Hey Mr Andrews, don’t forget about us!
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, with VicRoads’ Bruce Strong looking at a badly damaged section of the Great Alpine Road near Cobungra that received funding for much needed repairs from the previous Coalition Government. Mr Bull is calling on the Andrews’ Labor Government to not forget rural road funding in the upcoming May budget.
Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, said he was hoping for good news for East Gippsland in next month’s May Budget and encouraged Labor not to forget rural and regional Victoria, at the same time expressing grave concerns about massive rural road funding cuts, which he said was the most critical concern for the region.
“The reality is Labor is stating it is going to spend $1billion on country roads over the next eight years – when the fact is the Coalition spent $1billion on non-metro roads over the past two.
“So while we were spending $500 million per year, Labor has announced it is going to spend $125m per year – I am sure all East Gippslanders will agree that this is a massive cut in an area we can ill afford.
“At first we thought this was a mistake in their funding platform, but when our Shadow Roads Minister challenged the Government, it did not change this figure or refute it.
“We have a lot of road work currently underway and anyone just has to drive the Highway from the border to the Latrobe Valley to see a sample. This was funded by the Coalition, but my concern is this work will dry up later this year when there remains much to do,” said Mr Bull.
“To me the roads funding cut is the most critical issue for our region, but the Andrews’ Government need only look at the Coalition’s pre-election commitments for Gippsland East for ideas about the region’s needs and these include, but are not limited to:
• $12.5 million to complete Stage Two of Bairnsdale Secondary College
• $173m V/Line rail upgrade package, much of which was for the Gippsland line
• $10 million to continue the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District
• Additional weekend train services to Stratford and Bairnsdale
• $75,000 for the Maffra Hospital master plan
• $200,000 to upgrade Apex Park at Lakes Entrance
• $1.2 million for a synthetic playing surface for the region
• $350,000 to join with East Gippsland Shire to develop an adventure festival
• $50,000 to upgrade the Swift’s Creek netball facilities
• $2m to undertake voluntary buy-back of Gippsland Lakes’ Commercial fishing licences.
“These are just some of the commitments made, but I will also be looking to the new Government to continue some existing funding streams as we had committed to, including $8 million over four years to continue the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund.
“The Budget also provides the chance for the new Government to reinstate some very important programs it has already publicly said it will cut. These include:
• The $160m Country Roads and Bridges Program that saw Wellington and East Gippsland Shires each receive $1m per year for urgent works on their networks (this is on top of the general roads funding cut mentioned above).
• The $10.4 million Roadside Weed and Pest program that again saw Wellington and East Gippsland Shires receive funds committed to predominantly roadside weed control.
• The wild dog bounty that resulted in over 1,500 pelts being handed in – many from the Tambo and Licola Valleys.
“I have said on a number of occasions over recent years, the vast majority of announcements made by the Coalition came over the course of the year rather than on Budget Day as this was the nature of the Regional Growth Fund where applications were assessed year round.
“The All Abilities Playground, library and mall upgrades, Bastion Point Boat Ramp, Macalister Irrigation District upgrade, the rail line upgrade and more public transport services, new sports facilities and many other multi-million dollar projects were all made over the course of the year.
“However now the Regional Growth Fund has been scrapped, there is more of a focus on Budget Day for the regions and we need some good news, particularly in the area of roads.”
All Abilities Playground recognised
The All Abilities Playground that was opened in 2013 by State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, and funded largely by the previous State Government has received national recognition.
Bairnsdale’s All Abilities Playground, funded by the previous State Government, East Gippsland Shire and the community received a “highly commended” recognition at the 2015 National Awards for Local Government.
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, who was also on the community All Abilities Playground Committee, said it was an outstanding achievement.
“The day that fantastic facility opened was one of the most rewarding days I have had in the job and to see it utilised to the extent it has been is amazing.
“This is due recognition to all who played a part in its design and construction, including the committee, the designers, the builders (C&W Excavations) and the shire team headed up by Anthony Nelson.
“The proof is in the pudding with this facility. It is state-of-the-art and has served a great number of causes, from birthdays to family reunions, but perhaps none more important that providing a great respite facility for those families of special needs children.
