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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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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.”

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Election result confirms The Nationals still going strong

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.”

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Control of CFA a step closer to union hands

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

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Support for Victoria’s dairy farmers

Comments from Peter Walsh, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture:

“This is a good first step for the State Government to support our dairy farmers and their families.

“The next step will be to provide relief that eases the cash flow crunch for our dairy businesses.

“Farmers have raised with me this week the possibility of municipal rates relief, waivers for water charges and easily accessed low interest finance which would help ease some of the financial pressure dairy businesses are under.

“The Liberal-Nationals Coalition stands side by side with our dairy farmers and we will support all Federal and State initiatives that offer relief from this current crisis.”

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Labor Minister abandons young Victorians

It was revealed this afternoon in a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing that Daniel Andrews’ Minister for Youth Affairs has completely abandoned young Victorians.

Questioning by the Liberal-Nationals revealed that Jenny Mikakos has abolished the Office of Youth from her department and removed Youth Affairs from this year’s budget output initiatives.

And despite being happy to answer Labor’s questions about other portfolios, when asked by the Liberal-Nationals how many jobs the Back to Work scheme will create for young people, Minister Mikakos said it wasn’t “her issue”.

She told the committee that creating jobs for young people was an issue that relates to the Minister for Employment’s portfolio.

This all comes at a time when TAFE and training enrolments have plummeted by 16 per cent and youth unemployment is as high as 17.1 per cent in parts of the state.

Comments from Shadow Minister for Young Victorians Steph Ryan:

“Instead of supporting young Victorians to undertake training and find work, Jenny Mikakos thinks creating jobs for young people is not her issue.

“Under the Andrews Government, TAFE and training enrolments have plummeted, youth unemployment is as high as 17 per cent and the Back to Work scheme is failing to create full-time jobs.

“Victoria’s young people deserve better.”

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Coalition questioning reveals Labor’s training cuts

Training and Skills Minister Steve Herbert has admitted to massive funding cuts to student training under questioning from Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

More than $175 million in funding meant for student training was cut from the Victorian Training Guarantee, including $125 million that was returned to consolidated revenue.

A further $50 million of money earmarked for student training was instead handed out as general grants to “bolster” TAFEs – with no outcomes or deliverables attached.

The admission shows Labor has broken its pre-election promise to grow enrolments and restore TAFE.

The number of students in government-subsidised training has plummeted by 15 per cent under Labor but Mr Herbert today claimed “they’re not real numbers”.

Yet just last week he told Parliament: “The training system should not just be about shovelling bucketloads full of cash to providers so that they can get rich. It should be measured on the outcomes it provides for students, industry, jobs, productivity and economic growth”.

Comments from Shadow Minister for Training, Skills and Apprenticeships Steph Ryan:

“Steve Herbert and Daniel Andrews have completely backed away from their TAFE promises, abandoning young people trying to get the training they need to find a job.

“All we have seen since the Andrews Government came to office is cuts to training funding and plummeting student enrolments.

“Steve Herbert and Daniel Andrews have broken their promises to Victorian students and job-seekers.” 

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Up to $700 million secured for regional Victoria

The Liberal-Nationals have secured three times as much funding for regional Victoria from the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease than was offered by Daniel Andrews.

The Liberal-Nationals will support an amended version of the Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015 in Parliament.

In those amendments we have secured 10 per cent of port sale proceeds – or up to $700 million – for transport infrastructure projects in regional Victoria. 

That’s compared to the paltry 3 per cent – or $200 million – originally offered by Daniel Andrews, and welcomed by the VFF president. 

After countless empty threats by Treasurer Tim Pallas, Labor has finally backed down and agreed to our sensible proposal which will deliver a better deal for all Victorians.  

Unlike the city-centric Andrews Labor Government, the Liberal-Nationals stand up for regional communities and fight for their fair share. 

Daniel Andrews’ proposal to send 97 per cent of the port sale proceeds to level crossing projects Melbourne was not a fair deal. 

We will not accept the scraps off the table thrown to regional Victorians by the Andrews Government.

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Walsh congratulates Federal Nationals colleagues

Leader of the Victorian Nationals Peter Walsh has congratulated his Federal colleagues following significant changes this week, including new party leadership and Cabinet positions.

Firstly, Mr Walsh welcomed Barnaby Joyce as the new leader of the Federal Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government.

“Barnaby tells it how it is, and has been a strong voice for rural and regional Australians for many years,” Mr Walsh said.

“There is no questioning Barnaby’s passion for country communities and he will be a dedicated leader of The Nationals going forward.”

NSW Senator Fiona Nash is the new Deputy Leader and was today announced as Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health in the new Federal Cabinet.

“Congratulations to Fiona, who has been a fierce advocate for regional communities and is the first female Deputy Leader of the Federal Nationals,” Mr Walsh said.

“Fiona’s work so far to progress the health needs of rural communities has been crucial in ensuring they can keep better pace with bigger cities.”

The Nationals have secured an additional position in the Federal Cabinet today, which sees Member for Gippsland Darren Chester promoted to Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

“Well done to Darren on his much-deserved elevation into the Federal Cabinet,” Mr Walsh said.

“With his new portfolios, I’ll be talking to Darren sooner rather than later about regional Victoria’s need for roads and rail investment.”

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Regional commuters paying dearly for train crisis

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has added to the misery of regional Victorians by admitting in Parliament that the V/Line crisis is costing taxpayers $300,000 a day in replacement buses.

At the same time, it was revealed through a Parliamentary inquiry today that the cause of the wheel-wear problems plaguing V/Line won’t be known until the end of March, while timetables won’t be back to normal until mid-year at the earliest. 

Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said the revelations would rub salt in the wounds of regional commuters. 

“After everything they have gone through – train cancellations, overcrowding, replacement buses, signalling faults, wheel wear – to find out it’s costing taxpayers $300,000 per day is a slap in the face for regional Victorians,” Mr Walsh said. 

“That’s $300,000 every day that could be better spent providing a better train service, or fixing up our ageing schools, repairing dangerous potholes on our roads, or improving our hospitals. 

“Just like the $1.1 billion wasted on not building the East West Link, we are seeing more money going down the drain under Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan’s watch.”

Mr Walsh said rural and regional Victorians needed some real answers on the V/Line crisis. 

“Regional Victorians are sick and tired of excuses. If Jacinta Allan can’t fix the train mess, then Daniel Andrews should step in and take over,” Mr Walsh said.