Sam, our youngest, was born with a defect in the—and I am not going to know the medical terms there—tube that went from one of his kidneys to his bladder. The amazing medical people that we have in our state spotted this in utero, and they said, ‘This might be a bit of an issue. The kidney’s not working as much as possible. We’re going to have to keep an eye on this’. So obviously as expecting parents Bec and I were pretty worried about this. But, okay, you trust in your health professionals, because that is what they do, that is what they are trained to do and that is what they spend their lives being trained to do—to give you that advice. So we said, ‘What do we do?’. He said, ‘Nothing yet. We wait until Sam is born. It might clear up, it might not’. Well, sure enough, Sam was born and the X-ray or whatever it was showed he had a kink in this tube. So at six weeks old little Sammy went into surgery. Obviously this was fairly troubling for us as new parents, but again, we trusted the health advice. I will give a shout-out to Dr Kimber out there. When we talked to him we said, ‘You know, this is really scary’. He went, ‘Oh, look, I do two or three a day’. Our doctors, our health professionals, our nurses and our ambulance drivers do this for a living. If we do not trust them, if we sow the seeds of doubt on a daily basis, it takes longer and longer to bring that trust back. If you sow fear and discord as a mantra, I would argue very strongly on behalf of my parents that you are changing the very nature of your group. And if you go down those rabbit holes, it is very, very hard to dig yourselves out because you have got a lot of other rabbits with you and they will not let you go. To make my point on this, on Monday there was a press release from the opposition that I and others thought just went a little bit too far into la-la land, so I would like to make a personal disclosure on that note. In 2012 I was walking out of my front door. It had just started raining. I was carrying two garbage bags. I put my front foot on the little porch step, it slipped and I fell. When I landed I noticed that my leg was going this way and my foot was going 90 degrees the other way, and I had broken my leg. Now, I was not overly impressed with this, as you can imagine. Can I just point out that on that day in 2012 I did not take a photo of the stairs— A member: What about a video? Mr FREGON: I did not have a video of the stairs either. Ms Ward: Did you ring the police? Mr FREGON: I did not call the police. I did not need to. I did call the ambulance, because I trusted our first responders. Can I just say also that today is Thank a First Responder Day and give a huge shout-out to our first responders. The two women who came to support me while I was lying there feeling a bit sorry for myself were fantastic. You could not have asked for more. They got me into the bus, and they said, ‘All right. We’re going to take you to hospital. We’ll take you to this hospital. They do legs’. Now, at no point during that exchange with the ambulance drivers did I say, ‘Well, can you show me the health advice, please?’. I was pretty sure I had just got it, so it was okay. They gave me the green stick. I do not know if anyone has had the green stick, but if you break a leg, the green stick is very handy. Ms Ward: Yep. That’s a painful leg. Mr FREGON: Yes. I had eight-odd weeks of not being able to move anywhere. Then I was in a moon boot, I think, for another four or five weeks after that. Ms Ward: Did you give press conferences? Mr FREGON: I did not give any press conferences and I did not need to actually ask the ambulance to release any of the details from where I had dropped in my house. That is how ludicrous it has got—that we are even supposing that there is some conspiracy, not just with the public figure, who apparently is meant to disclose everything that ever happens to them in their life, which again is ludicrous, but also with everyone else connected to the incident who are somehow involved according to some magical mystery ride of the consciousness of people who I cannot understand. I will also point out in my public disclosure that my grandfather’s name is Lindsay, and so is my son’s. I do not know if that is relevant. Ms Ward: What does that mean? Mr FREGON: I do not know, but that is where we have gone. I have heard a little bit about business today from some of the members of the opposition. And look, everyone has the right in this place, when they are standing in this place, to say what they think, and they should say what they think. I do not know if members have seen the Mitchell and Webb skit where they go, ‘Don’t know much? Don’t worry about it. Send it to “What I reckon” at the BBC’. It is like everyone can have a go. Someone says the sky is falling, someone else says it is not. Great, what a debate that is. But everyone has the right to say what they want when we are in this place. I have heard members from the other side, and I am not going to point out individuals because it does not matter. If one member from the other side or from our side is saying it, it is a collective effort. We do not always say the right things on this side or the other side. And if you do not say the right thing, you cop it and you fix it. I think we saw a minister