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Roads Minister confirms Western Highway Duplication project “not a priority”

Yesterday in Budget estimates hearings Roads Minister Jaala Pulford said the State Government has not provided funding to match $360 million in Federal Government funding for the Western Highway (Ararat to Stawell) Duplication Project because it is not a priority of the Labor Government. 

Under questioning yesterday the Minister said that there was no matched funding for the project because the 2019/20 State Budget was about delivering on the Labor Government’s election commitments and the Labor Government’s priorities. 

It is incomprehensible why the final section of the of the Western Highway project isn’t a priority for the Labor Government, given during the same hearing the Chief Executive Officer of VicRoads said funding was delivered to roads with the highest strategic importance and were the biggest economic drivers - categories this projects clearly fits inside. 

Member for Ripon Louise Staley said it was a disgrace that the Federal funding hadn’t been included in the budget and that furthermore, the State contribution of $90 million was also not included.  

“This project is already four years overdue”

“Including this money in the Budget would have enabled the project to finally get completed”

Ms Staley said drivers where fed up with driving on a substandard road that is desperately in need of an upgrade.

“The Treasurer, Tim Pallas also confirmed during his PAEC hearing that the this project was not a priority,”

“We have a Premier for Melbourne, his Taxing Treasurer and Roads Minister not caring about projects outside of the Melbourne Tram Tracks,”

“This project is overdue and it is needed now,”

Labor have been in Government in Victoria for all but four of the last 20 years.  The people of Ararat and Stawell should be questioning why the Labor Party doesn’t believe one of the most important roads in our region is a priority and why they are happy to let it crumble while they build new freeways in Melbourne.


Valuable police resources wasted on Labor’s vacuous political stunt

Victoria Police have today revealed that they will not take any further action into a State Labor complaint about the Coalition’s use of taxpayer funds and electorate officer resources.

Following a ten month investigation, senior Victoria Police detectives today confirmed no offences have been identified and no further action will be taken.

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley, who was referred under the investigation despite not even being an elected Member of Parliament at the time the alleged impropriety occurred, has slammed Premier Andrews and his devious deputy James Merlino for wasting precious police time and resources because of their vexatious claim.

“I am absolutely appalled at the extent to which Labor leaders and the Labor party will go to in an attempt to throw their political opponents under the bus,”

“In an act of pre-election pure desperation, Labor attempted to divert attention away from their disastrous Red-Shirt investigation by the police Fraud Squad by making up spurious claims about Coalition members,”

“And yet they couldn’t even get it right – they referred me, Tim Smith and John Pesutto – as part of this investigation and yet none of us were sitting MPs at the time,”

“My advice to Premier Andrews and James Merlino is get a mirror – because the people guilty of rorting the taxpayer is you two.”

It’s no wonder Victoria continues to have a crime problem when Labor thinks nothing of wasting valuable police time and resources on Labor’s vexatious claims.


Murray Basin Rail out of money and on hold

Under Daniel Andrews and Labor, the Murray Basin Rail Project is in disarray.

During a Budget Estimates hearing in Melbourne on Wednesday, Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan belatedly admitted the project she has botched is now out of money and cannot be completed without additional funding

The transformational Murray Basin Rail Project was initially funded by the Liberal State and Federal Governments with State Labor taking over the project on their election and Jacinta Allan boasting their revised business case “stacks up.”Yet there have been persistent problems with the project management as the Minister haplessly botched the project to such a degree it has now run out of money.

Under Labor there has been a $100 million blow out on the Mildura line stage; the Maryborough-Ararat works have been hampered by the use of second-hand rail line, broken welds and slow speeds; and now Stage 3 is indefinitely on hold because the Andrews Government claims it has run out of money.

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley said that news that the project was out of money and on hold was a bitter blow for Ripon farmers.

“Local farmers, who were set to benefit from the completion of this projects, now have no idea how long they will have to wait for this vital rail project that Labor has promised to deliver.”

“Meanwhile in Melbourne the Andrews Government is pouring billions of dollars into metropolitan transport projects that have had major cost blow outs. These projects aren’t being put on hold.”

“Clearly under Daniel Andrews and Labor, Melbourne always comes first.”


Gold tax puts local jobs on shaky ground

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley MP today visited the Ballarat Goldmine to discuss the impact of the Andrews Labor Government’s new gold mining tax on local jobs.

Ms Staley met with Stephen Jeffers, General Manager of Castlemaine Goldfields, who runs the Ballarat mine. Mr Jeffers has been an outspoken about the impact of Labor’s newest tax on the viability of the Ballarat operation.

Ms Staley said today’s meeting with Mr Jeffers confirmed that this is a tax on regional employers that puts local jobs at risk.

“Mr Jeffers said to me that Mr Pallas needs to take into account the risk that this Royalty poses to hundreds of local Ballarat jobs and the potential loss of wealth injected every year into the local Ballarat economy.”

“The gold industry is vital to local economies and Labor’s latest big new tax is going to make life even tougher for regional Victoria.”

