Tuesday 6 December 2016
A report released today by SGS Economic and Planning has shown that regional Victoria’s economy shrank by 1 per cent in 2015-16, making it the only area in all of Australia to have its economy go backwards.
Shadow Minister for Regional Development Tim McCurdy said “regional Victoria is going backwards under Daniel Andrews and his city-centric Labor Government”.
“Under Daniel Andrews, country roads and bridges funding has been spent in the Premier’s own city electorate and regional rail commuters have been stranded for days due to Labor’s failure to maintain the rail lines,” Mr McCurdy said.
“Whether it is taking an axe to the Country Fire Authority or leaving country roads in disrepair, regional Victorians have been the biggest losers under Daniel Andrews’ Government.”
Mr McCurdy said Daniel Andrews has no plan to manage Victoria’s population growth.
“More than 90 per cent of Victoria’s population growth is centred on Melbourne, an unsustainable situation that hurts both the city and the country,” Mr McCurdy said.
“The Liberal Nationals are developing a comprehensive plan to manage the huge growth in Victoria’s population and make sure regional Victoria is a beneficiary of the opportunities population growth provides not a loser from it.”
The Andrews Labor Government are hiding the extent of Victoria's training crisis, failing to release the half-yearly update on the state of our TAFE and training sector.
Steve Herbert's time-keeping skills are on par with his dismal record-keeping skills.
We are nearly to the end of the year and have no idea of the state of our training system after the Andrews Labor Government failed to release the half-yearly update for 2016.
It is now months overdue.
Steve Herbert leaves a shameful legacy of plummeting training enrolments and $175 million in cuts to student training at TAFE.
Gayle Tierney has inherited a fragmented and struggling training sector from an incompetent Minister, but she shouldn’t cover for him by continuing to delay the release of the half-year data.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford today failed to explain why the State Government’s long-promised plan for hunting in Victoria is not being released.
In question time today, The Nationals’ new Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan asked Minister Pulford to explain the five month delay in the release of the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan.
Field and Game Australia chairman Bill Patterson told October’s issue of Conservation and Hunting magazine that the government’s dragging its feet on this was a “great cause for concern”.
“Jaala Pulford is failing Victoria’s hunting community,” Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.
“The great fear amongst hunters is that Jaala Pulford is being blocked by members of her own government who are anti-hunting and who want to deny the recreational, environment and economic benefits that hunters deliver to Victoria.”
Last week, Victoria’s Game Management Authority announced that there are now 50,000 registered hunters in Victoria, so it beggars belief that the Andrews Government won’t recognise and support such a large recreation sector which contributes so much in Victoria.
“The resignation of respected GMA chair Roger Hallam five months ago has been a further blow to hunters and the long delay in filling this role is further cause for concern,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Liberal Nationals are strong supporters of Victoria’s hunters and we understand the importance that hunting plays in pest management and regional tourism opportunities.”
Mr O’Sullivan said hunting contributes around $450 million to Victoria’s economy each year, and a lot of that is spent in country areas.
“Jaala Pulford needs to work harder to influence her city-centric leftie colleagues and get the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan out without delay,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Wild dog numbers are out of control because the Andrews Labor Government spent two years playing politics with an effective program set up by the former Liberal-Nationals government.
Jaala Pulford was very wrong and very arrogant to ignore the advice of farmers who are dealing with the impact of devastating wild dog attacks.
It’s disgraceful that it took two years of constant lobbying from farmers, hunters and Nationals and Liberal MPs for Jaala Pulford to come to her senses.
The city-centric Labor Government has let farmers down badly and despite the Minister’s begrudging backflip, this failure won’t be forgotten by high country communities.
The Andrews Labor Government has left Victorians in the dark on the impacts of the closure of Hazelwood power station on energy pricing and security of supply.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe called on the Government to detail a real plan for the Latrobe Valley’s future in State Parliament yesterday. Rumours of Hazelwood’s closure, a key employer that provides hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, would put further pressure on Latrobe Valley’s unemployment crisis.
Rumours of Hazelwood’s closure, a key employer that provides hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, would put further pressure on Latrobe Valley’s unemployment crisis.
Mr Northe said if the station closed, there would be a profound impact on the community.
“Daniel Andrews has spent his first two years in government ignoring our region, cutting funding and sitting idle as thousands of people lost their jobs,” Mr Northe said.
