Andrew Bock, your independent voice for Nicholls

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 Authorised by Andrew Bock, 9 Beaton St, Euroa, 3666

Andrew will fight hard for the people of Nicholls and, if elected, his loyalty will remain entirely with the communities of the Goulburn-Murray Region.

What he can achieve as an individual MP depends largely on who else is elected in 2019. However as State Independent MP for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has proven - simply being independent in a previously safe Coalition seat does pay dividends.

Andrew is committed to achieve the outcomes set out below, some will require government cooperation, others can be funded through grants and/or his parliamentary salary.

These policies and plans will be refined and revised in the lead up to the coming election.
 
WATER 

Whether we're hearing from 
irrigators and the agriculture sector, recreational fishing and boating enthusiasts, tourism operators, animal rights activists, local environmentalists or Indigenous groups - nobody is happy about the way our river is being managed.

It's integral for our communities and our economy - both locally and nationally - that we get the Murray Darling Basin Plan right. As it stands, significant reform is needed.

Andrew is proud to have played a part in the campaign to stop a further 450GL of water being taken from our region, but the fight for equitable water policy continues.

We continue to see the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder sending too much water down the system at the wrong time of year, causing erosion, black water events, flooding and damaging both property and ecology.

 ***


If elected, Andrew will fight for:
- An immediate review of how Environmental Water is measured and used.

- The 605GL+ of water recovery projects to continue, with water going 
   back to the consumptive pool.

- A royal commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan, it's implementation       and outcomes, with the widest possible terms of reference, and

- The exploration of further dams and water storages to secure more water
   for our future.
 _________________________________________________
ENERGY POLICY & CLIMATE CHANGE
Australia hasn't had an energy policy since 2013. Our government continues to claim that our emission reduction targets will be met 'at a canter', despite evidence to the contrary.

Whilst state and federal governments are busy appointing blame to each other and lecturing private power companies, the customers continue to suffer from rising power prices.

Andrew believes arguments about who is to blame and whether we should focus on lowering emissions over prices, or vice-versa is rather ridiculous. 

The solution to both is for government to introduce an energy policy - almost ANY energy policy - and allow the market to invest with certainty.

Due to a lack of planning and investment certainty, our coal-fired power stations are reaching the end of their serviceable life. To build new ones would take more time and money than we - or the energy generators - can afford.

As it stands, renewables - in particular, solar - with battery storage is the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to increase our electricity production, lowering prices. Biomass & Gas, along with wind, hydro, geothermal & tidal can then be implemented as our coal-fired plants reach the end of their life.

Provided we have appropriate protections for agricultural land, the communities of Nicholls stand to benefit from this, the next industrial revolution.

 ***

If elected, Andrew will fight for:

- A coherent energy policy to be implemented within months, to allow the
  market to invest quickly and reduce prices for consumers.

- Sensible policy to protect prime agricultural land from being turned into
  solar farms, and

- A reduction in energy red-tape. This will allow community energy groups,
   businesses and home owners to create micro-grids and other innovative
   small-scale electricity generation projects to benefit our communities.
  _________________________________________________
MENTAL HEALTH
 
20% of us will experience mental ill-health in any given year and a whopping 45% of us will experience at least one episode of mental illness in our lifetime.

Whilst groups such as Beyond Blue, RUOK Day and the Black Dog Institute continue to do great work in raising awareness of mental illness and reducing stigma, Andrew believes more needs to be done to ensure our community knows what to do if someone says that no, they'er not OK or if they're presenting as being mentally unwell. This is why he created Connect GMR, to give residents of the Goulburn-Murray Region more information on how to help if they come across someone in crisis.

Andrew believes that at least 20 subsidised counselling or psychology sessions should be available (currently the number is 10, down from 18 in 2011.)
This is because one of the most common therapies - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT - is said to require between 5 and 20 session.


Also, because it would allow patients to access to near-fortnightly appointments assuming the practitioner takes time off over summer, at Easter and some annual leave.

Whilst this is a state-government issue, we also need more beds in our Acute Psychiatric wards. A close family member spent 10 days in the Shepparton Mental Health ward in mid-2017.

From his discussions with staff, Andrew is aware that Shepparton Hospital has the second largest mental health catchment in Victoria, second only to the Wyndham growth corridor in Melbourne's west.

Besides a new coat of paint, there has been no investment in the facilities since it opened and the number of beds is inadequate.

 ***

If elected, Andrew will:

- Continue to provide information about how to access mental health support
   if needed, both through his Connect GMR initiative and by subsidised Mental
   Health First Aid courses.

