Labor delays on-the-spot fines for farm trespass
New on-the-spot fines for extreme activists who trespass on Victorian farms and threaten the safety of farm families still aren’t in place, nearly two years since the protective measure was recommended.
In June 2020, the Andrews Labor Government committed to introducing hefty on-the-spot fines for biosecurity breaches in response to pressure from The Nationals.
But during an embarrassing admission in Parliament recently, Agriculture Minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, confessed she still hasn’t done the work to deliver laws that better protect farmers.
Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull, slammed the lack of progress, saying it left farmers and their families exposed to theft and people illegally entering their property.
“The Agriculture Minister has bizarrely claimed that the delay doesn’t matter because farmers are protected by existing laws – but flaws in existing legislation are exactly why these reforms are needed,” Mr Bull said.
“When current laws see criminal actions by extreme animal activists resulting in a fine of just $1, it’s clear the system isn’t deterring illegal trespass or protecting hard-working, law-abiding farm families.
“What I found interesting is of recent times, the Animal Justice Party MP, Andy Meddick, has been complaining his home has been targeted by protestors – and on this I agree with him entirely.
“However, when he not only condones, but encourages, protestors to invade family farms, it is a bit rich. He seems to think that’s okay,” Mr Bull said.
“The Minister’s failure to introduce this important legislation only emboldens extreme animal activists to trespass on and steal farmers’ private property.”
In January this year, the Minister told media: “Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic… engagement across government and industry will take place this year”.
But last week, the Agriculture Minister would only say that “work is well underway” and legislation will be introduced “in due course”.
Mr Bull said the new laws were not ready because the Andrews Government had not made them a priority.
“Other states have already done the work to draft, introduce and pass legislation for on-the-spot fines,” Mr Bull said.
“If the Andrews Labor Government still needs some pointers, it could look to New South Wales, South Australia or Queensland.
“Farming is fundamental to our regional, state and national economy, and supporting the agriculture industry must be a priority, but the Minister’s lack of action shows Labor’s priorities are all wrong.”
Monday, 29 November 2021
Statement on the Fingerboards mineral sands proposal
The State Minister for Planning has today announced the proposed Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine near Bairnsdale will not proceed in its current form, citing unacceptable risks to the environment.
My position has always been to allow the process of examination and assessment by experts in that field to take its course, and be guided by their determination.
While I have not had the chance to read the report in any detail and had no forewarning it was to be released today, I am pleased it has come to a conclusion and it is important the umpire’s decision is accepted.
In 2016 I wrote to the Minister for Planning seeking an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process be undertaken for the proposal after representation from local residents. This was completed last year and was then subject to an independent inquiry, which I also requested.
In that period, I had several meetings with members of the Technical Reference Group to discuss community concerns; and observations of the independent inquiry that followed showed it was fair, thorough and had high levels of rigour being applied.
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Another summer coming, infrastructure not rebuilt
Tenders have not yet gone out to rebuild the Thurra River bridge, destroyed by fire nearly two years ago - and it will not be rebuilt until 2024.
This was confirmed in a response to questions at Committee hearings with Departmental representatives in Parliament on Friday and local Nationals MP, Tim Bull has branded it a disgrace.
“The bridge provides access to Point Hicks and 45 camp sites at the Thurra River campground, so it is important to the economy of Cann River, which has been knocked around by fires, COVID and border closures.
“They say it’s a priority, but the scale and complexity of work is the hold up. For goodness sake, they cannot treat us like fools - a bridge was built there over 30 years ago, and our engineering skills have advanced a bit since then,” he said.
“It’s strange that this Government can design and deliver complex metropolitan level crossing removals quickly, but they cannot build a bridge over a river.
“In their responses they mentioned multiple times the restoring access to ‘the island’ was important. There is no island, it’s part of the mainland - it’s a bridge over a river.
“There is just no excuse that it has still not gone to tender after just on two years.
“I was expecting all this this major infrastructure to be finished within 12 months as that was the underlying message, we got at the media conferences when the Premier was here.
“However, here we are two years on, and the bridge is still two years away, the cabins at Conran are not rebuilt, the Conran boardwalk has not been started, day areas and walking tracks remain closed.
“In this time Parks have opened 24 playgrounds in the metropolitan area. It’s not good enough.”
Mr Bull said his comments were not a reflection on local Parks staff who had been cooperative.
“It is my view they are also the victims of this lack of urgency up the food chain, but they have been good to deal with.”
Monday, 15 November 2021
Local emergency groups to receive equipment funding
Five CFA brigades, three Coast Guard flotillas and two SES units across the Gippsland East electorate will receive funding under the latest round of the Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP).
State Nationals MP Tim Bull said it was important local emergency services were well equipped, with an increased risk of grassfires forecast this summer following a wet winter and spring.
“These grants will allow recipients to purchase critical operational equipment and appliances to help serve and protect our local communities ahead of the approaching fire season,” Mr Bull said.
“East Gippsland volunteer emergency services will share in almost $940,000 of funding for vehicles and appliances and minor facility improvements that will ensure local emergency response capabilities are well equipped and supported.
“The VESEP provides $2 for every $1 raised by local units and brigades whom do an extraordinary amount of their own fundraising throughout the year.”
