New public holiday to hit our business sector
I enjoy football season despite being deprived of success for some time as a Richmond supporter. However, the current State Government’s decision to declare the Friday before the grand final a public holiday for the grand final parade will hurt our business sector.
With the Government also declaring Easter Sunday a public holiday, Victoria is now the public holiday capital of Australia with 13 – more than any other state or territory.
While the Easter holiday will impose additional costs on businesses that open, there are also some solid reasons for the decision, as it is not like any other Sunday.
However, Labor should seriously consider the impacts of its Grand Final Eve public holiday decision.
Almost all industry groups, including Restaurants and Catering Australia and the Australian Industry Group have asked the Government to reconsider. Given the impacts, it is a fair request.
AIG Victorian director, Tim Piper, said in a recent newspaper article “This will cost us, whether in jobs or higher costs — how else are we going to get the money back?”
It is estimated the Grand Final Friday holiday cost between $800 million and $1.2 billion in lost productivity and increased business costs.
A number of Melbourne’s restaurants have already said they will be forced to close on that day due to the additional costs, but perhaps the biggest error is enforcing this on country businesses and communities who have little interest in the Grand Final Parade.
The National Party questioned the Small Business Minister in the Upper House last week, when my colleague, Damian Drum raised the matter on our behalf to the Minister in the Chamber.
The Minister was unable to provide any chambers of commerce or business associations in regional Victoria that were supportive of the public holiday.
He also confirmed that unlike the Melbourne Cup holiday where the Coalition made changes so regional shires can apply for substitute days, this will not be open for negotiation on Grand Final Friday.
The Minister has also previously not been able to answer the question of the cost impact of the new holidays on regional Victoria.
Following is the question time transcript:
Mr DRUM: My question is to the Minister for Small Business….can the minister name the chambers of commerce or business associations in regional Victoria that he has consulted with that are in support of the grand final eve public holiday?
Mr SOMYUREK (Minister for Small Business): I was not the shadow minister for small business, but what I can say is that there was a consultation, and it is called the general election.
Mr Drum: On a point of order, President, my question was extremely narrow in asking the minister whether he can name any chamber of commerce in regional Victoria or any business association that he has spoken to that is in support of this grand final eve public holiday.
Mr SOMYUREK: No.
Mr DRUM: I thank the minister for that answer. I want to know whether the minister has considered, as has been done for the Melbourne Cup holiday, allowing substitute public holidays for regional shires that have no connection to the grand final?
Mr SOMYUREK: That is not on the agenda at the moment. That is not what the commitment was about.
If this government is going to enforce an unnecessary city focussed public holiday upon us that will impact on our local businesses, it should at least have had the decency to provide some flexibility so country communities can align the day off with a local event like our Agricultural Show or a local festival.
March 30, 2015
Comment from Tim Bull on Labor's incorrect Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund claim
In responding to a call to continue the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund this week, State Labor said the money was not included by the previous government in forward estimates.
This is not true.
The fund was drawn from the Regional Growth Fund, which was in the forward estimates and which Labor has scrapped.
It is one of a number of funding arrangements to this region and regional Victoria that will halt with the scrapping of the Regional Growth Fund.
It was in the forward estimates and it was committed to by the Coalition pre-election.
Bipartisan support could not be gained pre-election, one of the major reasons being Labor’s candidate, who lives hundreds of kilometres from the electorate, only visited her would be electorate for a few hours two days before the election before disappearing again.
It should be funded and rather than make excuses that are wrong, Labor should make a rare trip to East Gippsland and announce funding for this program.
Gippsland Lakes fund must be in budget
Shadow Minister for Emergency Services and the Environment, Brad Battin (centre), this week spent some time on the Gippsland Lakes with local MP, Tim Bull, to discuss the importance of the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund, the projects it is delivering and the need for its continued funding. Mr Battin also took the chance to look over the new water police boat with Mr Bull and officer in charge of Gippsland Water Police, Alan Rice.
Shadow Minister for the Environment, Brad Battin today joined State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, today in calling for the Labor Government to announce continuation of the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund in the upcoming State Budget.
Mr Bull said it was pleasing to have Mr Battin visit the Gippsland Lakes to hear and see firsthand the good work that had been undertaken over the past four years, after the Coalition provided $10m in funding over its term in government and committed a further $8m pre-election.
Mr Battin said it was clear the Fund, which is overseen by the Gippsland Lakes Ministerial Advisory Committee, had supported an enormous amount of work in the areas of research, education and investigation of matters pertaining to the Gippsland Lakes.
“To hear of the Burrinan dolphin research, the enormous amount of work that has been done with education of school children explaining to them the importance of the Lakes and having them involved in hands-on projects, to the investigatory work into water quality monitoring and pest plant control, shows just how valuable this Fund has been.
“It is very clear, that these programs need to continue and there are other important projects to be undertaken and that is why this funding is so critical. That is why we committed to a further $8m pre-election,” he said.
