My adjournment matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, and it relates to the Baillieu government’s decision to close Department of Primary Industries (DPI) offices in Western Victoria Region.
Over the past weeks and months my electorate office has been very busy dealing with emails, telephone calls and constituents popping into the office to express their concern about the government’s savage cuts to services in the electorate, whether it be the TAFE funding cuts which will hurt regional campuses, the lack of funding for the National Centre for Farmer Health or the closing down of local DPI offices in regional Victoria. I think regional Victorians are starting to join the dots in relation to this government and its lack of funding for rural and regional Victoria.
The decision to close regional DPI offices represents yet another cut by this government that will have a significant impact on regional communities. The one-on-one local expertise that comes with a local DPI office is essential to regional areas such as western Victoria, including townships like Camperdown, Ararat and Edenhope and their surrounding communities. The work that goes on there cannot be underestimated, yet the government is taking that service and expertise away.
The joint parliamentary committee I serve on, the Education and Training Committee, recently went to New Zealand, and members of the committee spent quite some time with representatives of DairyNZ. One message they gave us to take away — they gave us quite a few, but one is relevant to the point I am raising tonight — is that it is clear from their experience that government services need to be readily available and hands on and be able to deal with farmers on a face-to-face basis.
DairyNZ representatives said that, from their experience, help is imperative and non-negotiable.
My request is that the minister reinstate funding for regional DPI offices to ensure that local DPI offices, in particular those at Camperdown, Ararat and Edenhope, remain open and continue to serve their communities in the valued and highly regarded manner they do at present.