Media releases Community Services Agriculture

Ag Minister dodges conflict of interest question

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has failed to answer questions on the appointment of two union members to the board of Primesafe, Victoria’s industry-funded meat regulator.

Belinda Jacobi, Lead Organiser of the National Union of Workers, was announced as a new member of the Primesafe board on June 2 2015 in a ministerial media release issued by Minister Pulford.

The Minister has a declared membership of the NUW, an organisation which paid $175,117 to the Victorian Labor Party last year.

Today in Question Time Minister Pulford refused to say whether she exempted herself from the process and decision surrounding Ms Jacobi’s appointment.

Just days after Ms Jacobi’s appointment a second union organiser, Australian Meat Industry Employees Union secretary Paul Conway was appointed without public announcement.

There are now 2 union representatives on the 8 member Primesafe board.

Primesafe is funded entirely through levies paid by the red meat, poultry meat and seafood industry.

Comments from Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh:

“The Minister failed to answer a very simple question put to her in Question Time – did she excuse herself from a conflict of interest situation when Ms Jacobi was appointed?”

“Primesafe is the regulator of Victoria’s multi-billion meat industry, not an arena for Labor to repay favours to union allies.”

Media releases Regional Development Agriculture Infrastructure

O’BRIEN CALLS FOR GREATER GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR POLWARTH EXPORTERS

Nationals Candidate for Polwarth David O’Brien has called for Greater Government support for Victorian Regional Exporters.

He has called on the State Government to respond to and support the recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry into rural exports that completed its report last year.  The Andrews Government is six months overdue in providing its response to the report.

In September 2014 the Rural and Regional Committee of the Victorian Parliament handed down its report on the “Inquiry into the opportunities for increasing exports of goods and services from regional Victoria”. Mr O’Brien as the then Nationals Member for Western Victoria chaired the Committee which had two Nationals MPs, one labor MP and one liberal MP.

The Committee produced a bipartisan report that contained 23 unanimous recommendations designed to assist regional exporters, including those in Polwarth, to effectively compete and grow their businesses.

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • That the Victorian Government partner with the Commonwealth Government in assessing the international competitiveness of the regulation and taxation regime faced by Victorian businesses to identify areas of competitive disadvantage.
  • That the Victorian Government work with the Commonwealth Government to strengthen the competitiveness of exporters based in rural and regional Victoria with regard to: relative tariff and trade barriers; and gaining greater market access to existing and future export markets.
  • That the Victorian Government ensure that regional exporters have adequate access to the Port of Melbourne, including adequate time slots.
  • That the Victorian Government continue to invest in road infrastructure on major transport routes and review regulations in relation to high productivity vehicles.
  • That the Victorian Government investigate opportunities for Victorian businesses to invest in foreign companies, particularly in our target export markets such as China, India, South East Asia, North America and the European Union. These opportunities should be promoted and facilitated through Export Victoria, the Victorian Government Business Offices and similar services.

 “Polwarth exports a wide range of goods and services, including dairy, meat and fibre, tourism, transport and education services. Manufacturing also remains an important component of the regions’ economy, comprising just under one‐quarter of Victoria’s exports,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Growing these regional exports requires identifying and supporting our competitive advantages, reducing our costs of production and increasing efficiencies while seeking greater access to existing and emerging export markets. Victoria’s competitive advantages mean we have a strong economy with a strong export sector and potential for further growth. Much of these advantages are based on our ability to produce high quality products, our natural environment and liveability, and our world‐leading education, manufacturing, medical and scientific sectors.”

The report also found that Victoria’s major competitive disadvantages for exporting include high labour costs, the high Australian dollar, regulations and the comparatively small size of the majority of Victorian regional businesses. However, some of these features are also intrinsic to Victoria’s liveability and standard of living.

“The Andrew’s Government ought to have responded to the report six months ago and I call for them to do so. They have not chosen to stand a candidate in the Polwarth by-election and they are now six months overdue in responding to a bipartisan report containing important recommendations for regional exporters.” 

 Mr O’Brien has called for the Governments response to be provided as a matter of urgency.

