Labor must withdraw fire bill
A parliamentary committee has recommended to the State Government that it should withdraw legislation to restructure Victoria’s fire services and said it failed to consult properly on the issue.
Mr Bull said the recommendation was one of many from the Inquiry into Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017.
“The Committee said the Government’s consultation on the Bill had been ‘inadequate’ and ‘in the case of consultation with volunteers, in contravention of the CFA Act’. It made clear staff and volunteers were not properly referred to on the restructure plans,” Mr Bull said.
“Through a number of discussions and meetings with volunteer fire fighters in East Gippsland (some with State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy), I have heard numerous CFA members say the proposal would not be good for the future of fire fighting in Victoria.
“It was also pleasing to have had local volunteer firefighters both make submissions to the inquiry and present at the recent public hearing in Traralgon,” he said.
The Committee has also recommended the Department of Premier and Cabinet be referred for investigation for interfering with the inquiry and that the firefighters’ presumptive rights compensation should be reintroduced as a stand-alone Bill to be considered on its own merits.
Monday, August 21, 2017
State’s funding cuts hurting councils
A State Government Inquiry has heard Gippsland’s ratepayers are wearing the costs of the Andrews Labor Government’s cuts to country roads funding after one of Daniel Andrews’ first actions as Premier was to axe the Liberal-Nationals’ successful Country Roads and Bridges Program.
The parliamentary Inquiry into the Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Victoria’s Rural and Regional Councils has heard that country councils are struggling to meet the high costs of maintaining their roads network.
In relation to local input into the inquiry, the Wellington and East Gippsland Shires reported that they manage 3078 and 2895 kilometres of roads respectively.
This is a disproportionately large amount of infrastructure to maintain compared to their city counterparts, but with significantly lower income streams. The average rural and regional councils manages an average of 2200km of roads – more than four times that of city-based councils, the inquiry was told.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, says our rural road networks are crumbling and need an immediate funding injection to improve safety.
“The Liberal-Nationals’ $160 million Country Roads and Bridges Program provided, on average, $1 million to each of Victoria’s country councils every year for four years. That money was spent on roads and bridges that the Wellington and East Gippsland Shires identified as their priorities,” he said.
“The shortfall is resulting in a backlog of roadworks which ratepayers feel with every jolt and bump on our deteriorating roads.”
Caption: Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull says our rural road networks are crumbling and need an immediate funding injection to improve safety.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Minister asked to maintain Briagolong service
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has asked the Education Minister to review a proposal to terminate the Briagolong Primary School’s one and only bus service, saying it would have a “devastating impact” on the community.
Mr Bull said the school was told it was not meeting the requirements to maintain the service, specifically to have eight or more students who reside further than 4.8 kilometres from the school, using the bus.
“This is the classic example of hard and fast regulations not taking into account local issues and country communities,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“A number of the bus-travelling students are the children of parents who work outside of the township or are from single-parent families, so they rely on the bus.”
Mr Bull said access was also a problem, with walking paths in the area not constructed, meaning children would be left to walk for a number of kilometres on main roads should the bus service be removed.
Of the school’s 101 students, 15 are enrolled to use the bus, this number ranging between 13 and 20 over the past five years.
“Only five of these 15 students that use the bus live further than 4.8km from the school, which is the required distance for a student to be eligible to catch the bus,” Mr Bull said.
“The other students from within the 4.8km radius use the bus as the seats are available, which is standard practice.
“However, the extenuating circumstances are that of the other 10 students from within the 4.8km mark, the nearest family is 2.4km from the school. This is too far to walk.
“From both the angles of safety and common sense, I ask the Minister to review this situation with a view of maintaining the Briagolong school bus service for the 15 children who require it.”
The Minister has 30 days to respond to Mr Bull.
