Tag Archives: Victorian Government

Liberals retain seat of Warrandyte

A WEEK after the Warrandyte byelection, the final result has been declared.
On Friday, September 1, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) officially declared Liberal candidate Nicole Werner as the new Member for Warrandyte in the Victorian Legislative Council. Ms Werner told the Diary the campaign from pre-selection to this point was an “incredible journey.”

“I am humbled and deeply grateful for the trust and support I received from our community.
“Throughout my professional life, I’ve dedicated myself to service, particularly in the community and not-for-profit sectors.
“This campaign was an extension of that commitment — a chance to listen to and give back to our local community.”

The middle of August saw 12 candidates, comprised of Liberals, Greens, minor parties, and a handful of independents, vying for a vote from the 50,986 enrolled voters in the District.
Early in the byelection cycle, Labor had stated it would not contest the Warrandyte byelection, which is in line with party policy around byelections in “Liberal safe seats”.
Of the 50,986 enrolled, 38,664 were marked off the roll by 6pm on August 26, a turn out of 75.83 per cent, consistent with historical data regarding byelections, noting there are still postal votes to be counted.
Following rechecks, Ms Werner took 57.27 per cent of the primary vote, while the Greens Tomas Lightbody took 18.66 per cent, giving Ms Werner an outright victory without having to conduct a preference count.
The indicative two candidate preferred count saw Ms Werner’s majority at 71.10 per cent, with Mr Lightbody at 28.90 per cent.
With no Labor candidate and current Manningham Deputy Mayor Tomas Lightbody running as the Greens candidate, community perception was that the Greens might have a chance of taking the seat.
While the Greens gained a significant swing in this byelection, and Mr Lightbody performed well in the booth of Warrandyte, however, those gains were not replicated across the other booths, culminating in a Liberal landslide victory.
The Diary asked Ms Werner what the victory meant to her and the Liberal Party.

“I’m honoured by the strong support and vote of confidence from the people of Warrandyte.
“We campaigned on the local issues that matter most to our community, and it’s a sign that we are ready for positive change, a fresh approach to addressing local issues, and a commitment to protecting what makes our community special.
“The result is a testament to the faith the voters have placed in me, and I take that responsibility seriously.
“This result was significant for me personally as it represents the realisation of my parents’ choice to immigrate to Australia in 1988, all in pursuit of a better future for our family.
“For the Liberal Party, this result signifies that we are on the right path and are connecting with Victorians.
“I believe this result demonstrates that the Liberal Party can offer change and that we can continue to be a strong voice for Warrandyte and Victoria,” she said.

The Legislative Council is due to sit again on October 3; the Diary asked Ms Werner what her representation will look like in the last half of the calendar year.

“In the coming months, my focus is on fighting for and serving the people of the seat of Warrandyte.
“My top priorities include addressing the pressing issue of the deadly Five-Ways intersection, tackling the rising cost of living, safeguarding our precious Green Wedge, and advocating on behalf of the recently devastated Heatherwood School in Donvale.
“I am committed to working tirelessly to fulfil these promises and to ensure the concerns of our community are heard in the state parliament.
“I am deeply honoured to represent this community, one in which I grew up and attended school in.
“My roots in Warrandyte run deep, and I’m here to serve, to listen, and to stand up for the interests and wellbeing of our community.
|“You have my commitment; I will give my all every day to serve you as your member of Parliament.”

The voter experience

With this being the only byelection running in the State at that time, the major and minor parties were able to throw more resources at their respective campaigns as there were significantly fewer voting centres (compared to a full State election).
Voters have been critical of party representatives’ behaviour, especially during early voting at the Warrandyte Scout Hall.
The number of party representatives outside the Scout Hall frequently made the centre look busier than it was, and there has been criticism regarding this on social media. Warrandyte local Don Hughes, who is also involved in Warrandyte Scouts and Warrandyte Men’s Shed, spoke to the Diary about voters “running the gauntlet” during voting.

“Despite being well organised, the topography of the site channelled voters down a narrow driveway to the polling station.
“With so many candidates, each having at least one or more supporters handing out how-to-vote literature, the experience for many was like running a gauntlet.
“The narrow driveway had a funnelling effect. “Particularly with enthusiastic supporters thrusting literature at voters and enthusiastically trying to engage in political rhetoric, many felt anxious and even threatened.
“Several people I spoke to around the township decided not to attempt to run the gauntlet and went home to organise a postal vote,” he said.

