Monday 25 September 2017
Country Victoria is at the heart of the Liberal Nationals plan to better manage our population and grow our whole state – not just Melbourne.
The Liberal Nationals strongly believe a whole-of-government approach is integral to delivering the best outcome for rural and regional Victoria and our new Shadow Minister for Decentralisation portfolio is key to delivering for those communities
As Shadow Minister for Decentralisation, I will work closely with Liberal Party Leader Matthew Guy, in his role of Shadow Minister for Population, to develop a population policy for Victoria which includes maximum benefit and opportunity for regional communities.
More than 90 per cent of the people who move to our state each year move to Melbourne, but the Andrews Labor Government has no plan to manage this growth and regional Victoria is missing out as a direct result of Labor’s incompetence.
Under Labor, country roads have been left to crumble, and skyrocketing energy costs and other cost of living pressures are making it harder to do business and causing job losses across regional Victoria.
Victorians will have a clear choice at the next election. A choice between the Liberal Nationals team that is focused and united on the issues that matter like jobs, cost of living and regional connectivity, or a Labor administration preoccupied with factional fights and rorting the taxpayer.
Thursday 21 September 2017
Victorian producers still don’t know if the Andrews Labor Government will subsidise electronic identification tags for sheep and goats in 2018.
In Parliament today, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford refused to confirm if the Andrews Government would subsidise tags in 2018.
Ms Pulford’s admission confirms the process is severely delayed, months behind the Minister’s initial promise to announce a tag price “in the first half” of 2017.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh urged Victorian sheep and goat producers to hold off buying tags for next year until the Andrews Government was able to confirm a price.
“Farmers have completed their budgets for next year but they’ve got no idea how much the Andrews Labor Government will charge them to comply with its eID scheme in 2018,” Mr Walsh said.
“There’s a huge discrepancy in cost – a subsidised rate of 37 cents or the full rate of 74 cents.
“Producers should hold off buying tags until the Andrews Government provides them with certainty.”
Under Labor’s plan, information should have started being uploaded to the National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) from 1 July 2017.
But in practice, none of the information is being uploaded to the NLIS because the software doesn’t exist to do it.
“Industry is on board with the implementation of EID but saleyard operators and agents are concerned that things are moving too slowly, the money is drying up too quickly and deadlines to begin scanning are approaching too quickly,” Mr Walsh said.
“It’s time the Minister seriously considered the appropriateness of some of her deadlines.
“We know there are issues with software compatibility, scanning at saleyards and possible cost blowouts when Labor’s meek $2.8 million fund for saleyards dries up.
“The Andrews Government thought industry could just apply the systems used for cattle to sheep and goats. It’s now apparent that just won’t work.”
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.”
Monday 28 August 2017
The Member for Morwell Russell Northe has announced today that he has resigned from the Parliamentary National Party and his membership of The Nationals.
The Parliamentary team have been supporting Russell with his challenges over the last 12 months.
In June Russell explained to the Party that he needed to take leave for mental health issues.
The Party was relieved when Russell finally sought professional help for his issues and has continued to support him.
Russell’s statement today has given the Party and his colleagues more clarity on the severity of the issues he is battling.
We sincerely hope Russell continues to seek professional assistance and makes his personal wellbeing his number one priority.
The Nationals remain steadfastly committed to fighting for the people and communities of the Latrobe Valley which are under pressure due to the closure of Hazelwood Power Station and Carter Holt Harvey’s sawmill, and the anticipated job losses at the Heyfield sawmill.
The Nationals will be fielding a strong candidate in next year’s state election and in the lead up Melina Bath, from her office in Traralgon, will be working hard for the people of the Latrobe Valley.
In due course there will be a pre-selection for a candidate for The Nationals who will contest the seat of Morwell at the 2018 State Election.
Wednesday 23 August 2017
The Andrews Labor Government has refused to commit to providing more funding to country hospitals facing skyrocketing power bills.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio would not guarantee additional energy costs at country hospitals – expected to be worth about $2 million in western Victoria alone – would be covered.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh condemned the Minister for abandoning country hospitals, just months after the Andrews Government failed to stop the closure of Hazelwood Power Station and the loss of 22 per cent of the state’s baseload power.
“Regional hospitals deliver a vital service to our country communities, but the Andrews Labor Government has turned its back on us,” Mr Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews was wrong when he said power bills would only go up about four per cent after he let Hazelwood close without a back-up plan to replace the lost power supply.
“Rising energy bills add more strain to country hospital budgets that are already stretched thin and it is up to Daniel Andrews to increase funding and make sure regional health services aren’t cut as a result.”
In her question to the Minister, Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said Wimmera Health Care Group in Horsham expected power bills to rise by more than $500,000 this financial year, while Hamilton’s Western District Health Service has been notified by Health Purchasing Victoria that its electricity costs would increase by more than $360,000 this year.
“Country hospitals in western Victoria have told me they expect power bills to go up about 80 per cent – about $2 million more than previous years,” Ms Kealy said.
“Regional hospitals can’t rely on hospital auxiliary cake stalls to help cover soaring energy costs.
“The Andrews Labor Government must urgently commit to funding the significant increase in energy costs in full.”