Third Minister in six months hears about Lakes Entrance holiday policing levels
The issue of policing levels in Lakes Entrance has yet again been raised in State Parliament with Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, putting it on notice with the new Minister today.
In an often heated question time where police resourcing was the issue, Mr Bull said this was the third Police Minister in the past six months he had raised this with.
“The reason I asked the new Police Minister is because in a 2013 media release she said to not double the numbers of police in Bellarine (her own electorate) over peak holiday times, when the population doubled, left the community exposed,” he said.
“So given these were her words and her clear view, I thought it was fair to ask that when the population of Lakes Entrance will more than double these upcoming school holidays, can she apply the same logic to my electorate that she did to her own.
“Not to mention at Christmas and Easter when the population grows tenfold.
“Unfortunately, like the previous two Ministers, her answer was that police are being provided with the resources they need.
“This is simply not right. For a start, there are increasing numbers of police coming forward in metropolitan areas saying they need more resources to tackle the violence being perpetrated by groups like the Apex Gang.
“The Minister is saying one thing and the police on the ground are saying another.
“I don’t think our ask for Lakes Entrance is a big one. The community simply wants a few extra police to assist with the increased workload that comes with holiday times and numbers that will allow the station to be open during the daytime in peak holiday times, which is not the case at present,” Mr Bull said.
Grants to improve community safety
Communities have the chance to access funding streams that are intended to boost security and help tackle local crime issues.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, encouraged community groups and councils to apply for the Community Safety Fund grants of up to $10,000.
“Not-for-profit community groups and councils, through these grants, can deliver projects that help prevent crime, improve safety and strengthen community engagement,” Mr Bull said.
“Residents have the right to feel safe while they are in their local community and these grants further encourage that,” he said.
Mr Bull said security screens, alarms, fencing and gates had been funded in the past, while the grants offer small-scale improvements and upgrades to public spaces.
“The grants can also help fund awareness and educational initiatives to help prevent motor vehicle theft and personal property theft, along with retail burglaries,” he said.
Further information, including guidelines for those looking to apply for the grants, is available at crimeprevention.vic.gov.au.
Roads maintenance cut, while reducing country speed limits ‘disappointing’
ews the Labor Government intends to reduce speed limits on country roads rather than restore its cuts to roads asset management funding is disappointing, according to Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“Clearly there is strong bipartisan support to tackle our road toll that is too high, but it is of concern the Premier has said the plan involves lowering speeds on country roads, while at the same time cutting funding in this area,” Mr Bull said.
“The reality is Labor’s own Budget papers show massive cuts to road asset management funding in recent years.
“In the Coalition’s final year of government, it included $486.4 million in road asset management, which was reduced to $419m in Labor’s first year, a reduction of 13.7%.
“The recent budget showed a slight forecast increase, but it remains a 9.4% cut on the level of funding provided in 2014/15.
“In an area where funding needed to continue to increase to improve our roads, we have it significantly cut, while the Government says it is going to reduce speed limits.
“To cap things off, this is also happening at a time when it is skiting about the surplus it has from tax increases. There is no good reason why our roads funding should not be at least maintained.
“Reducing speed limits, while cutting roads funding, does not add up and will not be accepted by country motorists.
“If there is a good reason to reduce a speed limit on a particular road, that is by all means something that should be looked at, but this announcement that speeds will be reduced on a range of country roads while funding for these roads has been the subject of a major cut is not on,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says maintenance on country roads should come ahead of reduced speed limits.
Carols ban answers still being sought
In this column I wish to make some comments around the government’s changes to the singing of Christmas Carols in primary schools and the uncertainty that remains relating to this matter.
In the past six months it would be the topic I have received the most feedback on.
Last year the State Government announced restrictions on the singing of Christmas Carols in Primary schools. At the time many media reports referred to it as a “ban”, while the Minister said publicly it was not a ban. Little wonder there was, and remains, a level of confusion.
It has been widely reported the issue is around what is referred to by this Government as “praise music” where the teaching and singing of some carols is allowed, but not “praise music”.
To better explain, under this scenario, old favourites like Silent Night, Good King Wenceslas, Hark The Herald Angels Sing etc. are considered “praise music” as they refer to religious figures - but Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, are fine because they focus on the non-religious aspects of Christmas.
If this is the case, I believe it is political correctness gone mad. Although a few in the community have expressed an alternate view in discussions with me, on the feedback I have received it is a topic that has clearly raised the ire of many.
My view is that most primary school aged children aren’t even aware there’s a religious dimension to Christmas carols. It’s Christmas, and singing carols is just what we do and have always done and this includes the “praise music” carols listed above.
A number also teach about respect and kindness, something we can all do with a regular dose of.
