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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.

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Drug crime rising under Labor

Friday 9 June 2017

Daniel Andrews’ Ice Action plan is a $184 million dud.  Lots of money is being spent but it’s not making a dent in the numbers of people and their families that are being destroyed by this insidious drug.

It’s not just the lives that are being ruined, it’s the side effects like violent crime and aggravated burglaries which is impacting on tens of thousands of Victorians. 

Despite these problems we still have members of the Andrews Labor Government arguing for drug injecting rooms in our suburbs.

We need to provide better help for those who want to beat their addiction. 

At the moment those wanting to beat their addictions face waits of up to a year for rehabilitation support because Daniel Andrews is spending the money from the Ice Action Plan on glossy brochures and bureaucratic talkfests.      

The Liberal Nationals believe that we need tougher sentences for drug traffickers, a more effective rehabilitation system and better awareness campaigns for young people and the community.

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Labor can’t rescue its failed TAFE ‘rescue’

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Background

The Andrews Labor Government is scrambling to cover up its failed TAFE ‘rescue’, spending almost half a billion dollars to keep Victoria’s TAFEs afloat.

A Victorian Auditor-General’s annual Audit Snapshot, released today, shows Victoria’s training system is shrinking and becoming more reliant on State Government grants.

It found:

“The improvement in revenue in 2015 and 2016 has been driven by additional government grant funding, rather than growth in revenue. Student numbers continued to fall, and all other sources of revenue such as student fees and contestable funding declined in 2015 and 2016” (VAGO report, p17).

The report revealed Labor has handed out $490 million in grants to TAFEs in the past two years, but student numbers and training quality have worsened.

The Auditor-General flagged concerns that TAFEs had reduced “financial flexibility” with falling student numbers and income revenue.

The report also found the course funding provided by the Andrews Government was not sufficient to meet staff costs of most TAFEs.

Comments from Shadow Minister for Training, Skills and Apprenticeships Steph Ryan

Student numbers are plummeting, but Daniel Andrews and Gayle Tierney are still trying to tell Victorians their TAFE ‘rescue’ has been a success.

TAFE is weaker, not stronger, under Labor, to a point where they now rely more on State Government bailouts, than their own revenue, to stay afloat.

It’s clear Daniel Andrews’ TAFE ‘rescue’ has been a complete failure.

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Labor refuses to save forestry jobs

Thursday 1 June 2017

Background

The Andrews Labor Government could save thousands of forestry jobs in Victoria by reducing the size of ‘highly precautionary’ timber harvest exclusion zones.

At a parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, VicForests Acting CEO Nathan Trushell confirmed the Leadbeater’s Possum was being detected at a rate “much higher than ever anticipated”.

Mr Trushell also described the current 200m buffer zones as “highly precautionary and having a significant impact on industry”.

At May 18 this year, 617 Leadbeater’s Possum colonies had been recorded and an estimated 1851 individual possums found.

Mr Trushell also confirmed the amount of timber available to industry had dropped by nearly 60,000m3 because of possum sightings and projected sightings in the future.

The Andrews Labor Government is months overdue with a required review of the exclusion zones.

At a Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing today, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford showed an embarrassing lack of understanding of her portfolio and had to refer to Department staff when questioned if she had seen the exclusion zone review.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews has created this crisis in our forestry industry and is trying to force a fire sale of Heyfield’s mill instead of saving jobs and reducing the size of the exclusion zones.

Demand has never been higher for Victoria’s high-quality timber products but Daniel Andrews has put the industry in peril.

The 200m buffer zones were put in place at a time when Leadbeater’s possum numbers were unknown and they were supposed to be reviewed once 200 colonies were found but Daniel Andrews looks hell bent on creating the Great Forest National Park by stealth instead.

Daniel Andrews is sacrificing timber workers and their livelihoods because he is desperate to cling to power and needs city greens preferences next election.

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Taxes up 20%, but no guarantee of a return

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Taxes up 20%, but no guarantee of a return

Housing Minister Martin Foley has failed to answer basic questions on his portfolio at a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) appearance today.

Asked about the Andrews Labor Government’s new Vacant Residential Property Tax, the Minister bumbled through a response that revealed a staggering lack of understanding on what this new tax will mean for Victorians.

The Minister has been happy to tout the benefits of this new tax for homelessness and housing affordability, but he can’t say if this new tax will actually do what Labor promised and add properties to the rental market.

It’s clear the Andrews Labor Government expects Victorians to pay more in tax without any guarantee they’ll get a return.

Mr Foley was also unable to answer any basic questions on the transfer of 4000 public housing residences to community housing.

The Minister couldn’t say how the Government planned to consult with affected tenants or guarantee community housing associations wouldn’t be handed poor quality housing stock they’ll soon have to pay to be repaired.

Either the Minister isn’t across the detail of his own portfolio or the detail doesn’t exist.

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Labor refuses to release Fed Training details

Thursday 18 May 2017

Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney refused to provide basic information about Federation Training during a budget estimates hearing yesterday. 

Opposition MPs walked out of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) in disgust after the Labor chair tried to rule a question about Federation Training's student numbers, staffing and finances out of order. 

Ms Tierney told the committee that she would not provide the information because it was "commercially sensitive", despite other TAFEs around the state publishing the same information in their annual reports. 

Labor's cover up comes after Federation Training failed for the second year in a row to publish its annual report, with no reports provided to Parliament for 2015 or 2016, putting it in breach of the Financial Management Act

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Training, Skills and Apprenticeships Steph Ryan

Labor is trying to hide the dire state of Federation Training by claiming data published by other TAFEs is suddenly commercially sensitive.  

It's no wonder Gayle Tierney and Harriet Shing don't want this information published when Federation Training has cut staff, courses and student support services. 

