Items filtered by date: December 2020
Tuesday, 15 December 2020 13:05

Worker shortage hits Lindenow horticulture industry

The Lindenow Valley’s $150 million horticulture industry is reeling from a shortage of seasonal workers because of the Andrews Labor government’s failure to put suitable quarantine arrangements in place.
In parliament last week, Nationals MP for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, spoke about the plight of growers in the Lindenow Valley who are approaching their peak harvest period and do not have the workers available, meaning some crops may not be picked.
In addition to employing hundreds of local workers, these growers are reliant on sourcing additional seasonal labour through the federal government’s Pacific Labour Scheme.
“The charter flights to bring workers to Victoria from Vanuatu under this scheme are on hold because the government has failed to put quarantine arrangements in place,” said Mr Bull.
“We have cases where farmers are happy to pay for the flights, but there is no system in place.”
“This is now predicted to drive up the cost of fruit and vegetables by up to 25%, making fresh produce unaffordable for many households.
“Tasmania for example is working with growers and paying the quarantine bill, but Victoria’s Agriculture Minister seems to be asleep at the wheel,” said Mr Bull.
Local organic farmer Kane Busch says the Pacific Labour Scheme has operated successfully for several years and become an integral part of workforce planning.
“Our industry is at a critical point at the start of the harvest season and if the quarantine problem isn’t solved quickly, it will be a crippling blow,” said Mr Busch.
Bonaccord’s Keith Ingram has a bumper crop of sweet corn that is threatened.
“That crop is worth $10 million but if we can’t get the workers here in time, we will lose a lot of it,” he said.
Andrew Bulmer, who also farms at Lindenow, wants the government to meet with growers to discuss quarantining seasonal workers in regional areas, as is already being done in other states.
“We know that horticulture areas in other states have worked collaboratively with their state governments to find workable on farm quarantine solutions and we are ready to do the same,” he said.
Mr Bull says he has asked the Agriculture Minister to tell growers what the government is doing to get seasonal workers to the Lindenow Valley this harvest season.
“I have also asked the Minister if she will match Tasmania’s initiative to fully subsidise the cost of quarantining its seasonal workers.”
Caption: Pictured (from Left to Right) are Andrew Bulmer, Keith Ingram and Kane Busch with Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, at Busch Organics celery crop which is only weeks away from having to be ploughed in due to the Andrews Labor government’s failure to organise quarantine for seasonal workers.
Published in Media
Friday, 11 December 2020 16:09

VicHealth funding helps support communities

Nationals Member for Gippsland East and former VicHealth board member, Tim Bull, has congratulated local clubs and organisations that have received VicHealth funding to support residents hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic to improve their health and wellbeing.

Mr Bull said the organisations had received VicHealth Reimagining Health Grants to help locals build better social connections with each other and the community, provide greater access for physical activity and increase access to healthy, affordable food.

“This funding will support those in the community who need it most,” Mr Bull said.

“This much needed VicHealth funding will ensure local organisations can continue supporting our community to build back better from the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

“Grass-roots organisations are the heart and soul of our local community and their efforts are key to helping us recover from this pandemic.”

Mr Bull said the funding would make a positive difference to each organisation and the local community members who will benefit.

“This has been such a tough year for many in our local communities with the impact of bushfires at the start of the year followed by coronavirus restrictions,” he said.

“A reduction in opportunities for people to be socially connected, active and healthy has really taken a toll on wellbeing.

“Each of these local organisations has welcomed this funding as we all look to recover from a difficult 2020.”

East Gippsland grant recipients include:

Wollangarra Incorporated - $10,000 to adapt its outdoor education program and build the capacity of young people to design, organise their own conservation programs and hikes;

Gippsland Lakes Complete Health - $3,000 to develop and run art workshops for bushfires impacted young people that will assist in the healing and recovery process;

Gippsland Lakes Complete Health Limited - $10,000 to support local Aboriginal people to co-design a place of healing and cultural connection that will rejuvenate the Lakes Entrance Aboriginal Health Association’s outdoor area;

East Gippsland Shire Council - $20,000 to provide opportunities for young people can participate creatively in circus performance, arts and crafts and music;

East Gippsland United Football Club - $9,875 to establish a GO Football junior program to reengage and rebuild confidence in returning to sport participation following the pandemic lockdowns;

North East Canoe Club - $3,000 to provide exciting white-water skills and leadership training to up and coming paddlers with the focus on increased participation for female participants.

