Fracking ban follows Coalition lead
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said today’s announcement by the Government relating to onshore gas, followed the lead of the previous Coalition Government.
The announcement today put a permanent ban on onshore unconventional gas and fracking in Victoria and extended the current moratorium on exploration and development of conventional onshore gas until June 2020.
“It was the Coalition that implemented the initial ban on fracking when it was proceeding under the previous Labor Government, which initially imposed this industry on regional Victoria without any consultation with rural communities,” Mr Bull said.
“When we came to government in 2010, Labor had approved 23 fracking licences and 73 exploration licences. It was the Nationals in Coalition who stopped this in its tracks by making the initial tough call and implementing the moratorium after concerns were raised by our farming and rural communities.
“There have only been fracking licences approved in this State by one side of politics and that was Labor, so it is important history is not re-written here.
“Our farmers and rural communities are not only the backbone of our local economy here in East Gippsland, but critical to our state and nation and that is why we brought the ban in initially. In relation to the continuing conventional gas moratorium, this is the same timeframe as the Coalition announced last year.
“I await the further studies the Government has announced into conventional on-shore gas, which I would hope will commence and be finalised as soon as possible,” Mr Bull said.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Premier Dan dropping the ball on police numbers
Much has been said recently in the media on police numbers, or lack thereof as Victoria experiences a massive increase in crime, but unfortunately it remains an area where we are not seeing improvement.
State crime figures to the March quarter (the latest figures released) showed massive rises in the level of crime in Victoria. In East Gippsland it was 11% and in Wellington 14%.
My strong view is that our police do what is a very tough job, very well, but our force needs the resources required to do the job properly and meet community expectations. I will elaborate on my concerns.
If we take the 13,151 total police FTE (full time equivalent) figure for November 2014 and then extrapolate that at a population growth rate of 1.7% p.a., for the 19 month period of December 2014 to June 2016, total sworn police numbers should have increased by approximately 354 compared with the actual increase of only 160 FTE - less than half of what is actually required.
However, even that is not the full story. When you also consider that despite there being an overall increase of 160 – the police’s own figures show a reduction of 82 front line police (that is stationed at local police stations) since 2014.
So the overall increases in police numbers are falling a long way short of keeping pace with population growth and the number of police in local police stations has astoundingly dropped.
This is when crime is surging in this state and we have seen a wave of home invasions, assaults, car jackings (up 80%) and gang violence.
In the recent budget, the Government announced an additional 300 police over the next few years. This is not enough to even catch up on the shortfall and falls way short of getting anywhere matching the population per capita growth.
On a local level we have summer coming up and a town like Lakes Entrance will swell from a population of around 6500 to over 50,000 – but will not have more police resources relocated from outside the region to deal with this – as has occurred in years past.
It is a matter I have raised in the Parliament several times this year and received less than satisfactory responses.
Last Christmas we had the station closed for long periods on weekends during peak Christmas holiday time. There may have been a patrol car in the town, but that is not good enough.
One tourist who lost his wallet went to the station three times one day (a Saturday) to see if it had been handed in – and if not – report it stolen. It was closed each time.
For a tourist town this falls well short of the mark of what visitors to our region should expect. The doors should be open from 9am – 5pm at the very least – and have a car on patrol as well.
The answer from the government is the person should call triple zero if police assistance is needed – really - call triple zero for a lost wallet. Just open the station!
When in Government, the Coalition had a strong record on policing.
We fully delivered on delivered on the election commitment of 1700 more police and in fact delivered 1900 - the single largest recruitment program in history.
This was done in addition to the 950 Protective Services Officers (PSO’s) manning train stations and the like.
The Coalition will continue to advocate for penalties that better reflect community expectations for serious criminals and more police to bring the crime wave we are experiencing under control.
Help and support should always be offered for those in need, but for criminals who continually flout the law and have not respect for it – they should be held accountable for their actions. We need an appropriately staffed police force to achieve this.
Making matters worse, last siting week Labor and the Greens voted down the Coalition’s ‘No body, no parole’ legislation.
The Bill proposed to deny parole to convicted murderers who refuse to reveal the location of their victim’s body. Murderers who refuse to disclose this information simply do not deserve to be considered for parole.
I was astounded Labor and the Greens opposed this (it was supported by the Upper House crossbenchers).
Unfortunately, while crime rates rise and there remains concern over elements of our parole system, we have a government too weak to take action, while convicted killers are being let off the hook.
Earlier this year, the Coalition announced that if elected, it will increase frontline police numbers, and also introduce new offences of car-jacking and aggravated car-jacking with maximum jail terms of 15 and 25 years respectively, as well as statutory minimum sentences to ensure the strong sentences are handed down by the courts.
We introduced this legislation to Parliament recently and hope it will gain support, but after last week’s decision, who knows.
I reiterate that our police officers, especially those here at the eastern end of the state, do a tremendous job in ensuring we remain safe. Unfortunately it is the Government’s response to support these men and women and address the crime wave that has left a lot to be desired.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Stratford-Maffra Road repairs 'being considered'
Reconstruction of two kilometres of the Stratford-Maffra Road are ‘being considered’ by the State Government.
