June 2020
Monday, 29 June 2020 12:30

Bull seeks $30m for regional recovery

Premier Daniel Andrews has been asked to provide a dedicated $30 million East Gippsland infrastructure recovery fund.
Speaking in Parliament, Nationals Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, said the fund was required to assist his region that had been hardest hit of any region of Victoria due to the triple whammy of drought, bushfires and COVID.
Addressing the Premier he said: “With cost over runs on Melbourne projects running into billions, surely $30million is not too much to ask given you promised to stand with us in recovery”.
“While we have had a few dribs and drabs of funding for public infrastructure amounting to around $3million, an investment of around $30m would make a significant difference.
“A $30 million fund would allow the allocation of the $5m in State funds sought for the Metung Hot Springs, see Bullock Island (Lakes Entrance) and Squatters Row (Paynesville) redevelopments completed and a range of other initiatives right across the region from Mallacoota to Omeo to Heyfield and everywhere in between could get a drink for community projects.
“The fund would be used for public tourism infrastructure or to partner with private enterprise to create tourism attractions and provide for job creation – help us get back up and on our feet again.
Mr Bull said he would hope Labor Upper House members, Jane Garrett and Harriet Shing, whose seats covered East Gippsland, would also advocate to the Premier’s office for funds to benefit the region they represent.
“The fact is we are not asking for a billion, but $30 million would make a real difference to our region. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the cost blow out of $3 billion on the $11 billion Melbourne metro tunnel project alone,” he said.
Caption: pictured from L to R - Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath, Leader of The Nationals, Peter Walsh and Local Nationals MP Tim Bull at Bullock Island inspecting plans for further improvements to visitor facilities that could go ahead under the proposed $30 million tourism infrastructure recovery fund.  
Published in Media
Monday, 29 June 2020 12:22

Andrews dismantling CFA

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said he holds concerns for Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer numbers with reforms that were being forced on the organisation by Premier Daniel Andrews.
“There are already just on 5,000 fewer volunteers since Andrews came to power six years ago and we now have a case where many long serving volunteers, including CFA captains, have announced they were resigning this week,” he said.
Mr Bull said he had heard from a number of respected and long serving volunteers.
“At the top of their long list of concerns is that what was promised is not going to occur, including administration staff for the CFA having to be seconded from the newly established Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which many believed does not make the CFA its own stand alone volunteer organisation as was assured.
“On top of this, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has said Daniel Andrews has shown no regard for legislation which requires consultation with volunteers over any changes which impact them.
“In a strongly worded email to volunteers earlier this month, VFBV chief executive Adam Barnett said the Andrews Government had broken its promises to volunteers.
“The resignation of the CFA chief officer, Steve Warrington last week, for refusing to sign up to the deal, rings further alarm bells. When you look at the list of people who have been forced out by Daniel Andrews as a result of objecting to this reform, how anyone can say it is not of major concern is beyond me. It includes:
• Former Minister, Jane Garrett; 
• Former CFA Board: Claire Higgins, John Peberdy, Ross Coyle, Katherine Forrest, Michael Freshwater, James Holyman, John Schurink, Michael Tudball, Samantha Hunter, Peter Harmsworth AO;
• Former CFA Chief Officer, Joe Buffone; 
• Former CFA Deputy Chief Officer, Bruce Byatt;
• Former CFA CEO, Lucinda Nolan; 
• Former CFA CEO, Frances Diver;
• Former CFA CEO, Paul Smith;
• Former MFB Chief Officer, Peter Rau; 
• Former MFB Deputy Chief Officer, David Youssef; 
• Former MFB CEO; Jim Higgins; and
• Former CFA CEO & Chief Officer, Steve Warrington.
“Among the major concerns of local CFA members is the potential loss of volunteers in the suburbs and urban areas as these volunteers have traditionally provided ‘surge capacity’ to support our local brigades in times of major fires.
“It is these volunteers who would get on a truck and be part of a strike team that would come to our region. This summer just gone the CFA said it could not raise the strike teams it wanted from metro areas and if metro volunteer numbers continue to dwindle this will only get worse, leaving us without the resources we have had in summer in the past,” said Mr Bull.
“It’s another classic example of Daniel Andrews being beholden to his union mates and ignoring the needs of rural and regional Victoria.”
Published in Media
Wednesday, 24 June 2020 14:08

