Answers needed over the temporary closure of the Dispute Settlement Centre
The Andrews Labor Government needs to come clean on the temporary closure of the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) and outline its plans to reinstate normal services for the people of Victoria
The DSCV has been “temporarily closed” since March this year. Nationals MP, Tim Bull sought answers several months ago relating to when the normal dispute services will be reinstated.
“The DSCV’s purpose is to empower and assist the Victorian community to appropriately resolve issues including disputes between neighbours, families, tenants, in workplaces or retirement villages by providing advice and information, mediation and other forms of negotiation or referral services. It is a service used by a number of East Gippslanders,” he said.
“The Centre aims to alleviate pressure on the judicial system and allow for a quick dispute outcome so matters can be progressed, but it cannot achieve this if it’s shut.
“In fact, it will only increase cases going to VCAT. The DSCV website states it is an important service for all Victorians, but not when it is closed it isn’t.
“General information on resolving neighbourhood disputes is available on the website, however this doesn’t help those who don’t have access to a computer, preferring instead to speak with someone, those who have difficulty reading or those who English is their second language.
“People are struggling with the lack of service and are feeling unsupported particularly East Gippsland’s aging population who regularly utilise the Centre for assistance in resolving retirement village disputes.
“What happens if an elderly or vulnerable person has a dispute with a neighbour and they have exhausted all other means to resolve it - what happens then? Their access to free and confidential dispute resolution services are now no longer available. They can’t access the appropriate supports they need and deserve through the DSCV.
“The Government needs to be transparent and outline how much longer we must wait for people to be able to access this ‘service’ again.
Mr Bull seeks an answer from the Minister to his question raised in Parliament 6 months ago surrounding this issue. “It’s been long enough, and Victorians need answers and support”.
Labor should control pigs rather than shoot brumbies
State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has asked the Minister for Agriculture to address the explosion of feral pig numbers in the far north-east of state.
Landholders in the Dellicknora area have reported an explosion in the feral pig populations on public land, due to favourable breeding conditions.
“The concern is two-fold, firstly they damage fences and pasture and secondly, with the increased risk of foot and mouth entering the country, pigs are a major transmitter and numbers need to be controlled,” said Mr Bull.
“Local farmers have reported that while exclusion fencing assists, it does not halt the problem as pests can enter via a neighbour’s property.
“One landholder has caught 56 feral pigs just this year, which gives some indication of the ballooning numbers. It is clear that additional resources are required.”
Mr Bull said, rather than spend millions upon millions on shooting our brumbies, the Government should be focussed on the wild pig problem, which causes more damage to landholders, the environment and poises a greater foot and mouth risk.
“I have asked the Minister to provide supports to farmers in this area by allocating more resources to feral pig controls and I eagerly await her response,” he said.
Great Alpine Road named Victoria’s worst
It will come as no surprise to East Gippslanders that the Great Alpine Road has been voted Victoria’s most dangerous in a state-wide survey.
Land slips, crumbling surfaces and shoulders contributed to the Road clearly coming out on top.
Nationals MP for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the fact that temporary ‘traffic hazard ahead’ signs have been up for nearly 12 months between Swift’s Creek and Ensay, pointed to the situation.
“Thousands of votes were lodged from around the state. Respondents highlighted the poor state of the road surface as well as its all-too-regular closure in recent years due to landslips.
“The Princes Highway also polled well to take second place and while the locations were not specified, I have no doubt the Stratford to Bairnsdale section accounted for a lot of the votes.
“Paynesville Road also made the top 10, but I acknowledge it has been pleasing to see some work has been done there in recent weeks,” he said.
Shadow Minister for Roads, Danny O’Brien, said the poll results would be forwarded to Roads Minister Ben Carroll to highlight Labor’s failures.
“Labor cut the road maintenance budget by 10 per cent in its first year and has neglected our roads ever since,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It was cut by a further $24 million in this year’s budget after a $191 million cut last year. On top of this they have scrapped the Country Roads and Bridges funding program as well.
“We’re seeing the result of these cuts in poor roads that are unsafe for drivers right around the state,” he said.
Mr Bull said it was a joke the Minister then stood up and said the state’s roads were smoother and safer, while his Labor colleague, the Member for Eltham, said our roads concerns were ‘imagined fantasy’.
The top 10 worst roads in Victoria:
1. Great Alpine Road
2. Princes Highway (various locations)
3. Melbourne-Lancefield Road
4. Traralgon-Maffra Road
5. Paynesville Road
6. Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road
7. Heathcote-Nagambie Road
8. Murray Valley Highway (various locations)
9. Western Freeway (various locations)
10. Jerusalem Creek Road
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, on one of the many sections of the Great Alpine Road that has fallen into disrepair
Labor must commit to timber supply
The Andrews Labor Government needs to outline its plans to secure saw log supply to East Gippsland’s mills, which are approaching crisis time with lack access to timber supplies.
Nationals MP for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the Government had contractual obligations to provide timber to these mills and it was not good enough that there was no security around supply and no communication on what is being done to address it.
