Wednesday 20 September 2017
The Heyfield mill might be open, but the Andrews Labor Government continues to refuse to guarantee 250 jobs will remain at the mill.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh and The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull have called on Daniel Andrews to urgently reassure mill workers and the Heyfield community that all remaining jobs are safe.
Mr Walsh said the mill also needed certainty past the current three-year contract offer.
“While it is a relief for the Heyfield community that the mill won’t close, it is cold comfort when Daniel Andrews’ decisions brought the mill to its knees in the first place,” Mr Walsh said.
“Labor must guarantee mill workers and the community there will be no job losses and that the mill has a future beyond the current three-year contract.
“The Premier for Melbourne still hasn’t set foot in Heyfield, most likely too ashamed because locals know he’s put Greens preferences and his own job ahead of mill workers’ jobs and this community.”
Asked in Parliament about the cost to taxpayers, Special Minister for State Gavin Jennings, who led the transition process, refused to admit the price of the deal.
He would only say the Government had a “controlling share” of the mill.
Mr Bull said the community wanted to know what stake the Government had in the mill and if all remaining jobs would still be retained after one shift of more than 20 had already been lost.
“Rather than do more press conferences from the steps of Spring Street, the Government should travel down to Heyfield and address our concerns,” Mr Bull said.
“It was absolutely galling to hear a senior Labor Minister claim today it was a ‘unilateral decision of the owners to walk away from the mill’.
“The Heyfield mill was forced towards closure by the Andrews Labor Government’s refusal to guarantee timber supply because they are scared of losing inner-city seats to the Greens at next year’s election.
“The mill didn’t need new owners, it needed a government prepared to put East Gippsland jobs first.”
Wednesday 20 September 2017
Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
The Andrews Labor Government’s trivial response to questions in Parliament today on rising energy costs in regional Victoria is an utter insult to country business owners.
Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio would rather blame others than make sure families and businesses can afford to pay their energy bills.
Agricultural businesses are the lifeblood of our country communities, but when extra money has to be spent keeping the lights on it means there’s less to spend on wages, in local small businesses and on supporting our country sporting clubs.
Closing Hazelwood with no plan to replace the loss of 22 per cent of our state’s baseload power supply and attempting to shift the blame to the Federal Government does nothing to support our rural and regional businesses.
The Premier for Melbourne must stop putting his own job and the jobs of his inner-city MPs who rely on Greens preferences before those in country Victoria.
Unlike Labor, a Liberal-Nationals government would prioritise energy security, affordability and reliability.
Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien took the story of the Peddles, a Gippsland dairy farming family, to State Parliament today.
The Peddles face a 400 per cent increase in energy costs, with a 150 per cent jump in the price of electricity. They already spend about $150,000 a year on energy.
Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio could not answer Mr O’Brien’s question on how the Peddle family, who employ eleven people in their dairy operation, could afford to pay for this year’s electricity increase.
Friday 15 September 2017
The glaring omission in the Andrews Government’s confirmation of the Heyfield mill sale is a promise that all 250 jobs will be saved.
Labor MP Harriet Shing promised in March the mill would “not lose jobs overall” if the Government became a buyer of last resort, but Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford recently said “less timber for the mill does mean that there will need to be some change”.
Today’s announcement details nothing of what that change might mean for the 250 people employed at the mill and for the Heyfield community.
Up to 20 jobs have already been lost at the green mill when one shift was cut in August.
The Andrews Labor Government must urgently guarantee there will be no further job losses at the Heyfield mill.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
Daniel Andrews’ decision to refuse timber supply to the Heyfield mill left the local community in limbo for nearly a year.
Labor is desperate to paint this deal as a win for the community to cover up the fact jobs have already been lost at the mill and that they have not guaranteed there won’t be further losses to come.
Daniel Andrews promised he would fight for every job, but it seems jobs in country Victoria just don’t make the cut.
Comments attributable to Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull
Each and every one of these mill jobs are vital to the Heyfield community.
These jobs wouldn’t have needed saving if Labor hadn’t refused to guarantee a viable timber supply.
Daniel Andrews is so desperate to secure Greens preferences and the seats of his inner-city MPs that he is willing to sacrifice those in our East Gippsland communities.
Thursday 14 September 2017
Statement from Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh
The closure of Hazelwood Power Station this year saw the loss of 750 jobs and Victoria’s baseload energy capacity drop by 22 per cent.
Increases to average annual power bills for homes and businesses have been far worse than the Andrews Labor Government predicted.
There are new warnings every week of further power bill pain and blackouts in the summer ahead.
Victoria is a state rich in brown coal and with an envied track record in energy production and innovation, so it is staggering we find ourselves in this position in 2017.
Victorian jobs will continue to be at risk if we do not have a reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of baseload power for our state. Renewable energy plays a role in that future, but the move must be strategically managed to protect Victorian jobs.
The Latrobe Valley’s existing power stations are ageing assets and unless action is taken to replace generation capacity the current energy crisis will only get worse.
In order to secure Victoria’s energy future and drive down household and business energy bills, immediate action is needed.
The Victorian Nationals believe the development of a new generation High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) power station is essential for Victoria, before another of the current Latrobe Valley generators close.
