Category Archives: Uncategorized

RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael O’Brien and his Liberal Nationals team have fulfilled their core role of holding the Victorian Government to account while also putting forward sensible ideas. The areas covered are as follows:

1. Health (pandemic management)
2. Law and safety
3. Household finances
4. Individual assistance
5. Business assistance
6. Transparency and accountability

HEALTH (PANDEMIC MANAGEMENT)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following changes relating to contact tracing, hotels for health workers, testing policy, COVID-19 restrictions and the public housing tower lockdown. 

  • 25 March – Provide a one-year extension of the terms of hospital board members who were approaching the end of their terms at 30 June to ensure board continuity and stability. 
  • 1 April – Deliver priority access to testing for the agriculture workforce, similar to the provisions made for health workers; and make Victoria’s hotel rooms available for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. The Victorian Government subsequently announced that it would make hotel rooms available for healthcare workers. 
  • 2 April – Urgently explain the decision to ban all recreational fishing under Stage 3 restrictions, counter to the policy in other states. (Note that in the second round of Victorian Stage 3 lockdowns which commenced on 9 July, fishing was not banned.)
  • 1 May – Reconsider the push for randomly testing 100,000 Victorians by targeting specific groups of vulnerable and high-risk Victorians such as the elderly and those in health facilities. 
  • 20 June – Take responsibility for the surge in Coronavirus cases and not place blame on families. 
  • 23 June – Fix unreasonable wait times for COVID-19 testing of over two hours 
  • 4 July – Respect, decency and a full range of social and policing supports for the 3,000 residents of nine public housing towers across Flemington and North Melbourne that were under hard lockdown. 
  • 7 July – Provide all resources necessary following reports of a lack of police, and lack of food supplies and other necessities for the residents in the locked down towers. 
  • 12 July – Introduce new laws to deter and punish those who deliberately infect others with COVID-19 as have been introduced in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. 
  • 15 July – Employ tougher measures to deter residents in the Melbourne lockdown zone from travelling to country areas, noting that it puts lives at risk. 
  • 19 July – Address the severe delays by DHHS in tracing the contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases which makes it difficult to contain the virus and will drive further outbreaks and longer lockdowns.
  •  22 July – Introduce further measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from metropolitan Victoria to regional Victoria, such as temperature checks at road borders and on V-line services, mandatory face masks on V-line services and better response times from DHHS on test results and contact tracing. 
  • 26 July – Provide a dedicated COVID-19 hotline to schools and childcare centres that are being left in the dark when it comes to knowing exactly what to do when they are presented with a COVID-19 case. 
  • 28 July – Immediately provide all public healthcare staff with proper protection gear following reports that Victorian doctors aren’t being supplied adequate protective equipment and are being forced to steal masks or buy their own. 
  • 2 August – Implement ankle monitoring bracelets and hotel quarantine for people with COVID19 who deliberately breach isolation rules. 
  • 6 August – Publicly release COVID-19 genomic data that the Victorian Government is refusing to publish. 
  • 12 August – Explain the callous and inhumane Health Department directives that are turning away older and other vulnerable Victorians from hospitals.
  • 17 August – Explain the government’s failure to provide a plan to prevent COVID outbreaks in State-run and funded Supported Residential Service facilities

On 20 August the Liberal Nationals called on WorkSafe to detail what investigations it has, or will be undertaking into the hotel quarantine fiasco.

On 24 August the Liberal Nationals announced an intention to oppose and vote to defeat the Daniel Andrews attempt to extend State of Emergency powers for a further 12 months.

LAW AND SAFETY

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following changes relating to protective services officers, sentence discounts, the Police Assistance Line, the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions and CBD protests.

  • 4 April – Enable the temporary redeployment of PSOs throughout Victoria to areas of need such as shopping centres. On 6 April, the Victorian Government announced it would adopt this Liberal Nationals idea. 
  • 13 May – Provide better clarity on COVID-19 social distancing restrictions so that Victoria Police don’t need to seek supervisor approval before issuing a fine for COVID-19 social distancing breaches 
  • 14 April – Ensure that common sense is applied to the social distancing rules being asked of Victorians so that fines are only applied where there is a threat to public health. 
  • 19 May – Rule out allowing some of Victoria’s worst offenders to be awarded 14 days off their sentence for following the same COVID-19 lockdown measures required of the rest of the community. 
  • 19 May – Address the botched management of the Police Assistance Line (PAL) which has let down those who are simply trying to do the right thing by reporting breaches of COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine requirements among members of the community. With the public having made over 30,000 reports of COVID-19 breaches via PAL, neither the Chief Commissioner or Police Minister were able to say how many of these reports had resulted in a spot check being conducted or a fine being issued.
  • 19 May – Address its failure to provide a clear set of rules during COVID-19 which left Victoria Police second-guessing themselves and the community paying the price for Labor’s ambiguous and inconsistent shutdown rules. 
  • 21 May – Ensure that the PSO presence on train platforms is not a casualty of the pandemic. If Daniel Andrews wants to expand the role of PSOs, he must employ more rather than removing them from train stations and compromising the safety of commuters. Victorian commuters deserve a visible policing presence and Daniel Andrews must commit to returning two PSOs to all train stations as soon as possible.
  • 3 June – Ensure that COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings are complied with and enforced consistently, including in relation to planned protest activities. 
  • 5 June – Use the State of Emergency powers and shut down a planned mass protest in the Melbourne CBD The government failed to shut down this protest and it went ahead on 6 June with approximately 10,000 protesters in attendance. 
  • 12 June – Acknowledge that the failure to stop a mass CBD protest and ensure fines were issued to participants left Victorians questioning if there is one set of rules for activists and another set for ordinary Victorians. 
  • 6 July – Bring in the ADF to support law enforcement in Victoria. 
  • 19 July – Prevent Regional Corrections officers from being deployed to the lockdown zone in metropolitan Melbourne to protect staff from contracting COVID-19 and spreading it within their communities 
  • 23 July – Properly manage Victoria’s corrections system during COVID-19 to prevent thousands of prisoners becoming eligible for up to four ‘emergency management days’ for each day they are locked down. A breach at Ravenhall Prison caused 6 major Victorian prisons in Melbourne, Ararat, Langi Kal Kal, Sale, Geelong and Castlemaine being sent into lockdown resulting in a ‘get out of jail early’ card for 4,000 inmates.
  • 24 July – Act immediately to prevent further incidents of apparent breaches of Victoria Police checkpoints by metropolitan Melbourne residents

On 15 July the Liberal Nationals wrote to the Fair Work Ombudsman requesting she undertake an investigation into the wide spread allegations of wage underpayment, sham contracting and other illegal behaviour associated with the deployment of security guards as part of Daniel Andrews botched his hotel quarantine program.

HOUSEHOLD FINANCES

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following changes relating to land tax relief, local council rates relief, freeze on the bin tax, freeze and refund fees and charges, and make changes to bring down utility bills.

