Victorian Labor has been left red-faced over its attempt to attack the Coalition Government for unregistered trucks in the Country Fire Authority (CFA) fleet after it was revealed today that the former Labor Government had presided over the start of the problem in 2004.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Peter Ryan said the CFA had confirmed an administrative oversight that had led to a lapse in registration of a number of CFA vehicles in fact started eight years ago - mid-way through the previous Labor Government.
“This is a lazy and embarrassing attempt by Daniel Andrews and Labor to mislead the community and now they have been left with egg on their face,” Mr Ryan said.
“Labor has been too lazy to even check basic facts before attempting to blame the Coalition Government for an error that was occurring for around six years under the former Labor Government.
“Labor should be embarrassed by its lazy politicisation of this issue, which is an important matter of safety, not a political football.”
Mr Ryan said the CFA had advised that it was investigating the administrative oversight which had caused the issue around the registration of its trucks.
“The CFA has indicated that this matter will be thoroughly investigated and systems put in place to ensure it does not happen again,” Mr Ryan said.
“Importantly, the Coalition Government has been reassured by the CFA that it is able to maintain service delivery until all trucks are re-registered and fully operational.”
Mr Ryan said the CFA is one of the world’s great volunteer organisations and the Coalition Government was investing a record amount to support the vital role of the CFA in Victoria.
“In the 2012-13 State Budget, the Coalition Government allocated almost $57 million to emergency services, including $22.9 million to build or upgrade rural fire stations across the state.”
Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541
New property-based levy to take effect from July 2013 Reform to reduce costs for households and businesses
The Victorian Coalition Government has today unveiled the details of a new model to fund Victoria‟s fire services as part of the most significant state-based tax reform in decades.
Under the changes, the inequitable insurance-based fire services levy will be abolished from 1 July 2013 and Victoria will move to a fairer, more transparent property-based levy.
Premier Ted Baillieu said the Coalition Government‟s reform would save households and businesses across the state more than $100 million a year.
“We have listened and acted on the concerns of the many Victorians who said the fire services levy was unfair and inequitable,” Mr Baillieu said.
“These changes will ensure everyone contributes a fair share to the fire services, not just those who adequately insure their properties.
“The reform will abolish the unfair „tax-on-tax‟ which sees GST and stamp duty charged on the current fire services levy. The reform also introduces a $20 million concession scheme for pensioners and veterans,” Mr Baillieu said.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said it had taken a Coalition Government to abolish the fire services levy in line with recommendation 64 from the Bushfires Royal Commission.
“The Coalition made a promise to Victorians before the last election that we would abolish the flawed insurance-based fire services levy,” Mr Ryan said.
“We have worked hard to get the model right and today we are proud to deliver on that promise.
“Under the current system only those who insure their properties make a contribution to funding the state‟s fire services.
“The insurance-based model increases the cost of insurance and acts as a disincentive to insure, leaving people vulnerable in the event of natural disasters like Black Saturday.
“Primary producers disadvantaged by the insurance-based fire services levy will also be better off as a result of this reform,” Mr Ryan said.
Treasurer Kim Wells said the move to a property-based levy was the most significant state-based tax reform in decades.
Design of the new property-based levy
Under the new model, the property-based levy will be applied to all land and buildings including non-rateable property and property owned by local councils.
The levy will consist of: a fixed component - $100 for residential properties and $200 for commercial, industrial, farming and vacant properties; and a variable component - calculated as a percentage of the capital improved value of a property. A different percentage, set at Budget time, will apply to the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Metropolitan Fire District (MFD) areas according to the budgetary needs of each service.
Under the new model there will be no cross-subsidy between metropolitan and country fire services.
The levy collected within the MFD area will be used to fund the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) while the levy collected outside of the metropolitan area will be used to fund the CFA.
The State Government will continue to make its existing statutory contribution to funding the state‟s fire services.
The levy will be collected through council rates notices and overseen by the State Revenue Office.
Mr Wells said the Coalition Government would continue to consult with the community in the lead up to the implementation of the new levy.
“An expert panel will be formed to focus on key implementation issues. The panel will consult with businesses, local government and other community stakeholders ahead of the transition and provide advice to government,” Mr Wells said.
Coalition to abolish unfair tax-on-tax
Mr Wells said households and businesses were big winners from today‟s landmark reform.
“By abolishing the unfair tax-on-tax in the current system, we will lower the cost of insurance considerably and save households and businesses across the state more than $100 million a year,” Mr Wells said.
“Households will pay about $60 million less under the new scheme, while businesses will see savings of about $45 million.”
Following the introduction of the property-based levy, the average contribution of a household in a CFA area to fire services is expected to reduce from an estimated average of $260 in 2011-12 (the last full year of the old system) to $140 in 2013-14.
Similarly, a household in the MFB area will reduce from an estimated average of $195 in 2011-12 to $145 in 2013-14.
In line with the Bushfires Royal Commission‟s recommendations, the Coalition Government will also invest $20 million in a concession scheme for pensioners and veterans.
“Property owners who receive a rates concession will be eligible for a $50 concession on the property levy,” Mr Wells said.
“This is a big win for pensioners who currently receive no concession under the insurance-based levy.
“Councils will also list the levy on rates notices so property owners can pay the new levy in the same manner as their rates, including through quarterly instalment payments.”
New consumer protection powers
Mr Wells said the Coalition Government would establish an independent Fire Services Levy Monitor to oversee the transition to a new property-based levy.
