Getting tough on dangerous dogs
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has strongly supported new legislation that cracks down on dangerous and restricted dogs, including the American Pit Bull, in the aftermath of a shocking recent incident in which a young girl lost her life.
“This is a huge step in relation to getting rid of American Pit Bulls quicker than was anticipated and it is a move I whole heartedly back.
“It also coincides with the opening of a new telephone hotline (1300 101 080) that gives Victorians an easy mechanism to report dangerous dogs.
“This hotline will be manned from 8am until 6pm initially and response will determine operating hours, but I must stress this is not a hotline to report barking or nuisance dogs, it is to report dangerous dogs. It should also not be used in the case of an attack, in that instance dial 000.
“The legislation brings forward the amnesty to register restricted breeds to September 29 this year, meaning any dog identified as a Pit Bull not registered after that time can be seized and destroyed.
“Those individuals who have these dogs and want to keep them have until then to register them, have them de-sexed if they are not already, and then control them by the strict laws put in place. It is about making dog owners more responsible for their pets.
“While there are between 200-300 restricted dogs registered in the state, the reality is their numbers are in the high thousands. This Bill now means you have one month to register these dogs or face the threat of having them identified and destroyed.”
Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, said the changes will also close legal loopholes to ensure pit bull crosses become a restricted breed and a visual standard for identifying Pit Bull terriers will be gazetted to prevent some of these dogs escaping regulation because of uncertainty over their breed.
“This legislation is the first of several measures to get rid of restricted breeds altogether.
“People should not be in fear of a dog attack when they are walking down a street or their children are playing in their backyard.”
Mr Walsh said the dangerous dog hotline gave the community a way of reporting restricted breed dogs which they believed to be unregistered.
“The hotline is a dedicated number and details of calls will be recorded and passed on to councils to ensure they are alerted to reports of dangerous dogs,” Mr Walsh said.
Farm debt mediation bill
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has addressed Parliament on the benefits of the new Farm Debt Mediation Bill, which will require a creditor to provide a farmer with the option to mediate before taking possession of a property or undertaking an enforcement measure in relation to farm mortgages.
Mr Bull said the legislation, which is presently passing through Parliament, better protected the rights of farmers.
“For many farm families, including a high number in East Gippsland, the farm is not only the family business base, but also the family home. This Bill will reduce the fear farmers have of suddenly finding themselves without their business, home and a job.
“It will assist in providing for the efficient and equitable solution of farm debt disputes. The need for this Bill has been highlighted by the impact of drought over the past decade, followed by the recent floods in not only the north and west of the state, but also in my electorate of East Gippsland recently.
“There have also been a number of other impacts over recent years, including the wild dog problem and going back a few years Ovine Johne’s disease.
“My electorate has a number of communities where farming is crucial to the local economy. It is a sector that needs to be supported by government at all times and this bill delivers on another election commitment to support our food producers.
“The introduction of this legislation is very timely because of the decision to terminate exceptional circumstances drought assistance at a federal level. The loss of this will impact on many farm families who had been receiving this assistance.
“This Bill will require a creditor that is seeking to commence enforcement action over a farm debt, to provide a farmer with the option to mediate before the creditor can commence enforcement action.
“Farmers have no compulsion to take up mediation, but on request, creditors do,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“They key to this legislation is that it prevents creditors from taking enforcement action on farm debt without first exploring, in a neutral setting and in a non-adversarial fashion, alternative terms and conditions which may provide a mutually beneficial solution to the problem.
“It will be structured so a creditor seeking to commence enforcement action must give the farmer the option to mediate. The farmer then has 21 days to consider this offer and either take it up, or refuse – which then results in enforcement proceeding as normal.
“Importantly, if a creditor refuses to meet the obligation to offer mediation, or refuses the willingness of a farmer to partake in mediation, the creditor can be prohibited from taking recovery action.
“Mediation will continue until a mutual agreement is reached, or the small business commissioner is of the view that agreement cannot be reached despite both parties mediating in good faith.
“As a result of this process, farmers have the security of knowing that a creditor cannot suddenly foreclose on their property without being offered the opportunity to discuss alternative options or solutions with a neutral and impartial mediator.” Mr Bull said in cases where communication has broken down over farm debt, this process will facilitate the re-commencement of discussions and negotiations.
“This is a mediation process, not an arbitrary process. It will not impose settlement decisions on farmers or financial institutions. It is about sitting down face to face and discussing all options and alternatives – the way it should be done.
“If recovery action is to follow, this Bill will have provided for a farmer to have had a fair hearing and it will also provide a pathway for farmers to be assisted to negotiate in a professional and sensitive manner, their possible exiting from the industry with dignity.
“A similar model to this works well in NSW and has produced many positive outcomes for both the farmer and the creditor. Importantly, 72% of cases were able to settle disputes.
“It has strong support from both farmers and lenders in NSW as an effective means of resolving farm debt related disputes and a high numbers saying they would use the service again
“It is also worth noting that the VFF is supportive of this legislation as is the Australian Bankers Association, with both organisations having been consulted in development of the Bill.
“One significant difference between the NSW and Victorian models are the costs for mediation. In NSW I am advised it can often be $3,000 for each party and in some cases exceeding $10,000 each.
“In Victoria it will be a nominal fee, planned to be less than $200 with the balance for the mediation session to be paid for by the office of the small business commissioner.
