The resilience of our country communities has been tested through 2019.
For some farmers, their hard work through the year paid off with favourable seasonal conditions.
For others, particularly in northern Victoria and East Gippsland, they continue to endure the pressure of extreme drought which has weighed heavily both emotionally and financially.
But it’s difficult times like these when we see the very best in regional Victorians.
Small businesses, community groups and service clubs have brought our communities together to lend a hand to our farmers by running fundraisers and hay drives which direct support to those who need it most.
Farmers are the backbone of the Victorian economy, so in hard times like these governments need to ensure they are doing all they can to support this vital industry.
Disappointingly, the Andrews Labor Government was sluggish and lacking in its response.
It was October before the Premier even visited a drought affected community. Even then he came empty handed and to this day still refuses to provide farmers’ number one ask – direct relief on council rates and water charges.
This says a lot about Labor’s city-centric priorities.
This year, the Liberal Nationals worked closely with farmers and farm businesses to successfully establish a parliamentary inquiry to fix farm trespass laws because of constant illegal farm invasions by law-breaking activists.
We also successfully lobbied the Federal Government to consider expanding Lake Buffalo, to help secure future water supplies for our farmers.
It’s a big step forward and Daniel Andrews’ short-sighted arrogance saying “dams don’t make it rain” is all that stands in the way of a genuine opportunity to investigate a more reliable water supply for irrigators in northern Victoria.
The Liberal-Nationals continue to stand up for regional Victoria against a city-centric Labor Government that always seems to put politics first and country people last.
Under Labor, desperately-needed upgrades to country schools, including at Warracknabeal, Benalla, Bairnsdale, Korumburra, Foster, Kyabram and Cohuna, and hospitals, like Swan Hill and Warragul, remain unfunded.
The once-in-a-generation Murray Basin Rail Project has stalled and is out-of-money.
Regional rail continues to be plagued by delays, cancellations and, in recent weeks, 24-hour rolling staff strikes, leaving country passengers with no confidence in the VLine network.
And critical regional industries are under sustained attack from a Labor government obsessed with seizing inner city greens votes.
Earlier this year, the future of thousands of hard-working country Victorians was shattered as a result of Daniel Andrews’ decision to axe our sustainable native timber industry.
Workers, industry and even the CFMMEU are rising up against Labor’s destructive plan.
The native timber industry is the heartbeat of so many small regional communities and generates $7.32 billion for our state’s economy every year.
Not only this, but Labor’s ban will reduce access to heavy machinery resources that timber contractors provide in a bushfire to help clear fire breaks and access tracks.
This fight is far from over and the Liberal Nationals will continue to stand side by side with workers and industry in 2020.
In 2019, the Liberal Nationals also put forward our positive plan for the future of our state, starting with fixing the recycling crisis.
In the largest environmental overhaul in Victoria in decades, a Liberal Nationals government elected in 2022 will eliminate household waste going to landfill by 2035.
We’ll do this through bringing energy-from-waste technology to Victoria – a first for our state – and reforming our recycling sector.
As we stare down the barrel of another summer of energy blackouts, this type of new, clean technology must be part of our plan for the future.
Regional Victorians deserve more from Daniel Andrews’ city-centric government in 2020.
Country Victoria is a vital contributor to our state’s economy, but under Daniel Andrews, it doesn’t matter how much hard work is put in, regional Victoria will always come last.
The Liberal Nationals are determined to change that at the next State Election in 2022. It’s time for the country to get its fair share.