Having raised the condition of the road in State Parliament and the need for surface improvements, State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he was pleased to be advised by the Minister that two sections are being ‘considered for funding’.
“Whilst there is no guarantee as yet, I would certainly hope the requests I have made on behalf of the community are listened to and the considerations lead to the work being done,” Mr Bull said.
“I do a lot of travelling around the electorate and of all the roads that are used by strong traffic volumes, I would have to say from my perspective, it is the stretch most in need of an upgrade.
“In his response, the Minister has advised that two sections of the road, approximately two kilometres in length, had been identified for reconstruction.
“The road has well over 100 patches along its stretch of 6-7 kilometres and crumbling shoulders in several locations.
“It is pleasing to know it is on VicRoads’ radar for works, the objective now is to get it completed as soon as possible,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has been advised by the Roads Minister repairs for the Stratford-Maffra Road are ‘being considered’ after raising the issue in Parliament recently.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Specialist school project back on track
Gippsland Nationals MPs Tim Bull and Danny O’Brien have received confirmation the State Government will deliver the Sale Specialist School project in full.
Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, has received written confirmation from the Education Minister James Merlino that despite a $1.5 million cost overrun, the school will go ahead as planned with all buildings and will be due to open in July 2017.
“With the revelation of a $1.5 million cost overrun earlier this year, there was some concern in the school community that the project will be reduced in scope. I was pleased to get confirmation from the Minister at the time that this would not be the case but there was concern in the school community that it would be built in two stages to accommodate the funding issues,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I have now received confirmation from the Minister in writing that there will be just one stage. Naturally there was a concern from parents and teachers that having a building site at the Specialist School would not be suitable given the nature of the students and concerns about safety.
“I am very happy that the Minister has given his assurance that the project is proceeding as planned.”
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the community had fought hard for this new school and would be looking forward to moving in next year
“There’s been a massive community effort to get this school funded and after The Nationals in Government delivered the land and stage one funding, I am pleased we are now proceeding as planned,” Mr Bull said.
“I look forward to the official turning of the first sod next week and seeing this school spring up and deliver for parents, students, teachers and the wider Wellington community.”
Friday, August 19, 2016
State bungle earns Cr Buckley a reprieve
The State Government has this week said no councillor codes of conduct will be recognised until after the upcoming local government elections in late October, after it completely botched the process, said Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“This means that Cr Ben Buckley will no longer be sacked on September 1 and can see out his full term,” Mr Bull said.
“The new council then has the right, under the Act, to amend the content of its Code of Conduct, providing an opportunity to address any areas of concern the new council may have.”
Rob Spence, chief executive of the Municipal Association of Victoria, which represents Victorian councils including East Gippsland and Wellington as members, was scathing of the Andrews Government. In a statement he said:
• Guidance material from the State Government failed to articulate a clear and unambiguous process and timelines.
• Mixed messages were provided by the Government in their 2015 Guide and March 2016 Circular advice to CEOs, causing confusion about whether the new penalty would apply to current councillors.
• It was important that the State Government learned a lesson from this bungled process.
• It’s critical and incumbent upon Government to provide clear and unambiguous guidance in relation to new laws they introduce. Laws that fail to provide a right of review do not offer appropriate checks and balances.
• Unfortunately the State has chosen to attack councils, release factually misleading information and failed to acknowledge there were multiple failures on both sides which contributed to this issue.
Mr Bull said that while the entire process was a complete debacle, he was pleased Cr Buckley, with a long record of community service, could serve out his full term.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
CFA query not answered by Minister
Serious questions need to be answered by the Andrews Labor Government over the signing of the United Firefighters’ Union (UFU) Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) last Friday, according to Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“In Parliament on Tuesday the new Minster – who was appointed after the previous Minister resigned over the fact she believed the EBA greatly disadvantaged volunteers – was asked to explain what appears to be a serious anomaly,” Mr Bull said.
“The anomaly was that the statement from the CFA chair announcing Mr Andrews’ new hand-picked CFA board had approved the EBA was timestamped 10.36am – five hours before the Board meeting to discuss the matter started on Friday.
“When asked to explain this, the Minister gave no direct answer.”
Speaking in Parliament shortly after, Mr Bull said it was concerning the EBA had been signed after the previous Minister had taken the serious step of resigning her position, the CFA Board was sacked, the CFA chief executive officer resigned and the CFA chief officer resigned – all because they believed the EBA greatly disadvantaged volunteers.
“On top of these respected people, there were also many reasoned voices like Jack Rush QC, who sat on the Bushfires’ Royal Commission, who said it was flawed.
“Despite these concerns, the Premier sacked the Board and appointed his hand-picked replacements to sign-off. Then we have a media statement coming out with a decision to support the EBA, carrying a timestamp that was five hours prior to the meeting starting to make that decision.
“And we are meant to believe natural justice has taken place?”
Mr Bull said he hoped upcoming Federal legislation and the legal action being taken by Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria would result in better protection of the rights of volunteers.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016