IF I’VE had a more interesting 150 days in the 18,253 days I’ve spent on this planet, I can’t remember them. Of course getting sworn in to the 58th Parliament of Victoria on December 23 was one of the proudest days of my life.
Walking into Parliament House for the first time as a Member of Parliament was an enormous privilege and honour. So why slip in the back door? I’ve decided that every day Parliament sits I’ll enter through the front doors. To walk up the steps and look back down Bourke Street is an amazing feeling. Quite humbling and a constant reminder of how lucky I am to be in this position and the responsibility it carries.
I’ve grown up not to reflect too long on the past. I can’t change that. I see the job as a wonderful opportunity to represent the people of Bass. Not Liberals, Greens, Independent or Labor supporters but all people living in Bass. Better health, education, roads, emergency services and infrastructure affect us all, regardless of political persuasion.
Where would I start? Opening the doors of my electorate office at 26 McBride Street was the obvious place. Establishing my office in the heart of Wonthaggi is an important commitment to the constituents in the southern geographic area of the electorate and ensuring they have an avenue and voice in Parliament.
I’m only just discovering how powerful this can be. While the Coalition lost government at the last election, the fight to deliver projects and funding for the constituents of Bass continues. There are many ways to skin a cat.
Not one to die wondering, I’ve decided to take a direct approach. In the Legislative Assembly chamber one afternoon, I asked the Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood the best way to access the Government Ministers. Gary sits next to me in the chamber, is a country lad and doesn’t mince words. To my surprise he simply pointed to the other side of the chamber and said “Well, there they are, go and speak to them”.
It’s advice I have taken on board with great enthusiasm. Recent conversations with Education Minister James Merlino regarding the Wonthaggi Education Precinct, Health Minister Jill Hennessy regarding a medical facility on Phillip Island, and Roads Minister Luke Donellan regarding improved school speed zones signs for Newhaven have been fruitful.
I must say taking the direct approach raised a few eyebrows from fellow Coalition parliamentarians. Seeing me in “strangers corner” having a coffee with the Minister for Education was followed by a mixture of sneer and ribbing.
The direct approach may well prove effective but to get matters on the record I’ve followed up with letters and speeches in Parliament. As I mentioned to the Minister for Education, some projects are far too important to be decided based on political allegiance. The Wonthaggi Education Precinct has been promised in various forms by both sides of politics. It’s vital not just to the current students but to teachers, staff, future students and anybody seeking to further their education both pre and post compulsory.
Likewise the continual upgrade of the Wonthaggi Hospital to sub-regional status. Reaching this status is critical because it will significantly broaden the range of services available at the hospital so locals will no longer need to travel out of the area to get the treatment they need.
Of course projects such as the education precinct and hospital have the ongoing benefit of jobs creation both direct and indirect.
The most common question I’m asked is whether the job is what I expected. The answer is “Yes, and I’m loving it”.
But it’s more than that. Talking to local constituents about local and state issues is what matters to me and taking these issues to Parliament is what I do.
My door is always open. Come and talk to me.
Brian Paynter was elected the new MP for Bass last November, replacing long-time MP Ken Smith.
May 17, 2015
I nearly choked on my coffee when I saw a "Brian Paynter" credit in this week's issue and then I read it ... what a great idea! That really worked. Well done; what a great way to humanise our elected representatives and provide insight into the process of government. More of this and less of the three word slogans, please.
Geoff Ellis, Wattle Bank
May 17, 2015
Thank you for your thoughts Brian. They are like a breath of fresh air. Look forward to working together.
Mary and Mick O'Keeffe
May 17, 2015
It’s good to see our new local Opposition MP Mr Brian Paynter doing his job in local media and opposing Government policy, and advocating to Government MPs to “get on with it”, but sadly, facts get in the way on the issue of the combined $46 million in Wonthaggi Coalition pre-election promises made by Mr Paynter’s Liberals.
They were only made in the dying days of the election campaign. The spectacle of senior Liberals such as the then premier and health minister doing flying electorate visits to a previously rock-solid Liberal seat just might have had something to with the way their local polling was going and surely is “panic policy:” writ large. They’d only had four long years to do something about both the hospital and school project and had done precisely nothing.
With 20 per cent of the Bass electorate voting for candidates opposed to the Liberals' Hastings container port project, forcing Mr Paynter to go to preferences to win the seat, it is very likely the $46 million was only promised due to the fact that the good people of Bass were strongly opposed to this project.
Until the Libs scrap the Hastings project, Brian Paynter will struggle to win the respect and support of enough Bass electors to regain the seat under similar conditions to that prevailing before the last election.
Kevin Chambers, The Gurdies