Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has failed to answer questions on the appointment of two union members to the board of Primesafe, Victoria’s industry-funded meat regulator.
Belinda Jacobi, Lead Organiser of the National Union of Workers, was announced as a new member of the Primesafe board on June 2 2015 in a ministerial media release issued by Minister Pulford.
The Minister has a declared membership of the NUW, an organisation which paid $175,117 to the Victorian Labor Party last year.
Today in Question Time Minister Pulford refused to say whether she exempted herself from the process and decision surrounding Ms Jacobi’s appointment.
Just days after Ms Jacobi’s appointment a second union organiser, Australian Meat Industry Employees Union secretary Paul Conway was appointed without public announcement.
There are now 2 union representatives on the 8 member Primesafe board.
Primesafe is funded entirely through levies paid by the red meat, poultry meat and seafood industry.
Comments from Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh:
“The Minister failed to answer a very simple question put to her in Question Time – did she excuse herself from a conflict of interest situation when Ms Jacobi was appointed?”
“Primesafe is the regulator of Victoria’s multi-billion meat industry, not an arena for Labor to repay favours to union allies.”
Nominations open till Thursday 15 October 2015
Nationals Candidate for Polwarth David O’Brien has called for Greater Government support for Victorian Regional Exporters.
He has called on the State Government to respond to and support the recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry into rural exports that completed its report last year. The Andrews Government is six months overdue in providing its response to the report.
In September 2014 the Rural and Regional Committee of the Victorian Parliament handed down its report on the “Inquiry into the opportunities for increasing exports of goods and services from regional Victoria”. Mr O’Brien as the then Nationals Member for Western Victoria chaired the Committee which had two Nationals MPs, one labor MP and one liberal MP.
The Committee produced a bipartisan report that contained 23 unanimous recommendations designed to assist regional exporters, including those in Polwarth, to effectively compete and grow their businesses.
Key recommendations of the report include:
- That the Victorian Government partner with the Commonwealth Government in assessing the international competitiveness of the regulation and taxation regime faced by Victorian businesses to identify areas of competitive disadvantage.
- That the Victorian Government work with the Commonwealth Government to strengthen the competitiveness of exporters based in rural and regional Victoria with regard to: relative tariff and trade barriers; and gaining greater market access to existing and future export markets.
- That the Victorian Government ensure that regional exporters have adequate access to the Port of Melbourne, including adequate time slots.
- That the Victorian Government continue to invest in road infrastructure on major transport routes and review regulations in relation to high productivity vehicles.
- That the Victorian Government investigate opportunities for Victorian businesses to invest in foreign companies, particularly in our target export markets such as China, India, South East Asia, North America and the European Union. These opportunities should be promoted and facilitated through Export Victoria, the Victorian Government Business Offices and similar services.
“Polwarth exports a wide range of goods and services, including dairy, meat and fibre, tourism, transport and education services. Manufacturing also remains an important component of the regions’ economy, comprising just under one‐quarter of Victoria’s exports,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Growing these regional exports requires identifying and supporting our competitive advantages, reducing our costs of production and increasing efficiencies while seeking greater access to existing and emerging export markets. Victoria’s competitive advantages mean we have a strong economy with a strong export sector and potential for further growth. Much of these advantages are based on our ability to produce high quality products, our natural environment and liveability, and our world‐leading education, manufacturing, medical and scientific sectors.”
The report also found that Victoria’s major competitive disadvantages for exporting include high labour costs, the high Australian dollar, regulations and the comparatively small size of the majority of Victorian regional businesses. However, some of these features are also intrinsic to Victoria’s liveability and standard of living.
“The Andrew’s Government ought to have responded to the report six months ago and I call for them to do so. They have not chosen to stand a candidate in the Polwarth by-election and they are now six months overdue in responding to a bipartisan report containing important recommendations for regional exporters.”
Mr O’Brien has called for the Governments response to be provided as a matter of urgency.
