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.”
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State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he was pleased the Australian Adventure Festival to be held later this year – which he says could put East Gippsland on the international stage and bring millions to the local economy – will receive State Government funding.
“Having raised the matter at each of the April, May and June sittings of Parliament this year, explaining the event and seeking support, I was pleased to receive a letter from the Minister on Friday stating $75,000 has been allocated for this year’s event.
“Pre-election the Coalition committed $350,000 over the next four years in recognition of what this event can potentially do for this region and while this commitment is not to that level it will nevertheless be important in the developing years of the festival. I will pursue funding in future years also.
“There has been a lot of work go into the planning by East Gippsland Marketing Inc (EGMI) and its Adventure Festival Sub-committee, all hard working East Gippslanders who want to see the region promoted.
“The proposal was developed by EGMI, which received State Coalition and Local Government funds to develop a signature event for the region.”
Mr Bull said there would be several events as part of the Festival that included activities such as trail running, kayaking and mountain biking and the various skill levels will be catered for from elite to the “weekend warrior”.
“In addition, it is planned to have family friendly activities across the weekend providing sporting challenges for kids that mirror the adventure series; and shopping and food experiences including a nightly market.
“Lakes Entrance will be the focal point and base destination of the event, however the sporting challenges will take place throughout the East Gippsland region.
“The Australian Adventure Festival will bring together the world of adventure sports to compete in ultimate adventure challenges, all held in one of the most picturesque and diverse nature based destinations in Victoria.
“Based on estimated participation from the report that has been done, the event is expected to return an economic benefit of over $2 million in year one, growing exponentially as the competitor pool increases, but funds are required to get it off the ground,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, pictured with East Gippsland Marketing Inc members Richard Rijs, Karly McCaskill and John Morton. Mr Bull said funding has been secured for the event to be held later this year.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe is encouraging Latrobe City Council and community organisations in the Morwell electorate to consider applying for funding through The Community Sports Infrastructure Fund.
Mr Northe said the program aimed to provide high-quality, accessible community sport and recreation facilities across Victoria.
“A range of grants is on offer including funding for planning, building new, and improving existing facilities where communities conduct, organise and participate in sport and recreation.
“Sport plays such an important role in regional communities and I encourage local councils and community organisations to consider making an application,” Mr Northe said.
Grants available include:
- Better Pools - Grants of up to $3 million to build new or upgrade existing aquatic centres;
- Major Facilities - Grants of up to $650,000 to develop or upgrade major sport and recreation facilities;
- Small Aquatic Project - Grants of up to $200,000 to upgrade pools and aquatic leisure facilities;
- Minor Facilities - Grants of up to $100,000 to develop or upgrade local sport and recreation facilities;
- Female Friendly Facilities - Grants of up to $100,000 to build new or upgrade existing change rooms to prioritise female participation;
- Cricket Facilities - Grants of up to $100,000 to develop or upgrade cricket facilities;
- Planning - Grants of up to $30,000 to fund initiatives that assess the future sport and recreation needs of local communities, and up to $50,000 for regional planning initiatives.
For more information and eligibility criteria you can visit: http://www.sport.vic.gov.au/community-sports-infrastructure-fund
Labor’s bungling of the transition of fruit and vegetable growers to the new Melbourne Market has already caused job losses in the Euroa electorate.
Member for Euroa and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Steph Ryan said Anderson’s Fruit & Veg in Stanhope had closed its doors on Saturday after providing fresh, seasonal produce to the Campaspe Shire for about 50 years.
“Labor bungled the relocation of the Melbourne Market from day dot. When it announced the project in 2004, it was grossly underfunded and poorly designed.
“Now not only are taxpayers footing the bill for the cost blowouts, but Labor has bungled the transition, impacting local growers and retailers.”
Ms Ryan said the opening hours initially planned would have limited access times and made it impossible for many country retailers to get produce back in time to deliver to their buyers.
“Daniel Andrews’ eleventh hour reprieve was too late for some. The owners of Anderson’s Fruit & Veg had to lay off seven staff and notify their customers that they could no longer supply them,” Ms Ryan said.
Benalla’s Fruits N Fare owners Rick and Di Aumann also considered their future after they were initially denied adequate parking at the new site.
Mr Aumann said the problems with the new market space were not limited to opening times or teething problems but were inherent in the flawed design of the space.
“The market is a logistical nightmare. There are limited parking spaces, including a lack of undercover areas, waiting areas and spaces for drivers to sleep,” Mr Aumann said.
