In this the last sitting week of the 58th Parliament, Member for Morwell, Russell Northe was today able to ask the State Government if it would finally increase funding to Lifeline Gippsland to help reduce the incidence of suicide in our community.
“Additional funding to this incredible organisation would make such a positive difference and it’s extremely disappointing that the State Government won’t commit to doubling its current funding to Lifeline Gippsland from $135,000 to $270,000 a year” Mr Northe said.
It has been a terrible few weeks in Gippsland with a number of suicides occurring across our region. “The facts are that suicide rates in regional Victoria are increasing, with men over represented in the statistics than women, our youth are also at extremely high risk,” said Mr Northe
Mr Northe said he was torn on which question to ask given it was the last sitting day of Parliament prior to the 2018 election.
After nearly four years of Government, Mr Northe expressed concern that important issues within the Morwell electorate had not been addressed adequately by the current Government including rising crime rates, escalating unemployment and dysfunctional train services.
Despite the best efforts of local police, crime statistics show that per capita, Latrobe is sitting second behind Melbourne on the list of “offence rate per 100,000 population”. In the category of “crimes against the person – offence rate per 100,000 population”, unfortunately Latrobe is the number one municipality across the State and ahead of Melbourne.
Mr Northe said that, more needs to be done to address crime in our community, including the allocation of more police, a better sentencing regime, and an adoption of Mr Northe’s community safety transport initiative as was announced earlier this year.
Since December 2014, unemployment in Latrobe has increased substantially, and despite the Government’s contention that programs are in place to deal with rising unemployment the statistics don’t lie. With Hazelwood Power Station and Carter Holt Harvey Sawmill shutting down without a whimper, its little wonder that many more locals are unemployed than there were four years ago.
“It is disappointing that the Government has ignored my Latrobe Essential Services Fund initiative, as this would not only see local infrastructure built, but hundreds of local jobs created,” Mr Northe said.
And train services have been nothing but disgraceful for Gippsland commuters. Having to regularly contend with delays, cancellations and replacement services on a major regional rail line in 2018 is difficult to fathom, but that’s the reality confronting Gippsland commuters.
The Government must take the lead and commence a feasibility study to understand the design and costs required to build a dedicated line into Melbourne for Gippsland trains. Without that, Gippsland commuters will always be shoved to the back of the queue and that is simply not acceptable in 2018.
Crime, unemployment and V/Line services are just some of the major issues my community have raised with me, and to which I have raised in Parliament on numerous occasions.
“So I call upon the Government to hear the voices of the Morwell Electorate and put meaningful initiatives in place that will actually improve or fix these issues, and to make our community an even better place,” Mr Northe said.