 

Media releases Agriculture Regional Development Infrastructure Environment

Food and Fibre Export Performance Report

The 2014/15 Food and Fibre Export Performance Report shows Victorian food and fibre exports increased by $282 million.

That is compared to a $1.2 billion increase last year under the Liberal-Nationals Coalition.

Over the past four years under the Coalition, food and fibre exports grew from $8.8 billion to $11.4 billion.

Comments from Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh:

“These figures reinforce the importance of the food and fibre sector to Victoria’s economy and the jobs it creates in our regional communities.

“It is concerning Labor has cut the agriculture output budget by 12 per cent, the trade output budget by 61.5 per cent and refuses to fully support the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

“If our food and fibre sector is to continue to prosper, it needs a real budget commitment from the Labor Government – not just words.”


Media contact: Sarah O’Connor 0432 074 888 sarah.oconnor@opposition.vic.gov.au

Agriculture Infrastructure Environment Media releases

ChAFTA is good news for Polwarth jobs: O’Brien

The Nationals candidate for Polwarth David O’Brien attended last night’s China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) forum in Colac.

The forum was hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation and was part of a regional roadshow highlighting the importance of the ChAFTA, which is yet to be ratified.

Mr O’Brien said it was a valuable opportunity to learn more about the ChAFTA and how it will benefit farmers and local jobs, particularly in the dairy industry.

“The Victorian Nationals fully support the ChAFTA and the jobs, opportunity and investment that it will bring,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Polwarth is renowned for its quality dairy industry and we are home to some major dairy businesses including Camperdown Dairy International, which has recently signed a 15-year deal to export baby formula to China.

“The dairy industry, and the jobs it creates, will benefit from the elimination of tariffs across a range of dairy export products through the ChAFTA.”

Mr O’Brien said Western Victoria produced about 2.1 billion litres of milk a year,accounting for approximately 23% of national milk output.

China is Victoria’s largest export destination and in 2013/14 Victoria exported $369 million worth of dairy products to the country.

“I just hope the Andrews Labor Government and its union friends get on board and start supporting this historic agreement,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Failing to ratify the ChAFTA would cost rural Australia $300 million in lost opportunity next year alone.”

Regional Development Transport Infrastructure Agriculture Community Services Media releases

Labor squeezes fruit and veg retailers in Melbourne Markets move

Labor’s bungling of the transition of fruit and vegetable growers to the new Melbourne Market has already caused job losses in the Euroa electorate.

Member for Euroa and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Steph Ryan said Anderson’s Fruit & Veg in Stanhope had closed its doors on Saturday after providing fresh, seasonal produce to the Campaspe Shire for about 50 years.

“Labor bungled the relocation of the Melbourne Market from day dot. When it announced the project in 2004, it was grossly underfunded and poorly designed.

“Now not only are taxpayers footing the bill for the cost blowouts, but Labor has bungled the transition, impacting local growers and retailers.”

Ms Ryan said the opening hours initially planned would have limited access times and made it impossible for many country retailers to get produce back in time to deliver to their buyers.

“Daniel Andrews’ eleventh hour reprieve was too late for some. The owners of Anderson’s Fruit & Veg had to lay off seven staff and notify their customers that they could no longer supply them,” Ms Ryan said.

Benalla’s Fruits N Fare owners Rick and Di Aumann also considered their future after they were initially denied adequate parking at the new site.

Mr Aumann said the problems with the new market space were not limited to opening times or teething problems but were inherent in the flawed design of the space.

“The market is a logistical nightmare. There are limited parking spaces, including a lack of undercover areas, waiting areas and spaces for drivers to sleep,” Mr Aumann said.

“Retailers’ access to the market has been restricted due to the lack of parking which has meant retailers who have previously had five days of access, now only have access for one day of the week.

“Inadequate backing space leaves no room for smooth flowing traffic and does not take into account the needs of B-doubles, refrigerated transport and rear loading and unloading.

“Restricted forklift access will mean retailers cannot pick up produce directly from the supplier and will have to wait for it to be delivered to their truck. If you’re a smaller retailer you will not be priority under this system.

