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.”
National’s candidate for Ballarat, Paul Tatchell today welcomed a visit to the Ballarat Saleyards by Senator Bridget McKenzie, a key instigator of the recent Inquiry on the red meat processing sector.
Mr. Tatchell said the purpose of Senator McKenzie’s visit to the saleyards in Ballarat (Thursday) is to talk with local operators about some of the local problems.
The Interim Report into competition in the red meat processing sector by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee was released earlier this month in Canberra.
The purpose of the inquiry was to shine a light on the red meat processing sector in response to meat processors’ boycott of the Barnawartha Saleyards on 17 February 2015.
Senator McKenzie said when nine meat processors all decided not to turn up to the Barnawartha saleyards; it was a watershed moment for producers, prompting me to initiate this Senate inquiry following an outcry from local farmers.
Mr. Tatchell said Ballarat is the biggest sheep yard in Victoria and a Cattle yard, about the same capacity as Barnawartha.
“The site for the proposed new Ballarat Saleyards is totally at odds with Nationals policy in creating economic investment in Victoria’s largest Rural City; The Ballarat saleyards has been the catalyst for economic growth in precinct, and itis inconceivable to put at risk established businesses ran by hard working country people. The saleyards is the iconic heart of Ballarat’s rural history providing a solid foundation for regional investment.
The suggested site in Miners Rest defies the synergies that promote organic growth in commercial terms, and puts unnecessary pressure on the family orientated community of Miners Rest. This is not a case of going backwards to move forwards, it’s about developing opportunities on a proven foundation.” When I came to this district 35 years ago, the saleyards stood idle waiting for the stock to come, look at the precinct now, a thriving commercial precinct with capacity for future development and jobs”
“Senator McKenzie was on the Red Meat Inquiry Committee and her visit enables concerns around this project to be highlighted,” he said.
Local saleyard advocates, the Ballarat Region Saleyards Action Group, welcomed Senator McKenzie’s visit.
Spokesperson Mick Madden said “we are extremely concerned with the manner in which the Ballarat saleyards project has been managed”.
“Ballarat Council has given away a publicly owned business that is generating $1 million in profit per annum, for a single dollar”.
“This arrangement with RIPL threatens the future of stock sales in this region. The new saleyards will be run purely for profit and with excessive fee increases which will be ultimately passed onto the consumer”.
“We are grateful that Senator McKenzie and Paul Tatchell have taken an interest in this issue” said Mr. Madden.
Senator McKenzie said the evidence provided to the committee clearly demonstrated that producer concerns about a lack of transparency and unequal bargaining power with the big meat processors were justified and that continuing to put up with such treatment was simply untenable.
“It had a huge impact on local producers, who were at the mercy of the buyers’ wishes and who saw $50 to $100 taken off every grown beast sold on the day.”
“Throughout this inquiry we heard a lot about abuse of market power. We have heard a lot about producers not wanting to come forward and give evidence because they are afraid of retribution from other players within the supply chain. Confidential submissions received by the committee have included shocking allegations of bullying and intimidation,” Senator McKenzie said.
The ACCC recently announced market study into the cattle and beef industry in Australia which will examine competition, efficiency, transparency and trading issues in the beef and cattle supply chain.
The Liberal-Nationals have secured three times as much funding for regional Victoria from the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease than was offered by Daniel Andrews.
The Liberal-Nationals will support an amended version of the Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015 in Parliament.
In those amendments we have secured 10 per cent of port sale proceeds – or up to $700 million – for transport infrastructure projects in regional Victoria.
That’s compared to the paltry 3 per cent – or $200 million – originally offered by Daniel Andrews, and welcomed by the VFF president.
After countless empty threats by Treasurer Tim Pallas, Labor has finally backed down and agreed to our sensible proposal which will deliver a better deal for all Victorians.
Unlike the city-centric Andrews Labor Government, the Liberal-Nationals stand up for regional communities and fight for their fair share.
Daniel Andrews’ proposal to send 97 per cent of the port sale proceeds to level crossing projects Melbourne was not a fair deal.
We will not accept the scraps off the table thrown to regional Victorians by the Andrews Government.
Leader of the Victorian Nationals Peter Walsh has congratulated his Federal colleagues following significant changes this week, including new party leadership and Cabinet positions.
Firstly, Mr Walsh welcomed Barnaby Joyce as the new leader of the Federal Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government.
“Barnaby tells it how it is, and has been a strong voice for rural and regional Australians for many years,” Mr Walsh said.
“There is no questioning Barnaby’s passion for country communities and he will be a dedicated leader of The Nationals going forward.”
NSW Senator Fiona Nash is the new Deputy Leader and was today announced as Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health in the new Federal Cabinet.
“Congratulations to Fiona, who has been a fierce advocate for regional communities and is the first female Deputy Leader of the Federal Nationals,” Mr Walsh said.
“Fiona’s work so far to progress the health needs of rural communities has been crucial in ensuring they can keep better pace with bigger cities.”
The Nationals have secured an additional position in the Federal Cabinet today, which sees Member for Gippsland Darren Chester promoted to Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
“Well done to Darren on his much-deserved elevation into the Federal Cabinet,” Mr Walsh said.
“With his new portfolios, I’ll be talking to Darren sooner rather than later about regional Victoria’s need for roads and rail investment.”