Disability Minister Martin Foley must make it clear today how people living with disabilities will be compensated for the additional costs of care on AFL parade day.
At the eleventh hour last Friday, Martin Foley promised that Individual Support Packages (ISPs) would be topped up to meet the cost of care, which will increase due to penalty rates.
But this week one person with an ISP, Rachel Croucher, was told to submit an “application for non-recurrent funding”, a process which can take months, because the Department of Health and Human Services had not given any directive to care providers that there would be top-up funding. It has been a similar story for other people.
“My care agency know nothing about additional funding, no one else with an ISP I know is aware of anything, basically no one has heard of anything about additional funding,” Rachel said.
“This is affecting thousands of people who require disability support and in-home care.”
Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull said it was unacceptable that the Andrews Labor Government may wait until after the public holiday and then ask individuals to submit an application for the extra costs.
“This means those who are facing uncertainty and anxiety are being left to organise family to assist or are cutting back on care – all due to the uncertainty created by this government,” Mr Bull said.
“It is just not good enough.
“The government needs to commit to the full amount of the increased costs for support workers and put this money straight into ISPs, so there is no change to support for people with disabilities tomorrow.”
The Nationals candidate for South-West Coast Michael Neoh agrees that Warrnambool needs a fourth daily return V/Line service, leaving Warrnambool at around 9am and returning that afternoon.
Mr Neoh said he had lobbied for the extra service for months and it was something he would continue to fight for, along with improved bus services.
“I’ve been lobbying for an additional daily train for many months – it’s something I am passionate about and will continue to push for,” Mr Neoh said.
“It’s so important that we are able to access Melbourne for specialist appointments or to stay connected with family and friends.
“As well as a fourth daily train service for Warrnambool, it is also important that we have frequent bus services around town and in the wider region so people can get to appointments, get to the train station or do their shopping.
“Connectivity is vital for our communities and if I am elected I will continue to make our voices heard on this issue, to make sure we are not ignored.”
Victorians with disabilities and their families will receive funding to cover the cost of the AFL parade holiday, thanks to pressure from the Liberal-Nationals Coalition.
People with disabilities and their families were going to have to pay up to hundreds of extra dollars for carers on AFL parade day, because their Individual Support Packages did not include money for the penalty rates.
In some cases people with disabilities were planning to cancel part or all of their care on AFL parade day to lower the cost, leaving them bed-ridden or their families taking on the carer role for the day.
Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull said the Andrews Labor Government last night gave in to pressure from the Coalition, disability sector and Herald Sun, and would now make funding available.
“It’s disappointing the Andrews Labor Government has only provided this support under pressure at the 11th hour, but I’m pleased common sense has prevailed,” Mr Bull said.
“In Daniel Andrews’ rush to introduce this parade holiday he forgot all about those in the disability and aged care sectors, who are some of the most vulnerable in our community.
“I’m sure people with disabilities and their families will breathe a sigh of relief today, and now the government needs to show the same support to the aged care sector, which is facing a similar situation of increased costs because of AFL parade day.”
The 2014/15 Food and Fibre Export Performance Report shows Victorian food and fibre exports increased by $282 million.
That is compared to a $1.2 billion increase last year under the Liberal-Nationals Coalition.
Over the past four years under the Coalition, food and fibre exports grew from $8.8 billion to $11.4 billion.
Comments from Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh:
“These figures reinforce the importance of the food and fibre sector to Victoria’s economy and the jobs it creates in our regional communities.
“It is concerning Labor has cut the agriculture output budget by 12 per cent, the trade output budget by 61.5 per cent and refuses to fully support the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
“If our food and fibre sector is to continue to prosper, it needs a real budget commitment from the Labor Government – not just words.”
Media contact: Sarah O’Connor 0432 074 888 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nationals candidate for Polwarth David O’Brien attended last night’s China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) forum in Colac.
