Stratford rail bridge should be in Budget
Funds to replace the rail bridge at Stratford should be part of this year’s May Budget announcements, Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has said.
“In our final year of Government in 2014, Gippsland MPs were involved in discussions with V/Line representatives on various matters and the rail bridge at Stratford was a key part of those discussions,” Mr Bull said.
“We were briefed on plans that were being finalised for a replacement bridge that could be largely constructed off-site and then put into place over a period of just months, causing what would be relatively short-term disruptions to services, for what would be a major piece of infrastructure work. In line with this, costings were also being finalised.
“Given it was well and truly a priority on V/Line’s to do list, I would assume these plans were completed last year and it is for this reason I am expecting an announcement in the Budget.
“To date we have had no infrastructure spend of any note in East Gippsland and I would like to think we will get some joy in the Budget. I have written to the Minister in relation to the bridge.”
Mr Bull said among other key projects he was hoping would be funded, included:
• Stage two of the Bairnsdale Secondary College after the Coalition funded $10.5 million for stage one (now built) and committed $12.5m to stage two pre-election; and
• The next stage of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) upgrade.
“The Coalition funded $16 million for Stage One of the MID and committed further funds pre-election. Labor has said its funding of the next stage is dependent on the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease.
“Gippsland South MP, Danny O’Brien, and I have been calling on future funding to be unconditional; pointing out it should not be related to the port lease sale in any way.
“However, with us seemingly moving closer to a port deal this week after Labor agreed to our demand to get rid of this ridiculous compensation clause that would have been a financial noose around the neck of our children at some stage in the future – I think we are closer to getting the funding announced,” Mr Bull said.
“The Budget has taken on far more significance under this government. When we had the Regional Growth Fund in place, most of the infrastructure announcements were made outside the Budget process under this program. With it having been abolished we now have an increased focus on what happens on that big day in May,” he said.
Ports lease deal must benefit country Victorians
The Nationals and Liberals are working hard to achieve a good deal for farmers, exporters and all Victorians on the Port of Melbourne lease sale.
While we don’t have a deal yet, it appears close. Last week the Labor Government provided 23 pages of amendments to their port sale legislation which appear to bring us closer to achieving a better deal.
The Nationals and Liberals are currently reviewing those amendments and they will be dealt with next time Parliament sits.
There have been two major sticking points. One is timeframe during which taxpayers would have to pay compensation when a new port has to be built. The second is the amount of proceeds from the lease sale that would be provided to rural and regional Victoria.
The Liberal-Nationals Coalition did not want any compensation regime for when a second port was built and Labor wanted compensation paid if a new port was to be built at any time within the 50 year lease.
Labor’s reason for wanting this compensation clause was that it would drive up the immediate sale price prospective buyers would be prepared to pay - a quick cash-grab if you like.
However, this would have been a financial millstone around the neck of taxpayers and what many in the business sector were saying would be a massive debt our children would have inherited and had to pay for.
Quite simply, the Nationals and Liberals were not prepared to have another Myki or desalination plant situation and this was a position supported by industry.
Months ago, as part of the efforts to find a resolution, we moved to 15 years on the compensation clause. It is highly unlikely a new port would be required in this timeframe (they take around 15 years to plan and build).
The government held off, wanting the 50 year clause to boost the sale price. They threatened to by-pass the parliament and just do this without legislation on several occasions, and even threatened an early election.
However, on Thursday last week Labor handed over 23 pages of amendments which appears to address the concerns over the compensation matters, but that are currently being considered before next sitting week.
On the port lease proceeds for regional Victoria, The Nationals have demanded our fair share.
In August last year the Labor Government promised a $200 million fund for the regions if the port sale legislation went through.
If the port lease sale is to reach $7 billion as predicted, that would have been around 2.8 per cent of the sale proceeds coming to the country.
Given regional Victoria provides more than 40 per cent of the exports from the port, The Nationals did not see that as fair at all – in fact, completely unacceptable.
Strangely at the time, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president, Peter Tuohey, was lavish in his praise, saying the $200 million was “a great win for farmers”.
I have no idea how Peter came to this conclusion and I had a number of VFF members questioning these comments and asking how this was a “great win” for rural communities. Nationals Leader Peter Walsh was quick to point out we would not be accepting the scraps off the table on such a big deal.
The Nationals demanded a 10 per cent from the sale of the port lease be allocated to regional Victoria, which based on the sale figure, would equate to around $700 million.
This is vastly better than the deal that was being offered.
February 26, 2016
Minister questioned on Coast Guard future
The ongoing viability of the Coast Guard in both East Gippsland and the State has been raised with the Minister for Emergency Services in Parliament this week by Gippsland East Nationals MP Tim Bull.
