Thursday 1 June 2017
The Andrews Labor Government could save thousands of forestry jobs in Victoria by reducing the size of ‘highly precautionary’ timber harvest exclusion zones.
At a parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, VicForests Acting CEO Nathan Trushell confirmed the Leadbeater’s Possum was being detected at a rate “much higher than ever anticipated”.
Mr Trushell also described the current 200m buffer zones as “highly precautionary and having a significant impact on industry”.
At May 18 this year, 617 Leadbeater’s Possum colonies had been recorded and an estimated 1851 individual possums found.
Mr Trushell also confirmed the amount of timber available to industry had dropped by nearly 60,000m3 because of possum sightings and projected sightings in the future.
The Andrews Labor Government is months overdue with a required review of the exclusion zones.
At a Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing today, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford showed an embarrassing lack of understanding of her portfolio and had to refer to Department staff when questioned if she had seen the exclusion zone review.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh
Daniel Andrews has created this crisis in our forestry industry and is trying to force a fire sale of Heyfield’s mill instead of saving jobs and reducing the size of the exclusion zones.
Demand has never been higher for Victoria’s high-quality timber products but Daniel Andrews has put the industry in peril.
The 200m buffer zones were put in place at a time when Leadbeater’s possum numbers were unknown and they were supposed to be reviewed once 200 colonies were found but Daniel Andrews looks hell bent on creating the Great Forest National Park by stealth instead.
Daniel Andrews is sacrificing timber workers and their livelihoods because he is desperate to cling to power and needs city greens preferences next election.
Wednesday 31 May 2017
Taxes up 20%, but no guarantee of a return
Housing Minister Martin Foley has failed to answer basic questions on his portfolio at a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) appearance today.
Asked about the Andrews Labor Government’s new Vacant Residential Property Tax, the Minister bumbled through a response that revealed a staggering lack of understanding on what this new tax will mean for Victorians.
The Minister has been happy to tout the benefits of this new tax for homelessness and housing affordability, but he can’t say if this new tax will actually do what Labor promised and add properties to the rental market.
It’s clear the Andrews Labor Government expects Victorians to pay more in tax without any guarantee they’ll get a return.
Mr Foley was also unable to answer any basic questions on the transfer of 4000 public housing residences to community housing.
The Minister couldn’t say how the Government planned to consult with affected tenants or guarantee community housing associations wouldn’t be handed poor quality housing stock they’ll soon have to pay to be repaired.
Either the Minister isn’t across the detail of his own portfolio or the detail doesn’t exist.
Wednesday 17 May 2017
An elected Liberal Nationals government would be committed to keeping jobs in the Latrobe Valley.
Unemployment was up 50 per cent in the past two years in the Valley, even before 750 people lost their job at Hazelwood Power Station in March.
Wood processor Carter Holt Harvey yesterday flagged closure of its Morwell sawmill which would mean a further 160 people would lose their jobs.
The Treasurer claimed just two weeks ago Labor is ‘creating jobs, but we’re also focused on protecting jobs’.
Instead, Labor’s destructive policies and ideology has led the Latrobe Valley into a jobs crisis.
Comments attributable to Opposition Leader Matthew Guy
The Morwell community has been hit hard by Daniel Andrews’ tax on coal that shutdown Hazelwood and forced 750 people out of work.
A government I lead would make sure Victoria has a secure and affordable electricity supply into the future by keeping the Loy Yang and Yallourn power stations open.
Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh
Daniel Andrews’ desperation for greens preferences in the city has created turmoil in our forestry industry.
A Liberal Nationals government would work with industry to return confidence to our forestry businesses, and that includes a commitment to work with Australia Paper to ensure this major employer has a strong future in the Valley and a secure supply of timber.
Wednesday 10 May 2017
Country Victorians will get the vital investments they need after the Federal Liberal Nationals Government delivered for the projects that Daniel Andrews refuses to fund.
Investments in rail and road infrastructure projects in regional Victoria and new agriculture initiatives for our primary producers were welcome commitments in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
The $8bn inland freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane will take trucks off our roads and cut the cost for farmers to transport their product to port.
While Daniel Andrews refuses to spend a cent of State Government money on his $1.45bn wish list for regional rail, the Federal Liberal Nationals Government has invested $1bn in regional rail and other infrastructure projects.
This includes a $100 million investment in the north east rail line – five times more than was allocated in Labor’s unfunded wish list – and $290m for track duplications and upgrades on the Gippsland line.
These projects are fully funded and will deliver real benefits for country rail passengers who are sick of the Andrews Labor Government’s announce first, fund later approach.
I welcome the more than $4.1 billion investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors and the $4bn Regional Investment Corporation which will support growth in our rural and regional communities.
The Federal Liberal Nationals have delivered where the Andrews Labor Government refuses to.
Regional Victorians deserve better than Labor’s offer of scraps off the table after the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne lease.
The Federal Budget delivers funding and vision for infrastructure and rail for country Victorians who have been abandoned by the Labor Premier for Melbourne.
Tuesday 2 May 2017
Daniel Andrews is taxing regional Victorians more, but giving us less.
For the third year in a row, Daniel Andrews has arrogantly dished out scraps off the table for the regions.
There is no new capital investments for our country hospitals.
