Mr NORTHE (Morwell) — It gives me pleasure to rise this afternoon to give my contribution in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech. I take the opportunity to congratulate the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker on their elevation to their positions. I extend congratulations also to all MPs who have been elected.
The electorate of Morwell experienced a very interesting election campaign. I know these words are uttered quite often, but it is sincerely a privilege to be re-elected for a third time. There is no doubt that over the past four years there have been some significant challenges within the community, but having said that I am absolutely proud of the investment the coalition government made while it was in office. There were seven candidates campaigning for election in Morwell last year, and I acknowledge that the campaign itself was contested in a relatively good spirit. However, I cannot let this moment pass without noting those candidates, particularly Independent candidates, who flouted the truth by continually saying that the government had done nothing for our region. It is simply a joke and not true. I look forward to providing ample evidence that the coalition government invested heavily in the electorate of Morwell.
It is worth going back to the 2010 election, because I think any MP and any government should be held to account on the basis of what they promised and what they delivered. We are now seeing the Labor government contravening all of that already, even at this early stage. Going into the 2010 election the coalition made a number of commitments, and it delivered on them. Some examples include the completion of the Gippsland Plains rail trail; the resurfacing and upgrading of the Traralgon tennis court complex, a project costing in the order of $800 000; the maintenance of the NightRider bus service in Morwell for the four years of the term; the upgrading of a number of different halls and sporting facilities; and the establishment of a men’s shed at Boolarra. There was a whole range of projects we committed to at the 2010 election, and we delivered them. The member for Gembrook, who is sitting beside me, made the point that perhaps I should table this document outlining the very exhaustive contribution and investment that the coalition government made during the course of the previous term to the Morwell electorate. I will refer to that shortly.
In addition to the election commitments we made in 2010 and delivered upon, there was a whole range of other projects and initiatives that we carried out and investments that we made. Probably the biggest one of those — and it is in the budget in the forward estimates, and we are certainly going to make sure that this government delivers on it — was a commitment of $73 million to redevelop Latrobe Regional Hospital. The hospital is in serious need of extension and expansion, particularly the emergency department. It also needs additional beds, and that is what this project seeks to do. I was absolutely thrilled and proud to be able to announce that last year. We invested very heavily in Latrobe Regional Hospital, with a new rehabilitation centre.
In relation to the disability sector, we invested in a new respite facility in Morwell. Curiously, even with the growing population in the Latrobe Valley, there has been quite a deal of neglect of respite services in the area over a period of time. It was one of the more emotional launches I have been to when we opened that facility last year. Mental health investment has also been substantial. We were proud in government to ensure that we were able to deliver additional acute mental health beds in the Flynn ward at Latrobe Regional Hospital. We have a supported accommodation project, which is near completion in Traralgon now. The Doorway project, which assists people with mental illness in getting into private rental, is another project that has been very successful.
I turn now to law and order. Sometimes we forget the shortage of police we had in November 2010. I can assure members that we were able to deliver an additional 65 to 70 police officers. I know many of the police officers in our region, and they have are absolutely thrilled that there have been no vacancies at the Latrobe Valley police station for a period because of the investment our government made. In addition to that, in the area of community safety and crime prevention there have been some great programs, including the closed-circuit television system in Traralgon and the provision of alarm systems, security systems and fencing for a range of recreation clubs and other community organisations.
We were able to deliver real community projects. As I mentioned, men’s sheds were supported, not only in Boolarra but also in Traralgon and Morwell. There were upgrades to the headspace centre in Morwell, as well as to the town hall. Newman Park in Traralgon and Morwell Town Common both had substantial upgrades. Investment was made in the Morwell Centenary Rose Garden. Our scout halls in Churchill, Morwell and other places are also examples of the many investments we were able to make.
In addition to that we were able to make a substantial investment in education. Primary school welfare officers were funded and there was additional maintenance across a number of our schools, including Kosciuszko Street Primary School in Traralgon and Yinnar Primary School. With respect to skills and training, our Regional Partnerships Facilitation Fund was very successful in the Morwell electorate.
Our investment in emergency services included the Country Fire Authority stations across a number of areas in the Morwell electorate. New vehicles were bought, including a new State Emergency Service vehicle for the Morwell team. In the area of the environment there was lots of support for ‘friends of’ groups established in relation to our national parks and other parks in the region. There was support for Landcare, and substantial investment was made in trails such as the Grand Strzelecki track, the Grand Ridge rail trail and the Gippsland Plains rail trail. A whole heap of bus services were added to the network, with 800 additional weekly bus services in the Latrobe Valley. Roads and sports and recreation clubs were also well supported during the course of our term in office
I also want to refer to jobs. We had a fund called the Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund, to which $50 million was attached. The whole purpose of the fund was to assist local businesses to grow, and it was a key component in creating new jobs. We spent that money; we were able to leverage $15 million to the tune of about $93 million through that particular program. We created around 1100 jobs in diverse sectors across our community, including in the timber, agriculture, dairy, transport, quarry and tourism industries. It was a fantastic fund that we had in place, and it delivered great outcomes. Importantly the new government has not seen fit — certainly at least at this point in time — to deliver upon that.
Leading into the 2014 election I was absolutely thrilled that the then government had announced commitments to a whole host of projects across a number of towns in the electorate I represent. Disappointingly and by contrast, whilst I concede there were some projects for the township of Morwell, it was the only town in the whole of Gippsland to which any election commitments were made by Labor. That is disappointing for the good people of Traralgon. There was not one election commitment by the Labor Party for the 28 000 people who reside in Traralgon. We went to the election with commitments such as $9 million for an indoor heated pool for Traralgon, $1.2 million for the Newborough Country Fire Authority station upgrade, and $13 million for the Morwell primary schools regeneration project. We also committed to delivering much-needed V-Line services to our community.
Every single town within the Morwell electorate received a commitment from the coalition government that it would deliver projects that the community wants to see delivered, and we were happy to support them. My job now is to ensure that we hold the Labor Party to account in having some of those initiatives delivered.
I express my thanks and gratitude to my campaign team. Unlike other candidates, we had true local helpers; we did not have imports come in from other jurisdictions. Unlike other candidates, we did not rely upon organisations such as GetUp! or Environment Victoria or Friends of the Earth to stump up our campaign. I appreciate the work of Brenton Wight, Sheridan Bond, Kate Lancaster and the local team; all our volunteers, members and supporters; and my parliamentary colleagues and The Nationals more generally. I was fortunate enough to be the Minister for Energy and Resources and the Minister for Small Business for a short time, and I thank my ministerial staff: Matt Harris, Lea Bacon, Rachel White, Michael Dobbie, Jo Gauci, Alysha Murphy and Whittney Jago. I also thank my wonderful electorate office staff, Katherine and Tayla, who are gold. They are the most loyal staff and do a fantastic job and complete a great amount of work, as most electorate office staff do of course.
In closing, I thank my family. To Jenny and my children: thank you for your support over the last eight years. I am sure they are not looking forward to another four years, but I am, so thank you very much.