VicHealth grants are currently closed to new applications but will reopen for further applications in 2021. For further information or to register for the VicHealth e-bulletin to hear about VicHealth grant rounds as soon as they are announced visit www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/funding/reimagining-health-grants.

 Friday, December 11, 2020

Published in Media
Wednesday, 09 December 2020 12:30

Bureaucracy gone mad

Here is an example of why we need Governments and Ministers to restore common sense to their Departments and agencies. The following would sit well in an episode of the political satire television series Utopia.

My office was contacted a few months ago by a couple seeking to have the overgrown nature strip at the front of their home fuel reduction burned in the lead up to summer. Driving past the site, it was clear to see this was a sensible request.

It is an area of about 200 metres of roadside, if that.

Enquiries revealed there had in fact been a burn plan in place for this section of roadside for “several years”.

The CFA would undertake the burn on a section of roadside that is a VicRoads responsibility.

A tree inspection was done some time ago and it was deemed there are trees that need to be protected. This meant they needed to be raked around and surrounded by mulch to provide protection.

The CFA then has to work with VicRoads to get native vegetation removal exemptions from DELWP (the third agency involved), so the preparation for the burn can progress.

My office is told this will “take some time and these people need to be patient”.

Remember, there has been a burn plan in place for ‘several years’ and we are talking about fuel reduction burning around 200m of roadside. How long do people need before they no longer have to “be patient”? A decade?

But this is not where it ends!

On top of this, we are then advised that before anything can proceed, there will need to be community engagement carried out to gauge peoples’ reactions. This suggests that if it is not popular, it may not be done.

We are talking about community safety here and a measure that may save homes or even lives.

To recap, a tree inspection needs to be done, a plan put in place to save certain trees, native vegetation removal approval needs to be obtained and community consultation has to take place before the burn can be done.

A little over the top perhaps, but even so – why can’t all this be done in weeks? Why has there been a burn place in place for several years without achieving the burn outcome?

And if a person gets sick of waiting and does it themselves, watch the rush of departmental staffers ready to write out the fines and prosecute that this basic job was done without appropriate approvals.

The departments and agencies can’t have it both ways – act with some level of common sense and get basic jobs done quickly when community safety is the outcome – or put the notepad and pencil away.

It’s time some of our agency heads got their collective heads together and streamlined this process for the sake of our community and the salt of the earth CFA volunteers who want to get in and do these community protection jobs with a minimum of fuss.

Monday, November 30, 2020 

Published in Comment Columns
Tuesday, 08 December 2020 10:23

Grants to support and commemorate our veterans

Local MP and Shadow Minister for Veterans, Tim Bull, is encouraging RSL sub-branches across East Gippsland to apply for their share of funding under three Victorian Government grant programs opening next week.
Mr Bull said the grants were an opportunity for local RSL sub-branches who have been significantly impacted by coronavirus restrictions, with clubs unable to proceed with their usual fundraising campaigns.
“It has been incredibly tough year for our RSL sub-branches, many of whom rely on revenue made through local fundraising campaigns which have been unable to go ahead due to COVID-19,” Mr Bull said.
“These grants are fantastic opportunity to assist local sub-branches and ex-service organisations get back on their feet, with priority given to projects responding to COVID-19.”
Applications opening Wednesday 9 December include the:
• ANZAC Day Proceeds Fund
• Victoria Remembers Grant Program
• Restoring Community War Memorials and Avenues of Honour
The ANZAC Day Proceeds Fund endeavours to provide support to the veteran community through the provision of funding for a range of welfare related activities. For a proportion of the funding, priority will be given to projects responding to the impacts of COVID-19.
The Victorian Remembers Grant Program offers grants of up to $30,000 (excluding GST) for projects which honour or commemorate veterans’ service or educate Victorians about veterans’ contributions.
The Restoring Community War Memorials and Avenues of Honour offers grants of up to $30,000 (excluding GST) for projects which restore community war memorials, honour rolls and avenues of honour.
For further information on each of the grants, including eligibility, please visit https://www.vic.gov.au/grants-support-and-commemorate-veterans.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Published in Media