Recently I had a pre-budget meeting with the Premier in his Parliament House office to deliver a “wish
list” of projects that require urgent State Government attention. There were no surprises for Mr Andrews in what I had to say because I have prosecuted the case in Parliament since I was elected. I pressed the need for the redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health, the upgrading of the Shepparton rail line with more services and 21st century rolling stock, and action on the Shepparton by-pass project.
Water Forum Update
The Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum, which I chair, last week had a presentation from Murray-Darling Basin Authority reps on socio-economic impact studies now being done by the authority in the northern basin. They stressed they are conducting one-on-one interviews with irrigators and will take into account the “lived experience” in the feedback they receive – themes identified already, unsurprisingly, include the water market and high water prices. The MDBA is also looking at non-irrigation benefits from the Basin Plan such as tourism and fishing. When it comes to the study being commissioned by our group specifically for this area, the MDBA staff indicated the authority was willing to share and receive information. The Water Leadership Forum canvasses the issues in a frank and robust way between Basin Plan participants that include water managers, environmental managers, irrigators and businesses; it is this sharing of ideas that I believe will generate concrete recommendations for ways in which Northern Victoria can retain and use water productively.
Fruit Picking a Hot Topic
The Contract Labour Hire Inquiry held in Shepparton was important for our region. My staff encouraged people who came to my office with grievances over wages and conditions to give evidence. The Shepparton hearing generated publicity that has helped put unethical labour hire contractors on notice right across the state. There are itinerant workers in the Goulburn Valley from December right until red apple picking finishes in April and the larger farms employ more than 100 at a time. Fruit Growers Victoria chairman Gary Godwill said very few growers are aware that if they employ contract workers who get “ripped off” by being paid below award rates they are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position. I’d like to hope all the young people who come here backpacking and take on orchard or packing shed work are treated well, enjoy their experiences and spread the word that the GV is a great place to visit and to work.