With the upcoming State election, there is one local need within our community that stands out – the Bairnsdale Secondary College – and I want to dedicate my final column to calling on bipartisan support for it.
Come December we are going to have either a Liberal or Labor Premier and regardless of who it is, both sides need to have committed to this project pre-election to ensure it is built for the sake of our community.
No matter what other commitments are made, few would argue it is not our region’s top priority. Here is the current situation:
On coming to government in 2010 the Liberal Nationals provided the $10 million and built stage one, at the same time committing over $12m to stage two pre-election.
This was not bi-partisan, so following the election, we (myself and school council), invited the Minister – in good will – to visit the school and discuss the serious issues.
These include the constant inundation every time it rains heavily, flooding the library and classrooms. Then in the weeks after, mould sets in – making them unusable. After hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs, it then rains again and the same occurs. Repairs have already cost millions.
It causes disruptions to students, teachers and the entire school curriculum as well as being unsafe.
The Minister said on local radio in 2015 he would visit ‘when his diary permitted’. In response to another later approach he said he would visit when his ‘schedule permits' and then in May 2016, it was in the 'near future'.
We are now more than two years after that last promise – and more than three years after saying he would come when his diary permitted – and disgracefully no visit.
We have announced we will provide the $15m to complete the school. The major reason for this increased cost is that school enrolments continue to grow significantly. It is clearly the biggest school in the electorate and getting bigger.
Labor’s candidate this upcoming election, Mark Reeves, is a principal himself and while we have a number of priorities in this region, he will know this is the highest. As a principal, I would be surprised if he agreed to run without a commitment to this.
However, as we get within weeks of the election, we are still waiting for bipartisan support. As a National Party member (in Coalition with the Liberals), it was my top priority and one of the first commitments I announced.
There are a number of independents in the field as well. While I would also welcome their support, the fact is it is up to the Liberal Nationals and Labor - who can deliver commitments in government - to have bipartisan support for important projects so no matter who is Premier, they get delivered for our community’s benefit.
While I want to see the end of Daniel Andrews as Premier, nothing will make me happier than to hear the Bairnsdale Secondary College has bipartisan support for our students (their families) and teachers.
As this goes to press, there are number of local infrastructure commitments I have made on behalf the Coalition that are unmatched, including the College ($15m), $2.2m for the Bairnsdale Fire Brigade relocation, $1.5 million for Bullock Island, $13.4 million for the Macalister Irrigation District and many others that although lesser in funds are equally important to local communities.
However, it is the College that stands out and simply has to be done.
If Labor and its candidate are even half-serious, they will announce this quickly. Come on, Mark, get it over the line!