- Lobby the federal government to raise the number of Medicare-subsidised
   counselling & psychology appointments available to Australians, and

- Lobby both state and federal governments to invest further in the
   psychiatric services that service the Nicholls electorate.
 ____________________________________________________
FAMILY VIOLENCE AND ABUSE

Andrew worked for Victorian Police Communications for 7 years. During this time, he spoke to victims and perpetrators of family violence every day.
He also experienced Domestic Violence in childhood, so he knows how important this issue is.

Several years have passed since the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, thus far government action has not gone far enough. In fact, the current federal government has cut funding to many service providers and has failed to give long-term funding for most others - it's as if they think this issue will simply go away.

As it stands, the main support line - 1800RESPECT - has enormous call wait times and is only able to assist in the most dire of circumstances. Service providers continue to loose experienced staff due to year-by-year funding commitments and the Family Court continues to be used by perpetrators of both genders to further abuse their former spouse and/or their children.

Prompt and genuine action must be taken.

 ***

If elected Andrew will fight for:

- The federal government to begin to implement the recommendations of the
  Family Violence Royal Commission - in particular in relation to required
  changes to the Family Court & Federal Circuit Court.

- The federal government to provide adequate funding for existing support
  services, with the view to increasing services in areas of most need.

- The federal government to work with the states through COAG to increase
  the amount of crisis accommodation for women and children and to
  establish crisis accomodation for men as currently none exist.
 __________________________________________________

 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

The number of mobile phone blackspots across the electorate of Nicholls is simply unacceptable. That someone can be sitting in their home in the middle of Shepparton with almost no reception is frustrating, that there is minimal reception along large swathes of our major truck routes is, frankly, dangerous.

Truckies are often the first to call 000 regarding other drivers who are falling asleep, grassfires and car accidents. If they can't contact emergency services due to lack of service, emergency services cannot send help. 

From Andrew's observations, mobile coverage is generally patchier on days on Total Fire Ban in Central Victoria which makes it hard to notify others of danger.

Since 2013, our neighbors in the independent-held electorate of Indi has received funding for 38 additional mobile phone towers, whereas the former-electorate of Murray (which makes up most of Nicholls) has received just one.

In terms of broadband internet, a National Broadband Network consisting largely of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is the only sensible model. Rural people are well aware of the limitations with the copper wire network - it slows business growth, prevents innovation and stifles community development.

Patchy television reception since the move to Digital TV is also incredibly frustrating. It affects our ability to access sport and culture that is often freely available to those in the cities.

 ***


If elected, Andrew will fight for:

- Increased mobile phone coverage across the electorate of Nicholls and
  surrounding transport routes.

- Faster NBN rollout with a plan to complete the network 'to the premises' in
  the future. Along with the proposed 5G network to extend to our region
  promptly.

- Increased television repeaters to improve our digital TV coverage & a
  strengthening of anti-siphoning laws to prevent more sporting and cultural
  covering moving away from free-to-air broadcasting.
 ____________________________________________________

TAX

When Australia was swimming in revenue from the mining boom, John Howard and Peter Costello spent most of the money buying votes. The Baby Bonus, the 50% Capital Gains Tax Discount, increased incentives for negative gearing and swathes of tax cuts largely focused on the wealthy. During the 2007 election campaign Kevin Rudd said "me too" and met Howard's promised $30 billion worth of tax cuts, these were implemented just in time for the Global Financial Crisis to hit.

It's true that the Coalition Government had left Labor with a budget surplus, but they could have left much more. Perhaps even enough to weather the GFC without going into deficit. We now find ourselves with billions of dollars worth of debt, a structural deficit and with no assets (such as Telstra) to sell for some short term relief.

Whilst the government is touting a budget surplus, it's flimsy and we won't know for sure if it's been achieved until September 2019. Current projections also suggest it won't last. After the coalition's cuts and efficiencies, we;re seeing welfare recipients and low income earners hit the hardest.

Andrew believes we need to introduce legislation to reign in the excessive tax minimisation programs of big business - phased in over 6-8 years if necessary to prevent an economic shock. 

We should also look at which current taxes and tax breaks are having the desired effect and which are not. For example, taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for someone else's poor investment decision - that is essentially what negative gearing currently does.

If Labor is correct and allowing negative gearing only on new properties will increase housing stock and make housing more affordable for first home buyers, this should be strongly considered.


We are not taxation experts or economists; Andrew and his team will be guided by the advice of those who specialise in those fields. However, our focus is on the egalitarianism that makes this nation great.

 ***


If elected, Andrew will:

- Seek a review of current tax policy regarding multinational companies and what
  other jurisdictions are doing to prevent tax avoidance.

- Seek an enquiry into all tax incentives, with the view of abolishing those which
  aren't working and potentially introducing modest increases in the form of 'price
  signals' to reduce the harm of, for example, high-sugar products.

- Seek advice on the effects - positive or negative - of a 3 tiered tax rate for
  small, medium and large companies, akin to Australia's income tax brackets.