Funding dries up for drought proofing water projects

The ongoing drought conditions in many parts of East Gippsland have been unnecessarily replicated by a funding drought, with money for the government’s On Farm Water Infrastructure Program allowed to run out.
Nationals Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, said he was aware that up to 18 eligible applicants have been either been left out of pocket for drought proofing projects they have already commenced or have been told to wait until more funding can be obtained.
“A Hillside farmer has been left waiting on payment for the second stage of her water infrastructure improvement project after being encouraged to split the application for the grant into two instalments, to reflect the staged implementation of the works being undertaken,” he said.
“The grant was paid upon the completion of the first stage so she went ahead with the second stage but has now learned that the government can’t meet its earlier commitment to the second instalment.
“Many farmers in East Gippsland are affected by a lack of water for livestock and while there has been enough rain to support pasture growth, so far there has been little run off into creeks and dams.
“It is critical that the drought support measures that have been implemented to date are not allowed to fail because the government’s attention is being diverted elsewhere.   
“I have asked the minister to honour existing funding commitments to drought affected farmers for works in progress and to confirm that additional funds will be provided to enable this program to continue.”
Image courtesy of Visit Victoria Content Hub
Published in Media
Monday, 22 June 2020 13:53

Rural areas need their own COVID plan

With travel to and from the six problematic metropolitan council areas being “strongly discouraged”, there are growing calls for restrictions to be lightened in country areas where few, or no cases exist.
Nationals Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, said he has been inundated with complaints from business people in East Gippsland in the past 48 hours who were looking for the restrictions to be eased from today as planned.
“These are businesses that have been decimated by three years of drought, then fires and now coronavirus - and not to sugar-coat it, many are going to the wall.
“It is unfair they cop the punishment for city-based people who are clearly doing the wrong thing.
“With restrictions in the problem council areas being put in place, and the Premier saying he will consider putting them back into permanent lockdown, we need the planned exemptions for our East Gippsland businesses to go ahead.
“We’ve had one case here that was overcome several months ago and been through a long weekend without any impact. With new restrictions around the problem areas in the city, common sense must prevail.
“The Premier said he would support East Gippsland in our recovery from drought and fire, well we should be going ahead with these planned exemptions and allow us to breathe economically, while maintaining a cautious approach overall.
“By all means, increase restrictions around problem areas, keep the social distancing and other measures, but don’t punish us all and send us to the wall,” Mr Bull said.
“Over the border in Eden or Merimbula, you can have 50 patrons in a pub or club and play the pokies, but not here and that is not fair. It will impact on our tourism
“The fact is we will have cases pop up here and there and we will likely have more in East Gippsland over the year ahead, but we need to deal with them when they do.
“This needs to be looked at from two fronts. The virus will take lives, but so will the economic hardship from a mental health perspective as people go broke, so we need to get the balance right.
“I have already heard of people who had planned their wedding and functions for post June 22 that now have to be cancelled and others who were going back to work this week, but now are not - and we haven’t had any more cases in this area.”
What was to change
• Pubs, clubs, restaurants, churches and libraries were to have 50 people from today, but that will now remain at 20, leaving many unviable.
• Gatherings of up to 20 people per home has now been reduced to five (in addition to those who reside there).
• Public gatherings of up to 20 people has been reduced to 10.
• Cinemas were to open and have 50 patrons from today, that is now 20, rendering them unviable.
• Auctions and open houses were to have 50 people from today, that now remains at 20.
Mr Bull also took aim and what he called the weak response to the 10,000 protest in Melbourne two weeks ago.
“It is not relevant what the protest was about, the fact is that on top of some positive tests from a few who attended, it sent an appalling message to the wider community in relation to COVID restrictions and doing the right thing.
“The number of community members who through comments to me, talk back radio or social media said they were no longer prepared to abide by laws if that was allowed – was staggering.
“When you see that footage on the news of so many flaunting the law, people think ‘well why am I bothering to make the sacrifices I am’.
“Try and explain to a business person, who is going broke because they can only have a restricted number of customers, how that is fair.
“The cause, support for it, the passion is all fine, I have no issues with any of that as people have a right to express their views. But in a situation like this, when the vast majority are making massive sacrifices, it was simply wrong.”
Caption: Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull and Bairnsdale RSL Manager, Shane Pendergast, are seeking more flexibility on COVID-19 restrictions to get East Gippsland economy up and running after three years of drought, fires and Coronavirus.
Published in Media
Thursday, 18 June 2020 16:00

Auditor General confirms barrier program a disaster

The Victorian Auditor General’s report into regional road safety barrier installations has confirmed what all East Gippslanders knew – it is a disaster.

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said of major concern was that VicRoads had achieved exemptions to its own standards for the Princes Highway East.

“The Auditor General (AG) stated ‘wide offsets give vehicles room to safely pull over when they need to. If an offset is too narrow, then vehicles will intrude on the road lane when they pull over, which creates a traffic hazard. This is especially dangerous on single‐lane roads that have both a median and left‐hand side barrier’.

“We all know this, so why did VicRoads seek an exemption to make it less safe for our motorists? The answer was to keep the project within budget - so it’s here in black and white that VicRoads has sought exemptions to its own preferred standards due to cost limitations,” said Mr Bull.