Ballarat Goldmine has 220 employees and contractors as well as supporting jobs at a number of local suppliers.

Treasurer Tim Pallas was standing by his new 2.75% Gold Mining Royalty when asked about it during Question Time in Parliament last week. Clearly the Treasurer is running out of ways to prop up his Government’s overspending and cost blow outs on major projects in Melbourne. He is now risking regional jobs to raid the pockets of Victorian gold miners.

“Daniel Andrews and Tim Pallas have sprung this new tax on our gold mining industry without warning and without consultation,”

“Mr Jeffers said to me that the Ballarat Gold Mine wants a fair hearing into the implementation of this Royalty.”

As many workers in Ballarat face an uncertain future, the Treasurer has shown a complete disregard for the consequences these men and women face as a result of his decision. When asked last week at the Melbourne Press Club why he suddenly imposed a new gold tax, the Victorian Treasurer said “because I could”.


Western Victorian Cross Bench MPs must support their volunteer firefighters

Today the Andrews Labor Government released the 2019 version of their Bill to break apart the CFA and to deny cancer compensation to most volunteer firefighters.

Across Western Victoria, almost all CFA brigades are 100% volunteer, so this legislation makes them second class citizens when it comes to cancer compensation. The legislation also transfers all paid CFA staff, including the vital brigade support staff out of the CFA.

Ever since the government proposed this model – a model rejected by their then Minister Jane Garrett, rejected by the CFA Board, rejected by the volunteer’s association the VFVB, and rejected by the overwhelming majority of CFA volunteers – the government has failed to properly consult or properly listen. Nothing has changed.

Liberal and National MPs across Western Victoria reject this attack on the very brigades and firefighters who have always formed the backbone of firefighting in this highly fire-prone region. We stand with the volunteers and the country communities they protect.

Upper House Crossbench MPs weren’t in the Parliament last time around, but it is imperative they support equal treatment of volunteer and career firefighters for cancer compensation. It’s also imperative that they act to support the structure that volunteers support – which is not what is in this Bill.

Country communities depend on all their elected representatives to act in their best interests, not as lackeys for the government.

Comments attributed to the Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell MP

This is an opportunity for Andy Meddick to extend his repertoire and stand up for the majority of the community he represents – not just the vocal minority. The future of our CFA volunteers in South West Coast is under threat, and Andy Meddick can put a stop to it.

Comments attributed to the Member for Lowan Emma Kealy MP

Lowan has some of the most fire-prone parts of the State including the Grampians, Little Desert and Wyperfield Nationals Parks and many State parks. Our 110 volunteer only CFA brigades do an amazing job - they are always first on the scene and provide the vital surge capacity we rely on to keep our people and property safe. The Nationals and Liberal parties will always support and protect our brave CFA volunteer firefighters who risk their lives to protect us.

Comments attributed to the Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan MP

The seat of Polwarth has some of the highest bush and grass fire districts. From the volcanic plains to the wild Otway Ranges it is entirely serviced by volunteer CFA brigades who have put their lives on the line for decades.  All political representatives are duty bound to support the 1000’s of volunteers and their families that our communities rely on to keep them safe

Comments attributed to the Member for Ripon Louise Staley MP

Ripon has over 90 all-volunteer brigades, and their firefighters must have access to the same cancer compensation as career firefighters. Andy Meddick and Stuart Grimley need to support Ripon’s volunteer firefighters and the existing CFA structure.

Comments attributed to the Member for Western Region Beverley McArthur MLC

If it wasn’t for the CFA volunteers, lives would have been lost in the St Patrick’s Day fires in Western Victoria Region, so it is incumbent on all elected Western Region Upper House Members, including Mr Grimley and Mr Meddick to do all in their power to support our wonderful CFA volunteers.


Andrews Government must deliver for Ripon students

Member for Ripon Louise Staley has demanded that the Andrews Government delivers on three much needed school projects in Ripon.

 

On Monday, Education Minister James Merlino announced the opening of applications for the first round of the Non-Government Schools Capital Fund.

 

Ms Staley said it was critical that Ripon students are not forgotten and that important, priority upgrades are delivered to the non-government schools in the region.

 

“This fund has been created by the Labor Government to finance capital projects solely in non-government schools and Ripon schools must not miss out,”

 

“I am calling on the Minister for Education to make sure that funding flows to schools in Ripon,”

 

“At the 2018 State Election I made funding commitments to Highview College in Maryborough, Marian College in Ararat and Sienna Catholic Primary School in Lucas for much needed upgrades,”

 

“These are all fantastic regional low fee non-government schools who need the funding to grow their schools and the programs they deliver,”

 

“This government has a track record of ignoring anything outside the Melbourne tram tracks, I want them to commit now to delivering these much needed upgrades.”

 

Ms Staley said the Liberal Nationals support a strong public and private education system because we believe in giving parents choice and children the best opportunities.

