Easter drivers receive police praise
Drivers have been praised by The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, following the Easter long weekend, with police reporting good behaviour on local roads.
“It was good to see drivers heed the advice of police going into the Easter break, with no fatalities on the roads locally and a small amount of infringements issued over the four-day period,” Mr Bull said.
“Both East Gippsland and Wellington Highway Patrol units allocated a significant amount of resources on the roads for the break, and reported that driver behaviour was good,” he said.
“It was an excellent outcome for that time period for the amount traffic on the roads.”
However, while praising drivers for their behaviour, Mr Bull said infringement notices were issued for low-level speed offences, while there small number of drink-drivers caught on the roads as part of preliminary breath-testing.
Funding to protect threatened species
Local environment groups, schools, senior citizens' organisations and youth groups are encouraged to apply for funding to support actions or projects that support threatened species.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said $800,000 would be provided through the Threatened Species Protection Initiative for small-scale, local threatened species projects that helped the community to better connect with the local environment.
“There are already many local groups and individuals that are active in undertaking projects that protect threatened species and the local environment and this program provides funding to ensure they can continue the important work now and into the future,” Mr Bull said.
Mr Bull said types of activities that could be funded under this arm of the fund include building nest boxes, fencing to protect habitats from trampling, volunteer activities and training and community activities that improve the understanding of threatened species conservation.
In addition to the volunteer action grants, $200,000 has also been earmarked for a crowdfunding campaign, which would be provided on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
“This part of the fund will give community groups access for funding of up to $25,000 which will be equally matched through this threatened species initiative," Mr Bull said.
“This means that locals can raise funds for additional threatened species projects while being supported through the Threatened Species Protection Initiative.
“Previous threatened species that have been the focus of past grants include, the Helmeted Honeyeater, Baw Baw Frog, Hooded Plover, Forest Redgum and various orchid species,” he said.
For more information or to apply for a grant, visit www.delwp.vic.gov.au/tspi.
MID clarity sought by Nationals MPs
The State Government has today been called on to commit to the next round of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) upgrade in State Parliament, given the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease legislation has progressed.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, today asked the Minister for Water to confirm her pre-Christmas commitment and importantly, also confirm the funding stream, as there appeared some confusion on this point.
“My colleague Danny O’Brien and I are seeking clarity on the funding source to make sure our electorates, and all of country Victoria, are not short-changed,” Mr Bull said.
“The issue lies with the fact that pre-Christmas the Water Minister promised to provide $20 million for the next stage of the MID from the $200m Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund.
“Since then, The Nationals have fought hard to secure a $700m Regional Transport Fund, which delivers what is country Victoria’s fair share from the Port lease sale. This has been based on 10% of the estimated port lease sale proceeds.
“Unfortunately, there has been mixed messages since. The Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, who was the Government’s chief negotiator, clearly stated the $700m would only be spent on transport-related infrastructure. Following is his Parliament speech on the matter:
“I give a very clear undertaking that … the 10% allocation will be very consistent with the criteria that are outlined within the bill, and the basket of projects that will be supported will be directly connected to transport, logistics or supporting productive access to ports across the Victorian landscape.” – Gavin Jennings.
“However, the Treasurer said on radio this week the MID funding would come from the Regional Transport Fund. The problem is that it simply does not meet the criteria and to do so would short-change regional Victoria,” Mr Bull said.
Gippsland South Nationals MP, Danny O’Brien, said that given the MID upgrade clearly does not fit within the scope of the $700m Regional Transport Fund and taking into account Mr Jennings’ comments, it clearly needs confirmation from the Water Minister that this money will come from the Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs fund as she promised.
“That is why we have asked the Water Minister to re-confirm this funding will come from the Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund, so the larger fund we fought so hard for to improve transport in the regions, is not spent in areas it was not allocated for and the regions are not short-changed. She has one month to now respond and clear this up,” Mr O’Brien said.
Minister responds to carriage air-con failure
A new system will be trialled later this year that will hopefully provide a fix to the air-conditioning problems on V/Line’s long haul carriages, including those on the Bairnsdale line.