The forum was hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation and was part of a regional roadshow highlighting the importance of the ChAFTA, which is yet to be ratified.
Mr O’Brien said it was a valuable opportunity to learn more about the ChAFTA and how it will benefit farmers and local jobs, particularly in the dairy industry.
“The Victorian Nationals fully support the ChAFTA and the jobs, opportunity and investment that it will bring,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Polwarth is renowned for its quality dairy industry and we are home to some major dairy businesses including Camperdown Dairy International, which has recently signed a 15-year deal to export baby formula to China.
“The dairy industry, and the jobs it creates, will benefit from the elimination of tariffs across a range of dairy export products through the ChAFTA.”
Mr O’Brien said Western Victoria produced about 2.1 billion litres of milk a year,accounting for approximately 23% of national milk output.
China is Victoria’s largest export destination and in 2013/14 Victoria exported $369 million worth of dairy products to the country.
“I just hope the Andrews Labor Government and its union friends get on board and start supporting this historic agreement,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Failing to ratify the ChAFTA would cost rural Australia $300 million in lost opportunity next year alone.”
Nationals candidate for Polwarth David O'Brien has congratulated the Federal Nationals on forcing many significant wins for rural and regional areas into the new Coalition agreement with PM Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr O'Brien said the Nationals had a history of extracting good gains for country areas out of Coalition agreements with the Liberals - the most obvious recent example being the Victorian $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, which invested in more than 1000 projects across Victoria.
"The Nationals will always seize the moment to force the city parties to do better for the bush," Mr O'Brien said.
"The Victorian Nationals did it in 2010 by forcing a $1 billion Regional Growth Fund. This week, the Federal Nationals have done it again."
The highlights of the new Federal Coalition agreement are:
* Country people who are sick of bad mobile phone coverage can nominate their area for a new tower as mobile phone black spot funding will continue;
* More rural students will be able to access higher education through a plan which will help them overcome the financial obstacles;
* Unemployed people in areas where jobs are hard to find will benefit from a new jobs programme;
* Stay at home parent families with a child below the age of one will receive more Family Tax Benefit B rebate.
"I'm proud to be part of a party which stands only for the country - for rural, regional and remote Victoria," Mr O'Brien said.
"No other party looks out for country Victoria like the Nationals do.
"If I'm given the honour of representing the people of Polwarth, this is exactly what I'll seek to do. I'll take any opportunity to extract a fairer deal from the city parties. We all know the city parties are too focussed on their base - city seats. Candidates for the major parties later get too distracted by pleasing their city colleagues.
"I will fight for the people of Polwarth and for country Victoria and my colleagues in the Nationals will back me all the way."
The Nationals candidate for South-West Coast, Michael Neoh, has called on the Andrews Labor Government to make its position clear on unconventional onshore gas ahead of the by-election.
Labor have a terrible track record on onshore gas exploration. When last in government they issued 73 exploration licences and 23 fracking permits without undertaking any scientific or hydrological studies.
Mr Neoh said he had discussed unconventional onshore gas with the The Nationals MP Emma Kealy, whose neighbouring electorate Lowan faces the same issues.
“Today in Parliament, Emma Kealy asked Labor’s Minister for Energy and Resources to disclose her intentions regarding the future of onshore gas mining activities in Western Victoria,” Mr Neoh said.
“I am sure the local communities in South-West Coast will be keen to hear how the Minister responds.
“As I travel around the electorate – including Portland and the rural areas of Heywood, Condah, Macarthur, Woolsthorpe and Port Fairy – I will be speaking to local residents about their views on onshore unconventional gas mining.
“The Nationals will never support any mining activity that risks harm to our prime agricultural land, water resources or the environment.
“The South-West Coast has some of the best dairy farmland in the world and we need to make sure it is not negatively impacted by gas mining activity.
“The people of South-West Coast deserve to know what the Government is intending for our region prior to the by-election.”