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Labor failing our forestry workers

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has failed to explain why the Andrews Government refuses to stand up for thousands of jobs in Victoria’s forestry industry.

In Parliament’s Upper House today, Nationals members Luke O’Sullivan and Melina Bath directly asked Ms Pulford why Labor’s Forestry Industry Taskforce, which the Premier said would ‘sustain jobs’, had failed to do so.

“Victoria’s timber industry workers are angry that Daniel Andrews bailed out Alcoa workers, but won’t do the same to save their jobs,” Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.

“By starving the industry of resource, Daniel Andrews is creating the Great Forest National Park by stealth.

“The Premier is more concerned about saving his own job than the thousands of jobs of people who work in our timber industries.

“The timber is there, what’s missing is the will of Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford to keep this industry open. If Jaala Pulford can’t resolve this issue, Daniel Andrews must step in to secure a future for East Gippsland’s forestry industry.”

VicForests has offered Australian Sustainable Hardwoods just 80,000 cubic metres of timber next year, far less than the 130,000 cubic metres required for the mill to be viable. The Andrews Government has also failed to ensure adequate supply to Auswest Timber in Orbost and Bairnsdale, threatening a further 65 jobs.

Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull said the forestry industry was the backbone of many communities in East Gippsland.

“Many of the workers whose jobs are at risk have worked in the forestry industry for years, if not much of their life and everyone has grave concerns for the future of our communities in East Gippsland if the industry is lost,” Mr Bull said.

“Daniel Andrews must immediately stop putting politics and green preferences ahead of East Gippsland jobs.

“A town hall meeting heard there was nothing stopping the minister guaranteeing supply to ASH for at least the next five to seven years.

“It’s time for the Premier and the Minister to act in the best interests of our communities.”

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Country Vic going backwards under Labor

Tuesday 6 December 2016

 

A report released today by SGS Economic and Planning has shown that regional Victoria’s economy shrank by 1 per cent in 2015-16, making it the only area in all of Australia to have its economy go backwards.

Shadow Minister for Regional Development Tim McCurdy said “regional Victoria is going backwards under Daniel Andrews and his city-centric Labor Government”.

“Under Daniel Andrews, country roads and bridges funding has been spent in the Premier’s own city electorate and regional rail commuters have been stranded for days due to Labor’s failure to maintain the rail lines,” Mr McCurdy said.

“Whether it is taking an axe to the Country Fire Authority or leaving country roads in disrepair, regional Victorians have been the biggest losers under Daniel Andrews’ Government.”

Mr McCurdy said Daniel Andrews has no plan to manage Victoria’s population growth.

“More than 90 per cent of Victoria’s population growth is centred on Melbourne, an unsustainable situation that hurts both the city and the country,” Mr McCurdy said.

“The Liberal Nationals are developing a comprehensive plan to manage the huge growth in Victoria’s population and make sure regional Victoria is a beneficiary of the opportunities population growth provides not a loser from it.”

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Half-year training update months overdue

The Andrews Labor Government are hiding the extent of Victoria's training crisis, failing to release the half-yearly update on the state of our TAFE and training sector.

Steve Herbert's time-keeping skills are on par with his dismal record-keeping skills.

We are nearly to the end of the year and have no idea of the state of our training system after the Andrews Labor Government failed to release the half-yearly update for 2016.

It is now months overdue.

Steve Herbert leaves a shameful legacy of plummeting training enrolments and $175 million in cuts to student training at TAFE.

Gayle Tierney has inherited a fragmented and struggling training sector from an incompetent Minister, but she shouldn’t cover for him by continuing to delay the release of the half-year data.

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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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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.”