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Nationals welcome next stage of Murray Basin Rail Project

Monday 31 July 2017

The $440m Murray Basin Rail Project is steaming ahead with Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister and The Nationals MP for Gippsland Darren Chester announcing Stage 2 construction works will begin today.

Stage 2 works on the project – which has been proudly driven by Victoria’s National Party MPs – will see upgrades and conversion of track from Dunolly to Yelta, and Ouyen to Murrayville from broad gauge to standard gauge.

Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh welcomed the project’s progress, after the Andrews Labor Government initially stalled works.

Mr Walsh said the Basin Rail Project would deliver critical upgrades to provide better rail access between the Murray Basin and Victoria’s major ports at Portland, Geelong and Melbourne.

“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to standardise and repair freight rail in western and northern Victoria, and make it more efficient for farmers to get their product to port,” Mr Walsh said.

“The Nationals’ State and Federal MPs are proud to have secured and delivered the $440 million needed to deliver this vital upgrade for north-west Victoria.”

The former Victorian Liberal Nationals government got the project underway in 2014 with a $220 million allocation, and the Federal Liberal Nationals Government delivered the final $220 million needed in April 2017.

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp said farmers in Victoria’s north-west would benefit from increased maximum freight volumes, which will see more efficient transport of agricultural products to port.

“The Murray Basin Rail Project will take trucks off our country roads and provide a more efficient way to transport our products to port,” Mr Crisp said.

“The Nationals at the State and Federal levels have worked hard to secure this Project and I am pleased to see it take the next step forward in better connecting our agricultural communities in north-west Victoria with the rest of the world.”

Media releases Agriculture Environment Community Services

Labor must step up for timber industry

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Victoria’s timber industry has been given a glimmer of hope in the latest report into the Leadbeater’s Possum protection measures but the Andrews Labor Government now needs to step up.

The review of the effectiveness and impact of timber harvesting exclusion zones around Leadbeater's Possum colonies has finally been released after months of delay.

The review confirmed:

  • More possums have been detected than expected.
  • More than 90 per cent of the possum’s potential, or most likely occupied, habitat in the Central Highlands has never been surveyed.
  • There is only limited data on the number of Leadbeater’s Possum colonies and habitat in Victoria’s National Parks and reserves.
  • Further field studies across all land tenures are urgently required.
  • VicForests has suffered $14 million in lost revenue as a result of the zones, and timber availability has been forecast to reduce by 65,000 cubic metres.

Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

“If the timber industry is going to survive, the Andrews Government must rapidly change its policy direction and accept that the Leadbeater’s Possum and a viable forestry sector can co-exist.

“Daniel Andrews must decide if he’s backing a $7 billion industry that support up to 50,000 jobs across Victoria, or if he’s going to sacrifice all of that in order to save a couple of inner city Labor seats with Greens preferences next election.”

Comments attributable to Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull

“There are now 618 confirmed Leadbeater’s Possum colonies, a huge increase on numbers two years ago, and that’s just from looking in a relatively small area of general public forest.

“The Andrews Government must urgently get on with recommended comprehensive survey work across all landscapes because this review makes it crystal clear past population estimates were grossly inadequate and have distorted public debate.

“The future of thousands of jobs in Victoria’s forest industry are in the hands of Daniel Andrews. Will he action the recommendations of this review, or will he continue his stealth campaign to create the Great Forest National Park in the hope of saving his own skin?”

Media releases Infrastructure Regional Development Community Services

Waste to energy project for Latrobe Valley

Thursday 7 July 2017

Today’s announcement that Australian Paper will proceed with planning and pre-construction works for a waste to energy project delivers some long overdue good news for the Latrobe Valley after months of jobs losses and industry downturn.

Quotes attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh

Australian Paper is hugely important in the Latrobe Valley, not only as a direct job provider and manufacturer but also as a key player in Victoria’s forest industries and a company which generates significant flow-on economic effects throughout the Latrobe Valley.

This is an exciting development for Latrobe Valley in terms of energy supply and local job creation, and it is also has terrific potential for future waste management in our State, so it has never been more important to ensure Australian Paper continues to have a reliable and long term supply of timber resource.

As well as Australian Paper’s commitment, I also recognise the dedicated work local Nationals MPs Russell Northe and Darren Chester have been doing over many months leading up to today’s exciting announcement.

Quotes attributable to Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath

At a time when the Valley’s industries have been doing it tough, it is really encouraging to see Australian Paper making this commitment to grow its operation and remain in our region.

