George believes that elected Members have a duty to represent their constituents and to support the issues the majority of the Victorian communities want, even if your personal views may differ.
I believe in a strong economy, properly managed that allows private enterprise to grow and increases revenue for the State, therefore, the government should support industries and small businesses with a view of job expansion and sustainability. A healthy economy means the government revenues can be relied upon for public services, forward planning and infrastructure spending.
Farming – is a major industry in our district and must be recognised at government level as an asset and valued and protected for its important role in the economy. Strategic planning is required going forward to overcome future drought affects.
Clean-Green reputation – Enhance the clean-green reputation for Victoria, especially our agriculture industry in East Gippsland.
Timber Industry – I would oppose the creation of the Great Forest National Park outside of Melbourne. The creation of the park would lock-up another forest and ban native logging in Victoria’s Central Highlands. However, I do not support clear felling only selective logging and proper management of replanting.
Taking away this timber resource threatens the viability of many towns in Gippsland East that rely on timber and associated industries for employment.
The parks are very well managed by VicForests, which only harvests 0.05% of Victoria’s forests each year and the areas harvested are regrown with the same type of species of trees.
It would be far more serious for the environment and impact on climate change if we imported timber from less responsible countries which do not have the same standard of tree management and concern for the environment.
Electricity – The consistent brown outs and interruptions to the power supply are unknown in the city. The providers must supply a reliable and safe electricity network.
Internet – The roll out of the nbn is a good start, but the service is unreliable with frequent drop outs. The speeds delivered are very poor and well below international standards.
Mobile – The mobile network requires expansion and improvement in our regional area. There are too many exiting black spots (eg Dargo).
Highways & Roads:
I will lobby for the A1 to be a fully divided highway between Sale and Bairnsdale.
Job creation in Gippsland East District is essential. The current unemployment rate for the region is 8.1%. With a healthy private sector job opportunities are increased, especially for the young person joining the work force.
Secondary Colleges and TAFE institutes should be available, accessible (fair balance of fees) and properly resourced and maintained. Every person contributes to society and it starts with a good education in whichever field: trades, commerce, service, professions, etc. and it starts with world standard secondary college education equipping and finding students gifted areas.
I support increased TAFE funding as it is a keystone in education, it picks up students, particularly young people, who for whatever reason were not the right fit in secondary college and gives them the opportunity to complete VCE and/or take up tertiary studies.
Health & Aged Care:
Hospitals – The hospitals in our district need more provisioning, many patients have to be sent to Melbourne for treatment placing pressure on them, their family and friends.
Increased budgets would help reduce waiting times for surgery, adequately fund emergency facilities and upgrades to existing hospital facilities where necessary. Some hospitals in the Gippsland East district require improvements and new equipment.
Specialist Services – there are long waiting periods for specialist services. Some specialists only schedule one day a month at Bairnsdale Hospital. Patients are left travelling distances to find alternative centres like Sale Hospital or at Latrobe Regional Hospital (Traralgon) provided there are times available.
Ambulance Services – We have a terrific ambulance service, but with greater residential developments and the significant increase in tourists over the peak holiday seasons has placed a load on existing services given the geographic size of our area. Addressing the Metung to Bruthen corridor would assist this essential service.
General Practitioners – We desperately need more general practitioners (doctors) in East Gippsland. For example: Metung with a population of approximately 1449 (2016 census) has a part-time resident general practitioner attending at the Community Health Centre for half a day each week. Should you need a consultation outside the scheduled day you must travel elsewhere or wait for the next attendance cycle.
Aged Care – The Aged Care facilities require greater scrutiny on the care and delivery of services. There have been a number of reports showing care to our elderly is not at acceptable standards in some facilities. With the imminent growth of this sector with an ageing population and greater expectation of services to be provided a comprehensive look into changing demands, design of facilities and importantly providing a modern education to nurses/carers in this specialist field to attract new people who will be able to stay and be career professionals in this field and have the skills to provide our citizens with the highest standards of care.
There needs to be greater funding for mental health services in Victorian Hospitals. Further, the inpatient wards should be separated for women only and men only.
I would support Government funding for hospitals to improve the security and amenity, particularly for women.
Staff working in inpatient mental health services should have specialist qualifications.
Train – The Bairnsdale train line is well overdue for upgrading, needing track duplications, timetable schedule increases (currently 3 return trips per day, except Sunday), modern fast trains and dependable services.
Bus – With an ageing population the bus networks require expansion and the number of daily services increased. For example, there is not a bus service for Newlands Arm. A number of residents have had to relocate from the area after finding it difficult with regular driving of a motor vehicle and with no other options available to commute.
