Caves rebuild must be fast tracked
The State Environment Minister, Steve Dimopoulos, has been put on notice that the Buchan Caves Reserve rebuild needs to be completed in 2024.
Speaking in Parliament recently, Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, acknowledged there was much to be done, but stressed the importance of the Caves Reserve to the town and region’s economy.
“Given we are presently more than four years on from the 2019/20 fires and still have a number of Parks Victoria infrastructure to be rebuilt due to bureaucratic dithering, I have asked the Minister to commit to having the Caves Reserve open for this summer,” he said.
“As an example, Mr Bull made the point that when the floods hit, there were still areas of the Caves Reserve that had not been repaired four years on from the 2019/20 fires.
“Parks has said it needs to get approvals and permits, and that is true, but my point is get a wriggle on and get them in place. Most will be from their own government, so it can be fast tracked.
“If they relate to cultural heritage matters, let’s work with our traditional owners, who I am sure also want it opened again as soon as possible, to make it happen quickly.
“It is of significant concern the amount of dithering and bureaucratic bungling that goes on with Parks, and their lack of urgency when it comes to our important regional tourism infrastructure.
“The local staff are good, but those above them need a few enthusiasm pills at times, to break through the green and red tape.
All things being equal, to still have major attractions not rebuilt four years on and in some cases looking at six years, there is just simply no reasonable excuse, it’s an absolute disgrace,” he said.
Caption: State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has called for Parks Victoria’s Buchan Caves Reserve to be prioritised for reopening, in 2024.
Monday, 19 February 2024
AusNet, Telstra in firing line
Undertakings for improved communications and information sharing from essential service providers will be sought by Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, in the wake of last week’s power outages.
Mr Bull said there will be times, no matter what preparations are put in place, Mother Nature impacts on our communities, but we need some baseline standards adopted by companies like AusNet and Telstra to communicate better to our communities and have them better prepared.
“AusNet unfortunately provided bits and pieces of information that were in direct conflict and, in some cases, simply wrong. Their communications staff are often remotely based and have no local knowledge.
“It is clear they have no capacity to deal with these situations anywhere near as well as they should be doing, and there are numerous examples to support this view.
“My initial contact outlined that, fully understanding the complexities and in many cases timeframes could not be provided as assessments were still being done, to provide me with information I could share with the community that had been confirmed. However, there was conflicting and incorrect information provided regularly.
“One example is my office was provided with written (email) information saying Metung would be back online by 6pm on 15/2 (Thursday). I relayed this widely as I’d had two families with loved ones over 90 that would leave them in Metung if the power was coming back on, but would drive from Melbourne to pick them up if it was to be longer term. We also had people on CPAP machines needing power.
“However, at around 2pm Thursday (four hours before the power was to come back on) the AusNet outage tracker website changed to say power in Metung would not be restored until 19/2 (Monday). I enquired and was told it would be by 6pm Friday – that’s three timelines for the same town. On questioning, no one knew where the Monday timeframe came from on the website,” Mr Bull said.
In addition, the power was out at Cann River, Genoa and Mallacoota, but these towns never at any stage appeared on the website outage tracker. Lake Tyers Beach is another that was never listed.
“Apparently Tyers had restricted supply and that is why it was never listed, but businesses could not open, and they needed information and timelines as to when full power would be restored. There should have been provision for this information to be made available rather than be sitting on the phone on hold for three hours, before giving up.
“Throughout the outage, Paynesville and Eagle Point were listed as offline for several days on the outage tracker, but power was never lost there at any stage. The reason this was an issue, is people were looking at this website and cancelling their holiday bookings online because they thought there was no power.
Although there are complexities and in some cases timeframes are not known, AusNet simply cannot:
• Give out information that is not accurate
• List towns as being offline when power was never lost there
• Leave towns off lists altogether when the power is out in these communities as they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.
“Nor can it say it is too hard to give accurate information so we will say less, the community demands information that is accurate,” said Mr Bull.
“Then we have Telstra, which I met with post fires and sought significant improvements in relation to back-up power, but it seems to have got worse in the four years since.
“We need back-up generators, but we seem to have only back-up batteries for as little as two hours. Telstra needs to provide a network that can function for extended periods when the power goes out.
“For a company that recorded a $2.1 billion profit last year, it should be doing better in rural communities. They also struggled to provide information to the level required as to when services would be restored.”
Mr Bull said he was pleased AusNet had agreed to meet this week to discuss improvements, and he would seek a meeting with Telstra to do the same.
“One of my suggestions will be that when such instances occur, a person in each area with a good local geographical knowledge, be put in place to liaise with local government, state and federal MP’s, business and tourism association reps, chambers of commerce, etc with accurate information.
“I acknowledge in the early days there are few guarantees that can be made and timelines given while assessments are done, but the community needs to be kept informed much better than it was with as much accurate detail as possible, so plans can be made for individuals and businesses.”
Caption: Images of the storm damage in the Main Street of Bairnsdale.