“The whole situation is completely unworkable and will mean many retailers across Victoria will be forced to close their doors,” Mr Aumann said.

Environment Agriculture Media releases

LANDHOLDERS DESERVE RIGHT TO SAY NO TO CSG

The Nationals have heard the concerns of our communities and will demand stronger safeguards for landholders regarding onshore coal seam gas operations should the industry ever develop in Victoria.

The Nationals support landowners having the right to say no to coal seam gas extraction activity on their property.

We also believe the regions where mining takes place should share the benefits from the activity. The Nationals support the introduction of a landowner and community benefit structure, so that when mining activity takes place the local community and landowner get a share of the wealth to invest in local priorities.

The Victorian Nationals will never support any activity that risks harm to our state’s water or land assets. Victoria’s agricultural industries are the lifeblood of our regional communities and are too valuable to jeopardise.

The previous Victorian Coalition Government, of which we were part, introduced a sensible moratorium to stop any hydraulic fracking activity and stop any new coal seam gas exploration or extraction licences until more is known about this activity and how it might affect our water and land assets.

The previous Victorian Coalition Government also brought in legislation so that BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) chemicals can never be used in any future fracking practice.

In January this year Premier Daniel Andrews indicated the current moratorium would be extended until a public Parliamentary Inquiry is conducted.

The Nationals support maintaining the moratorium, and believe there should be no coal seam gas mining or extraction in Victoria until thorough scientific assessment and community consultation has been completed.

The Nationals also believe we need to better protect landowners. The concerns of our community are important to us, and Victoria’s farming resources are too valuable to lose.

        The Nationals position on onshore unconventional gas:

·     Maintain Victoria’s moratorium on coal seam gas
·     Only if science proves CSG is safe should industry proceed
·     Ensure water resources and the environment are protected
·     Farmers should have the right to say no to CSG extraction on their land
·     Farmers should get fair compensation for and complete rehabilitation of any CSG activities
·     Any CSG activity must deliver a benefit to the land owner
·     Any CSG activity must deliver a benefit to the local community

Media releases LOCAL ISSUES Community Services Agriculture

Violet Town Nursing Centre wades into wetland project

  • $199,000 Living Victoria grant for new wetland at Violet Town Bush Nursing Centre
  • Project will manage stormwater and create a biodiversity ‘hot spot’
  • Napthine Coalition creating healthy waterways to build a better Victoria  
Violet Town Bush Nursing Centre will be helping the health of local waterways thanks to a $199,000 grant from the Victorian Coalition Government’s Living Victoria Fund.
 
Minister for Water Peter Walsh, The Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan and Liberal candidate for Euroa Tony Schneider met with board members of the nursing centre on Wednesday to discuss the project.
 
“The $199,000 Living Victoria Fund grant will enable the creation of a wetland and biodiversity ‘hot spot’ at the Violet Town Bush Nursing Centre,” Mr Walsh said.
 
“This is a great project which will give centre residents and the community a vibrant natural wetland to enjoy, while at the same time improving the management of Violet Town’s stormwater runoff and the downstream health of Lambing Gunyah Creek.”
 
Ms Ryan said healthy waterways were the lifeblood of regional and rural communities.
 
“Healthy local waterways contribute to the liveability of our towns, and this project is going to create a beautiful, natural entrance for Violet Town,” Ms Ryan said.
 
“This project is also going to be a great way to educate our next generation about water use and waterway care and management.”
 
Mr Schneider said the Napthine Coalition Government had reshaped urban water policies for Victoria, to avoid costly mistakes like Labor’s North-South Pipeline and the desalination plant.
 
“The Living Victoria Fund is a great program which is helping communities big and small, including Violet Town, make better use of all water sources, which includes stormwater, rainwater, groundwater and recycled water,” Mr Schneider said.
 
“It makes sense that with a variable climate and a growing population, we need to be smart in how we manage and use all available sources of water to keep our natural environment green and thriving.”
 
Centre president Pat Glyn said the project would involve regenerating the paddocks to the western side of the site to create a thriving wetland.
 
