HEAR ME, HEAR YE: The Victorian Premier was in Mildura recently to announce the return of the Mildura Base Hospital to public control amongst other things, including a vow to consider extra State funding for the MSRSP. He is pictured during a press conference with Health Minister Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, centre, and Member for Mildura Ali Cupper. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to further investigate how the Victorian Government can fund an $8.5million shortfall to ensure the completion of the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP).

Premier Andrews made the commitment during his visit to Mildura last week to announce the return of the Mildura Base Hospital to public management, where he was also asked about a number of other issues concerning our region. 

Top of the list was the $8.5million funding shortfall for the MSRSP – a Mildura Future Ready project, which is hoped will commence construction soon.

Mr Andrews said that attracting big events to Victoria was vitally important for the State’s economy as a whole, adding that he was keen to see regional Victoria receive its fair share of events.

“Apart from events held in Melbourne, I am always interested in pushing more events into regional Victoria and that should extend into a community like this,” he said.

Asked if his Government could see their way clear to fund the $8.5million shortfall for the MSRSP project, the Premier said that he was aware of the project, and the plans for an AFL- standard oval.

“I would like to see that completed in full, and (Mildura MP) Ali (Cupper) and (Member for Northern Victoria) Mark Gepp have had discussions with me and the Minister. I will now have a closer look at this project to see what further assistance the Government may be able to provide,” Mr Andrews said.

Mr Gepp said that the State Government is aware of the money that is being asked for by the local community in relation to the project.

“I am having constant conversations with Ali about how we can work together to see what might be possible, and we will be having further discussions with the Minister, Martin Pakula, in the not too distant future,” he said.

“It’s a worthwhile infrastructure project and it’s one of those legacy infrastructure projects, which isn’t just about the sporting activities of the day, but they double as a multi-purpose venue which can attract events to the region.”

The Premier was also asked about the Murray Basin Rail Project, which under his Government has come to a halt.

“We are in conversations with the Federal Government, and while I haven’t had an opportunity to have a discussion directly on this issue with the Prime Minister, I have had many conversations with him in recent weeks about infrastructure and many different issues, and I am confident that Ministers are working through this issue,” he said.

“I think it was important to halt works and have the line open for the coming season – common sense tells you that is a better outcome than having it closed – I’d like to see this project completed, and I am committed to doing everything that we can, working with the Commonwealth Government, to get this project done.

“It is a little more complex than it sometimes looks, there are a lot of legacy issues. The fact of the matter is that so much of this track was not maintained properly, and we have found some things that we didn’t know where there.”

Farmers in the Millewa are also doing it tough at the moment, with a lack of rain for this year’s crop causing great anxiety among farmers affected by the drought, something the Premier commented on.

“Agriculture Victoria and Minister (Jaclyn) Symes are more than happy to provide any support that we can. There is a package of different measures available,” he said.

“I know it is deeply frustrating, I was talking with some growers from the north west recently who were telling me that they were heading toward their best season in 10 years, and others who are doing it very tough – it’s patchy.

“We know that’s a frustrating thing for growers and their families, and indeed for small and large businesses who rely upon that income. There are things that we have been doing for other drought-affected areas of the State, and there are things that we can offer and do, and I would encourage people to be sitting down with us through local government and other agencies, but if there is a need for Minister Symes to come with Ali and others to have a talk to some of those affected communities, then we are more than happy to do that.”

The Premier also addressed the concerns raised recently by the energy market operator AEMO about Victoria’s capacity to provide reliable power this summer.     

“Well there are a number of contingencies that are put in place, and they have been for many summers now, because coal-fired power plants are operating with very old generators which are not particularly reliable – that’s just a fact,” he said.

“Therefore, we need to accept that fact – the Government certainly does – that’s why we are investing so strongly in alternative sources of important power – wind and solar.

“When we get a run of hot weather with a real spike in demand – not just here, but right across the nation – this is why you invest in renewable energy and why you put some other contingencies in place and we do that every summer.

“We look at the report of the energy market operator and we work closely with them every day and will continue to do so.”