Monday, 19 February 2024
Dangerous trees must go
The Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Melissa Horne, has been asked to remove bushfire damaged dangerous trees from the 2020 fires that remain on Gelantipy Road roadsides.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said the trees have been identified for removal for around three years, and continue to pose a risk to drivers.
“I raised this matter halfway through last year and they remain, without any action having taken place.
“Alarmingly, two have fallen across the road since last June 2023, blocking the road and risking the lives of motorists. It has only been good luck that has avoided a disaster.
“So last week in the Chamber I asked the Minister not only why these hazardous trees have not been removed, but also to provide a completion date so the community is aware of when it will be done,” he said.
Caption: Nationals State MP, Tim Bull, is calling for the removal of identified hazardous trees along Gelantipy Road.
Monday, 12 February 2024
Medical imaging woes need addressing
The State Government has been asked to step in and address the major issue of medical imaging delays at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service and other country hospitals, by State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
Speaking in Parliament last week with the Health Minister in the Chamber, Mr Bull said “Minister, we need your help” before outlining examples of the horrendous delays being experienced.
“One patient had a seven-week wait for scan results required after his surgery, only to be told that due to the age of the results he had to go back for another scan, with no guarantee this would not happen again,” Mr Bull told Parliament.
“Another, a cancer patient, had an oncologist appointment 20 days after her scan to discuss the course of action for her treatment. However, when she turned up at the appointment, the oncologist had not received the scans, so the treatment plan could not proceed.
Can you imagine how that poor woman was feeling about that?
“Another gentleman travelled to Melbourne for a specialist appointment, but on arrival, 15 days after the scan was done, the specialist did not have the results, so the appointment could not take place, further delaying his treatment.
“This is frustrating GPs, impacting the health of patients and delaying critical treatments, and I know it is the same at other country health services,” he said.
“We know that the third-party provider IMED is suffering from staff shortages, but it is more of a problem in the country than the city and severely impacts the health outcomes of country people, and it could potentially cost lives.”
In her answer, Minister Thomas said, “I thank the Member for Gippsland East, who raised with me the concerns that his constituents are experiencing getting their imaging done in a timely way – particularly at Bairnsdale, but at other health services in the Gippsland region. It really points to the need for us to think perhaps a little differently about the way in which we can ensure that people in rural and regional Victoria are not disadvantaged by the tyranny of distance, which sometimes plays into the difficulties that we have in getting the right people at the right place in terms of the healthcare workforce”.
“I very much look forward to looking into that and trying to resolve that issue with you, so I thank you very much for that question.”
Mr Bull said he was pleased the Minister then followed him up for a personal discussion on the topic and is hopeful alternate options are being looked at, including one suggestion of partnering country hospitals with city hospitals for a quicker turnaround time.
“However, at the end of the day words only go so far, we need it fixed,” he said.
Caption: State Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has addressed the Health Minister in Parliament seeking to address major medical imaging delays at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service.
Monday, 12 February 2024
Bull flags concerns on animal welfare bill
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has urged farmers and rural communities to provide feedback on a new Animal Care and Protection Bill being proposed by the Allan Labor Government that would see farmers face big fines and jail time if they fail proposed new minimum care requirements.
“While I support sensible and reasonable animal welfare improvements, we need to make sure this legislation is not imbalanced and serves the extreme views of animal activists.
“Requirements (with little detail) include ensuring animals enjoy ‘appropriate’ exercise, ambient temperatures, correct noise levels, lighting, air quality, shade and shelter. It also states that animals should not be stressed when ‘loading’.
“In addition, it demands animals have opportunities for appropriate interactions with humans and other animals, including ensuring interactions are conducted in a manner that minimises anxiety, fear, pain or distress.
“Failure to meet an appropriate care requirement puts owners at risk of fines in excess of $20,000 or six months imprisonment, or both.”
Mr Bull said that one of his major concerns is that in a briefing on the Bill, he asked some basic questions that could not be answered by the bureaucracy.
“For instance, I asked if a herd was placed into a paddock to eat out a harvested crop area (common practice), could the farmer be fined for not providing shade. The answer was ‘we will have to get back to you’.
“I then asked why a person can be sentenced to jail for using a jigger on a horse, but it was okay on cattle – and I got the same answer.
“Guidelines issued by the Allan Government also use words like ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’. My issue is, who decides what constitutes this?
“I then asked what constituted the offence of causing harm or distress when loading an animal, and there was no clear response to that either.”
Mr Bull said he was concerned who would determine what was ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’.
“We have seen some of the sentences handed down by animal activist sympathising judges in the past.
“It is clear the government has also done little consultation with farmers and farming groups in the preparation of this. These men and women should have been given a much greater say in the preparation of the draft legislation.
“The public has until March 8 to provide a response to this draft legislation and can do so on https://engage.vic.gov.au/new-animal-welfare-act-victoria “.
“I urge everyone who has an interest – and that should be all of us – to take some time to read the draft bill and consultation documents on the above website and make a submission,” he said.
Monday, 5 February 2024