Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is my honour to rise to support the Shop Trading Reform Amendment (Easter Sunday) Bill 2011, an important plank in the coalition’s package to begin untangling the legislative curiosities and legacy of bad policies left by the previous Labor government — the 11 long dark years that we have all had to put up with.
The house has heard a number of things tonight from the member for Monbulk, who is citing religion and who is citing assistance for his union mates — it goes on and on.
The interesting thing about this is it is very convenient tonight for the member for Monbulk to cite the reason he thinks we should be voting against this amendment bill. In 2003 the then opposition said there were a number of anomalies and inconsistencies in regard to this legislation. These, as we have seen, are examples of complete hypocrisy on the part of Labor members who are now sitting on the other side of the chamber. If they were fair dinkum, they would have no exemptions whatsoever. We have an opposition that is playing the half pregnant bill. What are we? We either agree with this bill or we disagree with it. We are either in or we are out. The opposition wants to ensure that there is no trading at all, that we look after everybody and that we look after our great religions, which is what we do.
Religion is very important. Many members on this side of the house believe strongly that religion is important. Most members on this side of the house swore on the Bible before taking up their positions as members of Parliament. The member for Monbulk played the religion card and the member for Essendon also played the religion card. How many members on that side of the chamber took an oath and swore on the Bible as opposed to making an affirmation? Around 53 per cent of them made an affirmation. It is convenient for those on the other side of the chamber to make an affirmation and then play the religion card. It is all convenience. We have all heard this before. It is very typical of what we see regarding this opposition.
The nine trading exemptions or inconsistencies in the current act further highlight the opposition’s hypocrisy. It is just very difficult for businesses to operate when they do not know whether their businesses should or should not be open.
It is even more difficult for consumers to know when they can actually shop. We have heard so much about all of these various inconsistencies, including Bendigo. What is the difference between Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong? Let us be realistic. If the opposition were serious about this bill, it would ensure that none of the businesses in any of those areas would be allowed to open. But it is convenient to allow businesses in Bendigo to open but not have businesses in the other areas opening.
This is important legislation. We believe in the rights of business. We believe in the choice of consumers to decide when they want to shop. They can choose when they want to shop. We believe in their rights. If businesses choose to close or to open, it is their choice. This is typical. It draws a line in the sand of the difference between — —
Mr Merlino interjected.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Beattie) — Order! The member for Monbulk!
Mr SOUTHWICK — This particular bill, importantly, shows the differences between this government and the opposition. This government believes in freedom of choice and in the rights of the individual, and the opposition believes in regulation and red tape, ensuring that it is more difficult for businesses to operate. It is ironic. Only yesterday we heard the shadow minister for small business talk about this bill. He mentioned how important it was for religion and the union movement. Where did he mention business? There was not a word mentioned about business. It is ironic that he should be the shadow minister for small business and yet he does not even mention small business. It is very sad.
We are very fortunate because this government believes in supporting business. We believe in giving people rights, and we believe in giving consumers, business and people the choice.
If businesspeople wish to take a day off and not to open, then it is up to them, not up to the opposition and, most importantly, not up to the union movement, which is trying to dictate how we operate. Again, it is expedient that this should be the case.
I am not sceptical about this process, but I wonder if a deal of some description has been made — a payback of some $240 000 — as part of an election commitment. It is very convenient. This is all about payback. This is not about good government or good opposition; this is about payback and about members of the opposition looking after their union mates. Unfortunately that is not something that we entertain here, because we are here to govern. We are here to provide good government, and we are here to ensure that the people of Victoria get a choice in when they wish to shop and when they wish to trade.
I would like to cite a local example.
The member for Monbulk conveniently mentioned that at some time a former government regulated to ensure that there was no Sunday trading at all. In fact a local person in my electorate — a friend of mine — was arrested and put in jail for 19 days. Why? It was because he wanted to open his shop and earn a living, and that was denied under the Cain government; it was thanks to Labor — that lot who now sit in opposition over there. The fact is that they stuck that man in Pentridge alongside Chopper
Read for opening his shop on Sunday. It was appalling — absolutely appalling!
Some 30 years have passed and the situation has not changed, because those clowns in opposition still want to play games. They still want to deliver their commitments back to their union mates. That is what this is all about. It is not about good policy. It is not about good opposition. If they were fair dinkum — —
Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Beattie) — Order! If the Minister for Environment and Climate Change and the member for Monbulk wish to have a conversation, they can step outside, but I choose to hear the member for Caulfield.
Mr SOUTHWICK — This very important bill draws a line in the sand.
It relates to an issue that this government put right up front to the people of Victoria who voted for us in November 2010, and it is an issue that has put members of the opposition where they are — in opposition — and put us in government. We put it up front, we gave it to the voters and the voters decided. Now it is important to deliver on that promise. We are delivering our promises one at a time. We are here working for the people of Victoria, while when they were in government members of the opposition were regulating, putting up more red tape and trying to harm the people of Victoria. I support this bill.