Governor’s Speech – Address in Reply
20 February 2019
Mr Walsh : I rise to make my contribution to the address-in-reply at the start of this particular term of Parliament. First of all I would like to thank the people of the Murray Plains electorate for re-electing me and giving me the privilege and the responsibility of representing them in this place for the next four years. It is a privilege but it is also a responsibility particularly with some of the challenges that are happening in northern Victoria with the drought with the dairy industry with the water sector and with some of our communities who are desperate for new infrastructure. I will come back to that. I would also like to thank the many people who helped me throughout the election particularly two former members of Parliament Paul Weller and Noel Maughan who are both well-known to some in this place for the support they gave me throughout the election. I would also like to thank Damian and Karen Kelly and Marie Schlemme in Swan Hill who helped out immensely with the work they did throughout the campaign. I would also like to thank the people in the communities that I worked with over the last four years. It is not just about an election campaign. Being a local member of Parliament is very much about four years of work. A lot of community groups and a lot of people in the community opened up and worked with me to achieve the things that can be achieved as a local member in those particular communities. I thank all of them who helped me in the last four years particularly those who helped me during the election campaign and I look forward to working with those communities and those people over the next four years as well. The Governor’s speech delivered on behalf of the Andrews government should not be judged only by what was in the speech most importantly it should be judged on what was not in the speech. One of the things that was talked about in the speech was the issue of fairness. I must admit that I do not believe there is anything fair at all about what the Andrews government is doing and the way it is treating some of the primary producing sectors of Victoria. The sectors that actually create wealth in our communities the sectors that actually create jobs in this state are not being treated fairly and not being treated well by the Andrews government at all. Particularly for argument’s sake look at the forestry and timber harvesting sector. There are 24 000 jobs in that particular sector in this state. It is a really sustainable renewable industry that is actually on its knees now because the Andrews Labor government will not sign the timber release plan to give them timber into the future. The Andrews government is not saying ‘We are going to close the industry down’ but by not doing anything they are effectively closing that industry down. VicForests is now standing down harvest and haul contractors because they do not have any timber to harvest because the Andrews government will not sign the timber release plan. It is an absolute crying shame-a tragedy-what they are doing to the timber industry and to the people in it. We had a meeting here in Parliament with a number of the people out of that harvest and haul sector on Monday and after that meeting I just felt absolutely gutted on behalf of those people. They have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in machinery. They have large lease payments to make and they have now been stood down and have not got work. The timber release plan should have been signed last July but the respective ministers have just dithered around and dithered around and now these people are out of work because there is no timber to harvest into the future. That will have flow-on ramifications for the sawmills as they run out of timber and then we will have ramifications for the end users who will have to import timber because they will not be able to get timber here in Australia. A small issue for some but a big issue for a lot of others is what is going on with kangaroos. We have plague proportions of kangaroos in a lot of places in this state. If you go to any panelbeater in most country towns they are absolutely flat out dealing with kangaroo collisions. Ms Kealy: Someone should do something about that. Mr WALSH: As the member for Lowan says someone should do something about that. There was something done about that when we were in government between 2010 and 2014. That trial-it should not even be a trial now; it should be permanent-actually expires at the end of March. The industry again is desperate to know what is going to happen and the minister will not give any particular answer about that. I had the misfortune to actually hit a kangaroo between Christmas and New Year like a lot of others. When Helen Donaldson rang the other day to see if my car has been repaired yet she said ‘I’ve actually got 20 cars on my books at the moment from people who have been hitting kangaroos’. So between the parliamentarians and those who are served by VicFleet VicFleet know very much about kangaroos and collisions around country Victoria. Why can’t this government just make a decision and say that those kangaroos can go into the pet food supply chain? They could use those carcasses and control some of the kangaroos at the same time. There is nothing fair about how this part of Victoria is being treated by the Andrews government. Public transport is something that we as an opposition talked about a lot coming up to the election. If you are going to decentralise Victoria if you are going to have population growth right across Victoria rather than just having population growth in Melbourne you actually need to improve the public transport right around Victoria. The local government areas of western Victoria did a lot of work in putting together a proposal to have a business plan to return train services to Horsham and to Hamilton to improve train services to Stawell and to Ararat and to look at train services running up the Mildura line. There is absolutely nothing in the Governor’s speech and there is absolutely nothing in the policy proposals by the Andrews government that looks at doing anything about train services into western Victoria or returning trains to Horsham or to Hamilton. One of the things we did commit to was spending substantially more money on the Mildura line and having a passenger train going all the way up to Donald which is a good step on the way to Mildura but there has been nothing from this government-silence. There is nothing fair in the government’s intentions for those people on the Mildura line. There is a commitment from the current government around Bendigo Ballarat and Geelong. If you look at the line to the north there is no commitment around anything north of Bendigo to Swan Hill and Echuca. If you look at Geelong there is very little down to Warrnambool-there is nothing there into the future. There is a little bit on the Shepparton line but there is very little for the north-east line. I think the members of Parliament in that particular area-the member for Euroa the member for Ovens Valley and the member for Benambra-have run a very effective campaign showing the deficiencies in the train services on that particular line and the work that needs to go on there but there is nothing from this government for that particular part of Victoria. I come to Gippsland. The government focuses very much on Bendigo Ballarat and Geelong. It will actually mention the Latrobe Valley but if it comes to improving the train services down there there seems to be very little for that at all. One of the great legacy projects from when we were in government was the Murray Basin rail project. The only word I can think about that particular project now is- Ms Staley: Botched. Mr WALSH: You took the words right out of my mouth. It was a botched project. It was a fantastic project $440 million-$220 million from the Victorian Liberal-Nationals government and $220 million from the federal Liberal-Nationals government-to standardise and upgrade the freight network of north-west Victoria. It was something that literally generations had been crying out for. It was a once-in-two-lifetimes opportunity to actually make something real out of the upgrade to those particular projects. What we have now is allegedly $100 million over budget. Probably only one-third of the project is done. The Mildura line is done but as I understand it there is an issue around the welds cracking and the line is just not up to scratch. If you talk particularly about the Maryborough to Ararat line it is just an absolute disaster when it comes to upgrading that and the trains still only do 40 or 50 kilometres per hour. There is nothing fair about how the current government has managed the Murray Basin rail project-a botched project. The Governor’s speech talked about $10 million for agriculture. The Victorian budget is $50 billion and it talks about a $10 million dedicated grant program for craft producers to get visitors coming from overseas and interstate for agriculture. Probably the pre-eminent- (Time expired) The SPEAKER: Order! The time appointed by sessional orders for me to interrupt business has now arrived. The honourable member will have the call the next time we debate this matter. Business interrupted under sessional orders.