The Victorian Nationals are committed to working with the Federal Government, industry and the Latrobe Valley to ensure the right policy settings and investment certainty are put in place to investigate such a plant.
The Latrobe Valley has powered Victoria for generations and will for generations to come if the right policy settings are put in place to build such a plant. With the development of new generation HELE technology, this can be achieved, while also meeting realistic carbon reduction targets.
Daniel Andrews may not believe Victorian jobs are worth fighting for, but the Victorian Nationals do.
Motion No. 20, proposed by the Federal Young Nationals, carried at the Federal Nationals Conference:
That this Federal Conference call for the Federal Government to look into the possibilities of reutilising the Hazelwood site as a new, efficient coal power station to stabilise and secure Victoria and Australia’s energy future.
Tuesday 12 September 2017
Reports that Daniel Andrews will reduce the speed limit to 70 kmh on some unsealed country roads is just lazy policy by a lazy government, Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh has said.
The Andrews Labor Government has flagged the government is considering a proposal to reduce the speed limit on unsealed country roads to 70kmh.
Mr Walsh said the Melbourne-centric Labor Government should instead commit to properly funding the maintenance and upgrade of crumbling country roads to keep motorists safe.
“Our country roads are vital to keeping northern Victorians moving and connected,” Mr Walsh said.
“But the State Government is spending less on road maintenance, causing our roads to crumble and putting lives at risk.
“Daniel Andrews’ lazy response is to reduce the speed limit to 70kmh on some country roads.
“The better solution is to provide adequate funding to maintain and upgrade our country roads.
“Rural and regional councils have consistently called for the return of the Liberal-Nationals’ Country Roads and Bridges Program, axed by Daniel Andrews and his Labor Government.”
The Nationals are fighting for more funding for country roads in northern Victoria to keep our community safe on our travels.
“I’d like to know what you think,” Mr Walsh said.
“Go to www.haveyoursayvictoria.org and share your views about the proposal to reduce speed limits.”
Thursday 7 September 2017
The Andrews Labor Government has broken its promise to the Heyfield community that jobs will not be lost at the Heyfield mill.
In Parliament today, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford failed to stand by a promise from Labor’s Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing in March that the mill would “not lose jobs overall” if it was sold to the Government.
Ms Pulford worked hard to shift the blame for the Andrews Labor Government’s role in putting jobs at the Heyfield mill in jeopardy.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the process to sell the Heyfield mill had gone on for too long.
“Heyfield mill workers have been forced to put their lives on hold while the Andrews Labor Government drags its heels on the sale negotiations,” Mr Walsh said.
“If Jaala Pulford worked as hard to finalise the mill sale as she did in Parliament to shift the blame for jeopardising country jobs, the sale would already be finalised.
“The only jobs Labor care about are those of their inner-city MPs who will rely on Greens preferences to hold their seats at next year’s election.”
Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull said the Andrews Labor Government’s promises of no job losses were hollow words, after mill management confirmed last month the afternoon shift had been cut from the green mill, costing 20 jobs.
“The Andrews Labor Government is desperately spinning a ‘future for the mill’ as the best outcome, when it is clear our community wants to see a future for the mill and all 250 jobs saved,” Mr Bull said.
“The kick in the guts is that the sale of the Heyfield mill never had to happen in the first place – the timber supply is there.
“Yet again it’s clear that Labor is sacrificing jobs in the country for its own political survival.
“The Andrews Labor Government must urgently confirm none of the 250 jobs will be lost under its ownership.”
Tuesday 22 August 2017
The greatest threat to Victorian families keeping a roof over their head is Daniel Andrews’ eleven new taxes and reckless policies that are pushing up the cost of living.
Daniel Andrews has introduced eleven new taxes, increasing overall tax revenue by more than 20 per cent on Victorians. One of those new taxes forced the closure of Hazelwood Power Station, which has forced up electricity costs that are hurting families and small businesses.
A tenancy agreement that goes beyond five years will not matter if people can't afford to put their children through school, put food on the table, switch on the lights or keep heaters on in winter.
Rather than wasting money on a taxpayer funded website which is effectively mirroring the service provided by realestate.com.au or domain.com.au, Labor should be investing in our deteriorating country roads or better public transport to our regional communities.
If Daniel Andrews was serious about housing issues, he wouldn’t have introduced eleven new taxes or effectively closed Hazelwood.
Tuesday 15 August 2017
Country Victorians are wearing the costs of the Andrews Labor Government’s cuts to country roads funding.
The parliamentary Inquiry into the Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Victoria’s Rural and Regional Councils heard today that country councils are struggling to meet the high costs of maintaining their roads network.
Giving evidence to the parliamentary inquiry today, Local Government Victoria confirmed rural councils have a disproportionately large amount of infrastructure to maintain compared to their city counterparts, but significantly lower income streams.
The inquiry was told rural and regional councils managed an average of 2200km of roads – more than four times that of city-based councils.
One of Daniel Andrews’ first actions as Premier was to axe the Liberal-Nationals’ successful Country Roads and Bridges Program.
The Premier then blatantly spent money earmarked for country bridge upgrades on roads in his own city electorate of Mulgrave.
Our rural road networks are crumbling and urgently need an immediate funding injection to improve safety.
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.”
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.