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.”
The Government has refused to hold a joint sitting of parliament to swear in the new Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan.
The Government said it would not hold a joint sitting until Gavin Jennings was allowed back into the house.
But Legislative Council Speaker Bruce Atkinson said the Government’s argument was contrary to long-standing parliamentary convention and had turned Mr O’Sullivan’s appointment into a ‘political football’.
The Nationals’ Northern Victoria seat in the Legislative Council was vacated by Damian Drum in May and Mr O’Sullivan was preselected in late July, in compliance with party rules.
Under normal conventions, a new member of parliament is sworn in at the earliest convenience at a joint sitting of parliament.
That joint sitting has now been refused by the Government.
Quotes attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh
Daniel Andrews' petulant dummy-spit today has denied the people of Northern Victoria a member of parliament and their right to democracy.
Not only has Daniel Andrews ostracised 60,000 CFA volunteers, he has now denied 500,000 Northern Victorians their right to a member in the Victorian parliament.
Daniel Andrews has overturned 150 years of convention with a petulant dummy-spit.
Luke O’Sullivan was today preselected to serve as The Nationals’ new Member of the Legislative Council for Northern Victoria.
A casual vacancy for the seat was created when former member, Damian Drum, resigned to successful contest the Federal seat of Murray at the July election.
Raised in Patchewollock, Mr O’Sullivan was most recently the Chief-of-Staff to Leader of The Victorian Nationals,
Peter Walsh, and was campaign director for Murray at the 2016 Federal election.
He was previously the state director for The Nationals and has worked in senior positions both in government and opposition.
The Nationals State President Neil Pankhurst congratulated Luke on his selection and said Luke would be a fierce advocate for communities in the north of the state.
“Luke has a strong connection with rural Victorian communities and I have no doubt he will work hard to get the best outcomes for country people,” Mr Pankhurst said.
The Nationals Leader Peter Walsh said Luke will be a great addition to The Nationals parliamentary team.
“Luke has a proven track record of standing up and delivering for country communities, and the constituents of Northern Victoria will be well served by Luke’s experience and skills.
“The Nationals are the dedicated and united voice for regional communities in our Parliament, and Luke has already shown he/she is clearly committed to making sure regional Victoria gets its fair share.”
Mr O’Sullivan said it was a privilege to be selected to represent the people of northern Victoria.
“This is an humbling opportunity to serve the people of Victoria,” he said.
“I sought this role because I’m focused on fighting for regional Victoria and making sure regional communities are not ignored by this city-centric Labor Government.”
Mr O’Sullivan will be officially sworn in after the Victorian Parliament resumes from the winter break.
The pre-selection vote was held on Sunday morning (July 31), with delegates convening in Melbourne to hear final words from each candidate.
The Federal Election results have confirmed voters still see The Nationals as the one true party that delivers for regional Victoria.
“The 2016 election confirms that even after 100 years, voters still see The Nationals as their strong voice for Victoria’s regional communities,” Victoria’s Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said.
“Voters overwhelmingly returned The Nationals MPs Darren Chester, Andrew Broad and Senator Bridget McKenzie, and we saw tremendous support for Damian Drum who will be the new Nationals Member for Murray.
“I also recognise the outstanding efforts of Rebecca Treloar, Marty Corboy, Paul Tatchell, Andy Maddison and James Anderson and thank them for standing for The Nationals in contests where the odds were against us, but it was important to be on the ballot paper.
“The Nationals are celebrating their centenary in Victoria this year, and throughout the last 100 years we have been steadfastly committed to being the strong voice of regional Victorians. That will never change.
“The Federal Election results point to a bright future for The Nationals, and this is reinforced with so many people expressing interest in becoming The Nationals’ next Member for Northern Victoria replacing Damian Drum in State Parliament.
“I’m very proud to be leading The Nationals at a time when the party is rejuvenating with younger people and more women are being elected to our ranks, and we must continue to do this if The Nationals are going to be here for another 100 years.”
Mr Walsh also paid tribute to the leadership of Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash.
“Barnaby and Fiona have led a united team and their can-do, common sense approach resonated with voters across the nation.
“Barnaby has taken to the Leader’s position with his trademark gusto, and we look forward to working with our Federal Nationals colleagues to help deliver more jobs, more investment, more infrastructure and more opportunity for the people of regional Victoria.”
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.”
Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy has been appointed to the Shadow Cabinet.
Mr McCurdy takes on the roles of Shadow Minister for Regional Development, and Shadow Minister for Veterans and Sport.
The positions were vacant after Damian Drum stood down from State Parliament to contest the seat of Murray in the July 2 Federal election.
Quotes attributable to Mr McCurdy:
“I’m honoured to take on these roles and carry on the great work of Damian Drum.
“It’s a significant responsibility given Regional Development, Veterans and Sport are important to so many Victorians.
“I look forward to the opportunity I’ve been given to make a positive difference in these areas.
“I’ve always been a staunch advocate for regional development and I’m excited to broaden my work to a state level.
“Under Daniel Andrews, the further you live from Melbourne, the less our regional communities get. I’ll continue the Coalition’s work of holding this Labor Government to account.
“I also look forward to working with Victoria’s veterans’ communities, including the Victorian RSL and its many sub-branches which are unparalleled in their advocacy and support services.
“Similarly, I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to lobby for Victoria’s sporting community.
“From junior levels and social clubs right through to elite ranks, Victorians love their sport and I look forward to working with clubs and sporting organisations to grow participation and support the events that Victorians love.”
Daniel Andrews’ decision to back demands from the United Firefighters Union (UFU) puts in jeopardy Australia’s largest volunteer organisation, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said.
The Premier’s support of the UFU’s bid to take over the Country Fire Authority (CFA) confirms Daniel Andrews puts the demands of his union mates before the needs of 60,000 selfless volunteers and our rural communities.
The UFU’s demands include the ability to veto CFA management decisions, handing control of the organisation to the union.
“The strength of the CFA is in its volunteers,” Mr Walsh said.
“Volunteers willingly sacrifice their time, without hesitation, to be at the front-line of protecting country communities from the devastating effects of bushfire.
“It is horrifying to see Daniel Andrews’ bureaucrats urging support for demands that would sell out 60,000 volunteers to his union mates.
“The UFU has made it clear in the past it has no respect for volunteer firefighters.
“Daniel Andrews must stop this deal before it decimates Australia’s largest volunteer organisation.
“The important work of the CFA and its thousands of volunteers must not be compromised by this city-centric Labor Government.”
To show your support for the Country Fire Authority sign the petition at www.peterwalsh.org.au/hands_off_the_cfa
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.”