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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14809


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (12:02): It has been a big year for us in central Victoria and it has had its high points and its low points. Given what our town has become world famous for, I thought it was important to put on the record the high points and talk about how we are going to challenge and change our image overseas. The high points, firstly. This year we opened the Ulumbarra Theatre. That project was funded by the former Labor government through the Stronger Regions Fund. It converted an old jail into a brilliant world-class theatre. It was jointly funded. There was funding also put on the table from the state government and the local government. Since the theatre has opened, it has really brought not only a performance space for our artists and our performers but also a lot economic development and tourism. There are groups who are choosing to have their conferences in Bendigo.

We also opened the Regional Rail Link, another vital infrastructure project that was funded by the former Labor government. Our town, our amazing innovators and manufacturers, secured the Hawkeye contract—the world-class defence vehicle that will now replace the ageing Land Rover fleet. This is a vehicle that will be manufactured in Bendigo at the Bendigo Thales site.

On the low points, we did see the closure by this government of the Australian Emergency Management Institute. It has sat kind of oddly for me and been a bit frustrating that, with speaker after speaker on the government side talking about the importance of having excellence in emergency management and the vital role firefighters play in our communities, this government would seek to close the Emergency Management Institute in the Macedon Ranges—not only making the 60 people at that place redundant but also losing their expertise in managing emergencies, particularly during the most critical moments. Serco is another contract that has been lost to Bendigo. Sixty jobs in a call centre that does work for this government have been cut. We have lost our ATO office. We have no idea where those jobs will go but our Bendigo ATO office has been shut. So this government has lost jobs. It has sacked people in Bendigo. That is not fair.

Our community has also seen our town invaded from time to time. We have had the United Patriots Front and Reclaim Australia come in and spread misinformation throughout the year. They have caused great heartache in our community. That is what I refer to as our town's name being in lights for all the wrong reasons. On the other side of that, we were able to reclaim some of our space as to who we are as a community through our 'Believe in Bendigo' campaign, which was run and organised by local community leaders, local business leaders and political leaders who came together to say, 'We believe in Bendigo.' They put on the yellow and brought our community back together to celebrate who we are—to celebrate our diversity and our inclusive nature—and to share our stories, making sure that everybody in our town as well as outside our town understands who Bendigo is. That was a moment for our community to come together to reclaim some of the space, some of our reputation, that had been taken away.

Outside our community of Bendigo, Castlemaine has a strong energy and a passion for renewable energy. 'The People's Republic of Newstead' will be one of the first towns in Victoria that may actually succeed in being 100 per cent renewable, through its community solar project. In Woodend there is a similar project. Renewable energy and the commitment to action on climate change are strong in our part of the world. Just last weekend almost 2,000 people gathered at three different rallies to voice their support for real action on climate change.

Bendigo, and the Bendigo electorate, is a vibrant place. In 2015 we have had highs and we have had low points, and we are coming through those challenges. We know that there are people locally who are doing it really tough. Through the generosity of people in Bendigo and in our neighbouring towns and communities, the giving has already started to ensure that everybody will have a happy and safe Christmas and new year.