  •  25 March – Deliver land tax credits for residential and commercial property owners who do the right thing and provide rent relief to tenants. On 15 April, the Victorian Government announced it would adopt this policy in part.
  • 27 March – Reconsider the decision to order 125GL of water from the Wonthaggi desalination plant, as such an order would mean Victorians miss out on a reduction in water bills when it is most needed. 
  • 1 April – Facilitate local government to deliver a residential rate freeze by local councils for the 2020-21 financial year, along with immediate rate relief to distressed households. 
  • 3 April – Negotiate with Transurban and cancel the quarterly increase in CityLink tolls to reduce cost pressures on individuals and businesses. 
  • 6 April – Provide immediate relief to Victorian families by scrapping the Bin Tax increase, scheduled for 1 July. Following this, the Victorian Government announced on 22 April it would delay the increase until 1 January 2021. 
  • 8 April – Refund campsite fees for the State’s Crown land parks and National Parks to thousands of Victorians who have booked campsites only to find camping off limits during Stage 3 restrictions. 
  • 1 May – Protect newly-vulnerable Victorians from the disconnection of their power supply. 
  • 21 August – Extend registrations for vehicles in Metropolitan Melbourne for the equivalent time of Stage 4 restrictions. 
  • 26 August – Suspend the Vacant Residential Land Tax for 2020. This affects a wide range of people who are unable to find a tenant due to the COVID-19 outbreak

On 15 May – The Liberal Nationals launched Back to Work and Back in Business, a comprehensive plan for the Victorian Government to adopt to kick-start the post-COVID economy, including measures to assist Victorian businesses.

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following changes relating to education, child care, license testing, food supplies and consumer affairs.

  •  1 April – Prioritise those who have had their driving licence tests cancelled because of the COVID19 crisis when testing recommences. 
  • 7 April – Fund Term 2 fees for kinder programs across Victoria to help ease the burden on both parents and kinders. 
  • 7 April – Take full responsibility for ensuring that all students receive the technological support they need to learn remotely.
  • 22 April – Provide more support to carers and families of those with special needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as gathering restrictions forced the cessation of group support sessions. 
  • 16 June – Take action on the issue of license testing which has resulted in a year and a half-long backlog for people to get their drivers’ license. 
  • 30 June – Ensure that childcare centres are supported during closure, and affected students are provided with the resources they need, so they don’t miss out on vital learning during this difficult time. 
  • 2 July – provide an adequate avenue for Victorian consumers to have their complaints handled, noting that Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) is responsible for significant parts of the consumer marketplace and the phone lines at CAV have been inoperative since 16 March.
  • 21 July – Extend temporary changes to truck curfews past 21 September to ensure Victorians can still get quick access to food and medical supplies and there is less risk of panic-buying. 
  • 24 July – Further clarify the very strict rules that appear to limit visits by partners to maternity ward mothers to just 2 hours a day to ensure there is a balance between COVID-19 prevention and the long term mental and health wellbeing of new parents
  • 28 July – Guarantee it will not stop businesses in Victoria’s food supply chain from doing their critical work keeping supermarket shelves fully stocked, following the Government flagging that it will consider closing meat processors as part of its pandemic response. 
  • 7 August – Clarify if in-home child-minding arrangements are allowed to continue, for non permitted workers, if an arrangement is already in place. 
  • 8 August – Make family reunification order visits fairer and more flexible during the COVID crisis, as many parents have been unable to have face-to-face contact with their children since March 2020 due to COVID restrictions. 
  • 11 August – Clarify the licence testing arrangements that will be put into place during Stage 3 and 4 restrictions in Victoria. The Victorian Government has ignored calls for computerised hazard testing to be completed online.

On 26 March, the Liberal Nationals published the first version of an Individual Assistance Fact Sheet, a document to help Victorians understand what type of financial help was available to them and how they might access it. This document has been updated with the latest news throughout both waves of the pandemic.

BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following changes relating to the federal JobKeeper payment, fees and charges for businesses, WorkCover premiums, farm rates, industrial relations, payroll tax concessions and the Business Support Fund.

  •  2 April – Waive a number of fees tied to commercial passenger vehicle operators, including taxis. 
  • 5 April – Exempt the Federal Government’s $1,500-a-fortnight JobKeeper payments from Victoria’s payroll tax. One month later, on 5 May, the Victorian Government announced it would adopt this Liberal Nationals idea. 
  • 9 April – Cancel the $700 million dividend raid from WorkCover and instead provide relief to distressed businesses. 
  • 9 April – Freeze farm rates to support farmers struggling with financial pressure caused by both the bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • 17 April – Waive registration payments for commercial vehicles grounded as a result of lockdowns. 
  • 24 April – Make long service leave more flexible so that employers and employees can mutually agree to utilise an employee’s entitlements. 
  • 28 April – Exempt JobKeeper payments from being considered remuneration when calculating WorkCover premiums. On 5 May, the Victorian Government announced it would adopt this Liberal Nationals idea. 
  • 30 April – Provide transparency on the limited number of industry sectors eligible for the Victorian Government’s Business Support Fund and expand this support to all industry sectors. Following this advocacy, the Victorian Government agreed to expand eligibility to all industry sectors.
  • 16 June – Provide a clear plan or notice for racing clubs to put in place COVID-safe protocols to allow the racing industry to get back on track. 
  • 1 July – Extend payroll tax concessions following the Victorian Government’s withdrawal of payroll tax concessions for businesses with payrolls under $3 million which had expired on 30 June. The only payroll tax relief measure now in place is the ability to defer the amount owing until Q3 2020-21. 
  • 14 July – Provide better support for struggling small business. The $5,000 grant on offer by the Victorian Government falls short of what Victorian small businesses need to get them through the second round of lockdowns. 
  • 16 July – Do more to assist struggling business as the unemployment rate increased in June for the third consecutive month to 7.5 per cent, up from just 5.2 per cent prior to the pandemic. Just under 169,000 jobs have been lost since March in Victoria, with more to come after the reintroduction of restrictions. 
  • 21 July – Urgently resolve the ban on seasonal workers crossing into and out of Victoria which has left Victoria’s horticulture sector concerned about the supply of labour. 
  • 29 July – Work with the South Australia and New South Wales State Government’s to fix the mess at Victoria’s borders and ensure vital goods are able to flow freely across state borders. 
  • 3 August – Provide more to support affected workers and small business through Stage 4 business restrictions, including a dedicated hotline for workers and business operators. 
  • 5 August – Provide an exemption from the Government’s Stage 4 lockdown rules for critical supply chain businesses at risk of failure if forced to close. Such an exemption was included in draft rules leaked to the public but removed prior to the closure decision being taken. 
  • 5 August – Deliver support to all Victorian businesses hit by Stage 4 restrictions, including sole traders, before more lives and livelihoods are ruined. 
  • 5 August – Urgently explain and clarify the Stage 4 restrictions to be imposed on the property and real estate industry.
  • 5 August – Ensure all importers can access their containers during Stage 4 lockdown to prevent good including critical medical supplies, food and PPE from being stuck on dock.
  • 6 August – Guarantee that the supply chain will continue to operate without interruption during Stage 4 lockdown so that supermarkets will have the goods they need on shelves, not locked in warehouses. 
  • 13 August – Arrange permits for the agriculture sector to streamline interstate access for farmers and the agriculture supply chain at Victoria’s borders with New South Wales and South Australia. 
  • 15 August – Ensure that Business Support Fund support is made available for all Victorian small businesses and sole traders impacted by COVID restrictions. 
  • 15 August – Provide funding support for the event industry hit so hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

On 24 March, the Liberal Nationals published the first version of a Business Assistance Fact Sheet, a document to help Victorian business owners understand what type of financial help was available to their business and how they might access it. This document has been updated with the latest news throughout both waves of the pandemic.

