Items filtered by date: August 2020
Thursday, 20 August 2020 10:27

V/Line passengers need more checks

More stringent checking of passengers on V/Line services coming from Melbourne is required, according to Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“This is a matter I have discussed with country colleagues and it appears only very limited effort is being applied to querying metropolitan passengers coming to country areas.
“From what we are advised, the checking of V/Line passengers is described as sporadic at best, with very few taking place.
“This came to my attention after a regular passenger advised they have not been queried once while travelling to and from Melbourne for legitimate reasons.
“This person takes every precaution but was alarmed at having not been checked and having to ride with passengers who are never checked,” he said.
“What we are calling for as country MP’s is for more resources to be committed and a more coordinated approach to scrutinising the reason for travel,” said Mr Bull.
“A good start would simply be to have someone at the entry point to carriages checking addresses and asking the reason or travel.
“We have a lot of people who use the train to access important medical appointments in the metropolitan area and they deserve to have a higher level of protection.
“Passenger numbers are down on country services, so it would be relatively easy to check large batches of passengers and their reason for travel on the services coming out of Melbourne,” he said.
Image of Southern Cross Station courtesy of Visit Victoria Content Hub. 
Published in Media
Tuesday, 18 August 2020 09:37

Permanent firewood shortage looming

East Gippsland firewood merchants and timber harvesters are warning this winter’s firewood shortage is likely just a foretaste of a permanent shortage should the government proceed with its plans to end native timber harvesting in the state.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says the suspension of timber harvesting after the bushfires is the major reason for the current firewood shortage in some areas, with a number of suppliers and consumers reporting only ‘green’ (recently cut) wood is available.
“Harvesters and firewood suppliers have warned that if Labor’s planned removal of the industry takes place, firewood will be much more difficult to obtain.
“For many householders the use of firewood is an efficient and cost-effective means to heat their homes and this winter’s limited stocks has left them having to get through on meagre supplies.
“The clock is counting down for those who access the low-cost firewood collection that is largely a by-product of timber harvesting operations.
“The Government is saying it will transition the native timber industry to hardwood plantations, which is good in theory, but even the Premier won’t answer where these plantations are or what quantities will be ready for harvest in ten year’s time in Victoria.
“That’s because the plantations don’t exist.
“I have been in contact with DELWP to see if bushfire salvage logs can be made available to firewood merchants to increase supply in the short term and overcome the current shortages and I’m confident that a solution is in hand.
“But in the longer term, the Andrews Government has no solution – there’s no plantation timber and no thought being given to help households move to alternative heating.
“We have a responsible, sustainable, $7.32 billion timber industry that employs 20,000 Victorians and keeps the home fires burning in winter, killing it off is senseless.”
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, says this year’s firewood shortage in some areas will be worse if the native timber industry closes.
Published in Media
Tuesday, 11 August 2020 11:30

Licence testing must resume

East Gippsland’s young adults need to be able to obtain their driving licences during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said it was not right the State Government had basically shut up shop and removed the ability for young drivers to sit their learner test, or undertake their probationary licence test.
“We are not asking for any undue risk to be taken here. Sitting in an office (to sit your L plate test) is allowable under the current arrangements and sitting in a car with another person not from your home (eg driving instructor for a probationary test) is also permitted under the current COVID restrictions,” said Mr Bull.
“In addition, there’s no reason computerised hazard testing can’t be delivered online, given the technology exists.
“Our youth need their licences to be able to get to work and also apply for jobs. We have cases at the present time where our young adults want to work but can’t apply for jobs because they cannot get their licence.
“It is another case of our basic requirements in the country not being considered. We do not have the public transport options that city folk have, and these things are overlooked when we make state-wide decisions.
“We already have a massive backlog of young adults who need their licences, so not only do we need it re-opened, but we need additional staff to remove the backlog.”
Mr Bull said the move was also adversely impacting several learn to drive businesses in the region.
“At present there is only very limited testing for hardship reasons, but it is not keeping up with demand or going anywhere towards servicing the needs of the community.
“I have written to the Premier on this matter last week and will hopefully get some positive action from the Government. While we must remain safe, we should be able to undertake these important measures that do not increase risk but allow us to function in the country.
“I understand decisions are made quickly at this time, but this was first raised months ago, and it is time it was rectified.”
Caption: Tim Bull pictured with Corey and Sandra Fenske of Skidz Driver Training is asking the Government to implement measures to assist young people get their learners or probationary driving permits.
Published in Media
Tuesday, 04 August 2020 15:04