How an election is run is managed by the VEC, but the legislation that defines what can and cannot happen is defined by the Electoral Act 2002.
The only people who can enact changes to the Electoral Act are those who we vote in to represent us.
Everything from how an election is conducted, what is needed to identify any material related to an election, what party workers can and cannot do, and where, to what a how-to-vote card looks like are all defined by the Act.
To its credit, the VEC trialled low sensory (quiet hours) voting for one day during early voting, which aimed to provide neurodiverse and voters with hidden disabilities with an opportunity to vote without being confronted by excessive noise. The Diary spoke with a voter who attended the special session, she said she was disappointed with the behaviour of most of the candidates, who had been asked to not approach voters on their way into the centre, however she understands there is nothing in the legislation to make the candidates comply with the VEC’s request.
“Once I got into the centre, the VEC staff were great, allowing me to vote in a quiet space at my own pace, but to get into the centre was still challenging as I was still confronted by multiple people with how-to-vote-cards,” she said.
With the community now experienced with two elections within six months of each other, now is our best time to voice what worked and what can be done better next time.

Flu jabs free for all during June

AS WE LEARN to live with COVID-19, another challenging virus lurks in the wings.
During lockdowns, with our general improved hand-washing and sterilisation routines, and mask-wearing, confirmed Influenza cases took a dramatic nose dive.
Data on recorded cases provided by Immunisation Coalition shows national Influenza cases in 2019 hit 313,085 and month-on-month data had the virus tracking hight into early 2020 until March/April when there were 6,043 cases in March, this fell to 321 cases in April, as lockdown measures began to kick in.
With numbers in the hundreds, then mere dozens month-on-month for the last two years, the current strain of influenza has now seen a dramatic uptick, with Australia-wide Influenza cases as of May 30, 2022, reported to be 35,317. Victoria is reporting an increase of 50 per cent in the last week of May, rising from 10,000 to 15,000 cases.
Flu vaccines are available from GPs and pharmacies, such as Terry White Chemmart or Warrandyte Medical Centre and would normally cost between $25 and $70 depending on what type of vaccine you are eligible for.
To combat a sudden rise in Influenza cases, Victoria has joined other States and Territories in the push to get the population vaccinated against Influenza.
As part of a $33 million package, more than 3,000 GPs and community pharmacies are offering free flu vaccination to all Victorians during June.
Until now it has only been free for vulnerable groups, including children under five years, people over 65 years, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with increased risk medical conditions.
The Government has said it will also reimburse GPs and community pharmacies for flu vaccines administered to any Victorians that are not usually eligible for free flu shots — so that immunisation providers can continue to use vaccines that they have already purchased.
This will mean all Victorians aged six months and over will be eligible for the free flu shot in June to help boost vaccination coverage as much as possible and avoid more hospitalisations throughout winter. Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley encouraged all Victorians to get vaccinated against Influenza.

“This will be the first time in two years that we will face a real flu season — we need all Victorians to roll up their sleeves and help protect their loved ones and our health system by getting vaccinated.
“Victorians really took up the call to arms when it came to COVID-19 vaccinations, and we know they can do it again — so we’re removing as many barriers as possible to help boost vaccine coverage,” he said.

The Government is also suggesting vulnerable groups get a fourth “Winter Booster” against COVID-19; also noting that it is possible to have your Influenza and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time.
Winter COVID-19 boosters are recommended for people who are:
65 years or older a resident of an aged care or disability care facility severely immunocompromised Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander aged 50 years and older.
Those aged 16-64 and with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness those aged 16 to 64 with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities that have an increased risk of a poor outcome.
Presently, the Winter Booster is not recommended for those aged 16 – 64 who are not considered part of a vulnerable group.
Anyone with cold and flu symptoms should get tested for COVID-19 and remain at home until their symptoms have resolved — regardless of whether it turns out to be COVID-19 or flu.
People who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for seven days from the date of their result.

