April 2024
Wednesday, 24 April 2024 09:50

Lest We Forget

At the time you are reading this, I will be at Gallipoli, spending a few days outside tomorrow’s official ceremonies to visit a few of our fallen locals.
As we approach this day, we should all remember the men and women who have served in all theatres of war, and particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice and survived but carried the scars of their service.
One of the challenges is that outside our own families, it is difficult to comprehend the scale of loss that was experienced as they are names on honour boards.
Hence, in this column, I would like to introduce you to some of the men who fell at Gallipoli and whose graves I am currently visiting. I’m able to visit due to the outstanding work of the volunteers at the East Gippsland Family History Group.
They are a group of dedicated local historians who have done some incredible work in researching the stories of our servicemen and women.
The first two are Basil Hooper and Vern Brookes, both with Orbost connections. It is doubtful they knew each other pre-war as they had separate upbringings, but would have almost certainly known each other heading to battle.
Vern was originally from Ballarat and had been teaching at Wangrabelle school and rode to Orbost to enlist. Basil was born in Orbost, but was working on a farm in Mooroopna with his brother Will when war broke.
However, both were assigned to the 7th Battalion and were both on board the Hororata, sailing to Egypt for training before heading to Gallipoli.
The 7th Battalion was in the second landing party on that fateful morning of April 25. By the time it was called into action, the Turks were ready as any element of surprise was gone.
Vern was shot in the landing boat and never made it to shore, while Basil made it to shore, but was one of the many cut down on the beach.
His brother Will was also later killed in France, and their sister, Katherine Smith, of Bairnsdale, was awarded a memorial plaque.
They are both buried at the No.2 Outpost Cemetery. Basil has his own grave, and Vern a Special Memorial headstone, meaning he’s buried in that cemetery, but the exact location is unknown.
Thomas Bell, from Lakes Entrance, was a telephonist by trade and therefore it was no surprise he was a signaller in wartime. He too was on the Hororata, but unlike Vern and Basil was in the 6th Battalion.
Thomas made it ashore but was also killed in the heavy fighting of April 25 and is buried at the Lone Pine Cemetery. His brother Algernon was later killed at Fromelles in July 1916, and his cousin William Bell was killed in 1917 in France also.
Thomas Haylock was a 30 year-old fisherman from Raymond Island and, being a member of the 21st Battalion, was sent to Gallipoli as a reinforcement.
The ship he was travelling on was torpedoed by a German submarine forcing the crew to take to the rescue boats, many which overturned.
The survivors arrived on September 7, but sadly Thomas was killed on October 12, leaving a widow he married before embarking. He is buried at Shrapnel Gully Cemetery.
They are just four of an extraordinary number of East Gippslanders who rest on the shores of Gallipoli.
Try and make it to your local service tomorrow to pay your respects.
Lest We Forget

Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Published in Media
Monday, 15 April 2024 11:50

Horror Budget beckons from wasteful State Government

With the State Budget around the corner, Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, is calling for additional roads and health funding in what the Government itself has already said will be a “tight budget”.

Mr Bull said the Treasurer has pre-emptively flagged cuts to community sport and the arts, but feared it would be a lot worse as Labor addresses its soaring debt.

“To paint the picture of the scenario we are facing, Victoria’s debt is currently around $130 billion, and ratings agencies have forecast this will grow to $247 billion by 2027 - greater than Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania combined.

“This would see debt repayments rise from the current $15 million per day we are currently paying in interest, to closer to $40 million per day by 2027 – a very depressing outlook.

“The independent Parliamentary Budget Office shows Victoria is already the highest-taxed state in the nation. In 2023-24, the Victorian Government will collect an average of $5,074 in state taxes per person,” Mr Bull said.

That compares with $4,707 in NSW, $3,647 in Queensland, $2,970 in South Australia and $2,900 in Tasmania.

“Despite the recent land tax changes, which are seeing a massive decrease in rental properties available and forcing rental payments up, the Government has flagged limited new taxes in the Budget, but rather forecast funding cuts to rein in debt.

