Swift’s Creek netball courts raised in Parliament
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, in Parliament this week used the adjournment debate on Tuesday to request the Sports Minister fund the upgrade of the Swift’s Creek netball courts.
Mr Bull said the project was a pre-election commitment of the Coalition and told the Minister he’d been advised by community members that East Gippsland Shire currently had an application pending through the Country Football and Netball funding program.
“Swifts Creek is a small rural community which has a very active football and netball club participating in the Omeo and District Football Netball League. As we see in many country communities, in many ways the football netball club is the backbone of the Swift’s Creek community.
“Football and netball clubs are the heart of small rural towns and the more kids we can get into local sport the better, so it is important we invest in facilities like these.
“The Swift Creek Recreation Reserve Committee of Management and the East Gippsland Shire Council have both identified the current playing surface is in need of significant repair.
“This project proposes major drainage works to reduce the impact of water on the courts as well as patching and resurfacing works and line marking.
“The existing surface is currently problematic for the netballers, especially in wet weather, so this upgrade will be a big benefit for players and reduce the likelihood of injury.”
Mr Bull said the club had $14,000 to contribute to this project, which was a significant contribution for a country community and an indication of the local enthusiasm to have this project completed.
“Of course the Minister should also be aware he is more than welcome to come to East Gippsland and have a look at the facilities and it would be my delight to host him in the light of some sort of announcement.
“In fact I would be delighted to shout him one of the famous Swift’s Creek pies should he see his way clear,” Mr Bull said.
The Sports Minister now has one month to respond to Mr Bull’s formal request.
Bully suggests an East Gippsland Pattie’s pie night
The last thing my waistline needs is to sink a pie (or two), but this weekend my family will be having a pie night – a Pattie’s Pie night – and I urge you all to do the same in the coming weeks.
Patties Foods is a great local company that has done so much for our community over many decades and those who live locally will know that only too well.
From the many important causes they have supported in our community to the countless clubs and events they have sponsored – no one can argue they are not a heart and soul East Gippsland company.
Patties is also one of our region’s greatest success stories, growing from a small family run cake shop in Lakes Entrance in 1966 to employing around 600 people today.
The issues of the past week have been well publicised and indeed they are unfortunate for both those affected and a company that undertakes testing not only well above Australian standards, but has amongst the highest levels of testing undertaken by such companies.
At the time of writing this column the link between the illness and the berries is yet to be confirmed and remains a precautionary recall of product.
However, regardless of if/when this occurs - I believe this is the time when we should all be showing our support to a company that has done so much for us.
On Sunday night this week I posted on social media a comment of support for the company and have never seen anything go as viral so quickly from a local context with overwhelming support. Management and staff should know they have the community’s support at this time (if you have any doubt look at my facebook page).
It may well be a case that improvements to national testing come from this unfortunate situation, but we should all note that this product is imported as Australian growers cannot meet demand, by a company that supports local producers where it can and tests imported produce over and above the national standards.
Pattie’s has given our region so much over a long period of time. I believe that at this time, more than ever, we need to do our bit for them.
If you feel the same way, my suggestion is for you to join me in having a pie night – a Pattie’s Pie night – so we can give a bit back to this fantastic local company that will be here for many more years to come.
Alan Stuart’s contribution on State record
The outstanding community contribution of local resident, Alan Stuart, a recent recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, was recognised this week in State Parliament.
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, opened by saying “I wish to put on the public record the efforts of a great Australian from my electorate, Alan Stuart.”
“Alan was recently awarded an Order of Australia Medal and was named East Gippsland Citizen of the Year and Lindenow Citizen of the Year at the East Gippsland Australia Day celebrations.
“He has been an active member of the Mount Taylor Fire Brigade for almost 60 years. Joining as a 15 year old, he went on to serve as captain for over a decade.
“He was a founding member of the Bairnsdale Racecourse Committee of Management serving for 34 years and was awarded a life membership of the Polocrosse Club and also served on the Mount Taylor Hall and Camp Draft committees.
“Of more recent times Alan has dedicated countless hours to fire recovery efforts throughout Gippsland,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“In 2003 he coordinated a volunteer effort to clean up burnt fencing and sheds and then erect new fencing in the areas of the High Country affected by bushfire.
“He organised 33 volunteers and their families into groups, working over 11 weekends on properties in Gelantipy, Black Mountain, Bindi, Benambra and Suggan Buggan.
“Following the Black Saturday fires in 2009, Alan coordinated another volunteer clean up and fencing venture in Callignee, Currajung and Traralgon South for 35 weekends spread over 18 months.
“More Alan Stuart coordinated volunteer clean ups also occurred following fires in 2011 in Tostaree and his latest efforts have concentrated on Glenaladale, Buchan and Bonang -Tubbut communities.
“Alan is a humble man who in typical fashion said he did not know what all the fuss was about when receiving these awards and gave credit to his band of volunteers, but he is a great East Gippslander and very deserving of the recognition he has received,” Mr Bull concluded.
We need strong financial management and our fair share of funds
There is an old saying that politics is like trying to solve a $100 problem with $50.
There will always be demands for funding from all sectors, whether it be health, education, disability, roads, public transport, tourism, arts, industry, sport or the many other areas that seek a piece of the pie, which in Victoria is a Budget of around $50b annually.
The task of any government of any political persuasion is to divide the pie with an allocation to each sector in an attempt to meet its needs. This is always challenging.
However what is a non-negotiable is that you have to keep the budget and debt under control. The reasons are obvious - just like a household debt, state and national debt has to be paid back.
In government, too much debt will affect your credit rating. We all hear about credit ratings, but what does this mean?
The higher the credit rating means less dollars are used to pay interest bills - leaving more funds for things like health, education and roads.