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, with Sandra Dekkers, a concerned parent whose child currently uses the Briagolong Primary School bus service.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Twenty Heyfield jobs now gone
Despite the Agriculture Minister stating in Parliament last Thursday there will be no job losses at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in the ownership “transition period”, just four days later staff received a notice stating the exact opposite, that from today only one shift will operate at the green mill.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, says the Minister must explain this anomaly and inform the local community, mill workers and their families just what is going on.
“The future of the Heyfield mill and its 250 workers has been uncertain since the Andrews Labor Government refused to guarantee a viable timber supply,” Mr Bull said.
“Last week the Minister was promising no job losses, but four days later up to 20 jobs are under threat.
“Rather than skimming around the facts, the Minister must come clean with the Heyfield community on the Government’s plans for the mill.”
Some of the questions that need to be answered are:
• How long is this transition period being referred to?
• What will be employment levels at the mill within 12 months (how many more jobs will be lost)?
• What will be the government’s percentage of ownership after the “transition period”; and
• Who will be partners in the mill ownership, if any?
Mr Bull said employees of ASH’s green mill received a letter from management on Monday advising two shifts would be reduced to one, effective today.
“While the Government will state this is due to leave being taken and voluntary redundancies, the shift will not return and there will be around 20 less jobs in Heyfield after today, which is not good for the local economy,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate for these employees and their families because we are in a situation that could so easily be avoided with a change of government policy by increasing the supply of timber.
“The timber supply is there, all that is missing is Daniel Andrews’ willingness to guarantee it.”
Mr Bull said a parliamentary inquiry heard from VicForests (the Government’s own agency) the amount of timber available to industry had dropped by over 60,000 cubic metres per annum. This was due to areas being placed into possum reserve, and over 40,000 cubic metres that cannot be offered to industry because it is forecast to go into possum reserve under the current regulations. This forecast reduction is the timber ASH required to maintain operations at the current level.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Views sought on pedestrian crossings
State Nationals MP, Tim Bull, is supportive of more pedestrian crossings on the Esplanade in Lakes Entrance and has encouraged the community to attend an information session that will progress the proposal.
“We all know how busy the town gets in holiday periods several times a year and with large pedestrian numbers, often families with young children, and high traffic volumes, there is in my view clearly a need for additional safe crossing areas,” Mr Bull said.
Mr Bull, who last week raised the matter in Parliament, said the consultation would be held at the Lakes Entrance Coast Guard rooms between 11.30am and 1pm next Wednesday, August 23.
“I understand VicRoads has a number of plans to address road safety concerns in and around Lakes Entrance and that the installation of pedestrian crossings is one of them,” he said.
“My office has received contact by a number of constituents who believe there is a need for one or more crossings in Lakes.
“I am advised VicRoads has already sought the views of the community following a number of meetings in town, however I do hope further opinion will be considered at the information sessions,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, is encouraging Lakes Entrance residents to attend an information session at the Coast Guard rooms next Wednesday.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Rail bridge timeline sought
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has sought a timeline on the replacement of the Avon River Bridge in State Parliament.
Mr Bull asked the Minister for Public Transport when she expected works to start and finish, and whether there were any plans for the existing structure, once the new rail bridge has been completed.
“The announcement in June that $95 million is to be provided by the Federal Government to replace the bridge was well received by those on the Gippsland line who head to and from Stratford and Bairnsdale stations,” Mr Bull said.
He told Parliament that for years V/Line long-haul trains have been forced to cross the Avon River at extremely low speeds due to the condition of the existing bridge, making the replacement of the structure timely.
“The construction of the new bridge may also assist with the reinstatement of freight rail and increase opportunities for additional passenger services.
“While I understand that specific dates may not yet be known, what I am seeking are the general start and completion dates of the works to replace the bridge. I would also be interested in any plans for the existing structure,” he said.
The Minister has 30 days to respond to Mr Bull’s question.
Caption: In Parliament last week, Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, asked the Public Transport Minister for a timeline on the replacement of the Avon River Bridge.
Monday, August 14, 2017