On 15 May – The Liberal Nationals launched Back to Work and Back in Business, a comprehensive plan for the Victorian Government to adopt to kick-start the post-COVID economy, including measures to assist Victorian businesses.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to implement the following transparency and accountability changes.

  • 1 April – Freeze the salaries of all members of Victorian Parliament ahead of the scheduled pay rise for politicians on 1 July 2020. 
  • 2 April – Establish a Joint House Committee of the Victorian Parliament under the leadership of a non-Government MP to ensure oversight on Victoria’s response to COVID-19. 
  • 6 May – Launch an independent inquiry into its handling of the state’s then-largest COVID-19 cluster at the Cedar Meats abattoir. 
  • 19 May – Explain the failure to advise WorkSafe of the potential exposure of one of its employees while attending Cedar Meats for a safety inspection. 
  • 20 May – Rule out spending the government’s additional $24.5 billion in new debt for COVID related matters to fill the government bottomless pit of cost overruns following Labor Minister Jacinta Allan’s refusal to rule out that out. 
  • 3 JulyResume sittings of Parliament to ensure that locked down Victorians receive the answers they need about the government failures which have led to the second wave of COVID-19. 
  • 8 July – Request a Victoria Police investigation into alleged criminal behaviour in the management of the Victorian Government’s botched hotel quarantine system.
  • 14 July – Stop dodging questions about its hotel quarantine fiasco after the publication of leaked emails that showed top bureaucrats warned senior Health officials as early as March that the guards employed were ill-equipped for the work.
  • 20 July – Explain reports that Victoria Police have been called in to secure and manage Victoria’s quarantine hotels and whether operational deficiencies in the hotel program have been adequately addressed since Corrections Victoria took control of the program earlier in July. 
  • 6 August – Ensure that criminal investigations into COVID-19 associated deaths in Victorian workplaces must examine alleged negligence at the hands of Daniel Andrews and his Ministers. 
  • 13 August – Provide Victorians real answers as to why Australian Defence Force support was refused, even when systemic issues were revealed within quarantine hotels.

On 8 August the Liberal Nationals called for the Coate Hotel Quarantine Inquiry to provide Michael O’Brien as Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to appear and present a non-government external voice to ensure every day Victorians have a seat at the Inquiry.

On 12 August the Liberal Nationals members of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee called for Daniel Andrews re-appear at the Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to explain why he lied to the committee, or to give him a chance to correct the record.

State of Emergency

State of Emergency

Today Daniel Andrews announced he will seek to extend Victoria’s State of Emergency powers from the current maximum of 6 months to a new maximum of 18 months.

This is unacceptable to the Victorian Liberal Nationals and we will oppose it.

It sets a dangerous precedent to dispense with a traditional Westminster cabinet government and a functioning parliament that meets regularly.

The State of Emergency is the legal framework under which the current wide-ranging restrictions on people’s lives and livelihoods including restrictions on leaving your own home, business closures, travel bans, quarantine arrangements and curfews are made.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Andrews Labor Government has been extending the State of Emergency in four-week blocks. However, the law states that there is a maximum six-month limit on a declaration of a State of Emergency, which is due to expire on 16 September 2020.

The reason why a declaration of a State of Emergency is strictly time limited is clear – because such massive government powers over the lives of Victorians must not be open-ended.

State of Emergency powers represent a significant erosion of individual freedom and are intended to operate for only a short period.

State of Emergency powers must only operate under appropriate safeguards, scrutiny and checks and balances. Any attempt by the Andrews Labor Government to give itself such enormous powers, particularly in the absence of any enhanced accountability measures is dangerous to our democracy and your rights as a citizen.

I want to thank the many members who have already reached out to my office and I to express concern, and who are ready to take up the fight to Daniel Andrews on this critical issue.

As always you can visit our Facebook and Instagram to help spread our message and help other Victorian’s see how much of a disaster Dan is for our State.
Stay safe and stay well,

 

Update on COVID-19 directions

Update on COVID-19 directions
6 August 2020

Below is an update on new directions released by the Victorian Government this morning in relation to restricted activity and stay at home rules.

 

Each of these directions were operational as of 11:59pm on 5 August 2020, and will expire on 11:59pm on 16 August 2020. This expiry date correlates with the next expected extension of the State of Emergency declaration.

 

The purpose of this document is to provide a brief overview of some of the changes that have been made today in the Restricted Activity Directions and Stay At Home Directions for both metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria.

Note, it is likely that the Government replace some of these directions prior to 16 August 2020.

 

It is also likely that over coming days the Government will continue to refine its website ‘list of permitted work premises’ and how these are practically intended to operate.

 

The information provided by the Government to date is poorly written, badly organised, and leaves many questions unanswered for different industries and workplaces. A continued need for further clarifications will be an ongoing project for government for some days to come.

Metro Melbourne – Stage 4 – Restricted Activity directions

 

Source: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/restricted-activity-directions-restricted-areas-no-6-pdf

 

The new Stage 4 Restricted Activity direction have now organized businesses into two categories ‘Permitted Work Premises’ and ‘Closed Work Premises’.

 

The previous approach of specifically listing the types of premises that are required to close appears to have been abandoned in metropolitan Melbourne restricted activity directions.

 

Permitted Work Premises

‘A person who owns, controls or operates a Permitted Work Premises in the Restricted Area may operate that premises during the restricted activity period to the extent permitted by the Directions currently in force.’

 

The specific list of ‘permitted work premises’ now exists outside the signed orders. It means anything that appears under the below link.

www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/business-industry-stage-4-restrictions-covid-19

 

Despite the above, a person who owns, controls or operates a Permitted Work Premises in the Restricted Area may operate that premises:

(a)          for the purpose of essential maintenance; or

(b)          by permitting employees to work from the place where they ordinarily reside; or

(c)           as required or authorised by law; or

(d)          in an emergency; or

(e)          as otherwise permitted by the Directions currently in force.

It is noted that if a Work Premises includes a number of functions and only part of the functions undertaken at the premises are a Permitted Work Premises, only those permitted functions may operate.

If there is any inconsistency between the general obligations and the specific obligations set out in the Directions currently in force, the specific obligations will prevail.

 

Permitted work premises must also comply with two new directions:

New Direction 1
‘Permitted Worker Permit Scheme and Access to Onsite Childcare/Kindergarten Permit Scheme
Directions’

https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/permitted-worker-permit-scheme-directions

These directions are related to the requirements and obligations of the Permitted Worker Scheme.

