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.
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.”
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.
Bendigo residents will have lost all confidence in Jacinta Allan.
Just two weeks ago, she promised that “Bendigo will have better train and bus services, making it easier get to get to work or to school, and home again at the end of the day.”
But now Bendigo’s train network is collapsing under her watch, all Jacinta Allan has to offer are excuses – and no solutions.
‘Conversations’ and ‘consultation’ will not solve the countless issues plaguing VLine.
If Jacinta Allan continues to refuse taking responsibility for Bendigo’s train problems, Premier Daniel Andrews must urgently step in and take control.
Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government has been caught out trying to claw Commonwealth funds away from upgrades to mobile phone black spots in Victoria’s high fire-risk areas.
The Age has reported that the Andrews Labor Government lobbied the Commonwealth to change the funding criteria for its black spot program, so money meant for fire-prone areas could instead help to pay for Daniel Andrews’ commitment to improve phone coverage on trains.
The Commonwealth has said it will not be changing the funding guidelines.
It comes after Daniel Andrews axed a $40 million program set up by the former Victorian Coalition Government to upgrade mobile coverage along rail lines and provide Wi-Fi on V/Locity trains.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Regional Development Damian Drum:
“Daniel Andrews and Labor should be ashamed by their attempts to short-change communities at risk of bushfires.
“The only reason Daniel Andrews wants this extra funding is because he cut the existing $40 million program from this year’s Budget.
“This is another appalling snub for regional Victoria from the Andrews Labor Government.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer a renowned train book author, is backing David O’Brien’s call for trials of increased shuttle trains from Geelong to Warrnambool.
Mr O’Brien, the Nationals candidate for Polwarth has called for further investigations of a trial sprinter train service between Warrnambool and Geelong using Velocity trains to further increase train services for residents of Colac, Camperdown, Terang and Winchelsea.
A passionate user of train services and a musician, Mr O’Brien believes an extended train service will bring economic benefit to the region.
“With events like Colac Kana Festival, the Warrnambool Music Festival and the Colac and Warrnambool Cup we can bring city folks out to our region to enjoy the events and at the same time trial a train service with genuine potential for the future.” said Mr O’Brien.
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, known all over the country for his interest in and love of trains and rail services said the idea had meriit.
"Shuttle velocity operations make a great deal of sense and are practicable and viable," said Mr Fischer.
Mr O’Brien said that the Coalition announcement made last week that they would deliver a fourth train if returned to government was a terrific announcement and a great start for improved train services.
“My vision for this region is a vibrant one and I can see long term opportunities for additional services that connect with Geelong’s services to Melbourne. There is work to be done in bringing about greater service.
Obviously there will need to be co-ordination with freight train pathways as well as community consultation
to get the balance right between through trains and additional shuttle services,” said Mr O’Brien.
“I am calling on the Andrew’s government to make a genuine investment in regional Victoria, and trial a shuttle train to Colac and Warrnambool for these significant local events.
In the long term, an investment in a shuttle service to Geelong a number of times a day that connects to the frequent Geelong to Melbourne service will open significant potential for regional development in Polwarth and the South West,” said Mr O’Brien.
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.”
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.
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.