Premier’s controversial regional legacy

GIPPSLAND Opposition MPs have called on the new Premier, Jacinta Allan, to put a greater emphasis on Victoria’s neglected regions after the resignation of Daniel Andrews.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath, said for Ms Allan, it was time for a greater focus on governing for ‘all Victorians’ including those outside the tram tracks.

“Genuine investment in regional Victoria is well overdue. It is time to right the neglect of the people who produce our food and fibre, respect our CFA volunteers, and refocus on achievable outcomes for affordable homes with a reliable energy supply,” she said.

“Victoria needs a Premier who makes sensible decisions, not based on ideology and spin. The Nationals for regional Victoria know our rural and regional communities deserve nothing less.”

The Nationals Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, said Mr Andrews’ departure marked an opportunity for a major reset of government.

“Ms Allan must invest in our regions, and I will continue to fight for the Valley to receive its fair share. Labor must govern for all Victorians and start making sensible decisions that deliver beneficial outcomes for regional Victorian families,” he said.

“For far too long Labor has been the party for Melbourne, and regional Victoria has been neglected.”

Mr Cameron said Daniel Andrews’ legacy in the Latrobe Valley was nothing more than a trail of broken promises and neglect:

He cancelled the Commonwealth Games because of a $4 billion cost blowout, leaving sport clubs and small businesses reeling.

Mr Cameron also said that Mr Andrews allowed homelessness in Morwell to skyrocket, and there are going to be more people stuck on housing waiting lists for homes that will never be built.

He accelerated the closure of coal-fired power stations with no realistic plan or measurable actions to help the region transition.

He promised the State Electricity Commission would be ‘brought back to Morwell’ and deliver 59,000 jobs, “but it won’t”.

He said the SEC would bring power prices down, but its former interim CEO confirmed prices would skyrocket.

He told us the Latrobe Valley Authority would help the region deal with the economic fallout of the closure of Hazelwood, but “there has been no investment in new industry”. He has left the Latrobe Valley with the highest unemployment rate in regional Victoria. He has left the Morwell electorate with the highest crime rate of any municipality outside of Melbourne.

He nonsensically shut down the sustainable native timber industry, culling thousands of jobs and exposing Gippsland to an unacceptable risk of more catastrophic bushfires.

He promised more than 500 jobs would be created with a new electric vehicle manufacturing facility, but “that project is dead in the water”.

He has allowed local roads to rot and has allowed medical wait lists to spiral out of control.

Ms Bath said after Mr Andrews’ resignation, she reflected on the words of her late father who said, “If you can’t find something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all”.

“I will leave others to comment on the former Premier’s character,” she said. Ms Bath said the former Premier’s policies had created challenges, increased suffering, and compromised the health and well-being of many Victorians. “We have endured the longest COVID lockdown in the world and the global embarrassment of a cancelled Commonwealth Games,” she said.

Victorians were paying for an obscene waste of taxpayer funds – $30 billion cost blowouts on major city projects.

“Rural and regional residents drive daily on deteriorating and decrepit roads. Our wonderful hospitals struggle with overworked staff and ballooning surgery waitlists. Fed up, essential police, teachers, nurses are leaving their noble professions in never-before-seen numbers,” she said.

“We are paying the price of 50 new or increased taxes with small businesses and mum and dad investors shouldering much of the burden. State debt is slated to reach $171 billion over the next three years and we have a housing and rental crisis. We have witnessed the closure of traditional industries including the ideologically driven cessation of our sustainable native timber industry. Labor has grossly mismanaged of our public land and allowed forest fuel loads to build to a dangerously high bushfire risk.”

Ms Bath said in transitioning to renewables, the former Premier had ignored natural gas as a reliable energy resource.

“His lack of planning means Victorians can now expect summer blackouts,” she said.

The office of the Labor Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, was contacted for comment but did not reply.

Ms Shing is the Minister for Water and Regional Development.