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Monday, 20 August 2001
Page: 29787

Ms ROXON (10:38 PM) — Mr Speaker, tonight I want to raise an issue that I think would be of great concern to you and many others in this House. It goes to the heart of whether we as a parliament can properly take account of the community's concerns about a number of issues. In my electorate, I am involved with a campaign that many members of the community are interested in; that is, the lack of any MRI rebatable services in my electorate. A number of members of the community were sufficiently concerned to organise a petition to be tabled in this parliament, urging the parliament to take account of their views. Those listening to this debate or reading the Hansard will not be able to see the petition, but they went to the trouble of actually writing out their concerns on sheets of paper and listing the date and the names, addresses and signatures of over 1,000 community members in my electorate. It is titled `The west suffers yet again' and reads:

I am a resident in the western suburbs of Melbourne. I believe that to have free access to an important X-ray procedure called MRI I have to travel into the city of Melbourne where there is a wait of approximately nine weeks. I am told that there is an MRI machine in Footscray but that the government does not fund it. I object to this discrimination against residents of the western suburbs and petition the government to do something about it.

You would know, Mr Speaker, that that is not strictly in accordance with the standing orders for a petition to be filed in this House. In accordance with another well-known procedure, I wrote to Minister Reith, the Leader of the House, requesting that he give permission for this petition to be tabled in the parliament, because it is a concern that is being taken seriously, the intent of the petition is quite clear and this is the House of the people where such an issue should be tabled. Unfortunately, the minister did not see fit to grant permission for that petition to be tabled.

This strikes at the very core of what we are supposed to do as members of parliament in representing our community. I cannot see what harm could be caused by allowing these views of over 1,000 members of the community to be publicly put on the record. That is why I raise this issue specifically tonight. It raises issues about how we operate as a parliament. I am very concerned that the minister thinks that it is better to hide from this issue rather than have it publicly aired.

I also think it is quite outrageous that we require specific words for people to be able to put their views in this parliament. As soon as this petition with over 1,000 signatures was presented to me, I was obviously aware that the form was not correct. I have redrafted a petition, which has been signed by several hundred further members of the public and will be tabled in due course. I will read to the parliament the form that it is in:

To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives assembled in the Parliament:

This petition of certain residents in the state of Victoria draws the attention of the House to the lack of free access to an MRI machine in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Your petitioners therefore pray that the House takes action to allow the residents in the western suburbs of Melbourne access to a Medicare rebatable MRI machine as soon as possible.

It seems to me that the rather arcane or archaic language required does not put the message any more clearly than that which the minister has refused to allow to be tabled in this House. When there is another opportunity, I would like to raise as an ongoing matter of concern that we must allow people to express their views to us and that, when they go to the trouble of doing that in a format which should be regarded as appropriate and is easily understandable, it should be accepted in this House.

I also have with me in the parliament a petition on an enormous canvas, some metres long and wide, which was signed by 900 employees at Bradmill Textiles. I can understand that that would not be able to be tabled in this House, but I would like to put on the record that I am very pleased to be able to say that we have got to the position where 500 of those workers will maintain their jobs in Yarraville in my electorate. Unfortunately, approximately 350 people will not have jobs, and I will be doing all in my power to assist them in finding work elsewhere. I thought to mention this because of the contrast in petitions. I can understand why some forms cannot be tabled, but it did not seem that that was the case with the petition regarding MRIs signed by the 1,000 or so members of my community. I think that the minister has been quite outrageous in refusing to acknowledge the views sought to be expressed by the people in my electorate, and I hope that this does not happen in the future. (Time expired)