New Direction 2
‘Workplace Directions’


https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/workplace-directions

These directions provide requirements on preventative measures in the workplace, and responding to a suspected/confirmed COVID case in a work premises.

Signage, cleaning, record requirements that previously appeared within these Restricted Activity Directions now appear within these new directions.

The Workplace Directions also list a requirement that an employer

‘must not require or permit a worker to perform work at more than one Work Premises of the employer’

unless it is not practicable. For example, healthcare and social care workers, and tradespeople performing essential repairs.

The Workplace Directions also require that employers with five or more workers working at a Work Premises must have a ‘COVID Safe Plan’. Employers are directed to this website for guidance on developing a COVID safe plan – https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/creating-a-covid-safe-workplace#yourcovidsafeplan.

 

There is some ‘sector guidance’ on the COVID safe plan webpages, but it is frequently changing and lacks detail.

Closed Work Premises

‘A person who owns, controls or operates a Closed Work Premises in the Restricted Area must not permit persons to attend that premises during the restricted activity period.’

 

There is NO SPECIFIC LIST of Closed Work Premises.

Closed Work Premises simply means “a Work Premises that is not a Permitted Work Premises”. Practically this means anything that is not on the Permitted Work Premises list is closed.

 

A person who owns, controls or operates a Closed Work Premises may attended the premises in the following circumstances:

(a)          for the purpose of essential maintenance; or

(b)          to ensure that the premises is closed safely for the duration of the restricted activity period; or

(c)           by permitting employees to work from the place where they ordinarily reside to operate the premises; or

(d)          as required or authorised by law; or

(e)          in an emergency; or

(f)           as otherwise permitted by these Directions.

 

Exceptions
There are exceptions in these directions that allow certain permitted operations of professional sport, educational facilities, and childcare facilities.

Metro Melbourne – Stage 4 – Stay At Home Directions

Source: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/stay-home-directions-restricted-areas-no-8-pdf

There have been some additional changes to the Stay At Home directions for Metropolitan Melbourne including:

  • Changes that allow workers with permits to take their child a school, childcare service, or another person’s premises for the purpose of child-minding assistance (provided it is an existing in-home child-minding assistance arrangement – no new arrangements are permitted).
  • Changes to allow a person to leave their premises for the purpose or driving a person with whom they ordinarily reside where it is not otherwise reasonable practicable for that person to leave their premises for a purpose permitted under, and provided they comply with, these directions. This action is also permitted during curfew.
  • A person may now only visit a secondary residence for ‘emergency maintenance’. This was previously ‘necessary maintenance’.
  • Changes that prevent a person from visiting a cemetery or other memorial for a deceased person to pay respects to a deceased person, if it involves travelling further than 5km from the premises where the person ordinarily resides.
  • A new reason to leave home for compassionate reasons if a person has a pet at their premises and it is necessary to take the pet outdoors to urinate or defecate, if it is not reasonably practicable for the pet to do so at the person’s premises. Changes also allow a person to leave their premises during curfew for a ‘pet toilet break’.
  • Clarification that court-ordered child protection visits are currently suspended within Metro Melbourne.
  • Clarification that if at the start of the stay at home period a person has a signed contract for a residential property which is scheduled to settled during the stay at home period, dealing with that residential property may continue.

    Similarly if a person is a residential tenant whose lease is expiring during the stay at home period, dealing with residential property may continue.

  • Clarification that persons entering a premises for care or other compassionate reasons should be ‘no more than the minimum necessary to do so’.
  • Clarification that persons entering a premises for work or education purposes should only do so ‘where the work will take place and such work is urgent and essential’.

    Examples provides include a tradeperson for the purpose of carrying out urgent and essential repairs, a disability support worker, a vet, or a person for end of life faith reasons.

  • Requirements for permitted weddings in Metro Melbourne being that one or both of the two persons being married are:
    • at the end of life; or
    • will be deported from Australia unless the marriage takes place.

Regional Victoria – Stage 3 – Restricted Activity Directions

Source: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/restricted-activity-directions-non-melbourne-pdf

 

The Stage 3 Restricted Activity Directions for Regional Victoria are organised in a similar way to previous version.

 

Restricted Activity Directions for Regional Victoria are broadly similar to Stage 3 restrictions that have been previously in place across Victoria, and most recently in metropolitan Melbourne.

 

Signage, cleaning, record requirements that previously appeared within these directions now appear within the new Workplace Directions.

Regional Victoria – Stage 3 – Stay At Home Directions

 

Source: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/stay-home-directions-non-melbourne

With recommencement of Stage 3 restrictions in Regional Victoria, there has been a move back to ‘Stay at Home Directions’.

The ‘Stay Safe Directions’ directions that were previously in operation in Regional Victoria have been revoked.

 

Stay At Home directions for Regional Victoria are broadly similar to Stage 3 Stay At Home restrictions that have been previously in place across Victoria, and most recently in metropolitan Melbourne.

These directions implement the requirement that a person who ordinarily resides in Regional Victoria during the stay at home period must not leave the premises where the person ordinarily resides, other than for one or more of the reasons specified in:

(a)          Necessary goods or services

(b)          Care or other compassionate reasons

(c)           Work or education

(d)          Exercise or outdoor recreation

(e)          Other specified reasons

If a person has more than one ordinary place of residence, the person must choose one of these residences to be their principal place of residence for the duration of the stay at home period.

 

A person may only visit any other ordinary place of residence for the purposes of work or education, to meet obligations in relation to shared parenting arrangements or family contact arrangements, for emergency maintenance, for emergency purposes, or as otherwise required or authorised by law.

 

It also includes requirements related to face covering.

 

Liberal Nations bold and ambitious plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business

The Liberal Nationals, and local MP KIM WELLS have unveiled a bold and ambitious plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business.

With National Cabinet easing restrictions, the Andrews Labor Government must act swiftly to get Victorians back to work and back in business.

The Plan details how the State Government can help Victorians secure their personal finances, rebuild local economies, build better communities and keep their families safe.

This is not a plan for the next election; Victorians can’t afford to wait that long. This is our Plan for immediate action by the Andrews Labor Government so that Victoria can rebuild from the damage done by COVID-19 to our jobs, our communities and our lives.

While Victoria’s crippling state debt and record unemployment predictions hamper the State Government’s ability to deal with recovery efforts, 127,100 Victorians lost their jobs last month and small businesses are hurting – all while operating in Australia’s highest taxed state.

The Liberal Nationals’ bold plan provides positive suggestions that should be the key priorities for the State Government in the recovery phase.

Focusing on rebuilding local industries including manufacturing, tourism and shovel-ready local infrastructure will help to get Victorians back to work.

Cutting business taxes, charges and red tape will help Victorians to get back in business.

While the Liberal Nationals’ plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business focuses on rebuilding the Victorian economy through a jobs-led and business-led recovery, it also lays out plans to ease the pressure on household budgets and support quality of life measures including access to hospitals and improving education.

While Victoria has experienced the harshest lock down measures of any state, Labor has no plan to deal with Victoria’s COVID-19 economic recovery and has lagged behind other states in getting students safely back to school and safely re-opening businesses.