Among the Auditor General’s findings are:

  • VicRoads did not prepare a business case and without a business case there is no consolidated document that shows how TAC and VicRoads analysed different options and justified why the recommended investment was the best value-for‐money option.
  • VicRoads did not have finalised stakeholder communication and engagement plans before it started construction. These would have given VicRoads a better opportunity to identify and address stakeholder concerns.
  • VicRoads did not sufficiently plan its flexible barrier installation projects.
  • VicRoads has failed to properly maintain and monitor the barriers it installed, which increases the risk that they will not perform as intended. 
  • VicRoads did not formally document its reasoning for its road selection approach and does not have strong evidence to support its claims that flexible barriers have been shown to reduce run‐off‐road and head‐on serious casualty crashes by up to 85 per cent.
  • The project is $100 million over budget and over time.
  • VicRoads’ inadequate record keeping and data quality has limited its ability to manage projects, provide evidence for key decisions and evaluate if the program will achieve its expected benefits.
  • VicRoads’ approval documentation was inconsistent and lacked detail about its project’s timelines, scope, risks, costs and how it selected the 20 high-risk roads. For some program projects, the Auditor General saw no evidence that TAC and VicRoads had sufficient information about key project details before they approved funding.
  • Under the Funding Deed, the joint committee could not endorse a project proposal with a benefit‐cost ratio of less than 1.5. Crash reduction factors are vital for calculating benefit‐cost ratios. If a project’s crash reduction factor is overstated, then its benefit‐cost ratio will also be overstated. The Auditor General found VicRoads likely overstated the crash reduction factors for its program projects, and therefore likely overstated the benefit‐cost ratios in the corresponding investment plans and project proposals.
  • VicRoads’ project proposals lacked the level of detail that decision‐makers need to make an informed decision
  • As VicRoads did not have finalised engagement plans before it started installing flexible barriers, it had limited opportunities to identify and address any required changes due to stakeholder concerns before it approved the project proposals.
  • In certain cases, VicRoads determined that installing an offset between three and four metres wide would require significant cost. It stated that this could not be done within the project proposal’s funding limit.
  • VicRoads advised that there is no standard for upgrading road shoulders when an old shoulder becomes part of a new road lane. VicRoads investigated two instances on the Princes Highway East where the road shoulder may not have been constructed or reinforced correctly when the road was widened. One of these investigations is the subject of an ongoing commercial dispute between VicRoads and the construction contractor.
  • VicRoads found that the composition of the old shoulder was not significantly different to the lane pavement and would perform in a similar manner. (It did not, it failed as contractors warned it would.)
  • Between 2015 and 2019, $53.4 million in funding was provided for flexible barrier repairs.
  • VicRoads’ inadequate record keeping will hinder its ability to evaluate the program. VicRoads does not record the exact location of flexible barriers and its crash data does not track if and when a vehicle hits them. Consequently, VicRoads cannot determine which serious casualty crashes have involved flexible barriers or identify when a flexible barrier has not worked correctly.
  • The Auditor General’s evaluation found the program is not on target to achieve the expected reductions in run‐off‐road and head‐on serious casualty crashes stated in its investment plans and project proposals.

Mr Bull said he has written to the Roads Minister yet again to seek an independent safety audit of this section of road.

“Given this report and recent spate of accidents on this stretch of highway and the concerns raised by freight organisations, trucking companies, emergency services workers and community members, surely it is time for VicRoads and the Minister to admit they have got this wrong and at the very minimum complete an independent safety audit,” said Mr Bull.

Caption: Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, at one of the many narrow offsets on the Princes Highway.

Published in Media
Thursday, 18 June 2020 08:15

Bairnsdale jobs under threat, due to log supply shortage

The supply of logs to the Fenning timber mill has “run out” today, prompting Nationals MP for Gippsland East Tim Bull, to call for urgent intervention in Parliament.
“This is a highly regarded local company that employs 50 people and contributes much to our community.
“The Premier said he would walk with us in the bushfire recovery and I can assure you we cannot afford to lose a company like this or the jobs it provides.
“So the action I am seeking is for the Minister to immediately supply sawlog grade timber to the mill,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“Timber contractors are not working and as a result mills are out of logs. This is due to the fact that under this government, areas for harvest have been continually put into reserve, without other areas being returned to the sector. When this happens, something has to give.
“We’ve had enough pain in our region and this is something you can fix with the swipe of a pen, so I ask the Minister to ensure log supply is resumed as a matter of urgency.”
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said there was enough timber available to ensure the mill would survive, but jobs were being lost because of the Andrews Government’s destructive policy agenda.
“Daniel Andrews is on a warpath to starve Victoria’s native timber industry of resource at the cost of local jobs,” Mr Walsh said.
“Labor’s destructive green agenda has already seen 100 people’s jobs with harvest and haulage contractors axed in Gippsland, with 80 machines parked up in the yards because they can’t get access to timber coupes.
“With almost half a million in finance payments due every month on those machines that can’t work, Labor is forcing Gippsland’s timber industry to the wall, just to further its political agenda.”
Caption: Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull, pictured with logging machinery standing idle while Fennings timber mill runs out of sawlog grade timber.
Published in Media
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