The successful CFA brigades, Coast Guard and SES units were:
• Bairnsdale SES: $150,000 towards vehicles and appliances
• Bemm River CFA: $8667 towards minor facility improvements
• Bendoc CFA: $20,000 towards operational equipment
• Bengworden CFA: $80,000 towards minor facility improvements
• Lakes Entrance Coast Guard: $10,830 minor facility improvements
• Maffra SES: $68,061 towards upgrading vehicles and appliances
• Mallacoota Coast Guard: $20,478 towards vehicles appliances and vessels
• Mount Taylor CFA: $195,000 towards vehicles and appliances
• Paynesville Coast Guard: $64,155 towards operational equipment
• Omeo CFA: $195,000 towards vehicles and appliances
“I congratulate local CFA brigades, Coast Guard flotillas and SES units who have done the hard yards not only to fundraise towards these grants, but who protect our communities in our hour of need,” Mr Bull said.
“We rely heavily on our amazing volunteers to protect us from fires, floods and natural disasters and it is important that we support those who support us.”
Monday, 8 November 2021
Andrews needs to clean up his own backyard first
While East Gippsland residents get notifications from the Andrews Labor Government to clean up their properties prior to summer, the Government owned road reserves remain a fuel load nightmare for local residents.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said before the Premier pressures people to clear properties, he should tend to his own responsibilities in this area first.
Mr Bull has this week written to the Office of the Conservation Regulator (an arm of DELWP) to raise concerns about delays to recommencement of the roadside clearing in East Gippsland.
“Post fires last year we had some terrific roadside clearing underway in areas like Sarsfield and Gelantipy, but it was halted by DELWP due to concerns over impacts on native vegetation and referred to the Office of the Conservation Regulator for decision.
“However, over 12 months later and with a new summer only weeks away, no determination has been made. The areas have piles of logs and timber pushed up from when the work was halted, and thick black wattle infestation has taken over.
“The government seems to forget that members of these communities remain traumatised as many lost their homes.
“You just can’t be stuffing around 12 months later having not made a decision, especially when the decision is obvious to all who live in these areas – the roadsides need to be cleared,” said Mr Bull.
“We saw first-hand in the 2019/20 fires around Gelantipy, that the roadsides acted as wicks. The bare paddocks were not burnt, as there was no fuel after the drought, but the fire went from bushland area to bushland area along these highly vegetated roadsides.
“It is time the bureaucrats making these decisions realised human life must come first and they ought not to delay what are straight forward common-sense decisions,” he said.
Caption: Sarsfield resident and former SES regional manager Kevin Perry, along with local Nationals MP Tim Bull, are insistent the government needs to resume its roadside clearing that was halted due to native vegetation concerns. Mr Perry lost his home in the fires and says the unmanaged regrowth with black wattle infestation is worse that it was pre the 2019/20 fires.
Vaccine segregation must end in line with National Plan
The Victorian State Government should stick to the agreed National Cabinet plan and announce an end date to vaccination restrictions.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull said in Parliament last week that New South Wales has announced December 1 as an end date when vaccination status will no longer be relevant to what venues and shops can be attended.
“However, here in Victoria we have the opposite. Daniel Andrews again changed the goalposts this week, telling the media: ‘this lockout process that only related to first and second doses, that’s not going to work because third doses are now a thing’.
“This came on the back of him stating days earlier that vaccination status could well be in for all of 2022. This is not in the agreed National Plan and no other state is heading down this path.
“The plan agreed to at National Cabinet, ended the different status applied to vaccinated and unvaccinated people once 80 per cent of people over the age of 12 had received two doses of the vaccine.
“The government should be doing everything it can to encourage people to get vaccinated and to make the community aware of the risks of remaining unvaccinated, but once we reach the targets agreed to by National Cabinet, Labor must remove these restrictions.
“Labor’s refusal to commit to ending vaccine passports in line with national cabinet is entrenching fear and suspicion and is tearing communities apart. Aside from the ethics of creating two classes of people, it worries me that the government is fostering an environment where radicalism can take root.”
Mr Bull said he was also concerned about the difficulties for businesses left to enforce the government’s restrictions.
“Many have told me they don’ want to enforce it, they don’t agree with it and want to open for all patrons when the target is reached.
“The Premier’s refusal to provide an end date to these restrictions is only further dividing communities, at a time when we are desperately trying to come back together after all we have been through in East Gippsland.”
Mr Bull said the nation’s leading epidemiologists and infectious diseases experts had backed calls for vaccine passports to end.
University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely has said that at 90 per cent double vaccinated it would be ‘unethical’ to keep people out of society.
The former deputy chief medical officer Professor Nick Coatsworth said that excluding people from society was likely to cause more problems than it solved.
Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett has questioned why people are banned from public settings when most cases of COVID transmission are linked to the home.
Infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon has described the government’s extended lockout as an ‘ethics issue’ saying ‘this is another example of a restriction that is overly prescriptive for little reward’.
“He should listen to these experts and stick to the agreed National Plan as other states are doing,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: East Gippsland Nationals MP Tim Bull said in State Parliament last week the Victorian Government must stick to the agreed National Cabinet plan and announce an end vaccination segregation.