Cutting edge innovation and confident investors are vital to ensuring there is a strong economic future for the Latrobe Valley, and it is terrific to have the Valley’s largest employer sending such positive signals for their future in our region.

Media releases Infrastructure Regional Development Community Services

Labor’s Heyfield deception

Monday 3 July 2017

Hundreds of jobs at Heyfield’s timber mill remain in jeopardy despite the Andrews Government’s claims today.

The Government’s media statement this morning says “…there will be no job losses while contractual negotiations are finalised,” but offers zero commitment beyond that period.

Minister Pulford also told ABC 774 today that the timber offer to the mill “has not changed” which confirms that future job losses at the mill are inevitable.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford have yet again failed to give Heyfield mill workers long term certainty for their jobs.

The only way to save these jobs is to increase timber supply and the Andrews Government confirmed again today that they aren’t prepared to put jobs first.

Labor starved the mill of a timber supply and caused a fire-sale and then the government bought it at bargain basement price.

Instead of seeking accolades, Daniel Andrews should get down to Heyfield, come clean and admit he has failed to save all 260 jobs.

Comments attributable to The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull

Saying there will be “no jobs lost in transition” gives no comfort for the workers as it provides no long term security and, in fact, workers have already been told there will be job losses and redundancies due to the reduced timber supply.

It’s a disgrace for Labor to claim this is a “great day for Heyfield” and a “great relief” for workers when the Andrews Government has led from the start a process that will result in significant job losses in the town.

Media releases Infrastructure Regional Development Community Services

Have your say on Liberal Nationals population

Thursday 29 June 2017

Victoria is the fastest growing state in Australia.

In 2016, our state grew by 146,000 people – the highest growth rate of any state in living memory.

In the past month alone, an additional 10,500 people have become residents – that’s equivalent to the population of my home town of Swan Hill moving to Victoria every month.

But our country communities take in less than 10 per cent of this growth and in some regions the population is in decline.

Despite this, the Labor Premier for Melbourne has no vision and no plan for regional Victoria.

The Liberal-Nationals have taken a completely different approach.

We established the Population Policy Taskforce to plan to decentralise Melbourne’s population and develop job opportunities, infrastructure and services in regional Victoria.

It’s the first holistic approach to planning for Victoria’s burgeoning population growth.

Chaired by Kew MP Tim Smith and deputy chair Danny O’Brien, The Nationals’ Member for Gippsland South, the Taskforce has travelled across Victoria, including to Shepparton, Mildura, the Latrobe Valley, Geelong and Ballarat to consult with our communities.

The feedback was overwhelming.

Country people are frustrated by the lack of population, a poor transport network and unreliable energy, while a deteriorating regional rail network and country roads make it hard to get from A to B.

For some businesses, energy costs have increased so much it’s impacting their ability to retain and hire staff, while the rapidly changing policy and regulatory environment is affecting business’ ability to invest.

It comes at a time when job losses are at the front of people’s minds.

Jobs are seen as the key piece of the puzzle in attracting and retaining people in regional Victoria. We’ve heard many suggestions on creating opportunities for businesses to move to the regions, including around state taxes and special economic zones.

Our agricultural communities are the backbone of our state’s economy, and we want to make sure they are recognised in plans for our future population.

Victorians can still be part of the Liberal-Nationals’ policy process, as we continue our work ahead of the 2018 election.

With the interim report now out, we welcome submissions from anyone who wants to have their say and help shape the future of our state.


Education and Skills Media releases Community Services

Labor's failed Federation Training 'rescue'

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Daniel Andrews’ TAFE ‘rescue’ has been a total sham.

A third of Federation Training's workforce was sacked with 182 full time equivalent staff losing their jobs at the TAFE in Labor's first year in office.  

Under Daniel Andrews the number of students undertaking training at Federation Training has reduced drastically, with 700,000 fewer student contact hours being offered.

The figures were revealed in Federation Training's 2015 annual report, which was tabled in Parliament more than a year late. 

For months, Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney has refused to answer basic questions about Federation Training’s staff numbers, student enrolments and its finances, suddenly claiming the information is “commercially sensitive”.

Seven out of the state’s 12 TAFE Institutes, including Federation Training, are relying on government bailouts to stay afloat.

Gayle Tierney has supported the closure of student services, the sacking of teachers and presided over a huge reduction in student numbers at Federation Training.