do that today, correct something that slightly needed to be corrected. That is a good thing. I have done it myself in this house. What I find hard to accept is when I am told, sitting here and being looked at, that no-one on this side of the house understands small business. I think to myself, ‘Now, hang on a second, I know this one’. I ran a small business for 20 years. I was in the corporate world for 10 years before that. I reckon I might know. Is it easy being in small business right now? No, it is desperately hard, and I get emails, similar to other members, showing how hard it is. And it is heartbreaking for some of these people. But if you look around the world to countries where they have not contained the virus, it is not better, it is worse. The strategy that is taken up by the national cabinet on suppression works. When we are locked down, like we are right now, it is bitterly hard on many people. And to all the people in my district and the whole of Victoria that are finding it very tough, I am so sorry it is happening. We are sorry it is happening, but we must contain this thing and get rid of it, because that is the way out for you to get back to making your business profitable. We have seen that by how quickly we bounce back. Even the Shadow Treasurer accepted that we had snapped back, in her wonderful interview with Raf Epstein on 774. We understand, but you have to draw the line somewhere. We hear a lot that our brothers and sisters to the north in New South Wales are the gold standard in all things. Fair enough. What did they do? With the Northern Beaches, what was their business support? Well, it was a $3000 grant for the three weeks, I believe. And we have heard a lot today about the cap of $75 000 being in our structures. If I look through the list for eligibility for New South Wales support during the Northern Beaches lockdown, I see ‘have an annual turnover of more than 75 000’. It is the same. And this is part of what happens with the debate when you are just arguing against everything and for the thing that you think is better. Even though there might be similarities, you just skip those. And that is fine. You are trying to make your point, and you have got every right to make your point. But if your point does not make sense, people will wake up to it. The Leader of the Opposition has a thankless job, and it does not matter if you are federal, state or whatever. I have sympathy for the person who is in opposition during a pandemic—not a whole heap of sympathy but, you know, a little bit. But the conduct of a person who is potentially putting themselves up to be leader of this state should be equivalent to being the leader of this state, and I personally do not believe this is what we are seeing. I think recent events in the opposition would say that there might be a few others who think that too. Now that is for you guys, not for me, and good luck. But I— Mr T Smith: Guys and girls. Mr FREGON: Well, guys and girls—it is just a collective, member for Kew. Sorry I had to explain that to you. In closing, if I think about the many people in the same situation as my parents, who are lifelong conservative voters, I see them looking at Sky, Murdoch and the debate coming from the opposition, and I see them getting sad and angry and dispirited. So I think we will continue to try to explain, we will continue to try and help and we will do our best. But what we end up with is the simple fact that you cannot be liberal with Victorians. Question agreed to.

COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

https://youtu.be/xn_59ivaZiY MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (13:44): And yes, happy birthday. I rise to recognise the hard work being done by our healthcare workers to vaccinate Victorians at centres and hubs across our state. The COVID-19 vaccination program began in Victoria on 22 February. Since then we have seen almost 651 000 total doses administered, and we are currently delivering more than 140 000 doses a week to the Victorian community. Now, I was proud to join thousands of other Victorians to do my little bit to help protect our community, and last Monday I got myself jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Ringwood East community clinic. So a shout-out to the member for Ringwood over there—they did a great job. More than half of all Victorians are now eligible to receive either Pfizer or AstraZeneca, and I implore you all to check with your GP and go and get jabbed. With more than 10 000 doses delivered to Victoria’s aged-care and disability workforce through our dedicated vaccine lanes since the blitz began on 2 June, it is clear that providing priority access for vaccinations means our frontline health workforce are getting vaccinated faster. We extended the aged-care and disability workforce blitz to allow even more Victorians working in high-risk settings, particularly those in private aged care—federally run private aged care—to get vaccinated with ease. Outbreaks across Australia have shown how fast coronavirus can spread to these sensitive settings, which is why priority access will also be given to our Ambulance Victoria staff—God bless them—from Wednesday, 9 June until Sunday, 13 June. I want to thank each and every Victorian for getting the jab.

COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

https://youtu.be/xn_59ivaZiY MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (13:44): And yes, happy birthday. I rise to recognise the hard work being done by our healthcare workers to vaccinate Victorians at centres and hubs across our state. The COVID-19 vaccination program began in Victoria on 22 February. Since then we have seen almost 651 000 total doses administered, and we are currently delivering more than 140 000 doses a week to the Victorian community. Now, I was proud to join thousands of other Victorians to do my little bit to help protect our community, and last Monday I got myself jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Ringwood East community clinic. So a shout-out to the member for Ringwood over there—they did a great job. More than half of all Victorians are now eligible to receive either Pfizer or AstraZeneca, and I implore you all to check with your GP and go and get jabbed. With more than 10 000 doses delivered to Victoria’s aged-care and disability workforce through our dedicated vaccine lanes since the blitz began on 2 June, it is clear that providing priority access for vaccinations means our frontline health workforce are getting vaccinated faster. We extended the aged-care and disability workforce blitz to allow even more Victorians working in high-risk settings, particularly those in private aged care—federally run private aged care—to get vaccinated with ease. Outbreaks across Australia have shown how fast coronavirus can spread to these sensitive settings, which is why priority access will also be given to our Ambulance Victoria staff—God bless them—from Wednesday, 9 June until Sunday, 13 June. I want to thank each and every Victorian for getting the jab.

Bill-Education and Training Amendment Bill

https://youtu.be/ws2rBRmBIPI MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:24): I rise also to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Protection of School Communities) Bill 2021. It is very pleasing to see that there seems to be agreeance throughout the whole chamber on this one, which is a good thing. I follow on from the member for Caulfield. We all thank our teachers. They do an amazing job day after day—and our principals no less than any of them. When you think about working in the corporate world, if you were managing a business that had, say, the revenue of one of my high schools with 2000 kids in it, and if you were managing that amount of staff and dealing with regulations that change on a daily basis and the amount of clients, students or parents, if you put that into a corporate sort of box, I think it is fair to say that the average salary for a principal might be a little bit higher. Our principals and our teachers do not do it for the money; they do it because it is a vocation. This bill is about protecting them, but as the member for Altona said very, very succinctly, it is also about sending signals to our community. It is about saying what is appropriate. Work-related violence is by far the greatest occupational health and safety hazard for Victorian school staff. It is a problem confronted by all educators irrespective of age, gender and years of experience. No-one should be threatened or intimidated at work or at school. In my 30 years in business I do not think I ever saw actual violence in the workplace. I am sure it happens, but I never saw it. I do not even really recall strong verbal abuse in any of the workplaces that I worked at. Again, I am sure it happens. But when I was reading through this bill, preparing for today, I called every principal in the state schools in my area, and the general consensus was that most of them over the last 10 years have probably had an instance or two of either strong abuse or even violence in some cases. Now, as I think everyone has said or would agree, that is completely unacceptable. It strikes me that as parents we are all very—obviously—emotionally attached to our kids, and if we see them being harmed or we think they are being harmed in some way, we can get emotional. As I think the member for Altona said, obviously no-one is perfect, no matter what side of the blackboard you are on, but it should never get to a point where we are being verbally abusive. It should never get to a point where teachers or principals dread going to their workplace. Now, in 2019, when La Trobe Uni surveyed Australian teachers on their experience of bullying and harassment in the preceding 12 months, which was 2017 to 2018, the survey found that 57.8 per cent of teachers reported or had experienced at least one incident of bullying and harassment from a parent. Well, that is obviously unacceptable, so this bill strengthens the powers and give specific powers to our principals to deal with this sort of behaviour. And as we know, this behaviour is not limited to just the school. There are measures at the moment where in extreme circumstances orders can be put against people to keep them out of school grounds, but if a school goes on a cross-country run, there are examples—anecdotally, I give you—where aggrieved parents or others have decided to go to those outside-school areas. The orders that we are talking about today will cover that. There is also, as others have gone to, the ability to have some of these orders for certain social media behaviour. I think I heard from one of the members before the term ‘keyboard warriors’. It is all too easy in our day and age to be yelling and screaming on the internet, and sometimes we go way too far—hopefully I have not, but people do. The internet is a bit like that, because you can