“Our government was very pleased to have contributed just on $1m for the project,” said Mr Bull.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, said the awards were an annual celebration of local governments’ achievements in delivering targeted, quality services to Australians in urban and regional communities.
“I congratulate all the nominees for this year’s awards,” Mr Truss said.
“The calibre of this year’s entries was outstanding, so much so that in addition to the winning entries, a number of projects have been highly commended.
“The entries are a credit to all those who contributed to delivering the various projects, which are all making a significant difference in their respective areas.”
Strong advocacy pays off
The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien with Sale Specialist School principal Shelagh Donegan and School Council President Jane Nash.
A commitment of $7.6 million for the completion of the new Sale Specialist School was welcomed today by State MP’s Tim Bull and Danny O’Brien, who with the school community have been advocating strongly for this outcome.
“Along with Danny, we have raised this matter numerous times in Parliament already this year – in fact every sitting week to date, stressing its importance. We tabled a petition from the community in Parliament and in February I formally invited the Minister to visit the school community, which he accepted and today’s announcement is a great result,” said Mr Bull.
“The previous Coalition Government purchased the land and provided $4m for stage one of the school last year and pre-election committed a further $15 million for its completion. While today’s announcement does not match that fully, it is welcomed and we will work with the school to ensure they are provided a first class facility that meets the needs of the students.
“Since November there has been a level of uncertainty in the school community, but due to its outstanding advocacy, the commitment has been matched by the Government and I thank them for coming to the party.”
Mr Bull said today is great news for students, parents and teachers at the Sale Specialist School, who have worked hard for this outcome.
“This new school will be a game changer for students, who are currently based at three different campuses in Sale and this is why we got the ball rolling and then committed the funds for its completion,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said the new school would benefit students from across the region.
“The school community has done a fantastic job in their advocacy for this outcome and it has been a high priority for Tim and myself to bring this to fruition.
“Having students across a number of different campuses is not the ideal environment for delivering the best learning outcomes.
“To have the students located at the one site, with modern classrooms and facilities, and plenty of room to play and move about is what was needed and now it is going to happen after a period of uncertainty,” Mr O’Brien said.
Labor’s roads policy hurts the country
Daniel Andrews has shown his contempt for rural and regional Victoria this week by wasting up to $800 million to not build the East West Link in Melbourne, while cutting vital funds for country roads.
Daniel Andrews has confirmed the Labor Government will pay $420 million to cancel the contract for the East West Link. This in addition to around $400 million in sunk costs already incurred by the State Government including land acquisitions, project development and bid costs.
Shadow Minister for Roads and Infrastructure, Ryan Smith, said Daniel Andrews was spending around $800 million to avoid building a road in Melbourne yet couldn’t find $160 million to continue the Country Roads and Bridges Program.
“Daniel Andrews is ripping hundreds of millions of dollars out of rural and regional roads funding while at the same time paying up to $800 million to avoid building a road in Melbourne,” Mr Smith said.
“This is a slap in the face to country Victorians.”
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the scrapping of the Country Roads and Bridges program that supported councils was only part of the cuts to country roads.
“The government’s own policy is to spend $1billion on non-metropolitan roads over the next eight years. That’s $125 million per year, well short of the $500 million that was being spent by the Coalition.
“Our roads are in need of repair. We have a lot of works going on at the moment that were funded by the Coalition.
“People have seen the major works completed and underway on roads like the Princes Highway, Great Alpine Road and Omeo Highway to name just a few, but it appears the works schedule is about to dry up when there remains much more to do.
“We just can’t sit back and cop this in the neck. This Government must restore the funding to country roads that was in place over recent years,” Mr Bull said
Government grazing claims a “falsehood”
Grazing for fire fuel reduction purposes was back on the agenda in State Parliament this week with Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, welcoming the comments of eminent bushfire scientist David Packham, who labelled the Minister’s claims on the matter a “falsehood”.
Speaking on the National Parks Amendment Bill, Mr Bull said “the Minister has said the science was clear in relation to cattle grazing not being an effective bushfire mitigation tool, but this is not true according to Mr Packham, who many regard as our most respected specialist on fire research.”
