SPEAKING ON A MOTION | STANDING AND SESSIONAL ORDERS
Mr Melhem: To sit or not to sit: that is the question, isn’t it? I think we all agree on that question—or at least on the answer—but we should not be sitting while we have 40 per cent of our members being denied the right to be here. To be precise, regional members represent 37.5 per cent of the total numbers of this house.
Dr Cumming talked about everybody blaming the government. On one hand we are saying it is the government’s decision whether we sit or not, and on the other hand we are saying the Parliament has nothing to do with the government. I think Ms Patten made that point, and that is true. Let us stop blaming the government for every single thing that happens in this state. This house will make its own decision. I want to say to the crossbenchers that I think it is important to look at what we decided last time. Everyone needs to go and have a hard look at themselves about—
Dr Cumming interjected.
Mr Melhem: Dr Cumming, I did not interrupt you when you were speaking, so do not interrupt me. I think it is a responsibility of and incumbent on everyone in this house to sit down and work out a proper solution to how we can sit. We want to sit. I want to sit; I do not want to be at home. The government wants to sit. All the government members want to be here. We have got the Leader of the Government who is not able to be here and few other ministers and not because they do not want to be here. Let me tell you, they want to be here.
The chief health officer’s advice, which we all need to adhere to and listen to—as leaders of this state, if we are going to ignore the chief health officer’s advice, then what hope have we got for ordinary citizens to actually accept that advice? Now, the advice was that regional members could not attend. So therefore nearly 40 per cent of our members cannot be here. So that is why this house should not be sitting today. The challenge—
Dr Cumming interjected.
Mr Melhem: Well, that is the problem, isn’t it? Some members of this house when they stand up, it is ‘Look at me, look at me’. It is not about conducting normal business; it is all about showing off and pointscoring. If we are fair dinkum, there is a challenge for all of you here today. Between now and 1 September we need to work out a workable solution where every single member of this house is being given the opportunity and the ability to fully participate in the debate in this house and the proceedings of this house. I call on you, President: unless we can achieve that, we should not be sitting until we give every single member that opportunity to fully participate. Because we need to remember this: we are sitting here, we have got the quorum and 40 per cent were denied the right to be here—and we pass legislation. To have one single person to challenge that, where do we stand on legality about any decision this house might make? So let us stop the grandstanding. Let us work through this and make sure that—
Mr Finn interjected.
Mr Melhem: Mr Finn, I believe you have been busy with branch stacking in the western suburbs lately. Now, it is important, and I hope that the Procedure Committee, chaired by you, President—and I heard Mr Davis’s comments and it is very encouraging—make sure that we come up with a system where every single member of this house can fully participate come 1 September. My understanding is that the government has already given instructions to its legal people to actually come up with legal advice about how this house can sit. It is not about how we can prevent the house from sitting; it is about what mechanisms we need to put in place between now and 1 September so we can enable the house to sit. So let us stop this blaming the government. That we are not sitting because of the government trying to prevent members is a lot of nonsense. And let me tell you: go back to when the coalition had the numbers in this house, and they would have used their numbers and we probably would not be sitting for the rest of the year.
I will conclude by saying this: we are in stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne, and we need to heed that advice. So with these comments, I commend the motion to the house and again I urge that this house should not sit unless all its members are given the opportunity to actually attend and participate in the debate. Until then, this house should not sit.