Following a number of complaints relating to the failure of the air-conditioning this summer, The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, raised the matter in a recent meeting with V/Line in Parliament.
“I had raised it some months ago, but did not receive a response, so I took the opportunity to bring it up again when we met in person,” he said.
“V/Line advised it has identified that when the temperature hits 36 degrees the air-conditioning system on the carriages cannot cope. When it does not operate on the hottest of days (when most needed), this causes great discomfort for passengers.
“I understand there was recently a situation in another part of the state where the train was halted and replaced by buses due to the extreme heat and no air conditioning.
“V/Line advised work was being done on rectifying this problem, but details were limited apart from me being told it was ‘not a simple fix’.
“I subsequently followed up with the Minister and asked when the air-conditioning would be either upgraded or repaired.
“She has now responded to me and advised that an upgrade to the air-conditioning on one N carriage is being trialled in the third quarter of 2016 and a decision would be made on further upgrades taking into account the outcomes of this trial.
“There is now an expectation V/Line and the Minister’s office will keep the community updated on how this work is proceeding,” Mr Bull said.
Wild dog advice ignored as aerial baiting scrapped
Local farmers will feel the effects of the Victorian Government’s decision to go against advice of the now disbanded Wild Dog Advisory Committee and not bait for wild dogs this autumn.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the Government would only bait in spring, and that it had effectively ignored advice from the Committee, which had strong East Gippsland representation – a committee that the government recently disbanded.
“Local farmers have said autumn is the best time to bait, because the pups are an easier target. While the cut to one aerial baiting program for the year is not good news, even worse news is that they are doing it at the wrong time of year,” Mr Bull said.
“An annual aerial baiting program will be held in spring, going against the committee’s advice to bait in both autumn and spring, or if only once, in autumn.
“It would appear decisions are being made in Melbourne by people who know next to nothing about the problem and who are not listening to local advice.
“This is a complex problem and it is not an easy solution, but it makes no sense to sack the source of local knowledge and go against its recommendations.
“Cancelling autumn baiting is the latest blow following the axing of the successful wild dog bounty, the sudden sacking of the community advisory panel, and months of limbo for the control program.
“Labor’s cuts are a total insult to our local producers who come under huge financial and emotional stress because of wild dogs.
“Wild dog control needs an integrated approach using all proven methods but Labor just keeps cutting, and they are undoing all the good work of the community-led Wild Dog Control Action Plan,” Mr Bull said.
We simply don’t need to turn the de-sal on
The State Government this week made the decision to order 50 Gigalitres of water from the desalination plant at a cost of $27 million.
Having considered the data in the attached table, I find it difficult to understand why.
Current metropolitan storage levels, with winter around the corner, are 10% above the average level over the past 10 years.
On top of this is must be remembered this water can only be used for town water supplies, it will not be used to fill up dams or other agricultural purposes and it cannot be piped to the drought areas in our state.
Water levels are currently at 63.7 per cent (March 2016) compared to 30 per cent in March 2009 during the worst of the drought.
And water levels are almost the same as March 2012 when storages later that year ended up at the highest levels in a decade at 81.4 per cent.
Even if Victoria floods, this order cannot be cancelled. This cost is on top of the $1.8 million per day (yes that is right, per day) that we are paying for this facility for 23 more years.
The Nationals were not opposed to the construction of a small, 50GL capacity desalination plant, but we have always expressed grave concerns over the size and the excessive total cost of the Wonthaggi plant that the previous Labor Government delivered.
All up this facility will cost an estimated $18-19 billion when it is paid off (and that is without the charges when water is ordered). When you consider the Kwinana Desalination Plant in Perth that was completed in 2006 and has roughly 30–50% the output of the Wonthaggi plant cost just $387 million, you can see the difference.
Fast Facts - Melbourne water storages
Current storage levels - 63.7 per cent
Highest level recorded (in past ten years) - 81.4 per cent (Nov 2012)
Lowest level on record - 25.9 per cent (June 2009)
Average storage levels (During March, 2007-2016) - 53.62 per cent
March 7, 2016