Eight minutes—oh, my goodness. I thought, ‘Gee, I’ve been given a haircut straight off the top’. Throughout the pandemic we have heard again and again and again from those opposite. They want to question the health decisions that are made. They want to attack the people in the very front lines of our health system: the paramedics, the nurses, the doctors, the orderlies, the ward clerks, the call takers. Again and again and again they walk in here and they say that they are deficient, that they are not doing their jobs, that they are failing Victorians.
Well, we on this side of the house actually do not think that they are failing at all. We do not think that they are failing at all; we think that they have done a superb job. I can only imagine in the last 2½ years the pressure that our nurses, our doctors, our orderlies, our paramedics and our ward clerks have been under—our ancillary care providers, our aged care workers—dealing with a global pandemic the likes of which none of us in this place have ever seen before, and they have been doing such a wonderful job. But what do we get from those opposite, rather than congratulations? I do not think I have heard a thankyou. I do not think I have heard so much as a thankyou from those opposite to those people who have put themselves on the front line.
Mr Leane: The Prime Minister said that he saved 40 000 people.
Mr GEPP: The Prime Minister saved 40 000 people—what, in Hawaii? Bit hard to do it from Hawaii.
Mr Leane: I don’t know. Apparently all those workers you mentioned—
Mr GEPP: Mr Morrison saved them, did he? 40 000, goodness me.
Mr Finn: On a point of order, President, I am just wondering if you could clarify: is Mr Gepp or the minister speaking on this particular motion at the moment?
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem): Mr Gepp to continue his contribution on this motion.
Mr GEPP: Thank you. The minister has talked about the challenges in our health sector. Both the Minister for Health and the Premier, and every other minister in this government as well as every member of the government, have talked about the challenges that this pandemic has placed on our system. Indeed that was the very reason for many of the actions that have been taken over the last 2½ years—because we knew the devastating impact that the pandemic was going to have on our health system and it was so, so important that the health system did not collapse and that we did everything that we possibly could by way of the actions that we took. Whether it was lockdowns, whether it was wearing of masks—whatever it happened to be—everybody on this side of the house has repeatedly got up and talked about those challenges and how wonderfully proud we are of the workforce that have stood on the front line and done their utmost.
Mr Leane interjected.
Mr GEPP: And they have saved tens of thousands of lives, Mr Leane. It is just extraordinary, extraordinary work. Many people, I think, in this place have got family members who are healthcare workers—nieces that are nurses, and my sister is an aged care worker. Many people in our family structures are frontline healthcare workers, and you only have to see and talk to those people about what they have endured over the last 2½ to three years—and they deserve better. They deserve better than for this place to occupy itself with frivolous motions being brought forward by the opposition. I mean, this ought to be a day where the opposition can shine, but I have got to say, in the last six footy seasons certainly that I have been here, what a disappointment. They have been kicking into the wind with a heavy football—
Mr Leane interjected.
Mr GEPP: It is not healthy for democracy. It is not healthy for democracy, and Victorians deserve better. They deserve an opposition that comes in here and really takes it up to the government and advances new policy ideas—new public policy ideas—and does the work. Instead all we get is ‘we want documents’ motions.
Fortunately for me personally I was not here when they last occupied the Treasury benches. But those that were here tell me that in terms of documents, they just refused. I think there were two—was it two? Two in the whole time that they were in government. Yet we on this side release them. Unless there is a cabinet-in-confidence matter or some sort of legal impediment, we release them; we put them out there. But instead what this is about, the motivation from those opposite, is nothing more than trying to create the impression that there is something corrupt, that there is something bad, that there is something evil going on. They want to point their fingers at organisations like ESTA.
Again, I cannot imagine what it is like to be an ESTA call taker. I used to be an adviser to the emergency services minister, so I certainly had interactions with ESTA and had on occasions the need to talk to some of those call takers, and when you hear some of the stories, some of the things that those call takers have to deal with, these are real-life emergencies that our call takers are dealing with. And they do deserve support, and they have had additional support from the government—43 additional call takers, an additional $27.5 million in October last year to scale up activities. We know that demand for ESTA services, call taker services, has skyrocketed in recent times, I think at one point almost reaching 50 per cent above normal capacity. It went off the charts. That is why we provided a further $115.6 million package to bring on more call takers, better support and manage the workforce and deliver recruitment.
But those opposite, they continue with this jihad against ESTA. They continue to criticise those that are on the front line doing everything that they possibly can. Well, we do not criticise those people. We thank them and we celebrate them.
Ms Crozier: We’re not criticising the people, we’re criticising the government.
Mr GEPP: Well, just as well you are not in New South Wales, Ms Crozier, because wouldn’t you be challenged right now? What would you do with the nurses responding to the government’s lack of support up there for the nursing sector? They have taken the only action that is available to them. Wouldn’t it be challenging for you? What would you do? You would be very, very conflicted. What would you do? Would you do what you did when those same challenges were confronting you a few years ago? We know exactly what you did. You crossed the line, you did not support those people. You are not supporting them now. Shame on you. We want to thank and congratulate the ESTA workforce—
Ms Crozier: On a point of order, President, this is a simple, narrow motion. It is not an opportunity for Mr Gepp to attack the opposition like he is. This is a simple motion about $15 million of consultancies and for the government to release those documents in the interests of the Victorian community, and I ask you to draw him back to this very simple motion so that we can move on to the very important Ukraine motion.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem): I think Mr Gepp has got 20 seconds to conclude his remarks, but I just remind members, with notices of motion people have got a bit of leeway to expand things, but to get back to the motion is important as well.
Mr GEPP: I will come back to the motion, Acting President. Thank you for your guidance. I will just say that the simplicity of this document motion just underscores the fact that we have got the worst opposition in this state’s history.