 

  • Highview College, Maryborough $4.28 million to construct a Science Complex and modernise the STEM facilities
  • Marian College, Ararat $4 million to fund STEM centre and auditorium
  • Sienna Catholic Primary School, Lucas $1.8 million to build a new gymnasium and bus exchange area

Labor’s new Mining Tax will cost local jobs

Member for Ripon Louise Staley has described the Andrews Government’s latest Mining Tax as a cruel blow to local jobs.

Despite previously promising no new taxes, the Andrews Government yesterday announced a 2.75 per cent Gold Royalty.

The new tax will severely impact mining operations in Stawell, Central Victoria and Ballarat.

Ms Staley said this cruel tax came out of the blue without any consultation.

“240 regional mining jobs are under threat at just one local mine because Labor introduced a new mining tax without any warning.” Ms Staley said.

“Daniel Andrews has learnt nothing from Bill Shortens embarrassing election loss; Labor still refuses to support the mining industry”.

“Labor racked debts during the election campaign and is now turning to the local mining industry to pick up the tab.”

“The Andrews Government can't manage money. That's why they always come after yours. Even if it costs you your job.”

“Daniel Andrews lacks courage, no Gold Mines across Stawell, Ballarat and Central Victoria were briefed before being slugged by this tax”. 

“Labor’s reckless spending is out of control, and it is now set to impact local employment,”

“Any worker that loses their job will have Daniel Andrews to thank.”


Regional Victorians left fending for themselves

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley, has called on the Andrews Government to address the shortfall in Police resources in regional Victoria.

There have been a number of startling incidents across Victoria that have fuelled local concern about police numbers and hours of operation in Ripon.

Reports that the victim a home invasion in Apollo Bay called the police but officers weren’t able to attend the scene has once again underlined the Andrews Labor Government’s lack of support for police in regional Victoria.

This incident comes after a man, who has since been charged with murder, tried to hand himself into the Gisborne police station found that the station was closed. The Gisborne station was closed because there were too few police to keep the station open overnight.

Here in Ripon towns like Creswick are also without a local police presence at night.

Despite Victoria’s population growing by around half a million people in the last five years, frontline police numbers are down over the same period according to The Police Association.

According to The Police Association, there were 190 fewer frontline police in the four year period between 2014 and 2018.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley:

“Following media coverage of violent incidents going unattended, a number of locals have raised concerns about police numbers in Ripon.”

“Our state’s population is growing but frontline police numbers are shrinking.”

“The Andrews Labor Government is not providing Victoria Police with the resources they need to keep Victorians safe. That puts the safety and lives of Victorians at risk.”

“The Andrews Labor Government must ensure police have adequate resources and processes to respond to serious incidents in regional Victoria.”


Ripon students amongst most bullied in the State

The recently released 2018 Attitudes to School report conducted by the Victorian Education Department report has revealed that government country schools are hotbeds for bullying with rural students more likely to experience bullying than their metropolitan counterparts.

The report reveals some of Ripon local government areas have the highest rates of bullying in schools in Victoria.

Almost 40 percent of grade five and six pupils in Loddon Shire were bullied, followed by almost 30 percent in Central Goldfields.  For years seven to nine, 35 percent of Ararat’s students reported they had been bullied, the highest in the State.

Local Ripon MP, Louise Staley said the results were shocking and accused Labor of failing Ripon students. 

“These results are completely unacceptable,”

“School should be a safe place for all students, it is absolutely disgraceful that Ripon students are not safe from bullying,”

“Labor have been in government for 16 of the past 20 years and what have they done to specifically address bullying in country government schools? Nothing.”

“Labor’s city centric Minister for Education, James Merlino needs a geography lesson – there are schools and students that live outside the tram zone and these students matter,”

“Minister Merlino needs to do more than wave pieces of policy paper around and say that he is working on it – he’s not – and this report shows that,”

“Bullying of any kind is totally unacceptable, the government, schools and community all need to work together to address it,”

“Ripon students have a right to go to school and feel safe.”


Labor Government cannot hide behind Federal Court decision

A recent Federal Court decision that has quashed a previous Federal Government decision to allow the duplication of the Western Highway from Buangor to proceed is not a stop work order on the Western Highway Duplication project.

The Federal Court decision relates to the Djab Wurrung Traditional Owners appeal to the Federal Government, last December, to protect trees they say are sacred under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, an application that was rejected.

Member for Ripon, Louise Staley said it was critical that the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan work with the Djab Wurrung Traditional Owners to ensure this vital road project continues.

“The Federal Court decision is very clear that this decision is not a stop work order,”

“It specifically notes that the applicants would need to apply, with 24 hours’ notice, to the Federal and State Governments for any urgent relief related to the Major Road Projects Victoria which affects the Western Highway Duplication,

“Plain and simple, work cannot just stop on this project.”

Protestors have been on the ground blocking work for almost a year, causing significant delays to the $670 million project to duplicate the Western Highway.

Ms Staley said residents in Ararat, Stawell and those who regularly commute along that section of the Western Highway have had enough.

“What these residents don’t want to hear is more excuses, they don’t want the Minister hiding behind the Federal Court decision and using it as yet another excuse.

“This project has faced delay after delay, the Labor Government need to get on with it and finish the project.”