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Port sale a dud deal for all Gippslanders

Gippslanders will not be fooled by the Labor Party’s meagre offerings in return for support of its dud deal for the sale of the lease of the Port of Melbourne.

The Nationals’ Members for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien and Gippsland East Tim Bull today said Labor’s proposed $200 million agriculture fund was a con job and nothing more than a desperate attempt to get some support for its flawed Port of Melbourne deal.

Mr O’Brien and Mr Bull said Labor was not serious about an upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) and yet was holding out this fund as a bribe to try and win support for its legislation, when it should be funding the upgrade without strings attached as the Coalition did.

“The Nationals delivered $16 million for Phase 1a of the MID upgrade project. The Minister no doubt enjoyed turning the first sod this week, on a Coalition-funded initiative,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We did that because we know how important this project is and we funded it out of general government revenue with no strings attached.

“If Labor was serious about the MID, it wouldn’t be tying it to a bad deal for the Port of Melbourne sale which will likely not pass through Parliament,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr Bull said the proposed port deal would prevent the development of a second container port for 70 years – unless compensation is paid - when the current port is already nearing capacity.

“For this reason alone it makes no sense. Apart from impacting Gippsland exporters, businesses and farmers, we have no idea what the compensation will be.

“This deal will compromise Victoria’s export competitiveness and take money out of milk cheques and the income of all our famers and many others in our community,” Mr Bull said. 

“For the Labor Government to offer a $200 million fund from a 7 billion sale is an insult. This is crumbs from the table when it’s rural Victoria that provides a large bulk of the port throughput.

“This $200 million fund is less than the cost of one of Melbourne Labor’s city-focused level crossing projects and simply doesn’t stack up.”

Mr Bull said if Labor was serious about the MID 2030 upgrade it would have announced funding in its State Budget, not try to attach it to a deal that is bad for rural Victoria.

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