“I am pleased to announce that Professor Allan Fels will be appointed as the state‟s Fire Services Levy Monitor to ensure insurers genuinely pass on savings to their customers,” Mr Wells said.
“Legislation will be introduced in coming weeks to establish the monitor as an independent statutory appointment with the resources and powers to protect consumers.
“New, stronger consumer protection laws will be passed during the transition to protect consumers against price exploitation and misleading and deceptive conduct,” Mr Wells said.
As well as directly enforcing the new legislation and monitoring prices set by the insurance industry during the transition period, the Monitor will have the power to refer complaints to other bodies such as the Financial Services Ombudsman.
The Monitor will be appointed for a term of two years.
For more information about this announcement, visit www.dtf.vic.gov.au/firelevy.
The Victorian Coalition Government has announced tough new reforms to further safeguard the interests of communities, the environment and food production in the exploration for coal seam gas, Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan said today.
Mr Ryan said that alternative sources of natural gas presented potential economic benefits and new jobs for Gippsland communities, however the Coalition would not allow new industries to threaten local livability, the environment or food production.
The reforms which come into effect immediately are:
· a hold on the issuing of all new exploration licenses for coal seam gas until the upcoming national framework proposals have been considered;
· a hold on all approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing (‘fraccing’) as part of onshore gas exploration and;
· a ban on the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) in any mineral exploration activities in Victoria.
The Coalition Government will also:
· seek to strengthen resource policy and legislation to ensure better consideration of mixed land use issues during the application process for coal seam gas exploration activity; and
· use impact statements at the exploration stage in circumstances where there will be a significant material impact on the environment, to better manage mixed land use issues for all minerals exploration, including brown coal and coal seam gas. This power currently exists under section 41A of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.
“Impact statements and more work on policy and legislation will further safeguard areas of agricultural significance and address mixed land use issues in food production regions such as Gippsland.”
Mr Ryan said these new reforms would be reviewed once ongoing work by the States and Commonwealth on a national framework for coal seam gas was completed.
“The national framework process is looking at the best methods for the regulation of the coal seam gas industry, including water management and monitoring, well design and integrity, hydraulic fracturing chemical use and industry and community engagement.
“In anticipation of the new national standards the Coalition is toughening already stringent laws to ensure Victoria continues to have the toughest safeguards in Australia.
“These reforms follow the announcement in June 2012 that Victoria had signed a National Partnership Agreement with the Commonwealth on coal seam gas and large coal mining development.
“Under the National Agreement, the newly established Independent Expert Scientific Committee will commence a Gippsland regional scale study into water and water dependent eco-systems.
“This study will provide a firm scientific basis to enable the Government to better regulate for future coal seam gas exploration and production to ensure there is no long term risks to ground water aquifers.”
Mr Ryan said that the new reforms are in addition to Victoria’s already tough regulatory framework that includes Victoria’s Environmental Protection Policy under the Environment Protection Act 1970 which does not allow discharge (from exploration and mining activities) that will pollute groundwater.
“Exploration for coal seam gas in Victoria is at a very early stage. There is currently no coal seam gas production in Victoria. While the location of Victoria’s coal existing resources is well known, the amount of any associated gas and the feasibility of extraction are very much unknown.” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said the extraction of natural gas, both onshore and offshore, had been safely regulated by the Victorian Government for more than 40 years, protecting both local communities and the environment while providing an affordable source of energy for households and business.
“By shielding communities and the environment from potential negative affects Victoria can open the way for opportunities to provide long term supply of cheap energy, create new local jobs and deliver more economic activity for local communities,” Mr Ryan said.
“The community doesn’t want new sources of gas and energy at any price. That’s why the Government will ensure that any future development of Victoria’s resources is carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner.”
Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 108 870
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Peter Ryan today officially opened the new state-of-the-art Department of Sustainability and Environment office and depot in Heyfield.
Mr Ryan said the new $9.1 million facility was fully equipped to manage high-level emergency incidents and would significantly strengthen the region’s incident management capabilities.
“For many years this office has been the management hub for large-scale fires and floods in the region and this new facility will make the job for our emergency personnel so much easier,” Mr Ryan said.
“It’s an asset not just for Heyfield, but for Gippsland and regional Victoria as a whole.”
Mr Ryan said the new facility was equipped as a Level 3 Incident Control Centre, the highest incident management level in Victoria, and catered for up to 40 office staff from the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria on a day-to-day basis.
“The entire building is pre-wired and configured to quickly accommodate double this number during an incident,” Mr Ryan said.
“The latest technology and extensive cabling for phone, computer and radio communications means staff from any of the emergency management agencies are able to walk into the building and start working immediately. This is critical for large-scale incidents, when staff operate in shifts covering 24 hours a day.”
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith applauded the facility, and said it would play a vital role in community protection, while at the same time incorporating Australian Best Practice environmentally sustainable design principles equivalent to a 4-Star Green Star (Design) rating, resulting in low operating costs through reduced energy and water use.
Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull said the design of the new facility was based on consultation held post the Black Saturday fires and sets the benchmark for the development of new Incident Control Centres.
“This is a vast improvement on the old office, which was in very poor structural condition, causing the walls and floors to move as people walked through the building,” Mr Bull said.
“The new building is laid out so that the operations room and adjacent radio room act as a permanent hub, from which the incident management can be expanded.”
Media: Ben Bulmer 0437 108 870