Question without Notice- Drought assistance

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Ms Symes. It follows a Weekly Times article of 23 October about enormous variations in the amounts of drought assistance provided by the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments respectively.

Question without Notice- Black Spur

My question is to the Minister for Roads, Ms Pulford. It follows her Ministerial Statement yesterday, and previous Question Time exchanges between us on 18 June and 13 August, about accidents and safety issues on the Black Spur road in Murrindindi.  As well as the possible development of an alternative route to it.  I obviously thank her for the range of road improvements announced in her statement yesterday – and ask, as my question today, if she could clarify whether any decisions have also been made by the Government on three other critical issues for local people.  Namely, the installation of information signage at Buxton; the small size and lack of advance notification of pullover areas; and whether the Government now has a preferred model and/or location in mind for the possible alternative route?

SUPPLEMENTARY: In relation specifically to the possible creation of an alternative route, I ask the Minister if the Government has reached any decision (and, if so, what decision) about whether it might fund and/or assist in any other way with the development of a feasibility study into that outcome?

Members Statement – Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards

The Regional Achievement and Community Awards acknowledge the tireless work of individuals, communities, businesses and groups to support the social, economic, commercial or environmental prosperity of regional and rural areas. Finalists of this year’s awards included many dynamic programs from across Northern Victoria including TwistED Science of Echuca, Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation of Healesville, Food Next Door of Mildura, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, Tyrrell College of Sea Lake. Northern Victorian organisations were strongly represented in the Employer Excellence in Aged Care category including Cooinda of Benalla, Jacaranda Village of RedCliffs, and St Catherine’s Hostel of Wangaratta.  Dianne McAuliffe of Shepparton was a finalist for her volunteer work with the elderly and Kevin Mitchell brought Devenish together to paint their silos. Community groups from Devenish, Golden Square, Goorambat and Puckapunyal have built volunteer programs and tourist opportunities for their towns. The ‘No Flies on Us’ campaign by the Goulburn Murray Regional Fruit Fly Project were worthy recipients of the 2019 Regional Achiever of the Year Award, strengthening management of fruit fly across the region and creating benchmarks that can be shared around Australia. Congratulations to all nominees, finalists and winners. You are ALL winners and our regions are stronger because of the work you do

Constituency Question- Cobram crime

I held a forum on 19 September with residents in Cobram. They raised many issues of concern, including the lack of a 24 hour police station anywhere in the Moira Shire. I asked the Ministerwhether she will act to increase Victoria Police’s resources and presence in Cobram – and whether she would be prepared to accept an invitation to join with the local community and me at a meeting at a mutually convenient time to discuss this and associated issues?

Motion- Emergency Services Workers Mandatory sentencing

My Motion for Mandatory sentencing for assaults on Emergency Services workers. I want to send the unequivocal message to this State’s emergency workers (and want it to be heard far and wide) that we salute your bravery, courage and selflessness in looking after Victorians every day that you are at work. We support and admire you. And, when it comes specifically to those of you who have been assaulted (and who deserve to see those who attacked you genuinely brought to justice), we unashamedly take your side.

Constituency Question- Dhurringile Prison

My constituency question is to the Minister for Corrections.  It follows events at the Dhurringile Prison in late August, when authorities were apparently unaware that a prisoner had escaped until a member of the local community phoned them. A local community, I might add, that is increasingly frustrated at what they see as a contrast between inadequate security inside the prison and the
over-vigilance of guards outside the facility in monitoring the movements of private citizens on nearby roads. In that context, I ask the Minister if (and when) the Government will seek to implement less intrusive and aggressive means of monitoring movements of private citizens around the gaol – including potentially through issuing the guards with the number plate details of local residents so that they are not continually hassled, and treated with suspicion, when driving in and out of the area?

Adjournment-Farm Crime

My adjournment matter is for the Police Minister. I have previously raised here the ever-escalating problem of farm crime. I seek from the Minister is the provision of a statement with full details of what funding is being allocated to each of the initiatives that she announced on 23 September as being new. I ask for clarification of how many AGLOs there were across Victoria Police immediately prior to 23 September, and how (in a day to day sense) the roles of the FCLOs will practically differ from what the AGLOs were previously doing. Including whether the FCLOs will be working full time on farm crime issues or splitting this activity with other policing duties.

Constituency Question – Nestle Tongala closure

My constituency question is to the Minister for Regional Development – and is about the wellbeing of the people of the town of Tongala, in my electorate. It follows Nestle’s announcement on 28 August of its plans to close its factory in Tongala, and to progressively shift overseas all of the manufacturing currently undertaken there.  That decision will ultimately lead to 106 local people being made redundant. As the Minister will know, the announcement by Nestle comes in the midst of Tongala’s continued exposure to many ongoing and severe difficulties being caused by the downturns in the dairy industry. I ask the Minister: what actions is the Government taking (and/or will it take) to directly assist the people of Tongala to adjust to, and overcome, these very serious challenges to the town’s growth and development?

Member Statement – Paula Allen Blue Ribbon Foundation Police Officer of the Year

Adjournment – Mental Health Services

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Mental Health. It relates to the release in March 2019 of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) report Access to Mental Health Services. More specifically, it is about the section in that report on workforce strategy, starting on page 35. It would simply be an understatement to say that that section of the report is, as indeed a number of other sections are too, critical of the direction and effectiveness of the actions being pursued by the government through, in particular, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Multiple observations about current failings were made, and multiple priorities for reform were identified. These included the need for targets on the specific types and numbers of workers required in the sector, as well as the lack of integration between mental health workforce strategies and broader service and infrastructure planning. There was also a very clear call for urgent action on addressing the particularly serious staffing challenges that exist in regional and rural areas. Just as worryingly, the report observed in the area of workforce strategy—and indeed this was a common refrain throughout almost the entire document—that well-targeted evaluation measures and mechanisms are also sorely lacking. That the criticism of the state of play is so wideranging is even more concerning when it is borne in mind that DHHS had specifically released a new, 10-year mental health plan in late 2015. That strategy was actually introduced, in part, as a means of trying to decisively address some of these very problems. Yet it appears that, at least at the time the report was written, there had been little to discern in the way of such improvements. I do understand and acknowledge that the government is taking various steps to try to improve mental health services in the state and improve their quality and availability for what is, unfortunately, a significantly growing number of people, including through the current royal commission process. Given all of that background, the action I seek from the minister is for the provision of a statement to me about whether the government, six months on, accepts the findings made on workforce strategy that are detailed in the VAGO report. If the government has indeed accepted those findings, then I would also appreciate from the minister an update on any progress towards implementation of VAGO’s suggested changes. Alternatively, if the government has not accepted the findings, then I would ask if the minister could explain why not.