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Improving Midland Link road safety

CONSTITUENCY QUESTION

September 15, 2021

My question is to the Minister for Road Safety, and relates to the Midland Link that connects Mansfield with Benalla.

I’m informed that a 60-kilometre section of this road is carrying approximately 3000 vehicles per day, 750 of them trucks.

Some trucks can use up to five and a half metres of the available carriageway, which is only six metres wide in parts. The desired solution is to widen the road by one metre on both sides.

Some improvements have been undertaken, such as to the shoulders and installation of guardrails, and 25 per cent of the road (length) has been widened. This leaves 75pc still needing attention, so my question is: what is the timeline for carrying out the remainder of this work to improve the safety of this section of road?

Revamping ambulance ramping

Media statement

Tania Maxwell MP has again asked Health Minister Martin Foley about state government action to improve ambulance response times and overcome ramping at hospital emergency departments.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria last week told Parliament she did “not expect to be happily surprised” by the latest ambulance response time data for the April-June quarter.

It shows average response times[i] to code 1 call-outs, compared with a year ago, increased two minutes in Alpine, Campaspe and Mitchell shires, 2:41 minutes in Hepburn , one minute in Benalla, 3:21 minutes in Loddon, and 4:21 minutes in Mansfield, while there were improvements in Gannawarra and Indigo – all areas under the spotlight in the past year.

Ms Maxwell said practice of ambulance ramping, which occurs when hospital emergency departments are extremely busy and instruct paramedics to keep a patient on board until given the go-ahead to deliver them, was also affecting patient care.

“The July report of a patient with a spinal injury who was in a corridor at Sunshine Hospital for 14 hours is simply despairing,” she said.

“This patient was ramped outside the hospital for hours and then waited and waited for a bed. The Victorian Ambulance Union reports that patients are regularly waiting for 12 hours in ambulances outside hospitals or being treated by paramedics in corridors while they wait.

“I have spoken numerous times in this Parliament about the pressure on ambulance services in northern Victoria, including a very sad, recent case in my electorate where an aged-care resident waited 90 minutes for an ambulance, a delay which was attributed directly to hospital ramping.

“These bottlenecks are placing enormous strain on our health workforce.

“Speaking with healthcare workers, they tell me of the challenges of staff shortages and trying to find ways to discharge more patients safely to free up beds.

“They do an incredible job in an already pressured environment.

“The Australian Medical Association warned in July that our hospital systems cannot cope with a flu epidemic, let alone a COVID epidemic, in what was described as an ‘acute public health disaster’.

“Yet the point of Victoria’s first lockdown early last year was to prepare our health system to cope, and 18 months later we seem to be in no better position.”

Ms Maxwell said ramping was not isolated to state hospitals or Victoria.

“The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has called for a whole-health-system approach across both state and federal governments, including utilising general practice and community health,” she said.

“Other states, such as Tasmania, are rolling out policy to take pressure off emergency departments with extended care centres through general practices, extending hours, and weekend operation.

“I expect such a prospect would be welcome in many regional centres also, if you could indeed resource them, given the wait time to see a GP.

“I thank our healthcare workers, and I encourage the government to share with our communities what work they are doing in Victoria and with other levels of government to address these concerns.”


[i] https://www.ambulance.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2020-21-Q4-Ambulance-Response-Quarter-4-FY2020-21.pdf

Tan Maxwell welcomes Benalla police, education funding

Tania Maxwell MP has welcomed the state government’s $28.9 million budget commitment to build Benalla’s new Victoria Police station.

The Member for Northern Victoria said she had first called for funding to replace the “near-unworkable” existing station in August 2019 when she put a question in Parliament to Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville.

“The station was built in 1956 and described by Victoria Police in 2017 as ‘bordering on inoperable’,” Ms Maxwell said.

“Disrepair was obvious, with cracks in walls and ceilings and officers forced to work in portable buildings.

“What stood out for me particularly was the station’s lack of private rooms where victims could speak in confidence and safety.

“The new station will enhance policing capacity and capability in Benalla and the North East and support community safety.

“Like the police officers and staff who work there and people in the community who attend the station, I look forward to completion of the new building on schedule in 2024.

“The funding is a significant win for the Benalla community after 15 years of advocating for an effective policing centre.

“The next step is to scope out a new court complex as the current court house is no longer fit for purpose.”

Ms Maxwell also welcomed $1 million from the budget for Benalla’s Tomorrow Today Foundation.

