Regional Victoria

Regional Victoria

14 December 2017


 I rise today to grieve for the people of country Victoria. I note that in the Minister for Industry and Employment's contribution he made very little mention of country Victoria, but can I tell you that there is a great degree of nervousness sweeping across country Victoria at present because we can see that a coalition between Labor and the Greens is on the horizon. We can see that there is a coalition on the horizon. The result in Northcote — and I knowledge the presence of the member for Richmond at the table — was a complete disaster for Labor. We can see that post the election next year there is the very real prospect that those on the opposite side will endeavour to form a coalition with the Greens party, and that will spell disaster for country Victoria.

The Leader of the Greens in the Council has made no secret of the fact that her aim is to be in government. She has spoken about being in coalition with the Labor Party. We saw the first signs of what a coalition between Labor and the Greens would look like during the Northcote by-election. The Labor Party has been absolutely hell-bent in recent months on out-greening the Greens to the absolute detriment of country Victoria. This is not a government reminiscent of the Bracks and Brumby era. This is not a government that governs for the sensible centre. It is a government that is hell-bent on being green lite. Under Premier Andrews Labor has abandoned workers. It was interesting to hear the Minister for Industry and Employment, who is at the table —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms RYAN — Well, unemployment is up. Under this government 750 people have lost their jobs at Hazelwood. We are seeing jobs go at the Heyfield timber mill. This is not a government that cares about jobs. This is a government that has walked away from the people it purports to represent. We know that a government that Premier Andrews leads will do a deal with the Greens because it cares more about power than it does about people, and nowhere was that more evident than in the Northcote by-election.

One of the things that absolutely gobsmacked me was that the Premier was willing to trade off animal welfare outcomes. He was willing to trade off the livelihoods of food producers in country Victoria not just by doing a preference deal with the Animal Justice Party (AJP) but by agreeing to implement their policies. I have looked at some of their policies. They are against food production of all kinds if it involves animals. They advocate a plant-based diet only. They do not want to see a wool industry.

Ms Ward — What?

Ms RYAN — The member for Eltham is incredulous. She should have a look at the policies of a party that her government has done a preference deal with.

Ms Ward — Can you quote me where it says we don't support the wool industry?

Ms RYAN — The member for Eltham, perhaps you should listen to me. I said that the Animal Justice Party that you did a deal with states on their website that they do not want any animal-based industries. The Animal Justice Party candidate in Northcote, Nina Lenk, blew the whistle on this deal. She told the Age that the funding was offered in an effort to lure the microparty away from its traditional loose affiliation with the Greens. The article notes that whilst the Premier was out there denying that Labor would change its policy for it:

Animal Justice confirmed on Friday it had agreed to direct preferences to Labor in return for more than $500 000 of taxpayer-funded spending on the microparty's favoured causes.

The government's announcement on 19 October, of a public sector group called Animal Welfare Victoria which would splash $500 000 on animal welfare causes in its first year of operation, attracted little attention.

But AJP candidate Nina Lenk told the Age on Friday the funding was offered in an effort to lure the microparty away …

'We're preferencing Labor because they were offering us a Victorian welfare group for animals. They were also offering us about $500 000 for animal organisations and community organisations', Ms Lenk said.

'Clare, the candidate, is vegan too and we obviously really identify with those values as well and they're going to re-align the prevention of cruelty to animal acts.

'So basically that's why we gave our votes, our preferences to Labor'.

They were completely willing to trade away the future of rural-based industries in order to hold an inner-city seat. We saw that particularly with the commentary around the great forest national park. We know that there is a cabinet split in how those on the opposite side view the great forest national park. We know that the member for Bellarine, who is also the Minister for Water and who used to be the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, supports the great forest national park. Back in 2015 when asked if the proposal could become a reality within the government's first term, she told the Sunday Age:

Yes, I think so. I'm hoping that's the case …

The national park is the long-term solution here. That's where we hope this process gets to …

That park will be a sure thing under a government that is led by a Labor and Greens coalition. That will be devastating for rural Victoria. Just 6 per cent of Victoria's native timber estate is available for harvest to the timber industry. We already have 4.74 million hectares of native forest in Victoria that is protected through national parks and conservation reserves, and in many cases they are poorly managed. They are overrun by invasive weeds, they are overrun by feral deer, feral pigs and foxes, and in many cases they are fire traps. If that park is created, it will spell the end of the timber industry here in Victoria, and of course we know that that is what the Greens want to see. It will impact on more than 2000 direct jobs, which will be lost, as well as thousands of downstream jobs.

