MR PALLAS (Werribee – Treasurer, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:56):

Normally I would come into this place and I would extol the virtues of the responsible fiscal management of the Andrews Labor government. I would spend a fair bit of time prognosticating about the economy, perhaps even taking the opportunity to remind people in this place that 342,000 jobs since September 2020 is the greatest job creation that this nation has seen in any state, in both percentage and absolute terms. But I am not going to do that today. Instead I am going to pay tribute to my electorate. The people of Werribee have given me the greatest compliment and indeed the greatest honour that you can get, and that is the opportunity to continue to serve a community that have great aspirations for the future and great ambition for themselves and their children. It is a community that I have been very proud to serve, and I thank them very much for the opportunity, having re-elected me as their local member of Parliament for another term.

They have put their trust in the Australian Labor Party. They have put their trust in the quality of leadership that the Premier demonstrated and the cohesion and focus of effort that went in during an incredibly difficult time that this state had to confront – probably the most difficult outside of wartime that any government really has had to confront in at least the postwar period. What it did demonstrate was a focus and commitment to seeing the issue through and supporting the community. No matter how difficult the times that people had to endure, they always knew that they had a government that was prepared to stand with them and to support them through the difficult times. There could be no more telling demonstration of that support and endorsement, I think, than the re-election of a majority Andrews Labor government.

In my own seat of Werribee it is a little difficult to prognosticate upon what the election result was, in fact, because it is a two-candidate preferred result, which Antony Green uses. But I am more than happy to defer to Antony Green’s great statistical appreciation of the electoral process, because he says that I got a swing to me in those circumstances, so of course he is right. That in many respects I think is a demonstration that whilst it was an incredibly difficult campaign, people did reward effort and recognise the quality of leadership that was required in very difficult times.

I take this opportunity really to thank the countless number of people that assisted me and have consistently assisted me throughout my time as a member for Werribee and before that Tarneit and then back to Werribee again. It has been a bit of a changing kaleidoscope of seats, largely because the population in that area has grown so dramatically. Of course that is probably another story of the challenges that this community confronts – one that this government is very much alive to.

I want to thank, importantly, my staff, past and present, who have worked tirelessly and contributed their thoughts and ideas to deliver good policy. To my electorate staff on the front line, both past and present, thank you for your dedication, your empathy and your compassion in assisting local community members throughout and giving them a demonstration of what a government that is concerned about the wellbeing of the community does in a real sense and in a dramatic sense on the ground. As always I would like to give my particular thanks to my long-serving electorate office manager Helen Landolina, as well as Somhita, Kim and Ella – an incredibly dedicated team who have gone above and beyond for our community every day.

I would also like to thank the many volunteers who put their hands up to help. Some of them are members of our great Labor Party, and some are local community residents who just wanted to help Labor in Werribee and make our western suburbs even better. They recognise that we have worked consistently and invested dramatically in the western suburbs to materially assist them with the challenges that a growing and aspirational community not only deserve but demand. Make no mistake: only Labor delivers for the west. There was a huge swell of support from local volunteers, who were out and about in all types of weather, walking the streets, talking to the community, doorknocking, standing on street stalls – the stuff that really does demonstrate that you have to be part of a community if you want to represent it and demonstrate that you are there for them when they need it. Whether it was in the wind, the rain or the cold or every now and then – rather rarely – when we got some sunshine, they were there. I am also grateful for their efforts in communicating the Labor message and the Labor values to ensure that people understand the benefits of Labor governments for Melbourne’s west.

Before the 2018 election I did an analysis of the commitments that were given by the Liberal government when they were in government in that 2010–14 period and compared it to the dollar value commitments that Labor gave over the 2014–18 period. I stopped counting when the multiple was 15 times more by Labor governments in the City of Wyndham. Really, that does demonstrate that you can always talk about a sense and try to jump on board a sense of disentitlement and indeed a sense of disadvantage, but the people of Werribee see through it. They saw that there was a government materially changing the circumstances and making dramatic investments in both infrastructure and services in that community, and they recognised and rewarded it when they voted. They did that because, whilst there are many who will talk about what they could do in a perfect world, governments need to make sure that we can share resources and in sharing resources ensure that every Victorian gets a fair deal from their government. But that does not exculpate government from making the effort where the need is greatest, and in my humble opinion there is a very clear and demonstrable need in the electorate of Werribee.

There was a huge swell of support from local volunteers who were out and about, as I said, throughout that time frame, and I particularly want to single out Henry Barlow for thanks. Whether he listed his name on the roster to be available or not, Henry was there, or if he was not there he was not far away. He and his wife Pam spent so much time advocating for Labor in circumstances where he would not have been expected to have done the service that he did, and for that I am greatly appreciative. He is a passionate and fiercely loyal advocate for Labor and for Wyndham. We might not share the same passion in AFL colours, but I can tell you we do agree upon our great affection for the mighty Werribee Tigers.