“Retailers’ access to the market has been restricted due to the lack of parking which has meant retailers who have previously had five days of access, now only have access for one day of the week.
“Inadequate backing space leaves no room for smooth flowing traffic and does not take into account the needs of B-doubles, refrigerated transport and rear loading and unloading.
“Restricted forklift access will mean retailers cannot pick up produce directly from the supplier and will have to wait for it to be delivered to their truck. If you’re a smaller retailer you will not be priority under this system.
“The whole situation is completely unworkable and will mean many retailers across Victoria will be forced to close their doors,” Mr Aumann said.
Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath recently visited health service providers in East Gippsland and listened to concerns about attracting and retaining medical professionals in country areas.
Ms Bath met with health professionals at Omeo District Health, Orbost Regional Health and Swifts Creek Bush Nursing Centre to learn more about the health providers and listen to any concerns they may have.
“It was really a pleasure to meet these wonderful hard-working professionals and hear how they manage to cater for the needs of country people with what can often be limited resources,” Ms Bath said.
“There was a common theme that our rural areas are still struggling to entice and retain doctors and medical specialists and this is an area that deserves attention from the Victorian State Government.”
Ms Bath said federally the Coalition had recently introduced new payments to help rural, regional and remote towns across Australia.
As of July 1st the highest incentive paid to a doctor to work in remote Australia jumped from $47,000 a year to $60,000 a year and the maximum incentive to work in a town less than 5,000 increased from $12,000 to $23,000.
“While this is fantastic news I believe the State Government can also do more to assist small country towns, such as those in East Gippsland, to attract and retain health professionals,” Ms Bath said.
She believes increased job security would assist in achieving this goal.
“I am of the understanding that many of the allied health professionals who move to these areas are contracted on a yearly basis and I was told that if these contracts were offered for longer periods there would be more incentive for these people to work in our country hospitals and health centres,” Ms Bath said.
The Nationals MP said East Gippsland health providers were also working hard to service an increasing ageing population.
“Orbost Regional Health is desperately seeking funding to upgrade its high care nursing home section,” Ms Bath said.
“As Orbost has an ageing population there is more demand for this type of care and the facilities and infrastructure need to be updated to cater for this demand.”
Ms Bath said an upgrade was also needed for the hospital to improve its care for dialysis patients.
“I really have to commend the people at Orbost Regional Health and Omeo District Health for their wonderful passion and care for the people they look after.
“I hope we can work together to ensure that the facilities at these centres can match the high quality of the people working there.”
Ms Bath also enjoyed meeting the staff at Swifts Creek Bush Nursing Centre.
“This is a wonderful one-stop health centre used by the community for a variety of health reasons including for maternal child and health,” Ms Bath said.
“It was fantastic to see the board and staff at Swifts Creek working together to provide the best service possible for local residents.
“I’m committed to working hard with the people of East Gippsland’s health sector to ensure that regional communities have access to quality health and medical services.”
Photo Caption: Swift Creek Bush Nursing Centre office administrator Daryl Millard, nurse manager Sue Carroll, committee of management president Peter Brick and Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath during her visit to Swift Creek Bush Nursing Centre.
Regional jobs and businesses will be some of the hardest hit by the Andrews Labor Government’s two new public holidays, according to the state’s peak tourism body.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said despite Daniel Andrews’ claims that the new holidays would bring tourists to the regions, the truth was that most tourism businesses would not be able to afford to operate on those days.
The Victorian Tourism Industry Council’s Chief Executive Dianne Smith has now warned that: “Ultimately these public holidays will take money away from the businesses that should be supported to increase employment and create jobs.”
“Daniel Andrews is introducing these new public holidays at the expense of regional businesses and jobs,” Mr Walsh said.
“Small businesses will face the choice of either opening and taking a hit to their bottom line due to penalty rates; charging extra for their goods or services to cover the higher wages bill; or shutting their doors altogether.
“More than 353,000 casual workers are expected to lose their shifts on these new public holidays and the state’s economy will take a $1 billion hit.
“This is absolute economic vandalism by Daniel Andrews and will cost regional jobs and businesses dearly.”
Mr Walsh said the tourism body warned that: “Many businesses won’t be able to afford to operate on these public holidays due to increased wages costs and anticipated financial loss, which will be bad for tourism particularly in regional areas.”
An independent report commissioned by Daniel Andrews put the economic cost of the new public holidays at up to $898 million each year and wage payments of up to $286 million each year.