“This will mean service levels will be impacted. In recent years we have seen a 40 per cent cut to road maintenance funding, and health services and hospitals have recently been told to ‘make savings’, but not impact front line services.

“My view is, our health services need a funding boost, not be asked to make savings. How can you cut millions from local health and hospital budgets without impacting front line services or enforcing local job losses? It cannot be done,” said Mr Bull.

“Already in the past 12 months, we have seen the pre-election promises for airport rail and the fast rail to Geelong scrapped, the Commonwealth Games cancelled and a host of other projects cancelled – all straight after the election and within months of the Government guaranteeing them.

“We recently learned the Suburban Rail Loop cost, that was $50 billion a few years back, has blown out again to $216 billion, and the North East Link toll road project has blown out by another $10 billion. These are billions of dollars, not millions.”

Mr Bull said Labor cannot manage money or its projects and, as a result, it is coming after your money - more than any other State Government in the country.

“It is clear they will have to rein in costs as a result of their mismanagement, but they should start with cuts to the massively increased public service, leave our hospitals and health services alone, and reinstate the road funding cuts they have overseen,” he said.

Monday, 15 April 2024

Published in Media
Monday, 08 April 2024 15:40

Hands off our health services

In a cruel cost cutting exercise, the Minister for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas, has told Victorian regional health services, including those in East Gippsland, to make significant ‘back of house’ budget savings, immediately.

Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says as the state continues to navigate the ongoing health service crisis, the Government must stop pressuring local hospitals from making damaging cuts to regional health services.

“The Minister is calling this a “Financial Management Improvement Plan” that boils down to cutting millions from hospital budgets, but at the same time, she is asking for no front-line services to be impacted.

“I spoke about this in Parliament last week and said, ‘asking country hospitals to cut millions and then tell them not to impact services to the public, was a fantasy request. It really is just not achievable’.

“Even if it could be done, what she is asking is for health services to cut local jobs from communities.

“The most unbiased commentators cannot believe this request. While Victoria is in the midst of an extended public health crisis, the Allan Labor Government is targeting regional health services to help pay for its financial incompetence.

Mr Bull challenged the Minister to show how regional hospital boards can cut millions of dollars from their budgets, without impacting frontline services or impact local jobs.

Monday, 8 April 2024

“We have people dying on hospital waiting lists, people who cannot get their medical scan results back in time so they can start their oncology treatment, and we have ambulances ramped because there are no beds for the patients in the hospitals, and the Minister wants to cut funding,” Mr Bull said in State Parliament.

“This is a cruel and disgraceful request from the Labor Government that must be revoked immediately.

“It’s not our hospitals that need a lesson on managing budgets. If Labor could manage its major infrastructure projects financially, our hospital boards would not be asked to take these alarming measures,” he said.

Published in Media
Thursday, 04 April 2024 17:19

Suburban rail project prioritised over health

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, says the Labor Government’s request for all hospitals across country Victoria to cut funding would have disastrous ramifications for regional communities.
“I spoke about this in Parliament last sitting week. Our health system is not going that well that the Minister should be cutting funds across the board. It is a time when it should be striving for better outcomes and investing more,” he said.
“To think hospitals are being asked to cut funds and not impact front line services is fanciful thinking from the Minister, and much easier said than done. Even if it could be achieved, it will only result in job losses to small communities like Orbost and Omeo that have already been hit hard by the timber industry decision.
“The Government should be supporting these communities, and I will be working with my local health agencies to push back on this horrible decision.
“Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas needs to explain how the Government can justify building the Suburban Rail Loop at a cost of $214 billion (blown out from $50 billion) while at the same time, cutting funding to our already stressed hospital and health system. It really does beggar belief that this is the thinking around priorities.
“Post COVID, the State Government has been asking our health system to do more and now it is forcing them to do it with less support,” said Mr Bull.
“The outcomes from this will almost certainly impact on both service levels and local jobs, and neither is acceptable.
“The consequences are dire, with over a dozen regional health services reporting operating losses in the last financial year alone. Projections indicate that by June more than half of Victoria’s health services could face negative daily cash balances.
“This is from a Government in more debt than any other state; heading to a debt higher than NSW, Queensland and Tasmania combined; is currently paying $15 million in interest a day on its debt which is headed to closer to $40 million per day – and is pushing ahead with the Suburban Rail Loop while cutting health budgets.
“Make no mistake – as a result of this Government’s inability to manage projects or debt levels, we are all paying the price through diminishing levels of service and higher taxes across the board. Victorians are already taxed more than any other state and it is getting worse.
“I urge regional communities to push back and demand our health services are better supported,” he said.