Also, I would like to shout out to John Lister and Jesse Damjanovski for their help on pre-poll and all the other wonderful volunteers who really stood by every day. They did the hard yards in I think perhaps the most heavily contested electorate by way of candidates in the state of Victoria. There were many volunteers – too many to list, really, because they showed up so often and in numbers – and I do want to thank them for doing the hard yards over such a long period of time.

To everybody who wished me luck, who stopped for a chat or to shake my hand during the campaign, it was a pleasure to meet you. For those who did not necessarily want to shake my hand, who perhaps had alternative views to express, understand that those views are respected. The only way as a community we can come together is if we have civil discourse about the issues that we disagree upon and make sure that our society is the better for it. I do commit to the people of Werribee that that is something that I will work hard to do, to ensure that the aspirations of not only those who voted for Labor in the last election but those who believe that they are disadvantaged, are suffering from inequality or in any other material respect believe that they deserve a fair go from government. They will find a voice and an advocate in myself and, believe me, in the calibre and quality of members of this government right across the board, through caucus and in cabinet.

A big shout-out to those who kept us caffeinated: the Black Seed Cafe, Old Habits and the Jolly Miller cafe, to name but a few. I spent much time caffeinating myself and others through those wonderful institutions. They run great businesses. If I could just make one recommendation, if you are looking for a great patisserie, the Jolly Miller cafe in Wyndham Vale is first rate.

A big thankyou to my favourite barber, office neighbour and thoroughly decent bloke John. For 16 years I have been promising John that I would get a haircut. I told him it would be the easiest job he had ever done, and John sat me down as the polls closed just to make sure that I looked my best. He did have a pretty significant job on his hands, in fairness.

A member interjected.

MR PALLAS: Yes, he took a while. He took a while, but I spruced up very nicely on the night. He finally achieved his ambition of making me look even less hirsute than I already do. It finally happened, and really it was his easiest job, but he is a genuinely decent and hardworking bloke and a great neighbour.

Thanks to Joanne Ryan for her continued support and friendship. To my parliamentary colleagues in the west Sarah Connolly, Mat Hilakari and Dylan Wight, I really do look forward to working with you in partnership. You have demonstrated yourselves to be highly committed, highly active and very capable members of Parliament. I also want to say, just looking around this sparsely populated caucus room, that I see that we have an amazing talent of caucus members in here. As a man of rapidly appreciating years, it is good to see that we have had a process of renewal that demonstrates that we can all feel happy and comfortable about the future of the communities that you represent, for the values that you lived large in your campaigns and, most importantly, can I say for your capacity to take forward the agenda of an active and engaged Labor government. You will do us all proud.

The Andrews Labor government has invested significantly in Melbourne’s west since 2014. The people of Werribee recognise this, and I am incredibly proud to be part of delivering for this community. We have removed three level crossings, upgraded major roads, and our local hospital has opened. We have a new police complex and we are currently building new law courts. We have opened new schools and kinders and buildings so all local children can access a great education close to home.

But of course there is still so much more to do. We need to invest in hospitals and train thousands of nurses and paramedics, and we will make nursing free, to make sure that patients get the best care. More than making kinder free, saving families thousands and giving our kids the best start, it is about making sure that all Victorians have a bright future, resourced and demonstrated in our commitment through the Andrews Labor government.

Just as the government is committed to our Big Build in Wyndham and across the state, it is great to see that investment demonstrating its value. Thanks to a joint investment of $114 million from the Albanese and Andrews governments, we are building the Ison Road bridge to connect Wyndham Vale and Manor Lakes residents directly to the Princes Freeway, with construction set to begin this year. Our government will invest $120 million to upgrade Ballan Road at the intersection of McGrath and Heaths roads and provide a further $5 million for a traffic management action plan for Wyndham to identify new ways to get people where they need to be sooner.

We will deliver a neighbourhood battery in Wyndham, an upgrade to Manorvale Primary, a comprehensive women’s clinic at Werribee Mercy Hospital, a government owned and operated childcare centre for Werribee, free rego for eligible apprentices and plenty more.

As our Premier said on 26 November, Victorians returned a strong, stable majority Labor government, a government that will continue to do what matters, and I look forward to being part of that. But I recognise that good governance is ultimately a reflection of the aspirations of the team. To the caucus, to my cabinet colleagues and might I say also to my parliamentary colleagues across the bench, we have a very significant job to do for this state. The challenges that we confront are ones that will define us as acting either in the interests of the state or for sectional and short-term interest. I hope that we can work together to achieve some of the things that the previous speaker identified. We should come together to build a better state and recognise that consensus is much better than conflict.

Members applauded.