Bendigo residents will have lost all confidence in Jacinta Allan.
Just two weeks ago, she promised that “Bendigo will have better train and bus services, making it easier get to get to work or to school, and home again at the end of the day.”
But now Bendigo’s train network is collapsing under her watch, all Jacinta Allan has to offer are excuses – and no solutions.
‘Conversations’ and ‘consultation’ will not solve the countless issues plaguing VLine.
If Jacinta Allan continues to refuse taking responsibility for Bendigo’s train problems, Premier Daniel Andrews must urgently step in and take control.
Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government has been caught out trying to claw Commonwealth funds away from upgrades to mobile phone black spots in Victoria’s high fire-risk areas.
The Age has reported that the Andrews Labor Government lobbied the Commonwealth to change the funding criteria for its black spot program, so money meant for fire-prone areas could instead help to pay for Daniel Andrews’ commitment to improve phone coverage on trains.
The Commonwealth has said it will not be changing the funding guidelines.
It comes after Daniel Andrews axed a $40 million program set up by the former Victorian Coalition Government to upgrade mobile coverage along rail lines and provide Wi-Fi on V/Locity trains.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Regional Development Damian Drum:
“Daniel Andrews and Labor should be ashamed by their attempts to short-change communities at risk of bushfires.
“The only reason Daniel Andrews wants this extra funding is because he cut the existing $40 million program from this year’s Budget.
“This is another appalling snub for regional Victoria from the Andrews Labor Government.”
Daniel Andrews has dealt yet another blow to regional Victoria, and this one on the eve of Christmas.
Under Daniel Andrews’ city-centric government, we’ve lost the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund and the highly popular Country Roads and Bridges Program, the regional development budget has been slashed by 24 per cent, and there have been paltry investments in regional major projects and regional hospitals.
It’s outrageous that Daniel Andrews happily spent $1.1 billion of taxpayers’ money not building a road in Melbourne but he won’t invest even a fraction of this into our Regional Living programs.
Jaala Pulford was asked about the future of the Regional Living Expo in Parliament just five days ago and said “no decision has been made”.
Why didn’t the Minister come clean when questioned in Parliament last week, instead of fudging the answer and rolling out a press release five days later? It looks like Labor has been embarrassed into making a decision.
What Minister Pulford used to say – media release, 1 May 2015
“The Expo is a chance for rural and regional councils to showcase the outstanding benefits of their local areas, helping to attract potential residents, skilled workers, business and investment.”
What Regional Development Victoria says – annual report 2014/15
“The fourth edition of the Regional Victoria Living Expo was a success, attracting a record 10,156 patrons.”
“Once again, the Expo proved particularly popular with young families and working professionals, and councils continue to receive positive enquiries from attendees keen to move to their regions.”
The Andrews Labor Government’s drought support package is a starting point, but should go further to support farmers and small businesses that are under severe financial strain.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, said for many farmers in the southern Mallee and Wimmera this was the second or third year of failed crops.
Mr Walsh said the Andrews Labor Government should provide greater support to businesses, including discounts to municipal rates and fixed water charges.
“The government’s package is a first step, but it does not include any business support for farms and small businesses affected by drought, and some of the programs are re-announcements,” Mr Walsh said.
“It is not just farmers who struggle in a drought, local businesses are also impacted by the lack of spending in the town.
“In the last drought, farmers were offered discounts on their municipal rates and fixed water charges and it would be beneficial if Daniel Andrews included similar rate relief programs in this support package.”
Mr Walsh said there was around $20 million left from the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, which was completed under budget, which could be used to fund water projects in drought-affected areas.
“These water projects need to get started immediately so they benefit drought-affected farmers as soon as possible,” Mr Walsh said.
David O’Brien, The Nationals candidate for Polwarth, is calling for a significant upgrade to the status and condition of the Twelve Apostle route from the Princes Highway across to the Great Ocean Road.
“The Twelve Apostles and Lochard Gorge are Australian icons drawing visitors from all over Australia and the world, yet we have a substandard road to get there,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It is not a great road, in fact it is a very poor road that takes us to these magnificent natural wonders. What we should have is the “Great Otway Link” and a new name and a new road worthy of such a name,” said Mr O’Brien.
“I am calling on infrastructure Australia to recognise the economic and cultural significant of this road and I believe it worthy of a project application for the development of an integrated rail and roadway service from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles
If I am elected on Saturday one of my first calls will be to my Federal Colleague, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, to ask for his support and assistance with this project,” stated Mr O’Brien
The Nationals candidate for South West Coast Michael Neoh has today called for a new age energy centre of excellence to be established at Portland.
Speaking ahead of the candidates' forum at Portland on Wednesday, Mr Neoh said that new age, or renewable, energy industry was a perfect fit for Portland.
“Victoria’s south west coast has many natural advantages for renewable energy such as an abundance of wind, the ocean coastline and sunlight.
“There are a number of wind turbines installed around the district, and components for wind turbine towers are already manufactured at Portland by Keppel Prince so it makes sense to continue to build on this natural advantage.
“In addition, the relevant renewable energy department and staff should be located in Portland to ensure critical work at the centre of excellence is done locally.
“The locating of the department in Portland would create a welcomes boost to the local economy as well as bring new jobs and families to the area.
“The locating of the centre of excellence in Portland would no doubt see hundreds of new jobs created for our whole region in the future.”