just forget for a moment that you are not anonymous—and on some of the social media channels you can be completely anonymous and say whatever you like and think that you are getting away with it. None of that behaviour should be affecting someone’s workplace. None of that behaviour should be affecting someone’s mental health or wellbeing. So it is a good thing that we are dealing with this. The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Edbrooke): As reluctant as I am to interrupt the member, the house will pause for cleaning for 30 minutes. We will recommence at 4.00 pm. Sitting suspended 3.29 pm until 4.01 pm. Mr FREGON: As I was saying before I was so politely interrupted by the previous Acting Speaker, threats to safety experienced by teachers in the course of their work have been linked to greater staff turnover rates and departures from the profession. The last thing that any state wants is to invest in its teachers only to see them leave the profession because they are chased out by a very, very small part of our society who probably need to get their act together. When we enact legislation like that which we are debating today, we send a message, as I was saying before the break. We send that message to say not only to parents, not only to principals and not only to teachers but also to the students at the school that this sort of bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. I go back to my own days at high school. In 1981 I was in year 7, and I would have been about 11. Fairhills was not the toughest or roughest school in the area, but it was a slightly different era, for those of you who are as old as me. Year 7 is one of those years—I think the member of Wendouree, being a teacher, would understand. Ms Addison interjected. Mr FREGON: No, I was not telling you to sit down, but as a teacher you would understand that when you get to year 7 you get this cohort of kids from grade 6 and nobody really knows the balance of personalities. In my year in year 7, in 1981, we got this explosive mix of personalities. There was one kid in particular who was, unfortunately for him—and I am not going to name names and I am not going to blame anyone because we were all 11 or 12— A member interjected. Mr FREGON: No, I am definitely not going to do that. There was one kid who was basically the punching bag for the year. A member interjected. Mr FREGON: It was not me, no. At the time, as a young kid, you are just trying to survive and you are trying to get along. But looking back, that had to have shaped that kid for the rest of his life. I remember it standing here 41 years later. Some of the bullying behaviour that I can recall—I would be horrified if it even appeared in one of the schools in our area. I think we have spent the last 40 years at least trying to show from positions of government and from teachers and principals that those sorts of behaviours that I recall are not acceptable. That is work that continues and it is work that will never be finished because there will always be unsavoury aspects of society, but you would hope that at the very least we can have ways of dealing with parents or other adults in the community who have not realised that there are limits to what you can do. So when we put in laws like this to give our principals the ability to protect themselves, their staff and their school community, we are doing a good thing. That is why I think everyone in this house would agree—and the opposition are with us on this bill, because this is a no-brainer—this is good law. This is good law that will hopefully stay a long time. To all my principals, teachers and school communities: this one is for you, and I commend the bill to the house.

Bill-Education and Training Amendment Bill

https://youtu.be/ws2rBRmBIPI MR FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:24): I rise also to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Protection of School Communities) Bill 2021. It is very pleasing to see that there seems to be agreeance throughout the whole chamber on this one, which is a good thing. I follow on from the member for Caulfield. We all thank our teachers. They do an amazing job day after day—and our principals no less than any of them. When you think about working in the corporate world, if you were managing a business that had, say, the revenue of one of my high schools with 2000 kids in it, and if you were managing that amount of staff and dealing with regulations that change on a daily basis and the amount of clients, students or parents, if you put that into a corporate sort of box, I think it is fair to say that the average salary for a principal might be a little bit higher. Our principals and our teachers do not do it for the money; they do it because it is a vocation. This bill is about protecting them, but as the member for Altona said very, very succinctly, it is also about sending signals to our community. It is about saying what is appropriate. Work-related violence is by far the greatest occupational health and safety hazard for Victorian school staff. It is a problem confronted by all educators irrespective of age, gender and years of experience. No-one should be threatened or intimidated at work or at school. In my 30 years in business I do not think I ever saw actual violence in the workplace. I am sure it happens, but I never saw it. I do not even really recall strong verbal abuse in any of the workplaces that I worked at. Again, I am sure it happens. But when I was reading through this bill, preparing for today, I called every principal in the state schools in my area, and the general consensus was that most of them