“Over recent weeks we have heard from mills in Bairnsdale and Orbost who are facing the prospect of their operations grinding to a halt and with the jobs involved, that would be devastating economically to the community,” said Mr Bull.
“The ridiculousness of all this is our timber industry has access to just 5% of our native forest, the other 95% is either in reserve or inaccessible. That 95% is harvested on an
80-year rotation meaning each year the amount is 0.04 per cent.
“When you listen to some of the outcry from green groups you would think the countryside is being pillaged, but it is 0.04% per year.
“This government needs to take a stronger line, open up more areas and ensure the timber industry has a sustainable supply to secure these local jobs and income for local families.”
Mr Bull has asked the Minister to outline how many mills are facing this crisis of no certainty around supply and what is being done to address it.
Monday, August 22, 2022
Lack of Conran works a Labor embarrassment
Immediately after the 2019/20 bushfires, Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, stood in front of a packed media conference in Bairnsdale and said the government would ‘walk every step’ with us through the bushfire recovery.
This has not occurred and these were false words, according to Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, who said you only have to look at the Cape Conran situation as the prime example.
“Let us look at two prime tourist attractions and what we have been told over the past two and a half years,” said Mr Bull.
Cape Conran cabins
“In mid-2020 Orbost Chamber of Commerce asked for the cabins to be rebuilt by that summer. I strongly supported this request.
“While the government was coy on timeframes, they did say in mid-2020 that these cabins would be built ‘soon’. Their definition is obviously different to ours!
“Two years later they have not been delivered, but of more concern is, I am advised they will not be ready by this Christmas and we are looking at delays until late 2023 and possibly 2024 – you have to be joking!
“On top of this, Labor has confirmed it will build less roofed accommodation at Cape Conran than existed pre-fires despite the commitment to build back ‘bigger and better’.
“Originally there were five wilderness retreats and eight cabins - a total of 13. Post fires there will be 10 - a net loss of three.
“This is despite the Minister for Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio, saying in her media release of October 2021: ‘the 10 brand new cabins at the Banksia Bluff will replace and add to the cabins and wilderness retreats destroyed by the fires’ and that the works will ‘attract more visitors than ever’.
“Again, what we were initially told and what is going to happen are two completely different things. You can’t attract more visitors with less accommodation and who knows when it will be delivered, but it is certainly not ‘soon’ after,” Mr Bull said.
Cape Conran boardwalk
“In September 2020, the Environment Minister, who oversees Parks Victoria, said the East Cape Boardwalk at Cape Conran was expected to be delivered by Christmas 2020. It did not occur.
“Then in September 2021, Parks Victoria’s eastern region manager was quoted in the Herald Sun stating the works would be completed for that summer (December 2021). It was not even started by that point.
“Finally, work was started earlier this year, but has again been stopped for several months with no progress. The Snowy River Mail recently ran two pictures, one recent and one from several months ago, to highlight this,” said Mr Bull.
“As we head towards another summer, three years after the fires destroyed this important infrastructure and we were told the Government would ‘walk with us’ – the response has been nothing short of appalling – no cabins are in place and the boardwalk is at a standstill.
“I have asked the Minister in Parliament why projects that we were promised would be completed two years ago are not delivered. More importantly, I have asked for specific timeframes for their completion.
“The community deserves both a detailed explanation for the delays and a specific timeframe of when these works will be completed,” he said.
Putting Crown Land camping laws back in the hands of landholders
The Nationals in government will give power back to landholders to decide who can camp on their river frontages held under licence, while increasing penalties for people who flout the rules.
The Nationals have announced plans to address the Andrews Labor Government’s ill-conceived changes to the Land Act 1958 last year, which the government pursued despite concerns from farmers about the risks to biosecurity and personal safety, and the potential threat of litigation.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says a large number of farmers continue to raise concerns about the Andrews Government’s poor understanding of the implications on farmers who have this land under licence.
When the changes were first proposed the Nationals and Liberals stood with farmers in vigorously opposing the legislation, which came into effect last September.
Mr Bull said under a Nationals Government, The Act and its associated regulations would undergo a complete overhaul.
“We need a more balanced approach with landholder permission a pre-requisite to providing access to riverside camping areas. The legislation in its current form is poorly executed,” said Mr Bull.
“I have been contacted by locals who’ve told me their lease is currently under assessment on the Wonnangatta River in Dargo for riverside camping suitability.
“Ironically, a few hundred metres upstream from their property is a designated Parks Victoria campsite, appropriately appointed with fire pits and toilet facilities suitable for overnight camping enjoyment. It makes absolutely no sense to open up grazing land when a perfectly suitable campsite exists.
“Recreational users will continue to be able to access to some river frontages, providing reasonable access for camping, however changes must be made to include preventative measures against biosecurity threats, potential environmental damage and placing liability on any campers found doing the wrong thing- not the leaseholder.
“Landholders are understandably worried about the threat of being sued and their livelihoods being decimated through external introduced threats from campers.
“For decades, an informal system has operated with farmers allowing campers when asked – they don’t have a problem with that, but the current rules are a free-for-all.
“The failings of the current laws are real and need to be fixed, and The Nationals in government will fix them.”
Monday, August 22, 2022