Ovens Valley communities will soon have improved mobile phone coverage as part of the construction of 109 new or upgraded mobile phone towers across the state.
Locally, new or upgraded towers have been announced for Archerton, Buffalo River, Edi Upper, Eldorado, Havilah, Moyhu and Myrrhee.
Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said the announcement would be welcomed by many residents and communities across the region which have been plagued by poor mobile phone coverage for years.
“Poor mobile phone coverage impacts on people in the operation of their businesses, day- to-day communications and during emergency situations,” Mr McCurdy said.
“For all of these reasons, improved mobile phone communication will make a significant difference.”
The federal government has announced these towers as part of its mobile blackspot program, which is being rolled out across regional Australia over three years.
“The former Coalition Government invested $40 million last year to secure funding for Victorian communities so I’m very pleased that we are seeing the result of that hard work,” Mr McCurdy said.
“Poor mobile phone service is one of the issues that is continually raised with me by members of our local communities so it is pleasing that improvements will now be forthcoming.
“Regional and rural Victorians deserve access to good quality mobile phone service and this is a great outcome for our local communities.”
A full list of locations is available at www.communications.gov.au/mobile_coverage
The Coalition is calling on the Andrews Labor Government to release its review into regional Victoria immediately.
Former Labor Premier John Brumby has provided the government with his review into ‘regional economic development and services’.
Yet his 61 recommendations will not be made public until Daniel Andrews’ Regional Development Minister, Jaala Pulford, releases her response in October – almost a year into this government.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said the report must be released now.
“Regional Victorians have every right to be very nervous about this review, considering John Brumby was the architect of the north-south pipeline and desal plant disasters,” Mr Walsh said.
“We should not have to wait for the government to now review its own review. Communities deserve to know what Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford are considering for their future.
“I already have serious concerns about their Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund, which is already almost half-spent and being used to cost-shift money into Melbourne.
“Now it looks like the future growth and prosperity of regional Victoria is being totally stalled until at least October.
“Regional Victorians are quickly growing sick and tired of the Andrews Labor Government’s constant spin and no substance.
“If the government has nothing to hide and regional Victorians have nothing to fear in this report, why can’t it be released?”
The Liberal-Nationals Coalition cannot support the Melbourne Labor Government’s proposed sale of the Port of Melbourne in its current form.
It is a dud deal for Victorians, particularly country Victorians, and would damage the competitiveness of our export sector.
Victoria is the freight and logistics capital of Australia, with the Port of Melbourne handling around 36 per cent of the country’s container trade.
Victoria’s food and fibre industries, particularly dairy, are some of the biggest users of the port.
Daniel Andrews’ proposal exposes Victorians to a massive compensation payout if a second container port is developed in the next 50 to 70 years.
Creating a monopoly for the next 70 years by restricting the development of a second container port creates a real risk that Victoria will lose trade and jobs to Sydney and Brisbane.
It would also lead to higher costs for exporters, which would be passed straight back to farmers. We have already seen port fees tipped to rise by around 800 per cent in one hit.
This deal would be a noose around the necks of all Victorians and future governments for 70 years.
This is not the proposal that Daniel Andrews took to the election. The only debate before the election was whether Victoria’s second container port should be built at Hastings or Bay West.
The current proposal just adds to Labor’s herd of white elephants and dud deals, including the desalination plant, Myki and north-south pipeline.
In a real shock to regional communities today Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford refused to commit the proceeds from the sale of the Rural Finance Corporation to regional Victorian infrastructure projects.
This was a promise that had been made by the previous Coalition Government.
The sale of the Rural Finance Corporation last year netted a profit of about $460 million, which was earmarked for re-investment in regional Victoria.
During the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearing for the regional development portfolio today, Ms Pulford refused to say whether that commitment would be honoured by the Andrews Labor Government.
$220 million from the proceeds has been committed to the Murray Basin Rail Project but it is not clear where the remainder of around $240 million will be spent.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Regional Development Damian Drum:
“Quite starkly, Ms Pulford would not answer the question following repeated requests by PAEC member and Nationals MP Danny O’Brien.
“Rural Finance Corporation was built on the success of our state’s farming sectors and regional communities rightly expect the money from its sale to be invested back into their communities – not into Melbourne-based projects, such as level crossing removals.
“Given only 2.9 per cent of the state’s major infrastructure projects have been promised outside of Melbourne, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that this money goes back into regional Victoria.
“Yet again we are seeing this government focused on political outcomes in Melbourne at the expense of rural and regional Victoria.”