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REFUGEES

This nation's treatment of Asylum Seekers is abhorrent. 

It is not the threat of being locked up that has "stopped the boats", but the inability of these vessels to get past our Navy and Customs ships who will tow them back to Indonesian waters - a policy I am less than comfortable with, but one which seems to have had the outcome desired by most Australians.

If we keep these "towbacks" in place, empty the centres in Nauru and Manus Island. Once this has 
been completed, we should increase our refugee intake and invest the money saved on offshore processing into updating refugees' skills to Australian standards.

Refugees that have lived a rural life should be settled in areas requiring farm workers. Shepparton and Robinvale are two Victorian examples where such a re-settlement program has worked well.


 ***

If elected, Andrew will:

- Encourage the government to remove any remaining refugees from Manous
  Island and Nauru to the US, NZ and - if necessary - to Australia. 

- Ensure the government maintains the current 'tow-back' policy to prevent an
  influx of asylum seeker boats which would likely result in further deaths at sea.

- Lobby the government to increase our humanitarian intake, with sensible
  reforms as to where all new migrants are settled.

- Lobby the government to develop a comprehensive population policy so 
  that state and federal governments can plan for any infrastructure, housing and
  other requirements.
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TRANSPORT

The Nicholls electorate deserves better public transport. Including Velocity trains reaching Shepparton, Echuca and Wangaratta (to service Avenel and potentially Longwood.) 

Once the upgrades required for fast trains to service our region are completed, we would have more regular, efficient and reliable services for the people of Nicholls.

Young people, those who have mobility issues and/or cannot drive would have better access to Melbourne for appointments and onward travel, and visitors from Melbourne would be better able to access everything we have to offer.

Eventually, train services should be re-introduced through to Cobram and Yarrawonga.

Andrew believes that the Shepparton Bypass is long overdue and - once built - will vastly improve road safety and the livability of the Greater Shepparton region.

Andrew also believes that governments should seek the required infrastructure upgrades to allow national and international freight to be flow in and out of Mangalore airport.

Given it's position at the junction of the Goulburn Valley and Hume Freeways, as well as the north east and northern train lines, Mangalore would provide the perfect opportunity to get our local produce to northern, west Australian & Asian markets promptly. It would also provide a much needed boost to jobs just north of Seymour.

 ***

If elected, Andrew will:

- Ensure that federal funding commitments to upgrade the Shepparton and North
  East train lines are kept.

- Encourage the government to include train and bus connections throughout
  northern Victoria in any infrastructure or population planning.

- Lobby the government to complete the Shepparton Bypass

- Lobby the government to allow Mangalore Airport to become a freight hub for
  Northern Victoria and Southern NSW.

 ____________________________________________________

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

Andrew has spoken to a number of Nicholls residents who have been involved in a custody disputes in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne. In one case, after much time and expense the matter was set for trial, however on trial day the judge was forced to apologise and cancel the trial as he had too many matters to deal with on that day because the government hasn't hired enough judges.

As the judge had no room in his schedule to hear the matter again for over 9 months he referred it to the Family Court in the hope of a sooner hearing date.

This required the parties to pay for another trial - even though the first one didn't go ahead and the matter still wasn't heard for 9 months.

Regardless of the particulars of the case, the woman I spoke to, her ex-partner, their child and the judge should not have been put in that position. 

 ***

If elected, Andrew will:

- Lobby the Attorney General to appoint more judges and to increase the
  frequency at which the Federal Circuit Court sits in regional cities, including
  Shepparton, Bendigo & Albury.

- Fight for appropriate funding for legal aid.

 ____________________________________________________


WELFARE

When even the Business Council of Australia believes the Newstart Allowance needs to be raised, it's definitely time to listen. There has been no significant rise in the dole for over 20 years; meanwhile the price of food, fuel and accommodation has skyrocketed. Whilst these pressures apply to working people and families also, most employees earn more than $40 per day.

The idea that there is a large cohort of 'dole bludgers' sitting at home watching TV is incorrect. Sure, there is probably a small number that rort the system, but most unemployed people want to work and can barely afford to exist on Newstart, let alone buy a new shirt for a job interview.

Those on the Disability Support Pension are unable to work and those on the Aged Pension and Carer's Pension have worked and continue to work hard for their money.

Beyond the social welfare argument is the economic argument - an increase in welfare payments will see that money flowing through the economy and will help sustain and create jobs as those receiving benefits can't afford to save.

The government's favoured option, to stimulate the economy through tax cuts, will not have the same effect as those recipients will find it easier to leave that money in the bank.

 ***

 

If elected, Andrew will:

- Lobby the government to increase Newstart to a sustainable level.

- Encourage the government to explore fairer indexation arrangements to other
  social security payments.

- Ensure these and other funding increases are sustainable
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Plans & Policies