Posts

Maxwell seeks Albury Wodonga Health funding

Question without notice

May 11, 2022

Tania Maxwell MP, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria, asked the Attorney-General and fellow MP for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes MP a question without notice for Health Minister Martin Foley MP about funding for a new Albury Wodonga Health campus:

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:05):

My question is to the Attorney-General for the Minister for Health regarding the need for a new single-site hospital in Albury-Wodonga.

Albury Wodonga Health has completed a master plan that addresses the needs of the cross-border community. We know a new single-site hospital is desperately overdue. I have heard the call of local community leaders. They want focus on the dire health needs of the community and need a commitment from the Victorian government to deliver a new hospital.

I have worked collaboratively with the minister and you, Attorney, on health projects for our communities. The great news last week for Bright hospital is a prime example of that.

So my question on behalf of this community is: will the minister also find the necessary funding for this critical project in the $2.2 billion yet to be allocated in the current 2022–23 budget?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:06):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her question for the Minister for Health.

I too am familiar with the needs of that community. It is a hospital that is utilised by my family members as well. It has been a wonderful resource, providing great services to people in that region, and it is fair to say that we know that the infrastructure does not currently match the efforts of the hardworking staff up there.

In relation to your question, you referenced a completed master plan or completed business case. That is incorrect. It is still in progress, and I do commend Albury Wodonga Health along with NSW Health and our health department, who continue to have discussions in relation to that. Similarly to the question that Dr Cumming asked me yesterday in relation to the Melton hospital, there are a lot of processes that need to be undertaken.

You have referenced preference for a single site. I have received mixed advice from people on whether they think it should be in Albury or it should be in Wodonga, for example. So there are ongoing discussions about these important matters, and in order to fulfill a business case it has to be completed with an idea of what you need to provide in the way of funding and what type of services and staff will be required.

Not all of those questions are answered yet, but I know that it is a priority for that community and a lot of people have views. A lot of experts have views, which is much more important than hearing from politicians. And I know I have had advocacy myself from collections of health experts up there. All of those views are certainly welcomed by me, and I know that the Minister for Health is also very interested in progressing this project.

As I said, the master plan process is well advanced and underway, and in relation to more detail I think it is probably more appropriate from the Minister for Health, because of course most of my knowledge about this is not in my ministerial capacities but in my role as a member for Northern Victoria.

Ms MAXWELL (12:08):

Thank you, Attorney, for your answer.

A proactive group of community-minded leaders, including doctors and health workers, have established Better Border Health, a working group aimed at raising the profile of the urgent need for a new site for the hospital in Albury-Wodonga.

They would be very interested to meet with the minister, and so my question is: will the minister accompany me—and perhaps you, Attorney, given that this, as you said, is not within your portfolio but within your electorate of Northern Victoria—to meet with this group and hear their aspirations for a new hospital?

Ms SYMES (12:09):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her supplementary question, and I will pass it on to the Minister for Health for his response in accordance with the standing orders.

Ombudsman damns cross-border permit system

Media statement

December 7, 2020

Tania Maxwell says the Victorian government must mandate the right of Victorians to return home during a future public health epidemic, pandemic or disaster.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria has also called on the government to apologise to thousands kept from home and forced to rely on relatives, friends, caravans or tents for a roof and a bed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Maxwell said the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into Victoria’s border-crossing permit directions, released today, showed:

  • 33 per cent of 2649 exemption applications were granted to attend a funeral or visit a loved one at the end of their life
  • 8pc of 10,812 exemption applications were granted to return home for health, wellbeing, care and compassionate reasons
  • 4pc of 971 exemption applications were granted to return to care for animals
  • 75pc of 553 exemption applications were granted for emergency relocation

“The Ombudsman’s report into the failings of the Victorian government’s cross-border permit system will be bittersweet for thousands of Victorians prevented from returning home during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Maxwell said.

“Throughout months of border closures, I raised with the offices of the Health Minister and Cross-Border Commissioner time-and-again the pleas from Victorians stopped by the government’s Travel Permit System from returning home,” Ms Maxwell said.

“These residents were denied the right to return home, children were separated from their parents, carers were unable to help loved ones through illness, and families were stopped from seeing a parent or grandparent at their end of life.

“These stories are heartbreaking and this report shows a system completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped to ensure that applications were treated in a compassionate, considered and consistent way.

“The job for the government now is to respond to the Ombudsman’s recommendations and provide a watertight, legal guarantee to Victorians of the right to return home in the event of a similar health or disaster threat.

“Because the pandemic management legislation passed last week by Labor, Reason, Greens, Animal Justice and Transport Matters parties does not enshrine this right in the new laws.

“When the Attorney-General finally sought the DHJP’s view on the pandemic bill on November 18 we said the legislation should mandate that all Victorians have an explicit right to return to home.

“We also said it should mandate a reasoned, fair and consistent process for people to appeal a rejected border permit application.

“But the Ombudsman shows the department directed its significant resources into keeping people out rather than helping them find safe ways to get home.

“She also said the government used the exemption system as a blunt instrument that led to unjust outcomes, potentially for thousands of people, and described these as some of the most questionable decisions she had reviewed in her seven years in the job.

“The government’s actions also damaged public trust.”

Link

Read Why Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party opposes the government’s pandemic management bill

Border communities deserve respect and reward, not eviction

Letter to editors

September 6, 2021

It’s ironic that five of the Northern Victorian local government areas cut from the border zone on September 2 have at least two things in common.

