Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (18:37): I welcome the motion before the chamber this evening. I begin by associating myself with the comments of my neighbour, the member for Indi—in particular, her references to the Honour A Woman campaign. There is no question whatsoever that, particularly in our regional communities, that we need to become more activist in our approach to nominating women for senior roles in the community, but also for awards such as the Australia Day Honours List. I was impressed by the long list of recipients in the seat of Indi. I reflect that it’s perhaps something in the water or, more particularly, something in the wine in her magnificent region, in particular when she recognised my good friend, Col Campbell OAM, for services to winemaking. Col is a quite extraordinary winemaker in a fifth-generation winery, I believe. His best known product, Bobbie Burns, has been known to frequent the shelves in my own home and also in restaurants I’ve attended, and his fortified wines are quite extraordinary, so it’s great to see Col recognised. Another good friend of mine, the Honourable Bill Baxter, received an award for service to the Victorian parliament. Bill has been a great servant in the National Party, but more importantly a great servant of his community as a minister and one of nature’s true gentleman, just like Col. It’s great to see both of those gentlemen recognised.
I stood today to recognise one of my own Gippslanders who received recognition in the Australia Day Honours List. Gippsland, like Indi, is very well served by volunteers. The fabric of our community is certainly stitched together by people prepared to give of their time willingly. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of people who contribute an enormous amount of time each year. They don’t expect recognition for the work they do, but it is good when they do receive some. One of the recipients this year on Australia Day was the Mayor of Latrobe City, Counsellor Darrell White. He received a Medal of the Order of Australia, in the General Division. His list of achievements in local government and sport is quite extraordinary. He was a mayor prior to amalgamation in Morwell City Council, but also in the Morwell Shire Council. He’s now mayor of Latrobe City. He is chair and co-founder of PowerWorks, a business information centre. He was the Gippsland Sports Academy chairman for 16 years. He’s a life member of the Churchill Football Netball Club through services as president and treasurer. He was president of the Latrobe Valley Tennis Association and is a life member after 14 years of service in that role. He was also president of the Churchill Tennis Club and president of the Morewell Tennis Club. It’s quite a long list of achievements by one individual. It’s people like Councillor Darrell White who are joining with me in fighting for the future of the magnificent Latrobe Valley region. The Latrobe Valley has a rich and proud heritage, but it has to have a great future. It’s people like Darrell in his capacity now as mayor who are determined to make sure that the Latrobe Valley can go on to bigger and better things in the future.
The federal government has contributed significantly in recent times to the Latrobe Valley through its response to the Hazelwood closure. An amount in the order of $43 million has been put aside to work with the local community to see investment in projects that will help to create jobs. Darrell, as the mayor, is responsible for keeping local government on side. I’m pleased to say there has been a strong response from Latrobe city in terms of working with us in delivering projects in the region. There is record investment in infrastructure on the way in the Latrobe Valley right now with the Princes Highway duplication project ongoing between Traralgon and Sale but also massive investment planned for the Gippsland rail line. As the former minister responsible for infrastructure and transport I was able to secure a deal with the Victorian government that will see in the order of $530 million being spent on the Gippsland rail line over the next four or five years. I’m keen to see that project rolled out in partnership with local businesses, maximising employment opportunities in our region.
What we need to see in the Latrobe Valley is all levels of government working together. I’m looking forward to seeing the delivery of the Regional Jobs and Investment Package in the coming weeks and months, and I’m looking forward also to working with my community, with people, like Councillor Darrell White, who are passionate about the future of the Latrobe Valley to promote every opportunity possible for growth in the region. The Latrobe Valley is already a great place to live, it’s a great place to work and it’s a great place to raise a family and to visit. But it’s people like Darrell, working with the community and through local government, who are going to make sure that we achieve our full potential and make it an even better place in the future.