Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to speak on the Parks Victoria annual report for 2011-12. From the outset, I state my objection, concern and extreme disappointment with the Napthine government’s recent decision to cut a further 60 staff from Parks Victoria, a decision that will have an enormously detrimental impact on the Victorian environment. Whether they are issues such as weed or pest control, managing Victoria’s park network, waterways and natural tourist attractions or protecting the state from potential bushfires, the Napthine government’s decision to cut staff will have a direct impact on Parks Victoria staff’s ability to complete their work and responsibilities.
Parks Victoria manages an area of around 18 per cent of the state’s geography that includes some of the state’s most iconic tourism assets, national parks, vital waterways and general regional assets.
The economic, social and community significance of Parks Victoria’s responsibilities go to the heart of why Labor members consider that government plays a very significant role in providing Parks Victoria witH adequate resources.
The 2011-12 reporting period was a time when Victoria was in recovery, and much work was undertaken around our waterways. I take this opportunity to commend the efforts of Parks Victoria staff right across this state who dealt with recovery and damage control. Parks Victoria staff do this time and again as unfortunately we see significant weather events increasingly affect our local communities. I am also pleased to note that during the reporting period Parks Victoria staff made it easier for those with a disability to access our beautiful parks network. These are just two examples of the very important responsibilities and work undertaken by Parks Victoria staff.
However, the slashing of a further 60 staff from Parks Victoria as well as the past funding cuts show that this government is not prepared to provide the full support that it should so that the important work undertaken by Parks Victoria staff can be done.
It was not until I read the report that I was aware that the 60 jobs mentioned some two months ago as jobs that would be cut are on top of the cuts mentioned on page 46 of the report. In June 2011 there were 1032 full-time staff with Parks Victoria. That number was reduced to 968 in June 2012, and a further 60 jobs are to go. Essentially more than 15 per cent of the total workforce of Parks Victoria has been eliminated over the past 18 months.
That is cause for significant alarm, but it should not be any real surprise to those who know what is going on, because it is consistent with this government’s attitude to the environment. Members have already seen the solar feed-in tariff slashed. We know what the government has done in terms of the wind farm industry, the dismantling of the Climate Change Act 2010 and its attempt to reintroduce cattle grazing in the national parks. We are fairly familiar with what the government is up to.
In the remaining time I would like to thank the staff of Parks Victoria who are working in very difficult circumstances. They are working under significant stress, trying to juggle competing priorities without sufficient resources. Having said that, I commend the work they do. Whether they are in the field or in an office, they do a remarkable job for Victoria, and we enjoy the resources they look after for us.