If the credit rating is downgraded, more interest is paid and there is less in the coffers. Victoria and NSW are currently the only states to have AAA credit ratings.
To highlight this, as was pointed out by the former Treasurer last year - if Victoria refinanced its debt and had Queensland’s current credit rating, it would be paying an extra $170 million a year in higher interest repayments. That is around 20 new schools per annum.
In the past four years we have seen 10 ratings downgrades of Australian states, so there’s no doubt ratings agencies are scrutinising performances of our governments heavily.
I am pleased the previous Victorian governments have been able to maintain the AAA credit rating and the immediate past government delivered surpluses in each year to pay its debt, while increasing funding in important areas like health, education, emergency services, rural roads, mental health and disability.
In the past week I have heard/read in some media, members the new government saying the former government cut funding to health and education. This is not true and to be specific here are the realities:
• Health: (Labor's last health budget in 2010/11 was $12.3b – the Coalition's last health budget in 2014-15 was $14.952 billion) - a 22% increase.
• Education: Coalition's last budget $9.2 billion - $1 billion more than Labor's last budget.
I have also heard the previous government cut CFA funding. Again not true. Labor’s 2010 CFA Budget was $391m and Coalition’s last budget was $457m and each of the past four years has been higher than Labor’s last budget.
One of the big assessment criteria for the new government (like every government in Australia) will be its ability to manage the Budget, contain debt and keep the credit rating (without excuse).
I say no excuse in relation to debt because governments always face challenges.
For example, not long into the first term of the previous government, after inheriting a $12b debt and a position where more was going out of the state’s coffers in spending than coming in in revenue - $4.1b in GST revenue was unexpectedly stripped from the State’s bottom line, which threatened the credit rating.
The reality is you have to adjust to live within your means and not let things get out of control.
Being from a rural electorate, my personal interest will be in this sound financial management being achieved while ensuring rural Victoria has the same level of investment support.
With the scrapping of the Regional Growth Fund ($500m per term) that helped deliver initiatives like our All Abilities Playground, Bairnsdale Library, Mall upgrade, Macallister Irrigation District upgrade, Bastion Point boat ramp and many more projects throughout the region worth millions, I have a level of concern over what will replace it and how much will be allocated to country Victoria.
All Governments deserve a chance to show their fiscal responsibility. Like all Victorians, East Gippslanders need this to be achieved whilst receiving our fair share of investment and support – on both counts only time will tell.
Bastion Point completion praised in Parliament
120 recreational boats per day used Bastion Point over the holiday period
The completed Bastion Point Boat Ramp at Mallacoota was praised in State Parliament this week by Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, who said it would be a great economic driver for the region.
Mr Bull praised those in the community who had pushed the project, including groups such as the Mallacoota and District Business and Tourism Association, Mallacoota Ocean Access Committee and in particular, Mr John Rudge, who had advocated on the issue for many years.
“I had a short stay in Mallacoota in the New Year and visited the ramp both of an evening and a morning and it was great to see the activity.
“I was told there had been up to 120 recreational craft per day and the stories I heard from visiting boaties at the ramp was that they thought it was terrific and would be getting the word out about the new facility.
“I have no doubt that when more Victorian off-shore game fishers become aware of its completion, we will see less driving to southern New South Wales and more recreational fishers utilising ocean access at this location.
“Apart from them agreeing it was much safer, they were generally impressed with the construction and quality with one chap telling me he fished right along the NSW south coast and this was the best ramp he had seen.”
Mr Bull said he was delighted the Coalition Government had provided $6.3m to the project which would provide economic benefits for years to come and praised the East Gippsland Shire Council for its contribution and overseeing the project.
“Although it is a great facility, like all ocean access ramps it will not be without incident over time and caution and safety remain paramount considerations for anyone using the ramp,” Mr Bull said.
Country roads budget slashed under Labor
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, inspects a damaged section of road near Cobungra with Bruce Strong from VicRoads.
East Gippslanders will see a big reduction in road works and will be dodging more pot holes than ever on their local roads because Daniel Andrews has ripped $375 million out of the rural roads budget.
Labor has scrapped the very popular $160 million Country Roads and Bridges Program that provided $1 million per year to all Victoria’s rural councils, including East Gippsland and Wellington, to assist with their required road and bridge works.
It is also significantly reducing money from other rural road maintenance funds, diverting it to metropolitan Melbourne.
After a question in Parliament today on the funding, Roads Minister, Luke Donnellan tried to re-write history saying funding for Country Roads and Bridges had expired rather than it being cut by Labor.
“The cold hard fact is the program is funded in the Budget until June 30 this year and the Liberal-Nationals Coalition had committed to funding it for another four years.
“This answer clearly shows that Labor will not be renewing this very popular funding program, which from my time as Minister for Local Government, I know was very popular with all rural councils.
“If you drive through East Gippsland at the moment, the amount of road works going on is significant. We came to office with a lot to do in relation to roads and there remains a lot to do, but the job was well underway.
There are major works currently underway between Lakes Entrance and Orbost and also between Orbost and Cann River and we have seen significant funds spent on the Great Alpine Road and Omeo Highway, as well as major intersection upgrades.
“The Country Roads and Bridges Program meant country Victorians had better and safer roads to travel and at the same time it freed up council funds to spend on other important community programs and infrastructure,” Mr Bull said.
“Last year the Coalition Government’s total investment on roads maintenance was over $500 million. This compares to Daniel Andrews’ plan to invest $1 billion over eight years into regional roads – which is just $125 million a year.
“So the Andrews Labor Government has actually cut the roads budget by $375 million a year,” which is very disappointing.
“The Minister can start to bridge this funding shortfall by again committing to the Country Roads and Bridges Program,” Mr Bull said.