over the last 10 years have probably had an instance or two of either strong abuse or even violence in some cases. Now, as I think everyone has said or would agree, that is completely unacceptable. It strikes me that as parents we are all very—obviously—emotionally attached to our kids, and if we see them being harmed or we think they are being harmed in some way, we can get emotional. As I think the member for Altona said, obviously no-one is perfect, no matter what side of the blackboard you are on, but it should never get to a point where we are being verbally abusive. It should never get to a point where teachers or principals dread going to their workplace. Now, in 2019, when La Trobe Uni surveyed Australian teachers on their experience of bullying and harassment in the preceding 12 months, which was 2017 to 2018, the survey found that 57.8 per cent of teachers reported or had experienced at least one incident of bullying and harassment from a parent. Well, that is obviously unacceptable, so this bill strengthens the powers and give specific powers to our principals to deal with this sort of behaviour. And as we know, this behaviour is not limited to just the school. There are measures at the moment where in extreme circumstances orders can be put against people to keep them out of school grounds, but if a school goes on a cross-country run, there are examples—anecdotally, I give you—where aggrieved parents or others have decided to go to those outside-school areas. The orders that we are talking about today will cover that. There is also, as others have gone to, the ability to have some of these orders for certain social media behaviour. I think I heard from one of the members before the term ‘keyboard warriors’. It is all too easy in our day and age to be yelling and screaming on the internet, and sometimes we go way too far—hopefully I have not, but people do. The internet is a bit like that, because you can just forget for a moment that you are not anonymous—and on some of the social media channels you can be completely anonymous and say whatever you like and think that you are getting away with it. None of that behaviour should be affecting someone’s workplace. None of that behaviour should be affecting someone’s mental health or wellbeing. So it is a good thing that we are dealing with this. The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Edbrooke): As reluctant as I am to interrupt the member, the house will pause for cleaning for 30 minutes. We will recommence at 4.00 pm. Sitting suspended 3.29 pm until 4.01 pm. Mr FREGON: As I was saying before I was so politely interrupted by the previous Acting Speaker, threats to safety experienced by teachers in the course of their work have been linked to greater staff turnover rates and departures from the profession. The last thing that any state wants is to invest in its teachers only to see them leave the profession because they are chased out by a very, very small part of our society who probably need to get their act together. When we enact legislation like that which we are debating today, we send a message, as I was saying before the break. We send that message to say not only to parents, not only to principals and not only to teachers but also to the students at the school that this sort of bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. I go back to my own days at high school. In 1981 I was in year 7, and I would have been about 11. Fairhills was not the toughest or roughest school in the area, but it was a slightly different era, for those of you who are as old as me. Year 7 is one of those years—I think the member of Wendouree, being a teacher, would understand. Ms Addison interjected. Mr FREGON: No, I was not telling you to sit down, but as a teacher you would understand that when you get to year 7 you get this cohort of kids from grade 6 and nobody really knows the balance of personalities. In my year in year 7, in 1981, we got this explosive mix of personalities. There was one kid in particular who was, unfortunately for him—and I am not going to name names and I am not going to blame anyone because we were all 11 or 12— A member interjected. Mr FREGON: No, I am definitely not going to do that. There was one kid who was basically the punching bag for the year. A member interjected. Mr FREGON: It was not me, no. At the time, as a young kid, you are just trying to survive and you are trying to get along. But looking back, that had to have shaped that kid for the rest of his life. I remember it standing here 41 years later. Some of the bullying behaviour that I can recall—I would be horrified if it even appeared in one of the schools in our area. I think we have spent the last 40 years at least trying to show from positions of government and from teachers and principals that those sorts of behaviours that I recall are not acceptable. That is work that continues and it is work that will never be finished because there will always be unsavoury aspects of society, but you would hope that at the very least we can have ways of dealing with parents or other adults in the community who have not realised that there are limits to what you can do. So when we put in laws like this to give our principals the ability to protect themselves, their staff and their school community, we are doing a good thing. That is why I think everyone in this house would agree—and the opposition are with us on this bill, because this is a no-brainer—this is good law. This is good law that will hopefully stay a long time. To all my principals, teachers and school communities: this one is for you, and I commend the bill to the house.