Victoria needs an urgent response to the economic damage done by COVID-19, The Liberal Nationals urge the Andrews Labor Government to adopt our plan.

The full plan is available at michaelobrien.com.au

Comments attributable to Leader of Opposition, Michael O’Brien:

“While we’ve flattened the curve, we’ve also flattened the economy. Jobs have gone and businesses have closed. ‘Business as usual’ just won’t cut it.

Comments attributable to Local MP KIM WELLS

“The Liberal Nationals have a strong plan to respond to the economic damage caused by COVID-19 to Victorian jobs, businesses and households.

“Victorians are resilient. We’ve come back from fires, floods and drought.

“Our plan will kick-start our state’s economy and get Victorians back to work and back in business. It will help individuals, families and communities across Victoria, but especially here in Rowville.

“The Andrews Labor Government has a history of slugging Victorian households and businesses to make up for its poor and reckless financial management.

“Our community here in Rowville are doing it tough through no fault of their own.

“The Andrews Government has a closing window of opportunity to adopt our strong plan to help out Victorian household budgets, create jobs and grow businesses.”

 

Liberal Nationals’ propose $1 billion fund to bring manufacturing home to Victoria

The Liberal Nationals are today proposing a $1 billion ‘Bringing Manufacturing Home’ fund to encourage businesses to bring facilities and jobs back to Victoria, grow local manufacturing and boost innovation.

Over the past 20 years more than 50,000 Victorian manufacturing jobs have been lost. A COVID-19 response is urgently needed to create jobs and boost the economy.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, now is the time for the Andrews Labor Government to urgently act to get Victorians back to work and back in business.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed holes in the national supply chain with an overreliance on a number of countries for provision of essential supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Bringing Manufacturing Home Fund would prioritise support for industries of national importance such as PPE manufacture, defence procurement and rare earths processing.

The proposed Fund would provide support for businesses seeking to relocate manufacturing facilities and jobs back to Victoria. It would also support existing Victorian manufacturers to expand, as well as supporting innovation, research and development.

The Bringing Manufacturing Home Fund adds to a number of polices announced by the Liberal Nationals to get Victoria back to work and back in business following the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Comments attributable to Kim Wells MP

“Victoria has a real opportunity to create thousands of new jobs, attract millions-of-dollars of investment, while regenerating our own capability to produce critical supplies that we’ve otherwise lost to overseas – and communities like Rowville could really benefit from this.

“Rebuilding local economies is a vital piece of Victoria’s recovery and a boost to manufacturing in a region like ours could be a real boost for local jobs. Victorians now need a government focused on delivering a jobs-led and business-led recovery.

“With Victoria losing more jobs than any other state due to the pandemic, we need an urgent and bold plan to turn this around.

“Victoria used to be the manufacturing heart of Australia. We now have the opportunity to bring manufacturing home to Victoria – where it belongs”.

“We need to back local businesses to deliver the jobs and investment that Victoria so desperately needs.”

KIM WELLS MP calls for $10 million payroll tax relief to save local jobs

Local Member for Rowville, Kim Wells MP is calling on the Andrews Labor Government to immediately implement temporary payroll tax relief to help locals get back to work and back in business.

 

With Victoria losing more jobs than any other state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberal Nationals are proposing urgent action by the Victorian Government to save Victorian jobs.

 

With restrictions now easing, now is the time for the Andrews Labor Government take up the Liberal Nationals’ ideas to protect Victoria’s jobs and businesses in Rowville.

 

The Liberal Nationals call would see the Andrews Labor Government waive payroll tax for all businesses across Rowville on the first $10 million of annual payroll to 30 June 2021, helping kick start local economies.

 

This would deliver a payroll tax saving of up to $485,000 for businesses in 2020-21 – just the incentive a business needs to help get Victorians back to work. For larger businesses, payroll tax would be payable on each dollar of payroll paid in excess of $10 million.

 

The Andrews Labor Government’s temporary assistance in raising the payroll tax threshold to $3 million ends on 30 June 2020

 

After 30 June 2020, the only commitment that has been made by the Andrews Labor Government is to allow businesses to defer paying payroll tax during the first quarter of 2020-21 (Jul-Sep). Any business in Rowville that chooses to take up this deferral option will still be liable to pay any amount deferred payroll back to government, in full, at a later date.

 

The fallout from COVID-19 restrictions has devastated our local economy, with more job losses and business closures forecast across Victoria.

 

Rebuilding our local economies is paramount to get Victoria back to work and back in business. Businesses are the real drivers of our economy, not governments.

 

Comments attributable to Kim Wells MP

 

“Payroll tax is a tax on jobs and is a disincentive for business to hire. Reducing this tax on all businesses during the recovery phase will allow businesses to survive and get more Victorians back to work.

“Only when small and medium businesses are back in business, creating more jobs for Victorians, will our state’s economy be headed in the right direction.”

RESPONSE TO COVID-10 PANDEMIC

The Liberal Nationals have listened to Victorians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Victorians need sensible and practical solutions to support them through the massive disruption caused by this event. This is what the Liberal Nationals have called for to help Victorians.

STABILITY NEEDED WITHIN VICTORIAN HOSPITAL BOARDS (25 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called for the temporary extension of the appointments of hospital board members approaching the end of their terms to ensure board continuity and stability during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.
A large number of hospital board member terms will expire on 30 June 2020. In some cases, board members’ tenures will come to an end and in other cases, there is a limit of three terms a member can serve on a board.
The Liberal Nationals are calling on this date to be extended for all current board members by one year.
The Victorian Government must act quickly to temporarily extend these appointments during this crisis to provide stability to our stretched hospitals. Hospitals and health boards around Victoria cannot afford to lose leadership teams during this crisis

ADVOCATING LAND TAX RELIEF TO SUPPORT TENANTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS (25 March 2020)

In March, the Liberal Nationals called on the Victorian Government to deliver land tax credits for residential and commercial property owners who do the right thing and provide rent relief to tenants affected by COVID-19.
Many businesses have been forced to close because of necessary decisions by the National Cabinet. Similarly, thousands of workers have lost their jobs and income across the state, and these households are now struggling to pay the rent on their residential tenancies.
Landlords should be encouraged to do the right thing by all of these tenants, commercial and residential, and provide rent relief.
Such rent relief would apply to those currently on the list of businesses forced to close by the National Cabinet in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, or those residential tenants who are without a job because of closures and undergoing financial hardship.
The land tax relief would be provided in the form of credits against a property owner’s land tax bill and apply on a dollar credit for every dollar of rent relief provided.
Following this call by the Liberal Nationals, the Victorian Government announced on 15 April 2020 that it would adopt the Liberal Nationals policy to provide land tax relief to landlords to provide tenants impacted by coronavirus with rent relief.

FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN MUST GET CLEAR WAY FORWARD IN COVID-19 CRISIS (25 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals sought urgent clarification from the Victorian Government to ensure that the agriculture
sector was classified as an essential service.
The Federal Government confirmed agriculture is an essential service early on, but that it was up to the
Victorian Government to deliver the detail of what this looks like. The lack of clarification from the Victorian
Government spread confusion through the sector. In this time of crisis, farmers and businesses in the food supply chain must have the confidence to continue their
critical work putting food on Victorian tables.
The Victorian Government belatedly confirmed that the agriculture sector was an essential service on 1 April.

