Thank you to Leader of the Nationals for putting forward this motion, a motion that is deeply important to me and that I am proud to support and speak on. There is one question that disappointingly is regularly on my mind: how can this government truly represent Victorians if they never leave the city? We know that Victoria extends beyond Melbourne. The most recent numbers from the ABS say that nearly 1.6 million are now calling regional Victoria home. A major reason why I became a member of the Nationals was to ensure these people –
Mary-Anne Thomas: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, the member for Euroa has just made a statement that is completely untrue. It is a narrow procedural debate. On this side of the house we have 18 members representing rural and regional Victoria.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It is a procedural debate on the question of adjournment. I have been listening to the Leader of the Nationals and the member for Frankston, and I ask the member for Euroa to continue. There is some context that I have allowed and I will continue to, but please stay on the urgency of the motion.
Annabelle CLEELAND: This is why I would like to adjourn to debate this and not be silenced and have my time, when I get to speak about my community, chewed up by someone – who has left, I think. Getting back to what I was saying, a major reason why I became a member of the Nationals was to ensure our regional people are listened to and fairly represented in this place. Regional Victorians are feeling ignored by this government, and I agree with them. The response to the October 2022 floods demonstrated the government’s apathy to regional Victorians, and it is high time that the serious impact of these floods is recognised. It is imperative that all members of Parliament get out to the people impacted by this crisis and that we hold a sitting in a flood-affected community. We must understand firsthand the impact for residents in the Euroa, Shepparton, Eildon, Murray Plains and Ovens Valley electorates and many, many parts of our state. The upper house has already agreed to sit in central or northern Victoria by April next year, and yet we are still sitting here with no plans to proceed. This is supposed to be the house of the people. Our communities and our people deserve to be heard by a government who is in touch with their needs.
In my electorate of Euroa the impact of the floods is still ever-present and will be for years to come, both physically and emotionally. Hundreds of people remain displaced. Houses were destroyed, caravan parks are still closed or operating at limited capacity and farmers are recovering from decimated crops and lost livestock. Our unsafe and rapidly deteriorating roads remain a primary concern of our residents. While the government feel comfortable cutting the road budget based on their knowledge of well-paved city streets, regional residents pay the price. Repairs to our roads and our infrastructure have been inadequate and slow, with no room for the betterment of an already struggling network. The mental health of people in these communities continues to suffer. Unfortunately those suffering are in areas with insufficient support services, medical professionals and health infrastructure. Our local economies too are suffering. Agricultural industries have struggled to bounce back from destroyed crops. All these issues remain while these people are still waiting for funding support from this government. Every day my constituents inform me that they are yet to receive their support funding from this government. Many are yet to even receive an email or call back. These people deserve to be heard.
The Nagambie Caravan Park, which is located my electorate, has 3000 sites that remain closed despite this park being integral to our local tourism economy. I truly believe this government does not fully comprehend the impact this will have on the town’s economy and the livelihood of so many hardworking and honest people. Nagambie, a town ultimately reliant on its traditionally booming tourism industry, needs these facilities to be reopened. This is just one town; there are many, many more that are still feeling the impact of the floods and the lack of this government’s support. Hundreds of people remain displaced, with people living in caravans or on friends’ land because their homes remain uninhabitable. In Seymour about 50 flood-affected homes remain unlivable as tenants and owners navigate insurance challenges. We are experiencing a housing crisis that is amplified throughout our flood-affected communities, with so many people and families couch surfing, living in cars and caravans and in the front yards of friends. It is time that we showed them the support and respect that they deserve. We must sit with these flood-affected communities, if only for a day, because we must show we care.