There is no money for new police stations or additional police officers despite the statewide crime crisis.
The Country Roads and Bridges Program still hasn’t been restored despite the appalling state of our country roads.
Too many of our country schools will again miss out on desperately needed upgrade funding.
There’s no cost of living relief for families, despite Daniel Andrews introducing nine new taxes after breaking his election eve promise not to introduce any.
There’s no plan for Victoria’s population, and no plan to help our regional cities and towns grow and realise their full potential.
Farmers will be appalled to see Labor has slashed $32 million out of the Agriculture budget. Fears that Agriculture would be swallowed up within the super department look to be true, as no amount of Labor spin can hide this drop in spending.
The Budget also confirms that despite bragging about a surplus, Daniel Andrews won’t spend a cent of State money on his hoax regional rail announcement and Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester will now be asked to fix Labor’s mess.
In fact, for a Government flush with cash after the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease, the lack of new State-funded initiatives for regional Victoria is massively disappointing.
This Budget is about politics, not people, and yet again Daniel Andrews’ contempt for the country is obvious despite Labor’s tricky spin.
Monday 1 May 2017
Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan announced a $1.45 billion regional rail package on Sunday, but have refused to spend a cent of state government money.
The media stunt, which has no plan, no business case and no funding, was badged as a ‘huge investment’.
Just two years ago, Daniel Andrews claimed a business case was essential for every project, but now expects the Federal Government to hand over $1.45bn for a project with no plan and no business case.
Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh
This was a cynical media stunt from Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan, designed to mislead regional Victorians.
There’s no plan, there’s no business case, there’s no state government funding – this is just another empty promise from a Premier who loves to tax regional Victoria but refuses to invest in our communities.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Public Transport David Hodgett
Daniel Andrews has ignored country Victorians for two years and now he’s ignored his own advice, making huge promises and then failing to provide a business case or invest a cent of state government money.
The Andrews Government has left the regional rail network to deteriorate and now expects the Federal Government to foot the bill to fix it.
Friday 28th April 2017
The Murray Basin Rail Project – a critical project proudly driven by Victoria’s National Party – passed another milestone this week with official signoff of the Federal Government’s $220 million contribution.
Federal Infrastructure Minister and The Nationals Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester this week approved the Commonwealth’s $220 million contribution which will secure the upgrade of this vital freight rail link between north-west Victoria and the state’s ports.
The Murray Basin Rail Project will standardise and upgrade the Mildura, Manangatang and Sea Lake lines and standardise the Murrayville line.
Leader of The Victorian Nationals Peter Walsh commended the Federal Government for delivering the $220 million needed to complete the project, alongside the $220 million allocated by the former Liberal Nationals state government in 2014.
“State and Federal Nationals are proud to have secured and delivered the $440 million needed to deliver this vital upgrade for north-west Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to standardise and repair freight rail in western and northern Victoria, and make it more efficient for farmers to get their product to port.
“It is disappointing that the Andrews Labor Government hasn’t followed through with the same strong support as we’ve seen from the Federal Liberal Nationals Government.
“But now the final $220 million has been officially signed off, there aren’t any more go slow excuses for the State Labor Government.”
The remaining funding was delivered through the Federal Liberal Nationals Government’s $3 billion Victorian Infrastructure Investment Package.
The Nationals Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said the rail upgrade would improve freight efficiency for producers in the Wimmera, Mallee and Mildura regions.
“Approximately $3 billion worth of food, fibre and minerals is exported from the Murray Basin annually,” Mr Broad said.
“These works will provide measured improvement in productivity and connectivity, and significantly enhance international competitiveness of Murray Basin producers.”
The Nationals State Member for Mildura Peter Crisp welcomed the flow of funding and said the Andrews Labor Government must now deliver the project on time and on budget.
“The Nationals at the State and Federal levels have worked hard to secure a project that will transform the way we get our agricultural products and other freight from north-west Victoria to the rest of the world,” Mr Crisp said.
“Importantly, this critical project will also reduce the number of trucks on our highways, making our roads safer for all road users.”
Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said these works would make it more economical for farmers to do business in western and northern Victoria.
“These works are firmly aimed at better connecting goods produced in north-west Victoria with the ports of Melbourne, Geelong and Portland,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The Murray Basin Rail Project will open new export opportunities for our producers and businesses in north-west Victoria by providing a reliable and efficient way to get their product to market.”
The project schedule indicates the works should be completed by late 2018.
Photo: Member for Mallee Andrew Broad, Wakefield Transport Group Managing Director Ken Wakefield and Member for Mildura Peter Crisp.
Friday 17 May 2017
The Andrews Government has disgracefully abandoned 260 workers at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ Heyfield mill by failing to guarantee a viable timber supply.
Labor’s half-baked offer to purchase the mill at the 11th hour again confirms Daniel Andrews has no problem playing political games with Victorian jobs.
Instead, Daniel Andrews has chosen green preferences over real jobs, sitting on his hands and costing the people of Heyfield their livelihoods.
This is a massive kick in the guts to Heyfield workers, their families and the local community.
The timber supply is there, what is lacking is will from Daniel Andrews to act.
Daniel Andrews has failed the people of Heyfield and his government’s policies are creating a massive jobs crisis for the people of Gippsland.
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.”
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.”