PARKS VICTORIA – FEE REFUNDS FOR CAMPING AND CARAVAN SITES (25 March 2020)

The Victorian Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to proactively refund all Parks Victoria site bookings in Crown Land parks and National Parks until the restrictions on travel and social isolation are lifted.
While full refunds are being provided to people who had bookings at the Wilsons Promontory National Park, this refund policy should be extended to all Crown Land parks and National Parks in Victoria.
Whilst these booking fees may be small, a refund measure will go a long way to encourage Victorians to comply with the Government’s directive to avoid non-essential travel, and assist the many Victorian families who are doing it tough and facing an uncertain future.

CHANGES NEEDED AROUND COUNCIL MEETING LAWS (27 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to recall Parliament to provide legislation to enable Victorian councils to continue to meet and make decisions throughout the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.
Current legislation does not allow for any local government meetings to take place electronically – decisions can only be made at formal in-person meetings.
The New South Wales Parliament met this week and made emergency changes to a number of Acts of Parliament, including its Local Government Act, that will enable councils to hold formal meetings remotely via electronic means.
There is an important role for councils during these uncertain times and they should be able to meet and make the necessary decisions for their communities.

DESALINATION PLANT KEEPING WATER BILLS UP WHEN VICTORIANS CAN LEAST AFFORD IT (27 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to reconsider its decision to order 125GL of water from the Wonthaggi desalination plant this year.
The decision to order 125GL of desalination plant water means Victorians will miss out on a reduction in water bills at a time when they need it most.
As we take extreme action to combat the spread of COVID-19, every dollar we can keep in Victorians’ pocket will make a difference.
The Victorian Government should be doing everything it can to reduce the pressure on Victorian households.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS DURING COVID-19 (30 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to work with industry and union leaders to develop protocols to help prevent industrial disputation during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports are emerging that some Victorian businesses are being threatened with legal action by union officials during this crisis.
At a time when businesses are grappling with reducing staff in a volatile environment, businesses don’t also need to face the prospect of industrial action at their workplace.

SUPPORTING VULNERABLE VICTORIANS BY SUPPORTING LOCAL RESTAURANTS AND CAFES (30 March 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to engage local food businesses to provide meals to vulnerable or isolated members of the community during the COVID-19 crisis.
With increasing restrictions of movement, especially for senior citizens, there will be a greater need for meals to be provided. It makes sense that those meals should be prepared by local cafes and restaurants wherever possible – supporting vulnerable Victorians and at the same time protecting local jobs.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is placing huge pressure on many Victorian restaurants and cafes that are struggling to survive. Restricting food operations to takeaway or delivery only has caused financial pain to many local businesses.
The $500 million Working for Victoria Fund is designed to support businesses that may not benefit from other measures, such as payroll tax relief. Engaging local cafes and restaurants to meet the needs of vulnerable people in their own local communities will deliver a benefit to all.

LOCAL COUNCIL RATE RELIEF AND RATE FREEZE (1 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called for local councils to offer immediate rate relief to distressed households impacted by COVID-19.
The Victorian Government must also help councils with any loss of revenue so that the important role of councils can continue uninterrupted during this unprecedented time. Many smaller councils, as well as those in rural and growth areas, may not be able to afford the cost of rate relief.
Local councils have an integral and vital role in assisting their communities in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through emergency management provision and the delivery of services throughout municipalities to those requiring assistance and support.
The Liberal Nationals have also called for consideration of a complete rate freeze by local councils for this financial year.
With many Victorians facing a period of employment instability, rate relief and a freeze on rates would help ease the financial burden and help to ensure they can stay in their own homes.

ADVOCATING FAIRNESS IN RESCHEDULING DRIVING LICENCE TESTS (1 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to prioritise those who have had their driving licence tests cancelled because of the COVID-19 crisis when testing recommences.
VicRoads cancelled driving testing last week, with many young drivers finding out about the changes as they were lining up at a VicRoads office to begin their P Plate driving test.

While VicRoads indicating that it is working on arrangements to have testing carried out for situations that have exceptional circumstances, no decision has been made on the process for rescheduling other tests

INTERVENTION NEEDED WITH UNION REFUSING TO UNLOAD CRITICAL EMERGENCY SUPPLIES (1 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to intervene after a union refused to unload critical emergency supplies including hand sanitisers and face masks on a Melbourne wharf.
The government must step in and ensure that access to critical supplies aren’t further delayed because a union is trying to stamp its authority during this time of crisis

PRIORITY TESTING FOR FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN BUSINESSES (1 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to deliver priority access to testing for the agriculture workforce, similar to the provisions made for health workers.
Our food supply chain businesses are prepared to do their part to comply with restrictions, but we can’t afford to have their employees in a 14 day lockdown if it can be avoided.
Strict measures must be put in place to ensure our farmers and farm businesses are not exposed to unnecessary, lengthy shutdowns.
Farms and farm businesses must be able to quickly, and safely, resume operations as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19.

HOTELS FOR HEALTH WORKERS (1 April 2020)

In early April, the Liberal Nationals called on the Victorian Government to make Victoria’s hotel rooms available for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers due to COVID-19.
Our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are doing an amazing life-saving job all around Victoria, but they also have family and friends they want to protect.
The Liberal Nationals said that the Victorian Government should look at all options, including our vacant hotel rooms, to assist healthcare workers who are needing housing assistance.
Victoria’s doctors, nurses and healthcare workers don’t need the stress of having nowhere to go when providing frontline care during this crisis.
Following this call by the Liberal Nationals, Labor subsequently announced that it would adopt the Liberal Nationals policy to make hotel rooms available to healthcare workers on the front line of Victoria’s coronavirus response.

EXPLANATION REQUIRED ON TOTAL RECREATIONAL FISHING BAN (2 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to urgently explain its decision to ban all recreational fishing under stage 3 restrictions, and to review the total ban to see if public safety can be protected with a more targeted restriction.
While exercise is a legitimate reason for people to leave their homes under stage 3, the Minister for Fishing and Boating declared yesterday that all recreational fishing was banned in Victoria.

This is inconsistent with New South Wales which confirmed that recreational fishing can continue, so long as social distancing and public gathering rules are observed, recognising fishing as a form of passive exercise.

FEE REDUCTION FOR TAXI AND PASSENGER VEHICLE OPERATORS (2 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to waive a number of fees tied to commercial passenger vehicle operators, including taxis, to assist with the economic fallout of COVID-19.
With the current restrictions in place and anticipated to remain for some months, taxi owners are yet another group of Victorians struggling with limited business and financial constraints.
At minimum the Victorian Government should suspend registration application and annual fees ($55.10) as well as providing additional support to these sole operators and small businesses under the Victorian government’s $500 million Business Support Fund.