First, Buloke, Yarriambiack, Benalla, Loddon and Greater Bendigo are places without COVID cases.

Second, the member-communities that comprise these council areas have achieved some of the highest vaccination rates in Victoria, with Buloke’s population recording the state’s top rural count of both first and second doses in the latest Commonwealth local government area vaccination report*.

So, I share the deep disappointment of communities, mayors, councillors and staff whose councils have been dumped from the bubble without consultation or explanation from the state government.

Like the rest of us, they were left to make sense of this statement from Victoria’s Health Department:

‘With over one thousand cases per day, and a trajectory of exponential growth, the risk that NSW poses to Victoria is bigger than ever. That’s why we are reducing the number of communities in the border bubble from 11.59pm on…2 September.’

The border bubble has proved a relief for Northern Victoria’s communities after months and months of disruption.

It’s enabled people to go to work and medical appointments, visit their families, play sport and contribute to their communities in very difficult times. They’ve responded to the pandemic, lived by the rules, gone out and got tested, and kept COVID-safe.

It’s a lesson in risk management that deserves respect, engagement and reward, not eviction.

Tania Maxwell MP
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria
Wangaratta

* First and second dose vaccination % (population aged 15 and over) by local government area

  • Benalla 66.7, 43.8
  • Buloke 71.6, 48.4
  • Greater Bendigo 62.0, 40.7
  • Loddon 62.7, 35.8
  • Yarriambiack 67.0, 41.3

Source data [August 28, 2021]

Time for border common sense

Adjournment

August 3, 2021

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (18:31): My adjournment is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the government to consult and engage with regional communities when considering restrictions before the end of the state of emergency and the pathway out of this pandemic.

Over the past year I have asked the government to consider a traffic-light system for restrictions in Victoria to allow places without cases to operate at a level proportionate to their absence of case numbers, and to provide some measure of flexibility and certainty within regional areas.

Regional Victoria has been subject to restrictions for at least a third of the past year. We are emerging from lockdown number five, and communities are worried about how they will get through lockdowns six, seven and so on. In border communities there is confusion, anger and frustration about the substantially tightened cross-border rules. The (Victorian) border zone is home to 573,000 people, and in recent weeks there have been five active cases, all suppressed. Across the border (in NSW) there are no cases north, west or south of Goulburn. Albury-Wodonga has had over 300 days of zero cases. That is not to say ‘Let it rip’, but contact tracing has enormously improved and vaccination numbers are building, and we should have confidence in that.

Albury-Wodonga media was briefed on the border bubble restrictions, but there was no interaction by the government with border mayors. Wodonga mayor Kevin Poulton told ABC Goulburn-Murray yesterday: ‘We just seem to get forgotten in the whitewash’. The Gannawarra Shire Council recently passed a motion to call on the government to assess any restrictions on a local government area basis with input from the local council. Other regional councillors in conversation with me, or publicly, have shared their support for a response that is much more nuanced.

Regional communities have proved that they will stand up in response to any outbreaks and take local and individual responsibility. Industry groups are frustrated that their proactive proposals for protocols to manage risks are given no feedback. Many local businesses are near broke and in substantial debt. Their psychological resilience is spent, their children’s learning is constantly disrupted, their other health needs are being pushed to the side, and they are beyond frustrated.

There is a need for stronger and collaborative engagement with regional communities, including in the four-phase plan agreed between states and the federal government that maps the pathway out of repeated lockdowns.

Places-without-cases deserve a fair go, and I ask the government to talk with us, listen and use some common sense.

Lockdown business deserves confidence and security ready-reckoner

Beechworth’s Ford Street, usually packed with vehicles and shoppers, all but deserted since the ‘circuitbreaker’ lockdown announced on May 26, 2021.

Tania Maxwell MP says business deserves to know it will be supported when the state government calls a snap lockdown to contain a COVID-19 virus outbreak.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said the government and its agencies should by now have a workable ready-reckoner in place so an affected business can calculate with confidence the financial support it can expect when a sudden ‘circuitbreaker’ forces a trading shutdown.

“Yesterday’s announcement of a week-long closure of all but authorised work is the fourth lockdown that business and retail operators have had to wear since March 2020,” Ms Maxwell said.

“I understand that circumstances will vary, and that outbreaks are unpredictable, but it’s imperative that business owners and managers know they can rely on a publicly-funded, straightforward system that compensates them for loss of trade and keeps staff paid when there’s a shutdown.

“Business can no longer fall-back on JobKeeper after the federal government closed this program on March 31, and after the impacts of the past year many small businesses are still trying to get back on their feet.

“My office has spoken with the Treasurer’s office this morning and we’ve been told it’s ‘hopeful’ that a new support package will be announced during the weekend.

“But the point I want to bring home to the government is that we’ve been here before – three times.

“As I’ve raised in Parliament consistently in the past year, the near-constant enforcement of restrictions on all Victorians continues to create a host of wider problems.

“These include economic and social impacts, especially in our tourism, hospitality, fitness, events and retail sectors and for the employees who work in them.

“I know of many businesses in the Northern Victorian communities that I represent that will stand down staff for as long as this fourth lockdown lasts.

“But in most of these communities we have no COVID-19 cases.

“So while a statewide shutdown is imposed on all of us I think it’s only fair that businesses forced to close should be compensated so staff can still be paid and costs met.”