Media releases Community Services SPORTS AND RECREATION

Situation normal: Andrews Labor Government confused over its policies

Wednesday 21 June 2017

The Liberal Nationals support greyhound racing in Victoria and we believe this code of practice looks like overreach by the Andrews Labor Government and a banning by stealth.

If the Andrews Labor Government wants to ban greyhound racing they should just say so instead of this mealy-mouthed attempt.

Today in Question Time, Minister Jaala Pulford was asked basic questions about compliance and associated costs of their proposed code of conduct but she wouldn’t or couldn’t provide any detail.

Most Victorians want an industry that cares for greyhounds while providing employment opportunities and a popular recreational activity for so many.

Those in the industry caught doing the wrong thing should not only be banned from the industry but also receive a punitive punishment that makes an example of them to others who ever contemplate doing the wrong thing.

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Labor sparks Heyfield mill fire sale

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford still refuses to admit the Labor Government’s offer to buy the Heyfield mill is just smoke and mirrors.

In Parliament today, Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked the Minister why the Andrews Labor Government failed to make a commercially realistic offer to the mill that would secure the 260 local jobs.

But Ms Pulford failed to provide an answer, even refusing to answer simple questions about why she has been removed from the negotiations.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods has confirmed the mill would wind down its operations from August due to “expected short supply of logs to the mill again this year” meaning 50 jobs would be lost a month earlier than initially thought.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford continually fail to provide Heyfield mill workers with any confidence Labor will fight for their jobs.

The Premier seems to be forcing a fire sale of the Heyfield mill after Labor’s changed timber policy undermined the business’ viability.

The Premier is putting possums before the jobs of 260 people and the wider Heyfield community.

Labor’s desperate attempt to secure greens preferences and create the Great Forest National Park by stealth has left the future of the Heyfield mill and Victoria’s forestry industry in jeopardy.

Media releases Community Services health and ages care

Rising drug offences in Victorian schools

Monday 19 June 2017

Police are investigating an increasing number of drug offences on school grounds.

Reports today show that 166 drug offences were investigated in 2016, an increase from 139 in 2014. Since January 2014, more than 450 drug offences on school grounds have been investigated.

Drug addiction is destroying lives and families, but under the Andrews Labor Government anyone wanting to beat addiction will wait up to a year for rehabilitation support.

Daniel Andrews has not opened a single additional public rehabilitation bed since he was elected in 2014.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy

It’s clear Daniel Andrews has lost control when hundreds of school kids have been charged with serious drug offences.

It’s shocking that as lives and families are being ruined by drug addiction, we’ve still got Daniel Andrews’ own Labor MPs arguing for drug injecting rooms in our suburbs.

Media releases Regional Development Education and Skills Infrastructure Energy Environment Community Services

Heyfield mill closure to begin early

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods has announced today it will close its Heyfield mill earlier than planned.

ASH confirmed today the mill will wind down from August due to “VicForests expected short supply of logs to the mill again this year”.

At a recent hearing for the parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, VicForests Acting CEO Nathan Trushell confirmed the amount of timber available to industry has dropped by nearly 60,000m3 due to confirmed possum sightings and projected future sightings.

Mr Trushell also said the possum was being discovered at a rate “much higher than ever anticipated”.

There are 260 people employed at the Heyfield mill, while the mill’s operations support 7000 jobs down the line.

Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy and Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull visited the Heyfield mill again today to speak with ASH.

Comments attributable to Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy

The Liberal-Nationals understand the importance of this business to the Heyfield community and committed in February that an elected Liberal-Nationals government would keep the mill open and save these jobs.

Daniel Andrews' promise to fight for every Victorian job was clearly a lie. The Andrews government has presided over thousands of lost Gippsland jobs with no remorse for their failure to step in and save them.

Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh

The Heyfield community and Victoria’s forestry industry have endured increasingly difficult conditions under a Labor Government more concerned with protecting possums than Victorian jobs.

The Premier for Melbourne is so desperate to keep his own job and the greens preferences that got him there that he is condemning 260 jobs in the Heyfield community.

Comments attributable to Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull

The closure of the Heyfield mill is devastating news for the workers, their families and the Heyfield community.

Daniel Andrews promised to visit Heyfield in February, but more than three months later he still refuses to show any support for our community.

The Premier for Melbourne fails to understand the mill doesn’t need a new owner to save these jobs, it needs a change in government policy.