PAY FREEZE FOR MPs (1 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to freeze the salaries of all members of Victorian Parliament ahead of the scheduled pay rise for politicians on 1 July 2020.
The Independent Remuneration Tribunal made its decision on pay increase for politicians many months ago. What may have been appropriate 12-18 months ago is not appropriate today – the world has turned upside down since then.
Ordinary Victorians right across the state are feeling the pain of COVID-19, with workers losing their jobs, households losing their income, and small businesses falling over in the face of closures and restrictions.
There’s probably no good time for an MP to get a pay rise. But there is a wrong time and that wrong time is now. Members of Parliament cannot possibly take a pay rise at a time when so many people are feeling financial pain.

TRANSPARENCY NEEDED ON COVID-19 RESPONSE (2 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called for a Joint House Committee of the Victorian Parliament to be established to ensure oversight on Victoria’s response to COVID-19 while parliamentary sittings are on indefinite hold.
To save lives we will need to continue to take unprecedented action to combat the spread of COVID-19. But, like all government initiatives, these decisions should not be taken without scrutiny.
The Committee should allow for cross-party representation to ensure the Victorian Government remains accountable to the Parliament and the Victorian public.
Like to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), the Joint House Committee will have the power to question Ministers and request documents.
The Committee should use technology available to hold meetings and hearings remotely.
Establishing such a Joint House Committee must be on the agenda when the Victorian Parliament next sits to pass crucial legislation.

FREEZE ON CITYLINK TOLLS (3 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government and Transurban to cancel the increase in CityLink
tolls set for April 1 to alleviate unnecessary cost burdens during the COVID-19 crisis.
Many of the people using our roads are essential workers. They’re feeding us, they’re health workers, they’re
delivering essential supplies, and so they shouldn’t be slugged with extra tolls at this already difficult time.
This is already a terribly difficult time and Transurban shouldn’t be making it even harder by increasing tolls.

TEMPORARY REDEPLOYMENT OF PROTECTIVE SERVICES OFFICERS (PSOs) (4 April 2020)

The Victorian Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to enable the temporary redeployment of PSOs throughout Victoria in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since being introduced under the former Liberal Nationals Government, PSOs have made an outstanding contribution to the safety of Victorians and have proven themselves as a critical community safety asset.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, a number of concerning incidents have occurred at supermarkets and shopping precincts whilst police prepare for spikes in offences such as burglary of commercial properties.
These changing community safety challenges come as reports indicate a 90 per cent fall in public transport usage – meaning more than 1400 PSOs are currently left protecting empty train stations while police resources are stretched across the state.
The COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to temporarily expand the role of PSOs to a range of community settings. Given the essential role PSOs play in keeping commuters safe, this change must be implemented with a clear commitment from the Victorian Government to fully return all PSOs to Victoria’s public transport network
once the health crisis has passed.
Following this call by the Liberal Nationals, Labor announced on 6 April 2020 that it would adopt the Liberal Nationals policy to temporarily redeploy PSOs.

PAYROLL TAX EXEMPTION FOR JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS (5 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to exempt the Federal Government’s $1,500-afortnight JobKeeper payments from Victoria’s payroll tax. The JobKeeper payment is designed to keep businesses connected to their workforce and to keep workers afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, under existing Victorian law, these payments will attract payroll tax. In some cases, where the businesses employ mainly juniors or those on lower wages, the JobKeeper payment will be higher than preexisting wages. It is unfair that employers in that situation should now face a Victorian payroll tax bill for receiving Federal Government support.
When the Parliament next sits, the Government needs to include a payroll tax exemption for these payments.

SCRAP BIN TAX INCREASE ON VICTORIAN HOUSEHOLDS (6 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to provide immediate relief to Victorian families by scrapping its Bin Tax increase.

On 1 July, the landfill levy is set to increase by 30 per cent. This means families will be paying more to dispose of household waste.
This tax increase is 17 times more than inflation. More financial stress is the last thing Victorian families need when faced with the extraordinary pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GOVERNMENT MUST SUPPORT THREE-YEAR-OLD KINDER (7 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to fund Term 2 fees for kinder programs across Victoria to help ease the burden on both parents and kinders at this difficult time.
Many Victorian kinders are at financial risk due to the Victoria Government’s lack of funding support for most 3-year-old kinder programs.
The only three-year-old kinder programs that are currently eligible for the Victorian Government’s proposed support package are those in a small number of regional areas where state funded kindergarten has already been introduced.

GOVERNMENT MUST SUPPORT SCHOOL STUDENTS STUDYING REMOTELY (8 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to take full responsibility for ensuring that all students receive the technological support they need to learn remotely, including assistance that is additional to what has already been committed. As part of this, the government should look at innovative ways to partner with other organisations and provide additional funding so that teachers have access to high-quality resources to support remote learning.
While the government has declared it will support students with thousands of laptops, schools have been instructed to loan out their own devices. Where a school does not have enough devices to meet the needs of its students, they are obliged to find the money within their existing budgets. This makes times incredibly difficult for schools already grappling with uncertainty.
The Victorian Government must also make clear to parents what their responsibilities are with supporting the education system during this time of remote learning. Parents will have to take a more active role in supporting their child’s education and the Government must facilitate this and offer more formal guidance.

HOLIDAY-MAKERS DESERVE REFUND OF EASTER CAMPSITE FEES (8 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to urgently refund campsite fees for the State’s Crown land parks and National Parks to thousands of Victorians who have booked campsites for the Easter break.
Camping is off-limits on public land due to the Stage Three restrictions in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. At a time when many Victorians are facing financial hardship it is only fair that campsite booking fees be promptly refunded by Parks Victoria.

WORKCOVER PREMIUM RELIEF NEEDED FOR DISTRESSED BUSINESSES (9 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to cancel its $700 million dividend raid from WorkCover and to instead provide relief to distressed businesses.

With Victorian businesses in financial distress or going into hibernation due to COVID-19, the cost of WorkCover premiums is another pressure they could do without. Employers are required to bear the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, even if normal business operations are disrupted or in hibernation.
WorkCover should be able to offer a discount or another form of premium relief to businesses that have been subject to closure or highly impacted by COVID-19.

RATES FREEZE TO EASE FINANCIAL BURDEN (9 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to place a freeze on farm rates to support farmers struggling with financial pressure caused by both the bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent years, massive increases to farm rates in some Local Government Areas have pushed up farmers’ rates burden by tens of thousands of dollars.
A freeze on farm rates this financial year would provide our producers certainty as they work to keep our supermarket shelves fully stocked. This rate relief measure is supported by the Victorian Farmers Federation.
This is in addition to the Liberal Nationals’ call for all councils to consider a complete rate freeze this financial year to help all Victorians.
The Victorian Government must help councils with any loss of revenue so that the important role of councils can continue uninterrupted during these difficult times.

LIBERAL NATIONALS WELCOME ANNOUNCEMENT TO EXPAND COVID-19 TESTING CRITERIA (14 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement to expand the testing criteria in Victoria for COVID-19 – something we have been calling on the Government to do for weeks.
The Liberal Nationals first raised the issue about the availability of Victorian testing kits and swabs in State Parliament, as Victorians who called the hotline and were told to get tested were being turned away when presenting to clinics.
Victoria’s testing criteria since the outbreak began has remained too narrow, despite COVID-19 health experts urging governments around the world to “test, test, test”.
We will never know the true number of Victorians that contracted COVID-19 since January, but the expansion of tests, something that weeks overdue, is welcome, to ensure no Victorian is refused testing again.