“David Packham OAM, MAppSci, has worked for 50 years in bushfire research in CSIRO, Monash University, the Australian Emergency Management Institute and in fire weather policy at the Bureau of Meteorology.
“His extensive research (61 publications) is acknowledged world-wide and is possibly the most eminent knowledge base in the country on fire related matters. His comments are as follows:
“The Minister is claiming that there exists ‘extensive scientific research’ and that ‘the science is clear’. On the subject of grazing and fuel reduction, adequate scientific work just does not exist in any credible form.
“It is a falsehood to pretend that it does so. The Minister’s comments in Parliament imply wider scientific work that has been done in the Alpine area automatically supports this Legislation. It does not.
“I have grave concerns about the veracity of the small amount of completed scientific work that is available on the subject of grazing and fire threat. The methodology used to develop this work is questionable.
“Minister Neville, in attempting to deal with the politically difficult issue of Alpine ecology and its relationship to one grazing activity has no doubt listened to advice that is politically based, rather than taking notice of the experiential and theoretical evidence, the whole evidence and nothing but the evidence.”
Mr Packham then went on to list eight reasons as to why the recently scrapped grazing trial should continue and these included:
• By evicting cattle, a great and harmful error may have been made, but by terminating the trial when more and better research is needed is intellectual, environmental and civilised vandalism.
• Leaving the High Country and the Red Gum forests to become fuel clogged without grazing and burning in the absence of rigorous evidence is a disgrace.
Mr Bull told Parliament of several studies in the United States of very recent times that concluded grazing reduces fire risk and spoke of public land grazing currently going on in several European countries on public land, as it is considered an effective control measure.
“I also note the comments from Professor Mark Adams, a respected expert on fire related matters from the University of Sydney, who said that he does not agree with assertions that no further research is needed and in fact recommended research be expanded in this area.
“Yet we have a Minister who says the ‘science is in’ on grazing being an effective fire management tool. She is just plain and simply wrong.
“Not only is it going ahead in other countries as a fire control measure, but there are independent experts and independent studies showing it is an effective method of fire mitigation.
“It is also worth noting that in this trial we were talking about 60 cattle in carefully selected areas, but the Government halts this research quoting damage, but makes no mention of the tens of thousands of Sambar deer, brumbies and feral pigs and goats on the same land.”
Mr Bull said that although the legislation passed through the Lower House today he was hopeful it would be defeated in the Upper House.
Minister invited to Secondary College
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, pictured with Bairnsdale Secondary College students, Katherine Dobinson and Matthew Corbett and Principal, Ian Hall at the officially opening of the $10 million Stage one redevelopment. TIm has invited the new Education Minister to visit the school and commit to funding stage 2 of the redevelopment.
With the Bairnsdale Secondary College awaiting news on funding for its completion (stage two), the Minister for Education was this week invited to visit the school community to discuss the matter.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday night, State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, outlined the need for the half built school to be completed and extended an invitation to Minister James Merlino to visit the college with him.
“The background is well known in that the previous Coalition Government built stage one and committed $12.5 million pre-election for stage two. With the change in government in November we now need Labor to commit.”
Mr Bull told Parliament the Bairnsdale Secondary College is the biggest secondary school in the East Gippsland electorate and that stage one has provided a state-of-the-art facility.
“I attended the most recent school council meeting and had a good chat with the principal, school council president and members of the full council about completing the project.
“I have visited the half-built new facility on a number of occasions, including one visit with the former education minister where we chatted with staff and students.
“It provides a great teaching environment and discussions with staff indicate they are very happy and the students agree that it is a fantastic learning facility for them.”
Mr Bull said that while the new section of the school was first class, it would not function at full capacity until it was completed.
“I was very pleased the Coalition announced a commitment pre-election, but it did not attract a similar commitment from Labor despite the lobbying efforts of the school community.
“This is disappointing and we need to work with the current government to ensure this project is well and truly on their radar.
“The best way to have the situation understood is to have the new Minister come and see for himself and that is why I have invited him to visit.”
Mr Bull said under Parliamentary regulation, the Minister now had 30 days to respond to his formal invitation, but hoped he could soon show the Minister around the secondary college with the principal and school council president.