More than 123,000 students have disappeared from Victoria's training since Daniel Andrews became Premier and students now have less chance of finding a job.

Quotes attributable to The Nationals Member for Morwell Russell Northe

Labor has walked away from Federation Training when the Latrobe Valley has never needed it more. 

Under questioning in Parliament and at committee hearings, Gayle Tierney was incapable of answering even basic questions about Federation Training's finances and student numbers.

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Students less likely to find a job under Daniel Andrews

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Just half of students enrolled in vocational education and training in Victoria are more likely to get a job as a result of their training.

In a trainwreck performance before the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, Training and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney said student numbers had declined because Labor was improving the quality of training. 

But just 50.6 per cent of students completing a VET qualification last year had improved employment prospects (Victorian Budget 2017-18, BP3, p188).

In 2014, 76 per cent of students graduating found employment within six months (Victorian Budget 2015-16, BP3, p365). 

Ms Tierney also refused to provide information on the number of students enrolled, staff numbers or the government funding provided to individual TAFEs, claiming the data was "commercially sensitive", despite such data having been published under successive governments. 

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Skills, Training and Apprenticeships Steph Ryan

Not only have we seen a 30 per cent decline in student enrolments, but under Daniel Andrews students are now less likely to find a job.

The Andrews Labor Government is desperately trying to cover up the dire state of the TAFE system in Victoria and its failed ‘rescue’.

More than 123,000 students have disappeared from Victoria's training since Daniel Andrews became Premier and students now have less chance of finding a job.

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Liberal Nationals commit to securing jobs in the Valley

Wednesday 17 May 2017

An elected Liberal Nationals government would be committed to keeping jobs in the Latrobe Valley.

Unemployment was up 50 per cent in the past two years in the Valley, even before 750 people lost their job at Hazelwood Power Station in March.

Wood processor Carter Holt Harvey yesterday flagged closure of its Morwell sawmill which would mean a further 160 people would lose their jobs.

The Treasurer claimed just two weeks ago Labor is ‘creating jobs, but we’re also focused on protecting jobs’.

Instead, Labor’s destructive policies and ideology has led the Latrobe Valley into a jobs crisis.

Comments attributable to Opposition Leader Matthew Guy

The Morwell community has been hit hard by Daniel Andrews’ tax on coal that shutdown Hazelwood and forced 750 people out of work.

A government I lead would make sure Victoria has a secure and affordable electricity supply into the future by keeping the Loy Yang and Yallourn power stations open.

Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews’ desperation for greens preferences in the city has created turmoil in our forestry industry.

A Liberal Nationals government would work with industry to return confidence to our forestry businesses, and that includes a commitment to work with Australia Paper to ensure this major employer has a strong future in the Valley and a secure supply of timber.

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Federal Govt delivers what Andrews Labor Govt refuses to

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Country Victorians will get the vital investments they need after the Federal Liberal Nationals Government delivered for the projects that Daniel Andrews refuses to fund.

Investments in rail and road infrastructure projects in regional Victoria and new agriculture initiatives for our primary producers were welcome commitments in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

The $8bn inland freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane will take trucks off our roads and cut the cost for farmers to transport their product to port.

While Daniel Andrews refuses to spend a cent of State Government money on his $1.45bn wish list for regional rail, the Federal Liberal Nationals Government has invested $1bn in regional rail and other infrastructure projects.

This includes a $100 million investment in the north east rail line – five times more than was allocated in Labor’s unfunded wish list – and $290m for track duplications and upgrades on the Gippsland line.

These projects are fully funded and will deliver real benefits for country rail passengers who are sick of the Andrews Labor Government’s announce first, fund later approach.

I welcome the more than $4.1 billion investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors and the $4bn Regional Investment Corporation which will support growth in our rural and regional communities.

The Federal Liberal Nationals have delivered where the Andrews Labor Government refuses to.

Regional Victorians deserve better than Labor’s offer of scraps off the table after the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne lease.

The Federal Budget delivers funding and vision for infrastructure and rail for country Victorians who have been abandoned by the Labor Premier for Melbourne.

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Community celebrates dumping of the dump

Friday, 5 May 2017

The Nationals MPs Danny O’Brien and Melina Bath have congratulated the South Gippsland community on a successful campaign to ‘dump the dump’ at Leongatha South.

Mr O’Brien and Ms Bath joined community campaigners at the site after news that multinational waste firm Veolia had abandoned any plans it had to pursue the proposed rubbish dump in a disused quarry.

“This was a project that was sprung on the community by Veolia and presented as something of a done deal. What the company didn’t anticipate was the fantastic community campaign that mobilised almost instantly to oppose the dump,” said Mr O’Brien.

“I was please to table in State Parliament almost 3,000 petitions against the proposal and the community campaign made it clear that South Gippsland did not want Melbourne’s waste.”

Ms Bath said, as a local resident, she was equally concerned about what the dump would have meant.

“I give great credit to the Dump the Dump group which pounded the pavement, collected signatures and prepared a significant campaign against the dump idea.

“I also pay tribute to the businesses that hosted the petitions and leant their support to the campaign.”

Mr O’Brien said neither the Gippsland nor metropolitan waste planning groups had accepted the need for the dump at Leongatha South, denting any credibility it had to proceed.

“We know we have to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and Gippsland will accept the responsibility for dealing with its own waste - Melbourne should too.

“I am disappointed that having raised community anxiety about this issue, that it took follow up from us to confirm it was now dead. That is disrespectful to the community and Veolia’s behaviour in this case has been poor.”

 

CAPTION: The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien and Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath celebrating the dumping of the dump with concerned community members Wendy Reed and Les White.