COMMON SENSE MUST PREVAIL DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN (14 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to ensure the extraordinary social distancing rules being asked of Victorians make sense and are being fairly applied so that everyone can play their role in keeping the community safe.
One of Victoria’s most senior Police Officers has called out the inconsistent enforcement of lockdown laws in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton has stated that the inconsistency and lack of discretion in the application of lockdown laws are undermining community confidence in Victoria Police and that he will now personally review every fine issued.

Deputy Commissioner Patton’s warning comes as a number of Victorians have been unfairly fined or warned by Victoria Police for breaching isolation rules, including for jogging alone, paddle-boarding alone, taking a driving lesson with a parent, driving to a mountain bike location and posting twelve-month old holiday photos.
Victorians want to do the right thing during the COVID-19 outbreak, yet the inconsistent messaging and enforcement of social distancing rules have left the community confused and increasingly frustrated.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED FOR RENTAL STABILITY (14 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to announce a program that will provide clarity and assist both tenants and landlords during the extremely difficult time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victorian tenants and landlords have been left in limbo as the Victorian Government fails to address rental agreements for those affected by the economic fallout due to COVID-19.
The Prime Minister announced two weeks ago that the National Cabinet had agreed to a moratorium on evictions and that it was up to the states to put in place state-based packages and agreements.
Whilst the New South Wales Government has announced a package to assist tenants and landlords, Victorian tenants and landlords are waiting too long to see what, if anything, the Victorian Government will do.

CONFUSION REIGNS OVER TERM 2 (16 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to provide clarity and certainly in relation to children being permitted to attend school in Term 2.
The clear advice of the Australian Government and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer is that children should attend school for Term 2. Despite this, a number of State schools turned students away following the Premier’s insistence that students should be schooled at home.
On the first day of the second school term, the Chief Health Officer sent a series of tweets warning parents against sending children to school, noting “having around a million children and their parents in closer contact with each other, teachers and support staff has the potential to increase cases of coronavirus”. By the end of the same day, the Chief Health Officer was forced to reassure parents that “Schools are not ‘dangerous places’
and parents should feel comfortable sending their kids to school…”.
The enormous confusion caused by these contradictory positions is creating worry for too many Victorian parents and students. Working parents should not have to choose between keeping their job safe, or their
children safe.

WAIVE REGISTRATION FEES FOR GROUNDED COMMERCIAL VEHICLES (17 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to waive registration payments for commercial vehicles grounded because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Trucks, especially those used to cart bulk commodities and some school busses are sitting idle earning no income – but their registration fees still need to be paid.
Registration for a prime mover for three months is $3,157.80 and $428.30 for each trailer.

With no income, these registration fees will be difficult for businesses to pay, especially if they have multiple trucks and trailers. If registration isn’t paid, it lapses, meaning when there is work again, the owners would need to re-register and roadworthy their vehicles, which takes time and money.
The Victorian Government should waive these payments to ease the burden on small business.

RESPITE FOR CARERS DURING COVID-19 (22 April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to provide more support to carers and families of those with special needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During what is already a difficult time as Victorians self-isolate to stop the spread of COVID-19, with day care programs and other services closed, it’s pushing families to breaking point as they have lost that critical break time that allowed them to recharge the batteries.
With all providers having to end group sessions, some have moved to establish more one-on-one sessions for those most in need of support, but it appears some providers are offering little or no support at all to those most in need after the cancellation of group sessions.
Respite is an essential service. It supports some of the most vulnerable people in our community. While every precaution must be taken, we need a consistent approach that allows carers and families to cope.

LONG SERVICE LEAVE FLEXIBILITY NEEDED (24 April 2020)

While the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper payments will save millions of jobs, many businesses need more flexibility with rostering and leave arrangements to stay afloat during these difficult times.
Currently, employers in Victoria have to give at least 12 weeks’ written notice to employees before long service leave can be taken. The State Government should legislate to reduce this timeframe where employers and employees agree to it.
The NSW Government recently passed temporary changes that waive the notice period so that, by consent, employees can access their entitlements quicker. The FairWork Ombudsman is also encouraging employers and employees to come to mutually-beneficial arrangements that utilise an employee’s paid leave entitlements, including long service leave.

TIME FOR VICTORIAN STUDENTS TO RETURN TO SCHOOL (26 April 2020)

The Victorian Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to allow Victorian students to return to school, together with appropriate health safeguards.
Despite Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) supporting children learning at school in Term Two, most Victorian students are being denied that opportunity. This must change.
While schools, teachers and parents have valiantly adjusted to manage remote learning for students so far, this cannot continue indefinitely.

Too many parents are unable to properly supervise remote learning. Too many students are missing out on the full education they deserve. Too many families are feeling the pressure of having to simultaneously work and home school their children.
Expert medical advice is that schools are safe. So Victorian students should be at school unless parents want to keep them home or they are unwell.
The Liberal Nationals have called for additional health safeguards to be put in place alongside a return to school. Staggered drop-offs and pick-ups, banning parents from school premises, banning contact sport and extracurricular activities, increased funding for deep cleaning and medically-approved hand and surface sanitiser, as well as limiting adult congregation in spaces such as staff rooms are examples of measures that can further
protect health and safety.
Teachers and support staff considered at heightened risk of COVID-19 due to age, health or other issues should continue to be able to work from home.
Despite Victoria’s Chief Health Officer confirming that “schools are not dangerous places and parents should feel comfortable sending their kids to school”, the Victorian Government maintains that students must not attend school if they are able to learn from home.
The Liberal Nationals believe that it is time for Victoria to move along with other states. This means that Victorian students should be allowed back to school, unless they are unwell, or their parents choose for them to learn from home.

JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS MUST NOT BE COUNTED FOR WORKCOVER PREMIUMS (28th April 2020)

The Liberal Nationals have called on the Victorian Government to follow South Australia’s lead and exempt JobKeeper payments as remuneration when calculating WorkCover premiums.
To support South Australian businesses to maintain jobs and survive the COVID-19 crisis, ReturnToWorkSA has decided that wage subsidy payments under the JobKeeper program will not be considered remuneration when calculating premiums in 2020-21.
NSW is considering how JobKeeper payments will be treated for insurance premium calculations, but Victoria’s WorkSafe is currently telling businesses that JobKeeper payments will be “included as remuneration forWorkCover premium calculation purposes”.
Victoria already exempts allowances and payments for leave and termination when calculating WorkCover premiums, so JobKeeper payments should also be exempt.
The Victorian Government shouldn’t be taking a cut of the money from the Federal Government that’s designed to support workers and the businesses that employ them.
The Liberal Nationals have also called on the Victorian Government to cancel its $700 million dividend raid from WorkCover and to instead use these funds to provide relief to distressed businesses.