Mr Bull was referring to the industrial action that has been started by some flotillas and the threat that unless concerns for the organisation are addressed, operations in some areas may soon cease altogether.
"I have been approached by volunteers who have said that members are spending less time on the water and more time having to fundraise and increasing financial pressures are placing a question mark over the Coast Guard’s viability,” Mr Bull said.
“I understand one of the major areas is meeting the annual cost of insurance.
“The reason for raising this in Parliament, was to ask the Minister what plans she has in place to ensure the ongoing operations of the Coast Guard in the short term and then to outline her plans for the organisation’s long term future.”
Mr Bull said he had some concerns over the industrial action, which related to non-urgent responses, for two reasons – those being the ability for non-urgent matters on the water to quickly become emergencies and that it will be the public that will suffer.
“I acknowledge some local flotillas are not taking part and I also acknowledge the Coast Guard has to get its message across to government as it did highlight its concerns in a recent Parliamentary Inquiry and members have concerns the Minister has ignored the issues raised in that process.
“It was also raised in the Upper House this week by my colleague Melina Bath MLC.
“Our hope would be that the immediate concerns of the Coast Guard can be addressed, which may be ensuring insurance and any other urgent costs are met, with further clarity on how our marine rescue services will be structured longer term.
“That of course would need to clearly outline how the Coast Guard and its volunteers will operate viably into the future.”
Lakes group needs funding certainty
The need for additional funding for the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee (GLCC), which expires in four months, has again been raised in State Parliament.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, used his first contribution in State Parliament last week to outline the importance of the funding for all those involved in GLCC programs and called on the Minister to end the uncertainty for these people.
“In January the Minister announced a name change for the group and I would have thought that was the ideal time to announce the funding,” Mr Bull said.
“This funding supports many great programs and draws on both paid and volunteer work from dedicated contributors from my community, who all have the best interests of the Gippsland Lakes at heart.
“Leaving the funding announcement (if there is to be one) until the 11th hour creates too much insecurity – we saw that last year with staff resignations due to the uncertainty.
“To leave it until Budget time is simply too late for those involved, waiting around until May to see if their programs are going to be continued. On behalf of these people I ask the Minister to outline her plans earlier.
“The other aspect of this is one year of funding at a time is far from ideal.
“To provide some background, $10m was provided over four years under the Coalition and a further four-year commitment was made pre-election.
“Despite similar pleas to the Minister last year, she announced just one year of funding and waited until within weeks of the funding expiring.
“What I am seeking to avoid is another repeat of this situation,” Mr Bull said.
Request to put road closure on hold
Minister for the Environment, Lisa Neville, has been asked to reconsider the closure of Rivermouth Road to vehicular traffic pending more consultation with local residents and recreational fishers.
Speaking in Parliament today, State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he had previously written to the Minister on the issue, who whilst acknowledging some current users would be affected, did not provide any optimism in relation to reconsidering the decision.
“Since that time, I have had more people raising concerns with my office, generally around the fact they had no idea this closure was being planned as the consultation seemed very narrow. Many of the local angling clubs apparently had no idea this was proposed,” Mr Bull said.
“There have also been concerns relating to the fact elderly anglers, bird watchers and tourists with limited mobility will no longer be able to access this popular fishing and tourist location,” he said.
“The mouth will also be closed to emergency vehicles, which I am advised have used the location in the past, in times when an on-water emergency has necessitated.
“On top of all this, there is an over-arching view we have to stop limiting access to popular public areas and rather focus on maintaining access so the entire community can enjoy them.
“I am fully supportive of the need to protect the silt jetties from erosion and avoid them being reduced to a series of islands. My query is if we are to maintain the width for a walking track, why not maintain it as a very low speed road so all can enjoy it as I have not seen any evidence cars travelling at slow speeds are greatly contributing to the erosion.
“In the interim, I have urged the Minister to hold off on proceeding with this closure until much wider consultation has taken place as if this proceeds, it will be difficult to reverse at any stage in the future when works are completed, vegetation has been planted along the existing road and the silt jetty itself has become too narrow to maintain a road width,” Mr Bull said.
Petition to have stock reports reinstated
A petition to have ABC radio return the morning livestock market reports to its regular programming has been established by Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull.
“I have received a number of complaints from farmers that the morning reports provide them with important business information,” Mr Bull said.
“The response has been quite surprising and shows that these reports are of great interest to a large section of the community.
“It was requested by one group that I establish a petition to be presented to the ABC to show the level of interest these reports have in the community.
“They will be available for signing at the Bairnsdale sale yards and in my office for those who are interested in registering their opposition to this programming change,” he said.