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Thursday, 29 October 2020
Page: 8932

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (16:50): [by video link] Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is good to see you, virtually, and to be here today. It's even good to see the member for Scullin! I'll give you a virtual wave. I'm speaking, in these rather unprecedented times, from Cranbourne West, rather than directly, because of the pandemic.

From the outset, I wanted to talk, in particular, to the people that I represent here in Holt and to thank them for the work they have done in abiding by COVID-safe restrictions and the requirements that have been, we know, onerous for some period of time. We had a situation here in the City of Casey—a large part of which is in Holt— where at the height of the second wave we had 357 active cases. Today we have one. I think that says a great deal of the perseverance, tenacity, sacrifice and commitment of Victorians and people in the south-eastern region of Melbourne. It is an achievement—given that at the height of the second wave in Victoria we had 7,880 active cases and we're down to 87 or less today—that all Australians, not just Victorians, should be proud of.

It is clear to me that, now we have successfully seen off this second wave, we must focus on rebuilding and the economic recovery. That is quite essential. Certainly, in that vein, we would encourage Melburnians and Victorians, particularly when the 25-kilometre travel restriction is removed, to come down to some of the attractions in Holt, which include the world-renowned Cranbourne botanical gardens, see the animals in the just-reopened Moonlit Sanctuary, and discover great towns like Warneet and Tooradin. Just come down here and take in the wonders of Western Port Bay, particularly in the summer holiday period.

I also wanted to talk about this pandemic, the first wave and the second wave, and re-emphasise the call I made earlier this year for the establishment of an Australian centre for disease control and prevention. Yes, we have seen off the second wave of this pandemic. But, according to organisations like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, there's an estimated 1.7 million viruses that are a potential threat to humans that are within the existing populations of mammals and birds. So there is a prediction—from the very same people who predicted five to 10 years ago that there could be a global pandemic—that there may well be another one. That's not something that we want to think about as we collectively come together in this parliament to celebrate the achievements of Australians and Victorians in seeing off the second wave, but forearmed is forewarned and forewarned is forearmed. We do need a consistent mechanism—one mechanism that governs all of Australia. Should a centre for disease prevention be established, I think it could see off some of the inconsistencies that we've seen in some of the health advice that's been provided. But that shouldn't take away from the amazing achievement that the population here in Victoria have been rightly celebrating over the past couple of days as we've eased out of those stage 4 restrictions.

I also wanted to talk about something a number of others have spoken about: mental health. On 13 August I hosted a Zoom mental health and wellbeing forum for local residents. We had over 70 people participating. It was auspiced and hosted by Professor Pat McGorry as well as Dean McCaughan—who's the headspace Narre Warren manager—Jemma Schmutter and a very passionate youth advocate, Jake Downward. What came from this mental health forum—notwithstanding the additional federal government and state government funding that has been put into mental services—is that, as a consequence of the pandemic, we need to do a lot more in a coordinated way.

We have looked at the concept of one integrated hub in each region. It's something that I know that Professor McGorry has spoken about with Prime Minister Morrison, and it is something that I am calling for today—not something that takes over or takes away from state government mental health services, but something that assists and is an addendum to, something that adds weight to, services. Again, congratulations to all Victorians for the sacrifices they have made in seeing off the second wave. Thanks for the opportunity to speak and see you, Mr Speaker.