Press Releases

Passing lane progress

* * - Friday, August 31, 2012
Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan said work to develop new passing lanes on the Strzelecki and Hyland Highways was progressing, with the Strzelecki Highway passing lane expected to be completed by early 2014.

Last week, Mr Ryan met with VicRoads Regional Director – Eastern Victoria Sebastian Motta and was briefed on the progress of the two passing lanes.

“Plans for a Mirboo North bound passing lane on the Strzelecki Highway have been developed, with the location of the passing lane to be situated approximately six kilometres south west of Mirboo North, near Stubbers Lane,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said a planning scheme amendment to reserve land to enable construction of the passing lane recently went through a formal exhibition and was reviewed by a planning panel.

“The planning scheme amendment is currently being considered by the Minister for Planning Matthew Guy,” Mr Ryan said.

“After Gazettal of the planning scheme amendment, VicRoads will commence land acquisition, including interviews with affected landowners, who have been consulted throughout the development of this project.”

Mr Ryan said VicRoads was also currently in the process of undertaking preconstruction activities including designs, geotechnical investigations and service locations to enable a contract to be advertised in mid-2013, with the overtaking lane expected to be completed by early 2014.

Mr Ryan said work on the development of the Hyland Highway passing lane was also progressing.

“A Traralgon bound passing lane has been developed between Lays Road and Campbell Road, which follows feedback from the local community and the freight industry.” Mr Ryan said.

"A planning scheme amendment is a required to reserve land to enable construction of the passing lane. Exhibition of the planning scheme amendment will allow further community input into the project and is expected to occur in early 2013.”

Mr Ryan said VicRoads anticipates that the contracts for the Hyland Highway passing lane will be advertised in early 2014, with the overtaking lane to be completed shortly after.

Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 108 870

Labor red-faced over CFA truck registration error

* * - Thursday, August 30, 2012

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

Coalition to introduce fairer system to fund Victoria’s fire services

* * - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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.

Concession scheme

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.

Stronger coal seam gas regulation to safeguard Gippsland communities

* * - Friday, August 24, 2012

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

Heyfield welcomes new incident management centre

* * - Friday, August 24, 2012

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

Vic Coalition’s historic frontline police roll-out continues

* * - Friday, August 24, 2012
An additional 350 frontline police officers will be allocated across Victoria by the end of June next year, as the Victorian Coalition Government’s historic boost to police resources continues to be implemented across the state.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Peter Ryan said the additional frontline police personnel would have enormous benefits for community safety and provide Police Command with greater flexibility to deploy resources to areas of need.

“By June 2013, an additional 1,200 police positions will have been allocated across Victoria since the Coalition Government won office in November 2010,” Mr Ryan said.

“This is huge step towards improving people’s safety and reversing the previous Labor Government’s 11 years of neglect and under-investment in Victoria Police.”

Mr Ryan said some of the biggest beneficiaries of today’s announcement include:

· Southern Metro Division 4 (Frankston and Mornington Peninsula PSAs) – 29

· Western Division 3 (Ballarat and Moorabool) – 27

· North West Metro Division 4 (Hume, Moonee Valley and Moreland) – 26

· Southern Metro Division 3 (Cardinia, Casey, Greater Dandenong) - 26

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government had allocated $602 million towards the recruitment and training of new police and a further $54.6 million towards new and upgraded police stations.

“This is a huge investment and one that is making a real difference in supporting Victoria Police in their ongoing efforts to fight crime and anti-social behaviour,” Mr Ryan said.

“The recruitment of additional police personnel is going extremely well, and Victoria Police will allocate a further 500 frontline police by November 2014 in line with the Coalition’s commitment.

“By November 2014 the Victoria Police organisation will enjoy an overall boost to its ranks of 1,700 frontline personnel above attrition, in the biggest boost to frontline police resources in a single term of government in Victoria’s history.”

Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541

$467,528 to support Olam Orchards infrastructure

* * - Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Olam Orchards’ $60 million almond processing plant at Carwarp received another major boost today with the announcement $467,528 from the Victorian Coalition Government for essential infrastructure works at the site.

Speaking in Mildura, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the $1.5 million package of works at the site would see the establishment of electricity and water infrastructure, as well as major improvements to road access.

Mr Ryan said Olam Orchards Australia – which was part of Olam International, a leading global supplier of agricultural products – was a major employer in the region.

“The Olam Orchards site in Carwarp is a Greenfield site that currently has no water or power infrastructure, and roadwork is needed at the site for both practical and safety needs,” Mr Ryan said.

“Under the improvements, the site will see electricity and water infrastructure established and a right and left turning lane on the Calder Highway constructed to enable effective and safe operations at the new facility.”

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp said the project would have significant flow on benefits for the local economy and the community.

“The water upgrades will provide the Carwarp Water Syndicate with improved security and reliability, and the construction of turning lanes will enhance safety for the general public and other businesses using the intersection,” Mr Crisp said.

“Furthermore, the broader almond processing facility will create 41 full-time equivalent jobs and there is an overall investment value of $60 million into the region.”

Mr Ryan said the $1.5 million project included $467,528 from the Coalition Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF), with the balance of funding provided by Olam Orchards Australia Pty Ltd.

