Second Reading-MARINE SAFETY AMENDMENT (BETTER BOATING FUND) BILL 2020

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:35): I am very excited to speak on this bill today, the Marine Safety Amendment (Better Boating Fund) Bill 2020, and I do appreciate the vast array of experience of my colleagues and the opposition on this, because fishing and boating is something that I think all Victorians have at some stage come into contact with. It really is one of those family pastimes that I think many have enjoyed. And I will come back to that, because I do have some family stories that if I do get time I will regale you with, Acting Speaker.

 

Mr Fowles interjected.

 

Mr FREGON: I know you are waiting for that, member for Burwood, and I will just make you wait a little bit more because it will sweeten the deal that touch. I think the first important thing to touch on with this bill is obviously the amount of people in Victoria—over 400 000 Victorians—that hold a marine licence, and there are many, many more that interact with our fisheries and with our coastal towns. These towns revolve around fishing, boating and the related activities. We heard from the member for Nepean earlier, and obviously in his area there is a definite one-to-one relationship with his constituents and every part of the coastline. There is not a lot of coast in Mount Waverley, I will give you that, but I have heard from a number of constituents during the course of the pandemic—which obviously has had an effect on recreational activities like fishing and boating—who have come to me and are waiting to be able to get back to the coast. One in particular who I recall told me that fishing is the thing that he loves, and he has gone so far now that he is now catching carp in Scotchmans Creek, which I thought was pretty inventive, because it is a fairly small little creek—but apparently there are carp in there. So you can actually fish in Mount Waverley, which is something I did not know, but it just proves we have got it all in my patch.

 

I think the important part of this bill that I would really like to reflect on is the fact that we are delivering yet another commitment that we have said we are going to do. If you go back a couple of years, when I was lucky enough to be given this seat, part of the deal was: ‘What we say is what we’ll do’. And again we are showing that that is true, and you can be with us. That is how you can make the sorts of promises where you can say that, and then once you do it people will believe it the next time you say it. And I think that the re-election of the Andrews government in 2018 proved that that is the case. You can compare that to other governments, maybe the federal government, where we hear a lot of announcements but do not necessarily see that coming to fruition. Now, maybe these things take longer than some of us are prepared to wait. But I think it is very important to, yes, make the announcements about what you are going to do but to actually follow up. And this bill follows up. I can recall even last year, when I had a number of constituents call me about boat ramp fees saying, ‘When’s this happening? When’s this happening? When’s this happening?’, I was very, very happy to call them and tell them that it had actually happened. Again it just reinforces that ability to tell people, ‘Yes, this is what we’re going to do. And now we’ve done it’, which is a lot better than standing up and saying, ‘Well, what we’re going to announce today is that we’re planning to announce the things that we’re about to do once we’ve finished the planning to announce the things that we’re planning to do, and that’s what we’re announcing today’. I mean, that is a very nice little word salad, but it does not actually achieve anything.

 

I am mindful, when we are talking about fishing and boating, of one of my favourite films that I have mentioned a couple of times in this house before, The Castle. You have got that scene in The Castle where they are going to Bonnie Doon and they are all in the car and chanting, ‘We’re going to Bonnie Doon’. And the reason they are going there as a family is that it is their special place. I think we would all remember the little scene with, ‘Ah, the serenity’. It really brings down when they go out in the fishing boat that it is family time. And as I said before, in my younger years we would go out with my grandfather, good old Lindsay Fregon, and he would take us fishing. For many years my parents would join up with some family friends of ours and we would go down to Metung, which might even be in the Bass electorate, I am not sure, or is it just one over?

 

Ms Crugnale: Gippsland South.

 

Mr FREGON: Gippsland South. Right, well, a shout-out to the member there. Good old Metung! We would be there every year and we would go fishing, and I have some very, very fond memories. I am not much of a fisher myself these days. I am happy to reacquaint myself, and I think given that we are poking towards a Christmas where we are going to be telling everyone, ‘Please go and visit regional Victoria, please put some money into the tourism industry because they, like everyone else, have been doing it tough and we have so many fantastic places to go in regional Victoria’, this is exactly what we should be doing. I will be doing it. I am not sure where I am going to go, but I am sure we will find somewhere great, and maybe I will take the kids out fishing. Considering that we will actually have better boating, it is the perfect thing to do.

 

I remember a little story. There was a friend of the family and their son was named Stuart. I will not give his surname, because he is a senior lawyer somewhere now and we will not embarrass the poor guy, but I remember being in the boat and we were fishing on one side of the tinnie and catching fish. You would catch little ones. This is back in the late 1970s, so we are going back a little while. So you would catch the little ones, and you would think, ‘Right, we’ll use those for bait’. Now, Stuart was about six I reckon at the time, six or seven, and I was probably a bit older. Anyway, me and my father and Uncle Len were on one side of the boat. We were fishing off the side of the boat and we would catch the little ones and we would put them in the bucket. We were going to use them for bait later. We turned around after about half an hour and looked down and there was nothing in the bucket. Stuart was sitting there putting them back. All those little ones that we were going to use as bait, thinking, ‘We should have enough bait there’, but there was nothing there because Stuart had been giving them back. So fishing is part of the circular economy in that story, I guess—something that the Andrews government is also working on. A shout-out to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, because the things that are coming towards us in the next year on the circular economy are very, very special.

 

What we have committed to, again, is important. We have committed to allocate all the proceeds of collected boat licence and registration fees to improve facilities and safety for the boating community and to establish the Better Boating Fund and facilitate urgent boat ramp upgrades and continual maintenance of Victoria’s boating infrastructure, and I am sure that makes all of our regional colleagues happy—at least you would think so. There does seem to be a quibble on the reasoned amendment about exactly how the money is apparently going to be done. Look, I think at the end of the day the Treasurer is going to put the dollars that are required into the fund. I do not think it necessarily matters if it is the same $50 note that comes in that goes out. It is the same amount of money, and frankly most money these days comes in digitally, so how would you know it is different money anyway? It is just numbers.

 

Ms Green: It is beginning to smell fishy.

 

Mr FREGON: Well, I do not think you would want to wrap your fish in dollars, because that would be a waste of good money. You just made me think of fish and dollars, and that brings me to the member for Mordialloc’s contribution, where he challenged us, as you well pointed out, Acting Speaker Edbrooke, that he had the best fish and chips in Melbourne. Well, I am not going to stand for that either. I think we should have a fish-and-chip-off, because there are plenty of places around Mount Waverley that do very fine fish and chips, and I will challenge the member for Mordialloc at any time. Maybe we will do a blind tasting. I reckon we could get a few contributors. I think if we had this out, there would be some providers that would be happy to come and fight it out. Member for Mornington, you might have some fish and chip shops down your way that would be happy to jump in on that.

 

Ms Addison: Wendouree?

 

Mr FREGON: Wendouree—again, we all love our fish and chip shops. I know the member for Ferntree Gully is not here, but growing up down in the gully we had a fish and chip shop three doors down from my father’s shop—every Friday night. I am old enough that I can remember you could actually go and get the little crunchy bits from the top and you could go and pay 5 cents for that. I know that is probably not healthy these days, or from an OH&S point of view it probably does not pass muster, but it was good then.

 

This is a fantastic achievement for this government—another one in the myriad of achievements that we have done because we have said we will do something and then we do it. I commend this bill to the house, and I just know that the Victorian people will thoroughly appreciate it.