Final timber offer appalling
The State Government’s final offer to those impacted by the timber industry closure was announced this week and disappointingly shows little improvement on the draft proposal, falling significantly short of what anyone would think is a fair and reasonable exit package.
This is the view of Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, who outlined just some of the shortfalls of a process he says has been done on the run and has not considered all elements of the situation.
“Firstly, disappointingly there has been no improvement in the base offer to harvest and haulage contractors, which is a pittance when you compare it to other recent industry departure packages.
“Secondly, the element of machinery reimbursement is that it is now capped at $1 million per business. Many have machinery well in excess of this figure and if they choose to exit the industry, there will be a shortfall. This is unfair and the government should not have a per business cap on this element of the package.
22 December 2023
“Thirdly, the package that has been put together for flow on impacted businesses, like seed collectors or freight companies that are not haulage contractors, has no dollars attached, or details process to determine what amount they will receive. That should be finalised by now.
“Fourthly, the packages have been framed so that those who choose to stay on and work for the Government will not get the full exit package, when in fact it should be treated separately. They should be compensated for being kicked out of the native timber industry and then be able to make a decision on Government employment separately. They should not be linked, and this is holding these families over a barrel.
“Finally, there is no tax exemption on the package amounts, meaning those who receive it will lose a considerable amount in tax, so the amount of the package is not really and accurate figure of financial benefit.”
Mr Bull said there were other elements that were unfair and lacked detail and said he held a view the government’s shortfall and stingy response was all based on the fact the exit package was being forced to stick to an inadequate budget.
“It’s a symptom of the State being broke due to the fact Labor can’t manage money, can’t manage major projects and Victorians continue to pay the price.”
SEC: Soaring Energy Costs
A year after announcing the State Labor Government would revive the State Electricity Commission (SEC) and drive down the costs to electricity, Victorian power bills have increased by 25 per cent.
Gippsland East Nationals’ MP, Tim Bull, said the last thing Victorian households need, is for their electricity charges to continue to soar.
“The acronym has now been dubbed by my colleague, the Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, as ‘Soaring Energy Costs’. And he couldn’t be more on the money,” Mr Bull said.
“Despite claiming the SEC will invest $1 billion towards generating Victoria’s energy and lowering costs, Labor’s Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, refuses to tell Victorians when they will see reductions in their electricity bills.
“We need more than just the Minister’s hot air and spin to power our state.
“Labor went to the last election spruiking it would lower energy bills, but in stark contrast, costs have skyrocketed putting significant pressure on families at a time where households are being hit from every imaginable direction with price hikes.
“While I support the adoption of renewable power generation, the transition to electricity reliance must be managed responsibly in a way that households aren’t lumped with sky-high bills while also picking up the tab for the SEC.”
“It is just one more area where Labor says it will do one thing, but the opposite occurs,” he said.
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, with fellow Nationals MP, Martin Cameron, in their Soaring Energy Cost caps at State Parliament.
Monday, 18 December 2023
Veterans, Memorial grants open
Grant programs for Veterans Capital Works and Restoring Community War Memorials and Avenues of Honour are open.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East and Shadow Minister for Veterans, Tim Bull, said the Veterans Capital Works Grant Program is offering grants of between $5,000 and up to $50,000 for building and facility improvements for not-for-profit organisations delivering services to veterans, their families and communities.
“In addition, the Restoring Community War Memorials and Avenues of Honour grant program is currently accepting grant applications for projects up to $30,000.
“I have recently written to all our RSL Sub-Branches and would encourage them to look closely at these opportunities.
“These funding streams are a fantastic opportunity for community groups to memorialise service records of our veterans in local regional communities.
“This program supports many local war memorials across Gippsland East that commemorate and immortalise the memory of those in our community who’ve served our country in war and peacekeeping operations.
“Ex-service organisations, local government authorities, not-for-profit organisations and educations institutions are encouraged to apply and make use of this recent funding round.
“Applications are now open until Monday 12 February 2024 and can be submitted online.”
Monday, 18 December 2023
Four years on and still many fire recovery projects unfinished
Another Christmas is upon us without a new Thurra River Bridge to access the Thurra campground, the Cape Conran cabins are not replaced and a host of other fire recovery projects that have not been concluded, and in most cases commenced.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said after four years this was disgraceful.
“Not only that, but we have the East Cape Boardwalk that was to be delivered by the end of 2021, then 2022 and more recently in 2023, but will not be finished until next year.
“It was only weeks ago the Departmental Secretary looked me in the eye and promised it would be open for Christmas this year.
“You really wonder whether this government could organise to hit the water if they fell out of a boat. I don’t think I have seen such a level of incompetence.
“It has to be considered that when the fires occurred just on four years ago, we had the commitment to rebuild quickly to help us recover economically.
“However, when you consider the cabins and lack of access to the second largest campground in the area, it would have cost this region hundreds of thousands of dollars economically when you consider food, fuel, camping supplies, fishing gear, bait and all the other extras.