Light at the end of lockdown: Back to school

REMOTE LEARNING has been a major component of schooling for students at all levels during the past 18 months.
For Year 12 students it has been especially stressful as not only do they have to deal with the stress of exams, but they have had to do it, via computer, in the isolation of their own home.
But with vaccination ramping up and the agreed National Plan now in effect, our students at the most critical part of their education journey can finally get back to the classroom.
With 70 per cent of the eligible adult population at least single dosed, our society has already begun to open up.
Note, these changes are in addition to children of authorised workers and vulnerable children who are already still participating in on-site learning. On October 5, Students sitting the GAT (General Achievement Test) will be able to do so in the classroom. This will be followed by on-site learning for VCE Unit 3/4, and final year VCAL and IB students on October 6.
From October 18, Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students will return to part-time on-site learning, with Prep on-site Monday — Wednesday, and Grade 1 and 2 students on-site Thursdays and Fridays.
When the eligible adult population reaches 70 per cent double vaccinated, which is expected to be around October 26, on-site learning will open up for all Primary and Secondary aged children — to some extent.
Phase B of the National Plan sees a continuation of existing arrangements plus:

  • Grades 3 and 4: on-site Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Grades 5 and 6: on-site Thursdays and Fridays
  • Year 7 students will be full time Monday to Friday
  • Year 8 and 9: on-site Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Year 10 students on-site Thursdays and Fridays
  • Year 11 students full time Monday to Friday

On around November 5, it is expected the eligible adult population will reach and pass its 80 per cent fully vaccinated target and all schooling will return to normal.

The three Vs of the education sector

In addition to the roadmap, Minister for Education, James Merlino announced the State Government’s three Vs for a safe return to school. The three Vs; ventilation, vaccination, and vital CovidSafe steps is part of a $190M+ initiative to provide schools with equipment needed to reduce the chances of Coronavirus spreading in our schools.
Mr Merlino said the introduction of air purification devices will help keep kids safe once they are back in the classroom.

“I know Victorian families can’t wait to see their kids back in the classroom — but we need to keep them safe once they’re there, and we’re delivering ventilation devices to prevent as much transmission on school sites as possible.
“With a roadmap in place to get all students back to school safely, we’ll make sure every single Victorian child is supported when they’re back in the classroom — whether that’s with their schoolwork or their wellbeing,” he said.

Term 4 will see 51,000 air purification devices rolled out to all government and low-fee non-government schools and installed in “high risk” areas such as staff rooms, hallways, music rooms, and “sick bays”.
Additionally, these schools will be entitled to a grant of up to $25,000 as part of the School Shade Grants Program, to create outdoor learning spaces.
In addition, State Government has mandated that all staff in schools and early childhood services will be required to have had their first dose of coronavirus vaccine by October 18, or have a booking within one-week of that date, and to be fully vaccinated by November 29.

Heavy fines for breaching restrictions

PEOPLE ACROSS the State are waking up to the new reality of even tougher physical distancing restrictions.

Stage 3 restrictions came into effect at 11:59pm on Monday, March 30.

In a statement issued on Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews explained the reasons for the new restrictions.

“My message to every Victorian is that there are only four reasons to leave your home: food and supplies, medical care, exercise, and work or education.

“Most Victorians are doing the right thing and I’m grateful to them.

“But we continue to see instances of people gathering in significant numbers so we must do more.

“That’s why we are also restricting gatherings to no more than two people except for members of your immediate household and for work or education.

“We will not be breaking up household family dinners — but BBQs with the neighbours cannot happen anymore.

“Playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gyms will also close.”

The new restrictions mean, outside of the people you live with in your household, you are not allowed to mass, socially, as a group of more than two people.

Victoria Police has been given the authority to issue on the spot fines to anyone breaking the restrictions with individuals facing a fine of $1,652 and businesses $9,913 who breach this or any of the restrictions currently in place.

The roll out of restrictions has been complex with the restrictions targeting specific businesses and activities.

It is still okay to go to work, if you are able to and if you are able to comply with physical distancing rules, it is still okay to go shopping to buy essential supplies, it is still okay to leave the house (if you are not unwell or under quarantine) for daily exercise, but government and health officials at every level are reinforcing the message that if you do not need to leave your house, you should not.

The Diary would also like to reflect this message.

The staff and volunteers at the Diary are limiting their physical presence in the community, but that does not mean we are not still here working to keep you informed, engaged and entertained.

If you have something to tell the community, and to tell history, the Diary is a time capsule that will tell the story of how we got through this together.

Send your stories to the Editor and look out for the next Diary, which will be going to print next week.

To combat the spread of COVID-19 and to help sustain our local economy it is imperative we all respect the advice from government and minimise our movements to those which are deemed essential (food, health, and work).

To keep up to date on the latest developments, the Federal Government has released an app on the Apple App Store and on Google Play as well as set up a What’s App bot to help members of the community access the most relevant details regarding this pandemic.

The app is a straightforward and simple way to get the information they need to keep informed and is readily accessible from their smartphone and, like the Vic Emergency app, should be part of everyone’s app arsenal.