“We are already in the midst of an unemployment crisis – even without the jobs that could be lost at Hazelwood.
“Labor flagged the power station’s closure in 2010, yet six years on and faced with closure, they have no plan for Latrobe Valley’s future.
“The Latrobe Valley wants answers – what is Daniel Andrews’ plan to retain jobs? How will Victoria’s energy supply be secured?
Will the cost of electricity soar under Labor’s renewable energy target?”
Mr Northe, Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh and Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath recently met with Hazelwood operators and key stakeholders to discuss the power station’s possible closure.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, and business and industry put forward ideas that could help support workers and the community if the power station were closed.
“Our local business, industry and community groups must be included in determining a plan for the Latrobe Valley’s future,” Mr Northe said.
“Daniel Andrews abandoned the Coalition’s industry and employment plan, including Skilling the Valley, the $15 million Latrobe jobs fund and even the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee.
“The Andrews Labor Government has shamefully neglected the Latrobe community for too long.”
Member for Morwell Russell Northe has said reports this morning that the Hazelwood mine, one of the Latrobe Valley’s key employers, plans to close its doors in April are a “distressing” prospect for the local community.
“Jobs in the region are very hard to come by with unemployment currently at 19.7 per cent in Morwell. If the mine’s approximately 550 direct jobs and hundreds and hundreds of indirect jobs disappear it will snowball a growing unemployment crisis in the Valley,” Mr Northe said.
“Labor first slated closure of Hazelwood in 2010 – they’ve got their wish, so it would be a show of absolute ignorance for Labor to sit on their hands until Latrobe Valley workers are left without jobs.
“Labor must come clean now on what they know of this closure and what their plan is to keep jobs in the Latrobe community.
“The Nationals understand this closure would have a significant impact on the local community. I will meet with business and industry in the near future to discuss what can be done to ease this pressure on our local workforce.”
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has refused to answer how her State Government will further support Victoria’s dairy farmers, despite her complaints that the Federal Government’s $579 million assistance package is not enough.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced a $555 million concessional loans scheme last month after Murray Goulburn and Fonterra unexpectedly slashed milk prices.
Extra Rural Financial Counselling services are available, and dairy families can also now receive the Commonwealth Government’s $1000 per fortnight Farm Household Allowance payments.
Victoria was immediately allocated $30 million for initial concessional loan demand, with further funds available to be allocated when needed.
However, Ms Pulford stalled the process to roll out the loans and instead focused on petty political games.
Today in the Legislative Council, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked what was missing from the Commonwealth package, but the Minister refused to provide an answer.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
“When put on the spot and asked what else the Andrews Labor Government planned to do to assist dairy farmers, Ms Pulford arrogantly refused to answer.”
“The $11.4 million of state and industry funds Ms Pulford has announced so far is, of course, welcome but there is more that the State Government could do.
“Farmers have requested direct financial support, like rates rebates which were last week requested by Gannawarra and Campaspe shires and water charge waivers.
“So far, Ms Pulford has ignored these calls from the very farmers she claims to represent, and instead focused on grubby political games.”
The Coalition Government announced today that it will provide support for Australian dairy farmers who have had their incomes retrospectively cut by dairy processors Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce said the Coalition will deliver immediate assistance to dairy farmers in hardship to help them manage through these difficult times and return to profitability.
“I was pleased to meet dairy farmers in Victoria last week and the Coalition wants to send a clear message that the Coalition stands shoulder to shoulder with them,” Mr Joyce said.
The key elements of the support package are:
- $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans
- $20 million to fast track the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District
- $2 million to establish a commodity milk price index
- $900,000 for an additional 9 Rural Financial Counsellors in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales
- $900,000 for Dairy Australia’s ‘Tactics for Tight Times’ programme
- Fast tracking Farm Household Allowance applications with 18 more Department of Human Services employees processing claims
- Appointment of a Department of Human Services Dairy Industry Liaison Officer
- Redirection of two Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres to dairy regions
“The Coalition will be making immediately available $55 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans for Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra suppliers this year, as well as access to $500 million in concessional loans over 2016-17 and 2017-18 years. The recovery loans will be for terms of 10 years,” Mr Joyce said.