“This project will have a significant and positive impact on the whole Violet Town community,” Mr Glyn said.

“This is a community wetlands site so we are encouraging individuals and groups to get involved in its development and use - we hope to see school groups, families and individuals also enjoying the space.
 
“It will also be important to engage as many volunteers as possible to lend a hand with different aspects of this exciting project, such as tree planting.”
 
Draft plans for the project will be circulated across the town, in locations such as the library, supermarket, and community centre and, of course, the Bush Nursing Centre.

Media releases LOCAL ISSUES Community Services Agriculture

Coalition commits a further $10 million for Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation

  • Coalition commits $10 million for Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation
  • Finalised project will deliver 9700 megalitres of water savings back into production
  • Victorian Coalition aims to double food and fibre production by 2030

A re-elected Victorian Coalition Government will invest $10 million into the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation, Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan announced today.

In Maffra with The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien, Mr Ryan said the investment would contribute to Phase 1B of the project, which involved modernising the Southern Tinamba delivery system with pipelines and automated channels.

“The Coalition Government is a strong supporter of this major irrigation system modernisation project, which will boost the region’s economy by about $45 million every year through increased water efficiency and food production,” Mr Ryan said.

“We have already provided $16 million to Phase 1A of the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation, which will connect 75 per cent of customers to a modernised system by 2017 and will save more than 12,000 megalitres of water, water which will go back into food production.

“I am pleased to announced today that if the Victorian Coalition is re-elected we will invest another $10 million to kick-start the $60 million Phase 1B of the project.

“This phase includes replacing about 85 kilometres of ageing, open channel with 38km of pressurised pipes and 26km of modernised automated channel – expected to save another 9700 megalitres of water.”

Mr Bull said he was pleased to see the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation identified in the Federal Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper for potential Commonwealth funding.

“The Macalister Irrigation District is an absolute powerhouse of food and fibre production in Victoria. The district’s farmers already inject about $500 million a year into the state’s economy – imagine how much that will grow with this modernised irrigation infrastructure,” Mr Bull said.

“The Coalition Government has a clear vision for agriculture in Victoria. We want to double the state’s production of food and fibre by 2030.

“Projects such as this – combined with our $60 million Growing Food and Fibreinitiative, which is funding vital agricultural research and development – will ensure we reach that goal."

Mr O’Brien said the Liberal-Nationals Coalition’s clear vision for Victorian agriculture and its support for food producing regions was in stark contrast to the Labor Party.

“Labor has no vision and no commitment to invest in growing food and fibre production in Victoria,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Labor’s only real irrigation commitment has been its hollow promise not turn on the north-south pipeline if elected – which just shows that the $750 million project was a total waste of money.

“Unlike Labor, the Coalition will invest in projects that make a real difference forVictorian farmers and will help them to double food and fibre production.”

Media releases LOCAL ISSUES Community Services Agriculture

Coalition commits $8 million to health of Gippsland Lakes

  • $8 million to extend Gippsland Lakes Environmental Fund
  • Re-elected Coalition will further protect the health of the iconic Gippsland Lakes
  • Coalition committed to the economic development of regional Victoria

The health of the Gippsland Lakes will continue to be protected and enhanced under a re-elected Victorian Coalition Government, Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan announced today.

Speaking in Paynesville, Mr Ryan said a re-elected the Coalition would invest $8 million into extending the Gippsland Lakes Environmental Fund, which for the past two-and-a-half years has supported important projects that boost the health of the lakes.

Mr Ryan also announced today that the term of the Gippsland Lakes Ministerial Advisory Committee, led by Dr Peter Veenker, would be extended until December 2018.

“The Coalition Government is committed to supporting the health and prosperity of the Gippsland Lakes,” Mr Ryan said.

“In 2012 we established the Gippsland Lakes Ministerial Advisory Committee to develop and implement an environmental strategy for the lakes, as well as providing an initial $10 million Gippsland Lakes Environmental Fund to deliver that strategy.

“So far, we have invested in 66 projects which are either underway or already delivered through the fund.

