Service Victoria Amendment Bill 2021

01 December 2021

Well, it gives me a great deal of joy to rise to speak on the Service Victoria Amendment Bill 2021, and listening to the contributions from the other side of the house you would never know that it is 1 December today. The doom and gloom coming from the other side of the house is quite frustrating, just having to sit and listen to it. Before I talk about the Service Victoria app I thought I would follow on from the member for Euroa’s contribution that she has just given and assure the house—and I am sure the member for Euroa will soon find out when her child grows up to be 10, 11, 12 or even younger—that children nowadays are really savvy with iPhones and their phones and apps, more savvy than old fogies like me.

Absolutely. My 11-year-old has a phone, and she finds it quite easy to open up Service Victoria and to go ahead and check in to her dance school. It is not a problem at all. She has never raised it and is much more savvy than her poor old mother at 39 and her father would be. I have no issue with thinking that younger kids will have any problem opening up apps, whether it is to check in or whether it is to go ahead and do anything using their iPhone. It is no problem at all, and the member for Euroa will soon realise as her child grows up that they are in an age of digital technology and much further ahead than their mums and dads.

The other thing that I just wanted to pick up on that the member for Euroa raised is that sometimes digital technology and apps like Service Victoria or indeed the Business Victoria website in coping during this pandemic have not been perfect, but sometimes things like these are not during a global pandemic. For instance, you might take your mind back to the beginning of the COVID pandemic last year when there were all kinds of problems with MyGov. Who remembers the problems with MyGov and trying to log in to receive federal government support and assistance at the beginning of this pandemic and in fact the thousands and thousands of people—remember the photos?—lined up at Centrelink? When I talk about Centrelink, I think about the member for Euroa talking about banks out in regional and rural Victoria closing. I know people still like going to their bank and doing their banking face to face. Indeed my parents are a case in point. But what we also know is that in many areas across this country—and indeed I think even in Werribee out in Wyndham in my patch—there has been talk about closing Centrelink, much to the horror of the thousands and thousands of people that rely on being able to attend Centrelink, whether it is for looking for work or receiving payments and all the other things tied up with that service. It is important to keep those doors open. So it is one thing to talk about banks and then talk about digital technology keeping up and there being glitches, but there have been problems at all levels of government, including the federal government, which are never raised by the other side of the house.

The Andrews government first introduced the Service Victoria app as part of its digital strategy in 2018. The member for Euroa would be right in saying older Australians back in 2018 did not have good use, good uptake or a good sense of digital technology, but what we know from stats nowadays is that 93 per cent of older Australians do indeed use the internet efficiently. So times are changing, and it really is a journey. I have no doubt that during this global pandemic many, many Australians and Victorians who did not know how to use an app on their iPhone or laptop have indeed learned to use one. My parents, again, are a case in point.

Members interjecting.

Thank you, Acting Speaker. I do like to hear myself speak in this house as well. Now, none of us could have possibly foreseen what this coronavirus pandemic would bring on. It has been, as the member for Frankston said, a really difficult two years, it really has. All of us in this house have had constituents call us—mums and dads, young people—talking about the experience that has been happening to them in their household over the past two years. But the difference in this house that I see time and time again—and, again, in the lead-up to Christmas—is that the Liberal-Nationals are unable to have any sense of faith or belief in the Victorian spirit.

I am so proud to be a Victorian, and I can tell you I have lived all across this country. I am so proud to live in this state. I am so proud of what we have achieved, and it has been damn hard to get here. It has been a hard slog. But our side of the house are behind Victorians. We are for Victorians—we are Victorians—and we believe in their spirit. We knew on this side of the house that it was going to be a hard slog but we would be the ones that would be behind our people to roll up their sleeves time and time again and go ahead and get the jab—not just once, twice—and we will be behind Victorians when it comes time for their boosters, which indeed for many people is right now.

The people in my community have been at the epicentre of this virus not once—they have been at the epicentre twice. I have been living it, experiencing it, with my community. They are part of the 3.75 million Victorians that have added their certificate to the Service Victoria app on their phone. It was not an easy journey. It was not easy to get to the point where Wyndham is almost—I can now say very close—at the point of 95-plus per cent double vaxxed. We are leading the western suburbs. We are people that started from behind and are now leading the way in this state. We are people that might have struggled using the Service Victoria app in the beginning but are now people that use it every single day to check in—and the changes in this bill have highlighted that there are going to be many, many more things that we could go ahead and use the Service Victoria app for.

I do think, yes, at times it can be a bit tedious. I think at this point we are all feeling a bit tired. But time and time again when I am out in my community I see really good people, decent people, pulling out their phone as they go shopping, whether they are at Woolies or Coles, or checking in to the local cafe, calling up the app, using Service Victoria and, really importantly, showing staff of that cafe or that supermarket that they have been double vaxxed. This is something that my community has just gotten on and done. They do not need to call me and complain about it time and time again, as those on the other side of the house do when they stand here and relentlessly tell us it is the worst thing ever. My community know that apps like Service Victoria have kept them safe during this pandemic, and they will go ahead and continue to use it.

One of the things I really like about Service Victoria is that the app is now going to link small business to a whole host of support programs and services with the click of a link. We have hundreds of wonderful, wonderful small businesses in my community, and they have done it really tough over the past two years. This app is going to make it easier for them to receive all of those support programs that we have been talking about for these two years. They are going to be just a click away, which is really good for mums and dads who are running small businesses, because the last thing that they want to do when they get home is get onto their computer and go onto websites looking for this information. It is going to be a click away, and so it should be. It will make their life easier.

I also really like that, if you are looking to go away on holidays, the app is also going to link you to our government’s popular holiday travel vouchers program. I think I read that about 10 000 vouchers were snapped up in the space of about 5 minutes. I know there were many disappointed people in my community who missed out. This is going to make it a whole lot easier.

It is really important that as a government we keep trying to improve digital technology in this state. The reason for that is, as I started off my contribution by saying, while in 2018 we had 63 per cent of older people using the internet, we know now it is about 93 per cent. Things are changing: times are changing, technology is changing, and so is people’s willingness and ability to adapt to those changing times. I commend the bill to the house.