“The reality is, we have some great local Parks staff, but the middle and upper bureaucracy is bound up by red tape and a Minister who is more concerned with shooting our brumbies.”
Mr Bull said at a forum held to update the community on bushfire recovery projects, we had Parks management congratulating themselves on having all parks re-opened four years after the fires, backslapping for work they have done and countless references to the fact they were ‘building back better’ – spare me! It should have been commenced with an apology to the people of East Gippsland.
“With the greatest of respect, when you are replacing infrastructure that is in some cases several decades old, I would certainly hope you would be ‘building back better’ as a basic requirement, not something to self-congratulate yourself on. What we want to see the Government doing is ‘building back quicker’ than they have been.
“Two examples given of building back better were that wooden bridges that burnt are being replaced with steel and concrete structures, and the toilet blocks are more modern.
“Well, you would certainly hope they would be as a basic matter of course, but please just get on with the work,” said Mr Bull.
“While I am pleased we have finally had an information session for the community, it revealed that in addition to the Cape Conran and Thurra Bridge works:
• The government is still completing engineering assessments on the Yeerung River Bridge, with still no decision on whether it needs to be repaired to replaced and they are “working through” whether it needs to be able to take larger fire fighting vehicles - of course it does! There was no explanation of why these assessments have not been done after such a long period.
• Four years on, tree assessments are still taking place on some tracks at Buchan that are not yet open.
• Design work is still not complete on the Rangers’ hut replacement at Buchan, let alone work started.
• There is still no final design for the replacement accommodation in the North Arm area of the Buchan Caves Reserve, four years on.
• Structures on the Spring Creek walking track are still not repaired.
• Mallacoota Inlet jetty upgrades have not even started.
• The shared pathway between Marlo and Cape Conran is now in jeopardy due to cost blow outs, despite Minister Lily D’Ambrosio promising it would be built.
“We are not talking four months here, this is four years on and we are still doing engineering reports and design work. Not good enough,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Nationals State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, remains frustrated a number of key bushfire and flood recovery projects have still not been reinstated.
Monday, 11 December 2023
New station urgent to house new truck
Lakes Entrance Fire Brigade last week received a new truck, which is good news for members, but it needs a new fire station to be able to be housed, said Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull.
“Prior to last year’s election, we committed funding to build the new station as we knew this vehicle was coming, but also knew it would not fit inside the current facility, so I believe it is currently being ‘housed’ at a private residence.
“The current Lakes’ station is almost 100 years old and bursting at the seams, and the new vehicle cannot be accommodated on site with the existing fleet.
“I had a look through the current facility some time ago with former captains Geof Bassett and Bob Richardson and, apart from the struggle to house appliances, there is also substandard equipment storage areas.
“Over the journey, Lakes brigade members have been very active in their advocacy, and I’ve also had numerous discussions with both members and CFA management on this topic.
“Apart from the size limitations of the current site, the location is not perfectly sighted for a quick response.
“I will keep advocating for the outcome the town and CFA members need, but if this does not show the government the need for urgent action, I am not sure what does,” he said.
Monday, 11 December 2023
Premier fails timber workers, again
Premier Jacinta Allan must immediately upgrade the measly support packages offered to forest contract workers today.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said the latest offering is unfair and falls well short of the mark.
“It was only yesterday in Parliament I raised that these payments need to be fair. But in true form, the day after the last sitting of Parliament for the year, the government puts out a paltry package it cannot be questioned on until February next year – disgraceful behaviour.
“This comes after Premier Allan just weeks ago committed to meeting with contractor representatives before this was finalised, but now refuses to do so.
“Offering these families 30 cents in the dollar on their existing contracts, some of which finish in June, potentially puts them into a position where they could lose the house they live in. I would like any government representative to tell me how that is a fair outcome for a sector it has shut down, having originally promised it security until 2030.
“In addition, the government is saying that for those who wish to continue to work for the government, their exit packages will be compromised if they choose this path.
“Contractors rightfully want their exit packages treated separately to future employment possibilities with the Department. They deserve to be fairly compensated for the government ending their industry prematurely. Discussions on future employment for a very different job should be totally separate.”
“Contractors should not be asked to trade off their rightful exit packages against possible future employment,” said Mr Bull.
Australian Forest Contractors Association General Manager, Tim Lester, said “former Premier Dan Andrews said ‘we will wrap every support we possibly can around the people, businesses and communities’. That is not evident in this package.
“Premier Allan said she would meet with us. We are still waiting,” he said.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Emma Kealy, said this package does not offer the security they deserve.
“The native timber industry represents a large segment of the state’s overall timber industry, creating 2500 jobs. Jacinta Allan has failed native timber workers.
“As a result of her not meeting with them as promised, there are significant shortfalls in relation to fair compensation for these family businesses, workers and communities that were built around a sustainable forest industry – an industry now destroyed by Labor.
“Premier Allan can’t manage money, can’t manage projects and can’t manage to respect Victoria’s timber workers as she cuts down their jobs, their industry and the future of their communities,” she said.
Friday, 1 December 2023