“This includes $126,000 to monitor the health of the Gippsland Lakes, $120,000 to develop an invasive pest plant and animal strategy, and $200,000 to restore habitat for migratory birds.

“This extra funding commitment today from the Victorian Coalition will ensure the Gippsland Lakes can continue to be protected and enhanced over the next four years.”

The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull joined Mr Ryan in Paynesville and said the Gippsland Lakes were an iconic attraction in Victoria and he was proud that a re-elected Coalition would continue to protect them.

“As a proud local, the Gippsland Lakes hold a special place in my heart and I am thrilled The Nationals, working in Coalition Government, are continuing to deliver for this important waterway,” Mr Bull said.

“In the past, the lakes have suffered environmental health problems, including the 2008 non-toxic algal bloom which had a direct economic cost of $18 million.

“This funding will help to ensure those kinds of issues are minimised in the future.

“Locals and visitors love the Gippsland Lakes and that is why it’s so important we protect and maintain their health so they can be enjoyed for many more years to come.

“The environmental strategy for the lakes balances the needs of the environment, local communities and industries such as tourism and fishing, and this additional $8 million means we will be able to continue funding important projects that protect this balance.”

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien welcomed the commitment and said this ongoing investment would continue to transform the Gippsland Lakes.

“For all its magnificence, the Gippsland Lakes are Australia’s best kept natural secret,” Mr O’Brien said.

“As Australia’s largest inland network of waterways, the potential to grow tourism and jobs is limitless.

“Only the Coalition Government is committed to improving the health of the lakes for the benefit of all.”

Today’s announcement follows the Coalition Government’s recently announced election commitment to offer a voluntary buy-back of commercial fishing licences on the Gippsland Lakes.

The up to $2 million commitment will provide a fair and equitable exit strategy for licence holders to boost opportunities for recreational fishing and help grow local businesses that are supported by recreational fishing tourism.

Media releases LOCAL ISSUES Community Services Agriculture

Coalition delivers $240,000 for Goulburn Valley growth

  • $240,000 to expand fruit production in Goulburn Valley & create 40 jobs
  • Supporting four projects in Shepparton, Toolamba and Bunbartha
  • Coalition Government supporting Goulburn Valley’s horticulture industry

Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh was today joined by The Nationals candidate for Shepparton Greg Barr to announce $240,000 from the Victorian Coalition Government to support the expansion of fruit production in the Goulburn Valley.
 
Mr Walsh said the investment from the Coalition’s $5 million Goulburn Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund would support four projects in Shepparton, Toolamba and Bunbartha and create 40 local jobs.
 
“This is not an election promise, it is funding that has already been approved and will be delivered no matter what happens on 29 November,” Mr Walsh said.
 
The Coalition’s investment will support four projects totalling $2.88 million:

  • A new fruit grader, cool store and shed extension at ACN Orchards to improve packing efficiency;
  • An expansion at Boumbis Orchards to increase packing capacity by 50 per cent and allow the company to expand production;
  • New equipment at Barolli Orchards to allow the company to respond to a growing demand for stone and pome fruit in Asia, and increase production; and
  • New grading, shedding and packing equipment to enable Toolamba Fresh Produce to diversify into new tomato varieties.

Mr Barr said the Goulburn Valley currently produces 90 per cent of Australia’s processed fruit and these projects would ensure the local companies could expand production and unlock new export markets.
 
“The Coalition established the $5 million Goulburn Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund out of the Regional Growth Fund to leverage new industry, investment and employment opportunities and support a strategic long-term plan for the region,” Mr Barr said.
 
“These are exactly the types of projects we want to support in the Goulburn Valley – projects that create jobs, expand businesses and increase production.
 
“The Coalition’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund  has invested in almost 1,800 community-driven projects outside of Melbourne, generating almost $2 billion of total investment.
 
“Our $1 billion fund is money set aside for regional spending, over and above normal spending on health, education, sport and roads.
 
“This compares to the Labor Party’s imitation fund announced this week – the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund – which is purely rebadged general revenue, not extra money for the regions.
 
“Labor is claiming to be investing in the regions while it funnels more money back to the city.
 
“Labor will cut the country.”