“One of the new projects that is on the drawing board, but is dependent on funding, is the need for a study into sediments within the Gippsland Lakes, with discussions having already been commenced on this topic with relevant agencies,” Mr Battin said.
Mr Bull said if there was no announcement in the upcoming Budget, a number of the very important programs underway would have to cease, it was as simple as that.
While in the region, Mr Battin, who is also Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, took the opportunity to look over the new police boat VP09, which was launched last year in Paynesville and has proved a great asset.
Camping fees on political agenda
Shadow Minister for the Environment, Brad Battin, visited Cape Conran and Bunga Arm camping areas with member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, this week to review camping fee structures.
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, this week visited some of the region’s prime camping locations with Shadow Minister for the Environment, Brad Battin, to discuss camping fees.
Mr Bull said camping fees at coastal locations had been an issue leading into the last state election and is seeking a review of prices at coastal camping locations.
“The fee rises applied to the popular coastal locations like Bunga Arm, Coringle, Cape Conran, Wingan Inlet, Tamboon Inlet and the like.
“While these areas were booked out over the peak period, what I am hearing is the rises in the shoulder and off-peak periods may have resulted in a significant reduction in camper numbers.
“If this is the case, then it defeats the purpose of the rises out of peak season in our most popular areas. This is something we need to find out more about.
“I understand the reasons for the rises - that there was a massive $11.3m shortfall between income from camp areas and cost of maintaining these sites and I am also aware that only 197 of the state’s 680 campsites (18%) have fees attached and the rest are free – but I don’t believe the pricing system on those areas where it exists, is right.
“It’s a matter I wanted Brad to be aware of and having visited Cape Conran and Bunga Arm this week and chatted to campers and local business operators, I am sure he has a better understanding of it all,” Mr Bull said.
Mr Battin said East Gippsland has some of the premier coastal camping locations in the state.
“They really are beautiful areas and should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. It is wise to review all decisions after a period and it is something we would have certainly done if still in government.
“We need to ensure the funding gap is minimised between income from camping areas and maintenance costs, whilst making sure our prime camping locations are affordable for families to enjoy. It is about finding the right balance.
“When any changes are made, it makes sense to review decisions made and it’s something we would have done if still in Government, so a review is timely,” he said.
While in the region, Mr Battin, had several meetings relating to native vegetation regulations and the need for certain aspects to be streamlined.
Bull asks Minister to visit Maffra Hospital and fund master plan
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, pictured with CEO Central Gippsland Health Service, Frank Evans, and former Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan and Member-elect for Gippsland South, Danny O'Brien, at the Coalition's pre-election announcement of $75,000 to fund a hospital master plan.
Funding for the Maffra Hospital master plan was raised in State Parliament this week with Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, calling on the Minister to visit the facility.
Mr Bull said prior to the November election, he committed $75,000 for the development of a master plan, which would outline facility upgrades.
“In the lead up to the election there were calls for a commitment and we were happy to provide that, but unfortunately it did not receive bipartisan support as Labor made very few commitments in rural Victoria.
“The funding is to allow for planning and business case development for improvements to the Maffra campus to ensure facilities are functional and fit for purpose for the community of Maffra and surrounds,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“The facility plays an important role for those living in Maffra, Heyfield, Stratford, Boisdale, Briagolong and other local communities in ensuring people can access the health care they need closer to home.
“The hospital serves a catchment population of around 8,800 people and is 63 years old. Some areas of the building are still in their original condition and badly in need of an upgrade,” he said.
“It is a fact that some areas of the Maffra Hospital are approaching the end of their useful life and a master plan is required to ensure this asset is renewed and preserved for the local community.
“The condition of the building is generally poor with only minor refurbishments carried out over the past 35 years and the development of a plan is the first stage in addressing this.”
Mr Bull said he would be delighted to host the Minister in a visit to the facility and see first-hand the need for this funding and discuss the matter with management of the Central Gippsland Health Service.
The Minister responded to Mr Bull by stating she would schedule a visit when she is in the area, but unfortunately gave no commitment to a timeframe. Mr Bull will continue to pursue a date for the visit.
Parliament told of importance of calf sales
MP’s from around the state were told of the importance of the High Country calf sales last week.
Speaking in Parliament, Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, recognised the sales as being a major economic driver in the region and the fact this underlined the importance of our rural and farming sector in the state.
“Last week was a great week in the high country, with beef producers gathering for the 75th annual calf sales, which were held across the towns of Ensay, Omeo and Benambra.
“I spoke with Elders Omeo principal David Hill, who underlined the importance of these sales to the district, with over $7 million injected into the local economy over two days,” Mr Bull said.
“More than 11 000 calves were offered for sale, with prices up over $200 per head on the previous year.
“This year also saw the biggest attendance ever, with buyers coming from all over Australia, selling out the accommodation in the town and keeping the local eateries very busy.
“Transportation companies were flat out moving cattle in and out of the sales, with 650 transport movements over the two days. It was a great week for all.”