“The $1 billion RGF is the Coalition Government’s flagship regional initiative which is driving jobs, growth and development across regional and rural areas,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Coalition Government is investing in regional Victoria to create prosperity, support, economic and social resilience and a better quality of life for regional and rural Victorians.”

Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541

Works begin on $6.4M Mildura Airport upgrade

* * - Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan was in Mildura today to mark the official start of the $6.4 million Mildura Airport Terminal Redevelopment Project.

Mr Ryan joined Member for Mildura Peter Crisp, local councillors and representatives of the Mildura Airport Corporation to celebrate the occasion and recognise the importance of this much-anticipated project for the region.

“The multi-million dollar redevelopment of Mildura’s airport terminal building will deliver significant social and economic benefits to the city and the entire Sunraysia region,” Mr Ryan said.

“The completely remodeled interior will provide for a significantly increased floorspace, an enhanced check-in area and a redesigned baggage system, which will all work to improve the circulation of traffic through the terminal and better support increased passenger numbers.

“The new-look terminal will also be critical to supporting new air services, such as the range of new passenger services connecting Mildura with Adelaide, Sydney and Broken Hill that were recently announced.”

Mr Crisp said the Victorian Coalition Government understood the importance of Mildura’s airport to the overall growth and development of the city and the surrounding region.

“This major investment in Mildura is a strong reflection of the Coalition Government’s optimistic view about the future of our city,” Mr Crisp said.

“In addition to improvements at the airport, the Coalition Government is investing $7 million towards the development of Mildura’s river-front, which is another exciting project that will deliver great benefits for the community.”

Mr Ryan said funding for the Mildura Airport Terminal Redevelopment Project included $5.2 million from the Victorian Coalition Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) and an additional $1.2 million from the Mildura Rural City Council.

“Regional cities like Mildura play a key role in driving growth and creating wealth in regional and rural Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Coalition Government is committed to investing in regional Victoria to create prosperity, more job opportunities, economic and social resilience and a better quality of life.”

Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541

Ryan praises future Northern Loddon Mallee leaders

* * - Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Victorian Coalition Government will provide $400,000 to support the establishment of a program that will foster the development of the northern Mallee’s brightest talent.

Speaking in Mildura, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the Northern Loddon Mallee Leadership Program would build on the potential of emerging leaders from business, government and community sectors.

“Funding from the Coalition Government will help deliver a quality annual community leadership program that will help participants build the skills, confidence, knowledge and networks they need to become a strong and positive influence in the community and the wider region,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said the funding, provided to the Mildura and District Education Council (MADEC), would help to develop a large pool of skilled leaders to participate in local, regional, state and national boards and bodies, industry associations, civic bodies and advisory groups.

“The program is expected to include more than 70 activities, catering to around 60 participants and over 100 people will be involved as volunteers,” Mr Ryan said.

“This program forms part of the government’s $6 million Regional Community Leadership Program, which is supporting a number of similar leadership programs across regional Victoria over four years.

“Our funding support is drawn from our larger $1 billion Regional Growth Fund (RGF), which was created to drive development across regional and rural areas, while providing better infrastructure, facilities and services.”

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp said the Northern Loddon Mallee Leadership Program would support an innovative regional business leadership culture.

“The overall $622,550 Northern Mallee Leadership Program will be funded with the Coalition Government’s $400,000 contribution (over four years), along with $35,000 from the Mildura Rural City Council, $53,000 in business funding and other in-kind contributions,” Mr Crisp said.

“Governments, businesses and the community have joined together to deliver this important program and I look forward to engaging with the region’s future leaders and seeing the exciting and positive outcomes that emerge from this program.”

Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541

Ryan to host Mildura Business Leaders forum

* * - Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan today met leaders of Mildura’s business community to discuss opportunities to develop the region and the state.

Mr Ryan said the Mildura Business Leaders Forum was designed to obtain important feedback from local business leaders regarding investment attraction, skills and workforce development, export facilitation, government regulation and key local issues.

“The forum is about what we can do to support the productivity and competitiveness of the Mildura region. This includes new projects and ideas that will strengthen economic development, industry sustainability and investment attraction,” Mr Ryan said.

“The forum in Mildura continues a state-wide strategy to engage with key regional business leaders across Victoria.

“The first of these events was held in Bendigo earlier this month, with key engagement forums to also be held at Traralgon, Geelong, Benalla and Ballarat.”

Mr Crisp said the forum would outline the Coalition Government’s latest economic agenda and gain an insight into the ideas, concerns and possible solutions that regional enterprise may have about growth and productivity.

“In the Mildura region, the key industries that drive employment and prosperity are: agriculture, manufacturing and food processing, mining, professional services, health and educational services. Renewable energy generation and aquaculture are also emerging industries,” Mr Crisp said.

“Today’s event provides us with the opportunity to hear directly from these groups about opportunities to increase productivity, boost access to export markets, facilitate investment and to maintain a focus on business growth.”

Mr Ryan said participants of the forum would receive individual follow-up from the Department of Business and Innovation to help advance any issues raised and continue the flow of two-way communication.

“These important events are designed to help us build enduring relationships with individual businesses in an effort to support long-term improvements to the way in which the Coalition Government supports and interacts with regional businesses,” Mr Ryan said.

Media contact: Clare Siddins 0429 507 541

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