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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”