I have had several non-religious people commenting how ridiculous they believe this is, as they are aware it is an Australian tradition at school concerts and the like. They see this as more an issue of tradition rather than religion.
To try and get a direct answer from the Minister to clarify what the situation is, I lodged two questions on notice in parliament on February 9, which read:
(1) In a classroom containing only the teaching staff and students in curriculum time, can teachers allow students to sing traditional carols/hymns containing references to Jesus Christ, such as Away in a Manger.
(2) Can teachers teach traditional carols/hymns containing references to Jesus Christ to students in school curriculum time (in preparation for school concerts).
I thought this would clear it up. It would also allow me to accurately respond to the more than 1,200 who signed a petition opposing the changes.
The Minister, by Parliamentary guidelines, had one month to respond in writing (March 9), but here we are over three months later and after three reminders from the Speaker to provide an answer – he still has not.
It is not common for Ministers to ignore a directive from the Speaker once, three times is almost unheard of. This would indicate to me, he is unsure himself.
Hopefully we will receive an answer soon that clarifies this matter once and for all.
May 13, 2016
Natural gas to arrive late next year
Homes and businesses in Lakes Entrance and Orbost should be connected to natural gas supply in late 2017, according to the company delivering the project, said Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“The delivery of natural gas to eastern towns within East Gippsland, including nine other regions across Victoria, was secured by the Coalition in late 2014 through the Energy for the Regions Program using a compressed natural gas delivery solution,” Mr Bull said
Mr Bull said the Government contracted Brookfield to deliver reticulated natural gas from ‘mother’ stations, which would compress the gas supply from Bass Strait.
“The gas will then be trucked to ‘daughter’ stations on the outskirts of Lakes Entrance and Orbost, with homes connected from there,” he said.
Mr Bull said there would not be a lot of visible activity within the town while Brookfield is preparing for the construction of ‘daughter’ stations (including land purchase, planning and approvals), however the fact Brookfield had identified suitable land for the ‘daughter’ stations in both towns was pleasing.
“There is a lot of work to go and it won’t be until the third and fourth quarters in 2017 when Brookfield will finish connecting homes and businesses to natural gas in Orbost and Lakes Entrance, but land identification is a key step in this long process,” he said.
Mr Bull said Brookfield, in conjunction with Tas Gas Retail, a subsidiary of Brookfield and the initial gas retailer for those wishing to connect to the network, would hold community awareness sessions in Lakes Entrance and Orbost to provide specific information and to be answerable to any questions related to the project.
“It’s an exciting time for businesses and residents in these towns, as the delivery of natural gas provides a cheaper alternative as well as business opportunities.”
Volunteers must retain fire control
The need to preserve the rights of the CFA and its volunteers was addressed in State Parliament this week by Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
Mr Bull said after seeing a draft of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) currently being negotiated by the Government and the United Firefighters' Union, the concerns that have been raised by a large number of CFA volunteers are well justified.
"In the past fortnight I have been contacted by many brigade representatives from Glenaladale, Mallacoota, Bemm River, Lakes Entrance, Maffra, Paynesville, Heyfield, Sarsfield, Woodglen, Bairnsdale and Hillside and more often than not it has been brigade captains and senior members," Mr Bull told Parliament.
"Their commentary has been similar. They want no transfer of any powers from the CFA to the UFU, want no diminishing of responsibilities and no changes that will impact their ability to protect their communities,” he said.
"If any of these areas are compromised by the current EBA negotiations with the UFU, large numbers of volunteers, many long-serving, have threatened to walk away from the organisation if this power of veto stays in the EBA.
"This would be a tragedy for country communities as our local brigades do so much more than defend our assets from fires. They are involved in servicing our country communities in many other areas.
"They are members of a proud organisation that has served our communities well for generations and do not want to be dictated to in any way, shape or form by a metropolitan-based union.
"To date the Premier's only comments have been that 'no decisions have been made and negotiations are continuing on a fair deal' and no more.
"The Minister has stated she was not happy with the UFU's log of claims, but unfortunately the Premier appears to have taken over negotiations after UFU members openly campaigned in marginal seats at the State election.
"What our volunteers want added to that comment is for the Premier to say that while negotiations are continuing, he will guarantee there will be no transfer of any responsibilities from the CFA to the UFU, or that he will not in any way diminish the decision-making powers of the CFA - it should be quite easy.
"Paid firefighters deserve a fair pay deal, no one has any problems with that at all – however no deal should be the detriment to the independence of the CFA and its volunteers," Mr Bull said.
For those wishing to sign a petition supporting the CFA volunteers, it can be done at Mr Bull's electorate office at 143 Main Street, Bairnsdale.