“This organisation has done so much to build opportunities for families in Benalla and the Midlands through its Parents Early Education Partnership since 2002,” she said.

“Its approach to introduce young children to education and its advantages have been widely recognised, enhancing children’s school readiness with outstanding results.

“This latest funding will help its largely volunteer-led playgroup and early education programs to thrive across the next two years.”

Ms Maxwell in August 2019 invited Education Minister James Merlino, now Acting Premier, to visit Benalla and meet with Tomorrow Today Foundation and explore the potential to roll-out its education and care model in other communities.

Ms Maxwell said the budget also confirmed Benalla as one among 20 communities where a new, local service available to anyone seeking mental health care is to be fast-tracked.

Benalla was recommended because it had Victoria’s highest per capita level of suicide between 2011 and 2020, and one of the highest per capita levels of suicide attempts presenting to hospital emergency departments.

Justice Party wants budget primary prevention boost

Tania Maxwell MP has called on the state government to invest more in drug, alcohol and family violence primary prevention and early intervention through school and community safety programs in its May 20 budget.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said public funding for prevention and intervention was not significant enough to drive down the current costs of the state’s policing, courts and corrections systems.

“A month ahead of the scheduled release in June of national crime statistics for 2020, we know that 101 people in Victoria became victims of homicide and related offences in 2019 – an increase of 19 per cent,” Ms Maxwell said.

“While the number of victims of sexual assault dropped 2pc to 5829, 37pc of them (2149) were assaulted in family or domestic settings, and almost 40pc of all victims were children or young people under 19 years old.

“There were 3149 victims of robbery, up 29pc, and more than half of all perpetrators were armed[1].

“At the same time the number of criminal incidents classed as drug offences increased 7pc (to 16,775)[2].

“Early intervention is the key to reducing crime and these numbers tell me that we need to be directing much more into preventative programs and services to see positive change, and that’s what I’ve asked the government to do in productive meetings I’ve had with the Treasurer and other Ministers.

“I welcome progressive steps the government’s taken, especially its support for my call in June, last year, for a parliamentary inquiry into Victoria’s criminal justice system that’s now underway.

“This inquiry will enable us to examine the factors that have led to growing remand and prison populations and to recommend ways to reverse those trends.

“There is so much more to do in this area and I hope the inquiry will provide some thought-provoking recommendations for the government to consider.

“The government in the 2020 budget also directed $335 million, which I advocated, towards programs for young people, including out-of-home care support, life-skills development, keeping families together and helping those who’ve come apart to reunite.

“But we need to see this money delivered on the ground in the rural and regional communities that I represent, together with significant investment in affordable housing, including social housing, education, skills training, work and digital access, mental and other health services, and alcohol and other drug treatment programs.

“These are initiatives that can have a positive, collective impact and I look forward the government’s clear commitment to this approach in Thursday’s budget.”

Ms Maxwell said other Budget funding priorities identified with Justice Party leader Stuart Grimley MP included:

  • Funding to reduce the caseload backlog in Victoria’s court system (the government last week committed $210m to speed court and tribunal hearings held up because of COVID-19).
  • Up to $23.4m, plus operational funding, to develop Education First Youth Foyers at GOTAFE Wangaratta and Wodonga TAFE so young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness can access integrated accommodation, education and well-being support to become job-ready.
  • $15m to co-fund development of the Mernda Health and Wellbeing Hub to support services for a community projected have 65,000 residents within the next 17 years.
  • $9.4m to fund Sunraysia Mallee Port Link – a project to shift significant volumes of farm produce from road to rail in north west Victoria. (SMPL was formerly known as Ouyen Intermodel.)
  • Upgrades to Victoria Police stations at Benalla, Cobram, Euroa and Rochester to improve policing capabilities and safety in these communities.
  • Urgent, regionally-targeted action to ensure ambulance service effectiveness. Recent funding announcements are positive, but communities need to know bottlenecks, such as hospital ramping, will be fixed and preventative measures to reduce demand.
  • $1.9m over four years to model and establish a Defence Dogs Program in Victoria to support defence veterans living with post-traumatic stress injury.
  • $465,000 to replace Koondrook CFA’s 32-year-old – and only – fire truck as a first step to improve local fire-fighting capability and volunteer skills.

Image: University of Melbourne (Family Violence Prevention)

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics: 45100DO001_2019 Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2019

[2] https://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/crime-statistics/latest-victorian-crime-data/recorded-criminal-incidents-2