Thursday, 4 April 2024

Published in Media
Wednesday, 03 April 2024 10:39

Barrier trees going nowhere soon

The more than 100 trees growing in the centre of the road barriers between Bairnsdale and Sale, some well over six feet tall, will not be removed for months with the Minister for Roads, Melissa Horne, stating, “addressing this issue is a more intricate process than it may initially appear”.

Having raised the matter in State Parliament, Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull was told in a response by the Minister:

“DTP (the department) acknowledges the presence of saplings between the barriers. However, it's crucial to understand that addressing this issue is a more intricate process than it may initially appear.

Working in the middle of a highway exposes crews to significant safety risks. It requires specific traffic control measures, careful planning, and coordination to minimise disruptions to traffic while ensuring the safety of road workers and the travelling public.

DTP is developing a plan to address this issue throughout Gippsland and expects this program to be finalised and completed by mid-2024.”

Mr Bull said he found the response completely ridiculous.

“The Minister is using an excuse that road workers will have to work on the road, and they need to develop a plan for this – is she serious?

“Road workers work on the road every day and put the right safety measures in place. A couple I know, and have showed this to, simply laughed.

“What the likely issue for the Minister is, when they have a crew on the road, the barriers have created such a narrow carriageway, they will not have enough room for traffic to get around the stationary work vehicle, so they may have to divert traffic.

“Regional Roads Victoria has admitted to me that this stretch of road does not meet the Department’s current safety standards, which were adopted shortly after this stretch was completed. The fact it does not meet their own guidelines indicates it needs a broader fix,” Mr Bull said.

Caption: Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, is astounded the saplings growing in between the Princes Highway barriers are allowed to mature while the Department develop a plan for their removal.
Tim is pictured with the same tree, two years apart (2022 and 2024), that has been left to grow in between the barriers.

Wednesday, 3 April 2024

Published in Media
Tuesday, 02 April 2024 10:26

Hardwood, softwood – Premier do you know the difference?

Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has queried whether Premier Jacinta Allan, who is overseeing the shutdown of the native timber industry, even knows the difference between hardwood and softwood.
“In Parliament last year I asked the Premier a simple question, which read as follows:
With the close of the native hardwood timber industry on 1 January 2024 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommending the use of timber as the best climate change mitigation measure we can take, resulting in consumer demand increasing, can the Premier provide details on where Victoria’s supply of hardwood timber will now come from?
“However, in her response, the Premier made no mention of hardwood whatsoever, and stated new plantations in Victoria would focus on softwood timber, and softwood sawlog production will boost the state’s supplies of pine plantation building products,” Mr Bull said.
“The question never mentioned softwood, only hardwood and it was relating to where the supply of it would come from for our flooring and furniture, as well as a host of other items Victorian manufacturers produce.
“The answer indicates one of two things; either the Premier does not know where the hardwood our industries need is coming from, or she does not know the difference between the two products.”
Mr Bull said the final comment in the answer from Premier Allan was galling, where she stated, “we have listened to the timber industry – and the support we are providing aims to ensure certainty of work for harvest contractors, their families, communities, and local businesses.”
“There will be timber industry workers infuriated to read this. This sustainable industry did not want to shut down, so they certainly were not listened to.
“In addition, many have been left with offers that do not provide the security required, and other down the line businesses that have been promised support and have received none.
“Sadly, the Premier may have changed, but we get the same old political nonsense in the answers they provide us,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: State Nationals MP, Tim Bull, pictured at Fenning Timbers Bairnsdale with a pallet of stacked hardwood timber, questions if the Premier even knows the difference between softwood and hardwood timber.

Tuesday, 2 April 2024

Published in Media