The concessional loans will be funded by expanding the drought concessional loan scheme to include dairy-specific criteria.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition was allocating $900,000 to Rural Financial Counselling Services in dairy production areas to ensure farmers receive the farm business financial advice needed, as well as $900,000 to Dairy Australia to continue rolling out one-to-one business advisory support via the Tactics for Tight Times programme.
Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge said the Coalition is taking immediate action to ensure eligible dairy farmers have fast-tracked access to the support they need to get through the tough times.
“We’ve ramped up the number of staff processing Farm Household Allowance claims. An extra 18 people have been brought in to process claims and to work directly with farming families on their individual cases, with a special focus on people in financial hardship,” Mr Tudge said.
“Where a farmer is facing real hardship and we have received the full details, a decision can be made almost immediately. If there is any difficulty obtaining the information we need to assess a claim, Farm Household Case Officers can talk to the farmer’s accountant or financial adviser to help get the information needed.
“Our one-stop-shop Mobile Service Centres are now travelling through the hard-hit dairy areas of regional Victoria and South Australia. The Service Centres provide direct access to the full range of Government services and are staffed with people who can answer farmers’ questions. Farmers can submit claims for Farm Household Allowance and other income support at the Mobile Service Centre, or by mail, online or at any Centrelink or DHS Service Centre.”
Mr Tudge said the Coalition will appoint a dedicated Dairy Industry Liaison Officer who will work on the ground with dairy farmers and local communities to coordinate support and services.
“I encourage any farmer with questions to contact the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316, which is running on extended hours from 8am to 8pm each week day,” Mr Tudge said.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition is delivering these assistance measures now as an immediate response under the Caretaker Conventions, not waiting until after the election on 2 July.
“In a sign of our strong confidence in the future of the Australian dairy industry, a re-elected Coalition Government will commit $20 million to build the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation System in Gippsland,” Mr Joyce said.
“The Macalister project will upgrade the 1920s and 1950s era Southern-Tinamba area irrigation network delivering almost 10 gigalitres in water savings which can be put back into growing the region’s agricultural production.”
Mr Joyce said to help ensure the domestic dairy industry does not in future find itself in a situation where dairy processors unexpectedly reduce farm gate milk prices late in the season, a re-elected Coalition Government will work with the dairy industry to establish a commodity milk price index.
“The index would introduce greater transparency and market signals in domestic and global milk prices. The Coalition will consult with the industry on the design of the index that would provide dairy farmers with valuable information for use in supply negotiations with processors and to assist in following international price trends,” Mr Joyce said.
“The Coalition values the contribution our dairy farmers make to their regional communities and the nation as a whole and we are proud to support them throughout good times and bad.”
Leader of The Nationals and Coalition Shadow Minister for Water Peter Walsh has welcomed the passing of amendments to the Commonwealth Water Act.
“On behalf of Victorian irrigators who called for these amendments, I extend our thanks to Barnaby Joyce for getting this important Bill dealt with before the Federal election,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Amendment gives the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder much greater flexibility for spending the proceeds gained from water sales.
“Under the old law, if the CEWH sold water to the temporary market, it had to use the proceeds of that sale to purchase water back at a future date.
“That restrictive condition is gone now, and the CEWH will be able to make smarter use of these funds. For example, it could invest in engineering works like the systems we have in Gunbower Forest or Hattah Lakes that deliver positive environmental outcomes while using water much more efficiently.
“This alteration was a key part of the submission I made to the Senate’s Basin Plan enquiry last year. Minister Joyce committed to us that he would fix it before the election and he has delivered on the promise.
“The Water Act amendment is a good first step to ensuring better outcomes for irrigators but The Nationals will continue the fight for a fairer Basin Plan that protects our irrigators, rural industries and communities.”
The Andrews Government has again failed to properly fund the protection of Victorian riverbanks.
Before the last election, the Coalition committed to a $45 million program for fencing Crown Land river frontages.
Today Lisa Neville has re-announced $10 million already listed in the 2015/16 Budget (BP3, p56). There is no funding for riparian land care in the forward estimates.
The Budget also confirms (p5) there is still $105 million unspent in the government’s Environmental Contribution Levy (ECL) Fund.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Water Peter Walsh:
“The launch of this Action Plan was the ideal time for Daniel Andrews to make a serious funding commitment from the ECL Fund to help protect our riparian reserves.”
“Farmers will also want Daniel Andrews to guarantee that the Crown Land fencing program will remain voluntary.”