Monash Member of the House of Representatives (MHR) Russell Broadbent visited Foster on Monday October 10, 2022, with an appointment to talk with farmers about staffing, and “whatever else they’re bound to come up with”, at the top of his list.
Mr Broadbent said a small group of Foster district farmers had contacted his electorate office in Warragul to ask him to discuss their troubles in finding and retaining the local employees they need to run their various agricultural enterprises.
“Farmers are certainly not alone in that difficulty,” he said before the meeting, referring to the large numbers of jobs currently being advertised in a wide swathe of businesses, industries, and professions.
“Once they lose their workers to other jobs, farmers find it hard to get them back again.
“On the other hand, there are a lot of people out there who are looking for work, and it seems to me that age is no longer a deterrent to prospective employers as it once was,” Mr Broadbent said.
“Widening the scope of the people that farmers might consider for positions on their properties may well be a suggestion I’ll make today.”
After leaving his home near Pakenham early on Monday morning, Mr Broadbent travelled with a member of his own staff from Warragul to Foster, via Trafalgar, Thorpdale and Mirboo North.
He called in at The Mirror office in Court Street for a moment, with the offer of a quick cup of coffee; “my shout”.
With an air of carpe diem, the invitation from one of Australia’s longest-serving current federal MPs, from 1990 to 1993, then 1996 to 1998, and since 2004, was accepted.
Looking at an aerial photograph of the restored Long Jetty at Port Welshpool on The Mirror office wall, Mr Broadbent commented “doing that project was one of the best things Federal money was ever spent on in this part of Monash, along with State and Shire funds.”
He also observed that the young fruit trees planted by the South Gippsland Shire Council at the entrance to Foster had grown since the last time he popped in before greeting every single person he passed en route to one of the town’s cafes.
Sitting in the sun, he cheerfully confessed that he had started on “a quest to have lunch in every single pub in the Monash electorate, even if it does take quite a while.
“It’s one of the really good ways of getting to know a place a little better, by spending some time there, talking to the locals, and hearing what they say,” Mr Broadbent said.
Several Federal Government-level topics were covered in the presented opportunity, including the proposed offshore wind energy areas in Bass Strait, in particular those beyond South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
While acknowledging the natural beauty of the South Gippsland coastline and the iconic Wilsons Promontory, as well as local concerns about potential wind farms’ visual impact Mr Broadbent said he would have thought “more people would have been in support of offshore projects.
“We’ve fought hard not to have wind turbines on land, especially after a number of wind farms got through, and to have them offshore could be a solution,” he said.
“The power they could produce still has to be brought onshore and I think the lines need to be underground, similar to those serving the Wonthaggi desalination plant.
“Overhead powerlines aren’t accepted by the community and, as with the location of proposed offshore generation areas, local people should have a decent say, a greater say about projects that directly affect them through community groups and their local government,” Mr Broadbent said.
“As the Federal member for Monash, similar to any individual member in any area, I am only one voice in the parliament, however it is my role to communicate the views and opinions of my electorate to my fellow members and to the relevant ministers.”
Mr Broadbent said his date with local farmers would also prompt questions and remarks about other federal matters with a tangible effect on rural areas, such as fuel pricing, the greater costs of living due to distance, and telecommunication black spots.
“Federal funds have already been allocated to fix the black spots at Walkerville and at Noojee in Monash, and now we’re looking at the next areas in the electorate,” he said.
“The other subject that is always dear to me is aged care services, and Prom Country Aged Care here in Foster is a favourite of mine.
“Health services, too, are important, and the Federal Government is providing 50 per cent of ongoing funding to hospitals, including the South Gippsland Hospital in Foster, with the other 50 per cent from the states,” Mr Broadbent said.
“There are 111,241 electors in Monash, which covers an area of about 8,255 square kilometres and is considered to have a rural demographic rating.
“Everyone needs to watch out for the forthcoming Federal Budget, because funding cuts in many areas are likely, including in rural and regional areas,” he said.
“If I can help in any way, by providing information, support, or lobbying on behalf of the constituents of Monash, please do not hesitate to contact my electorate office at 46C Albert Street in Warragul on 5623 2064, or via Facebook or my website at www.russellbroadbent.com.au“