In my own electorate of Benalla, Ryan & McNulty will be put out of business. There are communities like Powelltown which will be absolutely devastated. And could the Greens or Labor give a stuff about that? No, they could not, and do you know why they could not? Because it is not in their communities. That is what angers me about this. This is all about people making policy for the communities they do not live in. That park will devastate communities in Victoria, and we know that that park will be a sure thing should there be a coalition on the cards.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) plan is another issue that I have a great degree of nervousness about. The Greens are advocating for sustainable diversion limits of 4000 gigalitres. Currently, as of 30 September, 2106 gigalitres of water has been returned to the environment. That is 76.6 per cent of the current target. Northern Victoria communities are struggling; they are absolutely struggling. We cannot afford to lose more water, but we know that the Greens have an active policy to take more water and deliver it back to the environment. They were not even happy with the range that was articulated by the MDBA. They wanted to lift it to 4000. I would suggest that those opposite and the Greens party leave the city and get out and talk to those northern Victoria communities which are so desperately endeavouring to cope with that reduction in water.

There are great employment impacts in the policies proposed by the Greens. For example, they wish to ban rodeos, which are great supporters of many of our country communities. I know that there is a proposal to return the rodeo in Euroa. Rodeos pump significant investment back into local communities. There is a rodeo at Buchan and at Orbost and at Omeo, and they fund those small towns and small community groups. Should the Greens ever attain government, that will be gone.

The Greens want to ban the live export trade. They want to ban the trapping of wild dogs. They clearly have no understanding, no comprehension at all, of the damage that wild dogs inflict on rural communities — the absolute devastation that they create.

They want to ban greyhound racing. Just yesterday Labor and the Greens in the ACT worked together to ban greyhound racing. The economic contribution of that industry to Victoria is more than $400 million and it supports more than 3000 jobs. In addition to the indirect jobs that are lost, if Labor and the Greens form a coalition we can expect to say goodbye to the track at Ballarat, goodbye to the track at Bendigo, goodbye to the track at Cranbourne and goodbye to the track at Geelong. I do not know how Labor members feel about this. We can say goodbye to the tracks at Healesville, Horsham and Broadmeadows. The member for Broadmeadows is in the chamber, as is the member for Sale. We can say goodbye to the tracks at Sale, Springvale, Shepparton, Traralgon, Warragul and Warrnambool. The impact of that will be extraordinary.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms RYAN — I guarantee you that when you need the numbers of the Greens you will capitulate and you will sell out those industries in a second. You will sell out food producers, you will sell out greyhound racing and you will sell out small community events like rodeos because we know that for you power is always more important than people. You have proven that time and time again.

Why don't we have a look at the Country Fire Authority (CFA)? We know that Labor and the Greens are on a unity ticket on that one, don't we? I think the Greens would be the only party that receives a greater donation from the United Firefighters Union than the Labor Party, so we can expect the bullying of the CFA to continue. We will continue to see policies such as cutting funding for small magazines like FireWise, which is the backbone of our CFA volunteers.

Where will we go on energy? We have just heard from the Minister for Industry and Employment, who was talking about the jobs that Labor is supposedly creating, but what about Hazelwood? We know that the Greens have a policy for a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, and we know that the member for Prahran said just this year that they have a plan to phase out coal-fired power stations. So we know that, should there be a coalition between Labor and the Greens, Loy Yang will be gone and there will be further job losses in the Latrobe Valley. We know already that in a bid to buy Greens votes in Northcote Labor tripled the taxes on the brown coal generators, leading to the closure of Hazelwood. They forced the closure of Hazelwood.

We heard the member for Ripon earlier articulating the difficulties that people in her community are facing because of increases in electricity prices there. In my own community of Benalla, D&R Henderson have faced an increase of more than $2 million in their energy costs in one year alone. They had their contracts out for tender when Hazelwood announced that it was closing, and overnight the cost of their electricity contracts doubled. That is going to have flow-on consequences to the community of Benalla, and we are seeing that right around country Victoria.

Just last week I was speaking to the new owners of the Queen Meadow Caravan Park in Heathcote. They are really, really concerned about the impact that energy prices are having, particularly on their permanent residents. They are residents who are quite vulnerable, and we have heard the Victorian Council of Social Service warning of the impact of energy prices. This government is more intent on implementing Green-tinged policies than it is on looking after the vulnerable in our community.

We know that at the end of next year if the seats of Brunswick and Richmond go to the Greens, if the seat of Albert Park goes to the Greens —

Mr Wynne — Settle down!

Ms RYAN — I am sorry, member for Richmond, but you know that is in all likelihood the reality. These are some of the policies that are going to come through. I can tell you: people in country Victoria are very, very, very worried about this. They are worried that those opposite will capitulate to the Greens party because those opposite are more intent on holding onto power than they are on protecting those communities. We have seen demonstrations of that through the Northcote by-election. We have seen that they are ready at the drop of a hat to sell out communities in country Victoria. It is very difficult after watching the outcome of that by-election to have any confidence whatsoever that those opposite will stand up for the interests of country Victoria should they find themselves in a coalition with the Greens after the next election.

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