Law and Order:
The Lakes Entrance Police Station should be resourced as a 24-hour station and the number of police members increased relatively.
Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine Project– I will aim to have the exploration licences revoked and mineral sands mining in the area permanently excluded.
The proposed Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine Project (at Glenaladale) is a flawed project. Locating a 40-metre deep open cut mine next to a pristine agricultural and farming area, RAMSAR wetlands and the Mitchell and Perry Rivers is totally inappropriate.
The Lindenow Flats region supplies between 30-50% of the vegetables for Victoria (depending on seasonal production) and has the capacity to increase output based on an increase in water allocations.
The mine is to use >4 gigalitres of water per annum (compare this with the Bairnsdale district that consumes 3.75 gigalitres of water by 29,000 households and 3,500 commercial properties). We cannot afford to giveaway this level of water for mining, particularly in a drought.
It is short sighted to jeopardise an existing industry with a clean-green reputation by placing a toxic open cut mine directly next to it. The real issue is do we want to provide quality food for our population (and export) or extract minerals predominantly for ceramic and pigment production.
Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 – I would lobby for changes to the Act in order to better balance the rights and obligations of landowners.
Fracking in Victoria – I would oppose any proposal to overturn the current permanent ban on all onshore unconventional gas exploration and development, including fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and coal seam gas.
Gippsland Lakes – This amazing complex of lakes and rivers needs proactive protection, monitoring and management by a single overriding entity.
The Lakes are a major tourist destination being a large freshwater lake system 6.4 times the size of Sydney Harbour. The salinity levels are increasing and significantly impacting the nature of this water resource.
In addition contamination is entering from rivers, such as the Tambo, which receives copper and zinc contaminants from the former Stockman Mine tailings dam at Benambra. The mine has reopened by new owners Round Oak which has also been given approval to increase the size of the environmentally dubious tailings dam.
This mine has a problematic past, the former operator went into receivership in 1996 and abandoned the mine, requiring taxpayers to pay $6.9M to rehabilitate the tailings dam.
The reopening of the mine is questionable as it does not pass the basic tenets for an environmentally safe project.
Pause to Commercial Netting – While there needs to be an overall plan to rehabilitate the Lakes a pressing issue is to replenish the fish stocks. The scarce fish stock is affecting tourism around the Lakes, particularly from recreational fishing. It is quite simple, recreational anglers will not persist if there is no catch to be had, will shorten their stay, move on and usually not return. This has an economic flow on affect to a diversity of businesses which support anglers.
The best way to replenish fish stocks and restore sea grasses is to adopt a natural process, which means placing a pause on commercial netting in the Lakes. The later initiative should be accomplished by fairly and properly compensating the existing ten commercial license holders at the Lakes. By fair payouts the current license holders are in a position to revert to other employment or other businesses.
For example the statistics on the black bream commercial catch:
Mid 1970s – 570 tonnes (about 1,425,000 fish of 400 grams).
2017-18 – 12.9 tonnes.
Other species of fish in the Lakes have experienced similar declines.
It is important to note that nearly all the fish sourced from Gippsland is from Bass Strait outside of Lakes Entrance and not the Lakes system.
After the equilibrium of fish stocks is restored commercial netting could be reconsidered and the last out license holders could be given priority on reinstatement of licenses. The unfortunate situation is if the commercial netting is not reviewed soon, it is inevitable that this group will be forced out of netting due to diminished fish stocks, licenses worthless and thereby receive no compensation at all.
Landfill – Not only do we need to reduce our Green House gas emissions by moving away from old technology such as coal powered electricity to renewable’s such as Solar, we also need to significantly cut our waste and usage of landfill.
Feral animals – cause significant damage to our native fauna, they must be humanely controlled.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is of serious concern. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) released a report stating Australia is becoming hotter, experiencing an increase of almost 1 degree in average temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century, with warming occurring at double the rate over the past 50 years compared to the previous 50-year term. The result is we will experience more heat, an increase in bush fires, droughts and floods.
We are fortunate that there are a number of renewable energy options to replace coal fired electricity generation.
This is what I would do straight away to divert to solar power and reduce operating costs for consumers:
- Increase the Victorian Solar Homes Package by $500 to $2,750 to compensate for higher installation costs and ensure that Gippsland East residents do not miss out on the package.
- Extend the Victorian Solar Homes Package funding to small and medium businesses within our electorate as a pilot program to battle the high electricity costs for businesses.
- Fully fund the installation of solar panels on farm properties up to $5,500 to reduce electricity costs. This will provide a longer lasting benefit than subsidising feed.
- Provide funding to East Gippsland Water to replace pressure reduction valves with micro-generators to feed into the electricity grid.