“It will forge a way forward through independent mediation in cases where communication has broken down. However, it will not allow farmers to use this process to delay debt recovery. Time constraints are built into the legislation to avoid it to be used for stalling,” Mr Bull said.
Nats maintain fight on childcare funding
The Federal Government’s refusal to pay its component of Take A Break childcare funding has been slammed in State Parliament this week by Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday night, Mr Bull said “I wish to once again draw attention to Take a Break childcare funding and the potential impact it will have on my region.”
“This program’s guidelines clearly state it is a jointly funded initiative by State and Federal Governments and Victoria’s money is on the table.
“This State Government has taken on the responsibility of funding it in full until the end of this year, allowing the Federal Government ample time to reassess its priorities.
“I call on the State Opposition to lobby their Federal counterparts to fulfil their obligations and the Federal Government to accept its responsibility of funding childcare services.”
Mr Bull later stated “When you think of the wastage of this Federal Government on schemes like the pink bats and the BER funding scheme where there was no accountability, it beggars belief that it turns its back on what is an important program for country Victorians.”
“My Federal colleague, Darren Chester, presented a petition to Federal Parliament recently calling for the reinstatement of funding and several of my colleagues at state level, including Peter Ryan, Paul Weller and Damien Drum have been constantly raising the issue at a state level.”
Mr Bull said he believed the State Opposition also had a role to play.
“Rather than trying to score cheap political points and attempting to lay the blame at the feet of the State Government, they should be lobbying their Federal Labor colleagues to reinstate their share of funding.
“Our Government has put its share on the table under the proviso Federal Labor meets its obligations, so the ball is squarely in their court,” Mr Bull said.
Firewood collection permits abolished
The Coalition Government has - from today - abolished the need for permits for collection of firewood on public land, making it easier and more affordable for those who rely on this resource for heating.
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the abolition of permits was welcomed, as apart from making collection more affordable, it was also more convenient.
“On top of the cost factor, there were situations where those who wanted to collect firewood would have to drive to a certain location to obtain a permit and then often travel many miles in a different direction for collection.
“This reduces the burden of red tape put in place under the previous government and is a vastly improved system on what was previously in place. It makes it easier and cheaper for the community to access an annual supply of firewood,” Mr Bull said.
Minister for Environment, Ryan Smith, said “we know firewood is an important source of heating for many Victorians during winter and this new policy approach will make sure that it continues to be available.”
He said the government had considered more collection times outside of spring and autumn.
“After carefully weighing the options and taking into account public feedback, we have decided to maintain existing collection times,” Mr Smith said.
“The threat of bushfires over summer and the risk of damaging forest access tracks during wet weather in winter were key factors in the decision to maintain current collection times.
“Residents can continue to collect firewood for domestic use during autumn and spring, between March 1 and June 30 and 1 September and November 30.
“This approach will make the rules consistent wherever you are in Victoria and reduce safety and environmental risks,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said firewood collected without a permit could not be sold and there was a cap on the amount each household could collect, particularly in areas where firewood was limited.
Designated firewood collection areas and seasons, with no permit requirements, will come into effect on September 1, 2011 – the start of the spring collection season.
Public safety grants available to local councils
The Coalition Government has launched grants of up to $250,000 for local councils to fund major projects to prevent crime and make their communities safer.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, welcomed the announcement and encouraged the Shire to apply for a share of the $39 million available to local councils to improve community safety and implement measures to fight crime and anti-social behaviour. The ‘Public Safety Infrastructure Fund’ grants program (PSIF Grants) provides councils with funding of up to $250,000 to establish and develop security infrastructure systems which primarily include alarm and lighting systems, CCTV and upgrading other infrastructure measures which will assist in deterring crime in public places.
Mr Bull said, "the Government recognises that local councils are best placed to develop strategies for addressing local crime problems and these grants will support them to do so.”
"Community action can also achieve practical and positive outcomes and the Coalition Government is committed to supporting Victorian communities to achieve community-based crime prevention solutions.
“Members of the community can actively contribute to crime prevention through identifying local crime problems, providing potential solutions and promoting local involvement by working together with local council and police.”
“Action on community safety and crime prevention is a high priority for the Coalition Government and this initiative will help to make communities safer across Victoria,” Mr Bull said.
The grants are part of the Coalition Government’s broader $39 million community crime prevention agenda which includes the Community Safety Fund and graffiti removal grants to support local councils and community groups.
For further information please visit: www.justice.vic.gov.au/infrastructuregrants
Funding to improve black spots
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, welcomed the recent announcement that $1.15 million will be spent in Gippsland towards upgrading five road sites which have been identified as accident black spots.
The funding announcement included two black spot locations in East Gippsland:
$254,000 to construct a roundabout, install signs and upgrade existing lighting in Bairnsdale at Anderson and Goold Streets; and - $168,000 to modify the roundabout, upgrade signage, mark lines, install retro-reflective raised pavement markers (RRPMs), relocate the bus stop and upgrade street lighting in Lakes Entrance at the intersection of Church and Myer Streets.
“Recent road statistics have identified that in comparison to many areas throughout Victoria, East Gippsland has a higher proportion of road accidents and fatalities and therefore it is crucial to introduce measures which will reduce these figures, as well as improve the general road network for all motorists," Mr Bull said.
“It is imperative that we continue to receive sufficient State and Federal government funding to eliminate known black spots and reduce the incidence of accidents throughout East Gippsland and it is a priority of mine to continue to work with my Federal counterpart, Darren Chester, to ensure this happens.”