East Gippslanders a shining light

Over recent weeks, like many of you I am sure, I’ve experienced a range of feelings - from disappointment and anger to relief and pride.
It is with disappointment we find ourselves back in stage three restrictions in rural areas when largely, we have as a community done things well, and been diligent.
Anger comes from the fact that some - mainly metropolitan residents - continue to flout the laws, by not observing the social distancing restrictions, not staying at home when diagnosed positive, going to work while symptomatic and avoiding road blocks to travel to rural areas.
I am a strong supporter of increasing the fines that those who deliberately ignore the rules in place and hope that occurs.
On top of that, we also have a small section of the community that believes this a hoax – words fail me on the stupidity of these people, and they warrant no more of this column’s space.
The pride comes from how East Gippslanders, have almost to a person, been diligent and respectful in the way they have responded and observed the rules.
Of course, there is some luck we have not had an outbreak from city folk wrongly coming here, but along with that luck in achieving this outcome has been the response from locals.
Orbost and Marlo communities are the perfect example.
When we had a person come to the region pending a test that was subsequently positive, you were brilliant.
DHHS was told Monday which businesses that person had visited, but it then took four days (until Friday night) to make contact. Despite them dropping the ball, the community stayed right on top of things and never missed a beat.
No-one waited around for a call.
Businesses undertook deep cleans before official contact was made, Orbost Regional Health (with support from Bairnsdale and Latrobe Regional Health) was quick and effective in its response and those who were ‘close contacts’ fronted up for testing, and then isolated.
On any count it was a brilliant response and one that all should be proud of. The fact no positive tests were returned provided considerable relief for all.
It is this sort of action - and seeing almost every person out and about this week wearing a mask - that makes me optimistic we will stay on top of this.
Parts of our business sector will be doing it tough these coming weeks, especially those that rely on tourists, so support them where you can and continue to keep an eye out for each other.
And remember there are some in the community that cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition, so don’t assume someone without a mask is flaunting the law.
East Gippslanders, despite all we have been through this year, continue to be a shining light in the way we are going about supporting each other and dealing with what is put before us.
Let’s keep up the good work, stick together and beat this bloody thing!
Published in Comment Columns
Tuesday, 04 August 2020 14:36

Country areas should have more flexibility

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, is calling for regional areas like East Gippsland and Wellington Shires – where there are zero or minimal COVID cases – to have their local situations considered in the setting of restrictions.
“This whole thing is a moving feast and things can change fast, but we need to look after the economic and social wellbeing of communities where we can.
“As we contemplate a return to Stage Three restrictions for at least six weeks, I will be writing to the Premier and certain Ministers to highlight a number of concerns that have been raised with me.
“I appreciate decisions have to be made quickly and without the value of hindsight, but my concern is that there appears to be a lack of consideration given to country communities like ours – it cannot be one size fits all rule making.
“We have had one case in East Gippsland the past three months and as far as I know, that person is not in our region (cases are recorded on home address, even if the person is located elsewhere for treatment) and Wellington Shire has none.
“Yet we are being disadvantaged by the selfish and errant ways of others. There is no doubt we need to be extremely cautious on this, but we also need balance.
“Many are questioning, that with much tighter restrictions introduced in Melbourne and face coverings now mandatory state-wide, giving even greater protections to areas where we had no cases to start with, why did we revert to Stage Three in addition to this?
“With the hardship we’ve endured with drought and fires prior to COVID, we need the flexibility to support our local businesses – East Gippslanders supporting each other, but the restrictions imposed do not allow this in many cases.
“The cafes, restaurants and pubs in our towns that have not recorded a single case of coronavirus in six months, now face six weeks of shutdowns. I fear many won’t survive.
“While we need strict rules in place and the situation requires ongoing daily monitoring – there is still time to review situations on a more local basis before more people are put out of work and small businesses close.
“I realise we cannot have too many sets rules, but there is clearly flexibility for some more local thinking in my view.” 
Mr Bull said it was also unfair year 11 and 12 country students were being denied attending school to ‘maintain a level playing field’ with city-based students.
“Country students have for many years had lower educational outcomes on average compared to their city counterparts. It is not right they be denied best practice education for the simple reason of maintaining a level playing field.
“Surely we should be doing the best we can for all students whatever their situation. The rationale is flawed – we should not be limiting best outcomes for some, to appease others.
“As one local teacher said to me this week - it’s not the job of the government to make it easier for universities to decide who they admit, it is up to the universities to come up with a system that takes into account the disadvantages of some.
“We also have our young adults unable to book a test to get their L Plates and then those wanting to sit their probationary licence test being unable to do so.
“These young people need to be able to travel for new jobs and employment and it is not right they are being held back when we have zero or minimal cases here.
“It’s a classic case of why we need flexibility in rules rather than an across the board approach. It is surely no more hazardous to do your test this week than it was last week.
“I was pleased today to hear about the tougher penalties for breaches of COVID restrictions and the strengthened monitoring of people moving from lock down areas to our region.
“I fully support these tougher restrictions in the problem areas and for those doing the wrong thing,” Mr Bull said.
Published in Media