Upper House members say they are ready to get on with the job

By Charmayne Allison

THE votes have been counted and five members confirmed for seats in the Northern Victoria region of the upper house.

Returning for another round in the ring are Labor’s Mark Gepp and Jaclyn Symes and Liberal member Wendy Lovell.

While fledgling political parties also prevailed, with Liberal Democrat Tim Quilty and Tania Maxwell, who stood for Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, securing spots.

These MPs will replace Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Daniel Young and Luke O’Sullivan from the Nationals.

All five members have reported they already have long to-do lists for our electorate.

For Wangaratta’s Tania Maxwell, travelling to consult her constituents is a high priority — followed by tackling hot issues like mental health, crime and drug use.

‘‘(These were) continually raised as being prevalent in many areas by communities,’’ she said.

‘‘Crime and drug use are all too often related activities and if we can support adequate resourcing, the use of early intervention strategies and working with our youth to discourage, reduce or prevent criminal activity.

‘‘Continuing to work on early interventions and primary preventions, particularly in the child maternal health area will be a priority in the coming months, along with further reforms being put to government pertaining to parole, bail and sentencing. I also look forward in being proactive in the family violence sector.’’

Liberal stalwart Wendy Lovell (who was first elected in 2006) said she hoped to continue providing a strong voice in state parliament so Northern Victoria wasn’t ‘‘ignored by a Melbourne-centric Labor Government’’.

‘‘Security of water continues to be such a major issue throughout northern Victoria and I will never stop campaigning to ensure that our communities have reliable access to enough water to thrive and prosper into the future,’’ she said.

‘‘It is imperative that the planned extra 450 gigalitres of water recovery — under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan — does not occur if it is going to have a negative impact on Victoria.’’

Road upgrades, the CFA’s future and a fair share of state government infrastructure and services investment were also priorities for Ms Lovell.

While for Labor MP Jaclyn Symes, securing the future of the region’s agriculture is a focus.

This includes making agriculture an attractive, profitable and rewarding industry for young people and ensuring it was best placed to capitalise on international and domestic markets as well as digital opportunities.

‘‘My priorities will be driven by the priorities of regional Victorians – helping farmers continue to innovate, prepare for the future and support them in their times of need,’’ she said.

‘‘And it includes ensuring that our farmers are receiving responsive and effective support through the current drought and our continued dry conditions.’’

Joined again by colleague Mark Gepp, both will continue to champion Labor’s vision for the region, including further jobs, improved road and rail and delivering better healthcare and schools across regional Victoria.

Meanwhile newcomer Tim Quilty from Wodonga said he will push to roll back the ‘‘nanny state’’ wherever possible.

Raising speed limits to ‘‘sensible’’ levels on dual-lane carriageways and pushing further decentralisation and drug law reform — beginning with a push for full legalisation of cannabis — are among Mr Quilty’s top priorities.

He has also pledged to back the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, support the embattled CFA and bar new national parks ‘‘that will lock Northern Victorians out of our bush areas’’.

‘‘I will strive to always vote against higher taxes and against anything that reduces our freedom further,’’ he said.

‘‘The government shouldn’t be making rules telling us how to live ... we’re adults and can make our own choices.’’