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Labor fails to deliver sustainable hunting plan

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.

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Woolies must keep promise to the Goulburn Valley

Woolworths said in 2014 they would stand with SPC Ardmona suppliers “for the long-term”, yet today there are reports they might break that promise just two years in.

We were reassured at the time that the supermarket giant would “bring certainty” and “confidence” to farmers, but now they appear to be taking these same farmers for fools.

The work of The Nationals and Liberals in the former government secured a $22 million support package for vital machinery upgrades that kept the cannery open and thousands of people in work.

It is appalling Woolworths would even consider reneging on this deal.

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Regional communities miss out on ice prevention funding

The Andrews Labor Government has failed to support more than 25 community-based groups to establish ice prevention programs in their local area.

Established education and prevention strategies in rural and regional Victoria have also missed out in the latest round of the Community Ice Action Grants.

“The ice scourge is hurting families and country communities and there are dozens of groups ready to make a real difference but have been passed over by Labor,” Shadow Minister for Mental Health Tim Bull said.

“If this Government was serious about tackling the damaging impacts of ice they would fund all of these programs and continue support to those with successful programs already in place.

“After the windfall $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne lease there is no excuse to refuse funds to those trying to make a positive difference in their community.”

About 40 applications were submitted from groups across the state, 12 received funding.

Under Labor the 13 groups funded last year, including Mildura’s Project Ice and other programs in Rochester, Warrnambool and Wangaratta, will not receive ongoing funding.

“The reality is Labor talks a big game with its Ice Action Plan, but when groups put their hand up to work with Government at the community level they are being ignored,” Mr Bull said.

“Given Labor is beating its chest about a massive budget surplus and the windfall $9.7 billion Port of Melbourne lease, there is no excuse to continue to neglect our country communities.”

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Wild dog bounty backflip

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.

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Labor’s botched NDIS rollout

More than 1000 Victorians have been locked out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) under Daniel Andrews’ botched implementation, Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull said.

Reports today show the Andrews Labor Government has failed to meet a deadline to pass on information to meet a target to assess the eligibility of 6110 Victorians for the NDIS.

It means more than 1000 people with a disability will miss out on vital financial support this year.

“More than 1000 Victorians with a disability are being locked out of the NDIS under Daniel Andrews’ botched implementation of the scheme in Victoria,” Mr Bull said.

“Daniel Andrews says he is committed to getting the rollout on track, but has failed to meet the most basic requirements of the NDIS rollout.”

All state and territory governments agreed to provide data on existing clients six-months before they can be transitioned to the NDIS.

Victoria is the only state to have failed to meet these deadlines and those who missed out must now wait until next year to have their eligibility assessed.

“The scheme is vital to the wellbeing and quality of life of thousands of Victorians across the state, but Daniel Andrews has shown even the state’s most in need must take a number and join the line,” Mr Bull said.

“Rather than fighting for a union takeover of the CFA, Daniel Andrews should be fighting for support for our state’s most vulnerable.”

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Dan’s dairy grants put more pressure on farmers

Help for dairy farmers struggling through the industry downturn is overdue, Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.

“Daniel Andrews has announced grants that he said would extend assistance to our dairy farmers but there are 4200 dairy farms in Victoria and his program will only extend to 360 applicants,” Mr Walsh said.

“The fixed infrastructure grants are also only offered on condition of a matching dollar-for-dollar contribution from farmers which is going to be tough for a lot of businesses.

“Farmers with cash flow can try their luck but farmers in the red who don’t have funds to match will miss out.

“Dairy farmers have been struggling to pay bills calling for direct State Government relief for months.

“Instead of rebates on property rates and water charges, Daniel Andrews’ has simply offered scraps off the table.

“Daniel Andrews is sitting on a huge surplus after the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne but he has a real problem spending it in Regional Victoria.”

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Victorians in the dark on Hazelwood closure

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.”

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Member for Northern Victoria Luke O'Sullivan sworn in

The people of Northern Victoria finally have full representation in parliament after Daniel Andrews backed down and allowed a joint sitting to swear in Luke O’Sullivan as The Nationals’ new MP in the Legislative Council.

Daniel Andrews had been bullying the Parliament since August 16 but was forced to back down as a joint sitting of the State Parliament is also required to replace Federal Labor Senator Stephen Conroy after his shock resignation.

“Daniel Andrews treated the people of Northern Victoria with total contempt with his childish nonsense in recent months, but in the end his bullying and intimidation tactics got him nowhere,” Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said

“Mallee born and bred, Luke has a great understanding of the communities, issues and industries of the region he now represents.

“The people of Northern Victoria don’t care for the petty political games Daniel Andrews has been playing, they’re concerned about real issues like getting their washed-out roads fixed, having a secure job, a good local school and hospital for their families, and a CFA station that isn’t beholden to the unions and that’s what Luke will be fighting for.”

Mr O’Sullivan said he was relieved to officially be a Member of Parliament.

“Labor took standard Parliamentary procedure and turned it into a circus,” he said.

“It is clear they aren’t focused on what is best for Regional Victoria so I’m glad I can now get on with my new job.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen rising flood waters in Northern Victoria and the release of alarming crime statistics that reveal the extent of the Andrews Labor Government’s law and order crisis.

“We also need to make sure that regional Victoria gets its fair share of investments following the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne lease.”

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Dan’s got no plan for public housing

Demand for public housing is growing, but a lack of direction from the Andrews Labor Government is putting more stress on vulnerable Victorians, according to Shadow Minister for Housing Tim Bull.

Infrastructure Victoria found demand for affordable housing is outstripping the relative supply, with thousands of homes in the existing public housing stock in disrepair (Source: Infrastructure Victoria Draft 30-year Strategy, p90).

The Draft 30-year Infrastructure Strategy, released on Tuesday, identified a clear need to provide better access to housing, now and in coming decades.

“Daniel Andrews has no plan to relieve the intense stress on our state’s public housing assets, while tens of thousands of vulnerable Victorians are reduced to a number on extensive wait lists,” Mr Bull said.

“Simply building more homes isn’t the complete answer either. Daniel Andrews also continues to fail to address the underlying issues that have contributed to this crisis, like spiralling unemployment in a number of rural areas."

There were 32,250 applicants on the public housing wait list at June 2016, more than 8000 are in regional Victoria.

Labor’s own hand-picked infrastructure advisers identified a lack of leadership in social housing.

“This is no surprise, given Labor failed to allocate any significant funds for public housing in this year’s State Budget,” Mr Bull said.

“Under the previous Coalition government the public housing list decreased by more than 6000 applicants. Daniel Andrews has relegated this issue to the too-hard basket for too long.

“We already know our state is facing an affordable housing crisis.

“Our most vulnerable shouldn’t be forced to wait for a report to confirm this to get a roof over their heads.”

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Labor must come clean on Hazelwood closure

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.”