I wish to use this first column of the new electoral term to provide some comments around the recent State election.
Firstly, I thank the people of Gippsland East for their support in having confidence in me as their representative.
It is something that I see as a great privilege and remind myself of constantly when I walk up the steps of Parliament or stand to speak in the chamber on local matters.
I wish to extend my thanks to my fellow candidates, most of whom I met and spent a lot of time with over two weeks at the pre-polling booth. While we may have differed in views on some topics, all are very decent people, easy to get along with and with the best interests of the community at heart.
My thanks also to those who stood on polling booths on election day, not just for myself, but for all candidates, to allow the people of the region to have their democratic say.
As I said post-election, it is a great thing in this country that we can have a change of government without a shot being fired, a riot in the streets or an effigy being burned as many other countries experience and we should never forget this.
In the lead up to the election, a number of commitments were made by the Coalition relating to East Gippsland. These are important projects the incoming Government is not committed to delivering on - as they did not receive bi-partisan support, but are nevertheless very important for our area.
They include $12.5m to complete the Bairnsdale Secondary College, $8m to continue the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund, $10m to further upgrade the Macalister Irrigation District, an additional ambulance night shift for Bairnsdale and $15.5m to build the Sale Specialist School to service townships like Maffra, Stratford and Heyfield in the west of my electorate.
This is just a snapshot of the many important projects/initiatives our region requires.
Unfortunately in the lead up to the election Labor completely ignored many country regions, with no commitments east of the Latrobe Valley, west of the Grampians or in a host of other rural seats.
Locally, it was mainly due to the candidate not living in the area and turning up two days prior to election day. In Gippsland South the candidate never visited at all.
Where Labor deserves credit is that it won Government fair and square on the back of some solid targeted and campaigning in the metro area and regional cities - it ran a smart campaign.
However, it has also gained Government giving very little attention to almost all of rural Victoria and therefore has no obligations to these areas.
In the coming weeks and months, I intend to make the new Ministers aware of the local projects of importance, invite them to East Gippsland to see the needs first hand and work with them on hopefully bringing as many to fruition as possible.
A letter in last Friday’s newspaper referred to my post-election quote of “they (the new government) will certainly know about it” in relation to the Bairnsdale Secondary College rebuild as “aggressive” and offered advice to me to work with the new government.
My comments were not aggressive at all, just a statement of fact reflecting my view that I am sure the new Minister will know little about us having our biggest secondary school half built and needing completion and I intend to put it on his radar.
In line with this, I intend to make sure the new Government knows about all the above matters and I will seek its support in addressing them.
It is my full intention to work as closely as possible with the new Government and its Ministers on achieving the outcomes so important to our region in a co-operative manner – that is certainly my preference.
However, if we are continued to be treated with contempt and ignored, as was the case in the lead up to the election, I will not sit quietly.
In the next few months I will be inviting all of the Ministers relevant to our local issues, to this area to meet with local stakeholders and myself to discuss the local needs. I hope the uptake is strong and results are achieved.
There are wider Labor Party policy concerns like the significant reduction in rural roads funding and the scrapping of several important programs including the Regional Growth Fund that supported so many of our businesses and community groups, the Country Roads and Bridges Program, the wild dog bounty and the roadside pest control funding to rural councils, to name a few.
My efforts will also focus on having these programs restored to some level.
December 8, 2014