Mildura Weekly : Friday October 3 2014 Vol 8 No 48
04 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2014 THE head of the Murray Val- ley Winegrowers says that while the Australian Compe- tition and Consumer Com- mission’s refusal to inves- tigate claims of predatory pricing by wineries is disap- pointing, it won’t derail on- going efforts for a fairer deal for growers. In a submission to the ACCC prepared by former MVW chief executive Mark McKenzie, it was claimed some grape buyers were abusing their market power and engaging in predatory pricing practices. The submission, which was sent in March this year, laid the blame for the current financial stress within the in- dustry squarely at the feet of major wineries. It claimed the prices and practices of the major winer- ies had “precipitated a severe and unprecedented financial crisis within the wine grape sector, which is not justified by the current domestic or export wine market funda- mentals.” Current MVW executive officer Mike Stone said this week while the ACCC’s deci- sion was disappointing, his body would continue to fight for better commercial rela- tionships between growers and wineries. “It is very disappointing, but it’s notoriously difficult to produce the evidence the ACCC requires under the Act,” Mr Stone said. “The relationship be- tween wineries and growers has been an issue that the wine grape side of the indus- try has been working on for many years. “Winegrape Growers Australia, with input from us and representatives from other regions, is still working to improve the commercial relationship between growers and wineries.” In a letter to MVW ear- lier this year, the ACCC said that under the Competition and Consumer Act, wineries had not engaged in predatory pricing. It said that in order for wineries to have acted in a predatory manner, they would have been compet- ing with growers by selling grapes in the same market, rather than buying fruit from growers, confirming the al- legations could not be sus- tained due to a lack of evi- dence. ACCC knocks back predatory pricing claim • POSITIVE: Murray Valley Winegrowers executive officer Mike Stone. VICROADS has been called upon to re- view a recent decision to increase the speed limit on the Calder Highway at Hattah. The previous speed limit was 90km/h, but was increased to 110km/h as part of the Victorian Government’s Speed Limit Review earlier this year. The 20km/h increase triggered an angry reaction from local residents who said the stretch of road in front of the Hattah Lakes Store was already danger- ous when the maximum speed limit was set at 90km/h. They said the combination of traffic passing the store at 110km/h and its loca- tion as a regular stop-off/take-off point for travellers, the local school bus, mail deliveries and customers made it “a di- saster waiting to happen.” Residents said busy nearby entry points for heavy trucks entering the highway was also a hazard, given cars are travelling at 110km/h while approaching trucks, sometimes up to 200 trucks a day, which can take minutes to get up to the speed limit. They said other issues include regular high-speed overtaking on double white lines in front of the store. A group of concerned people who live near the store have written to Mem- ber for Mildura Peter Crisp, requesting the speed limit be lowered. Mr Crisp said this week he’d already been made aware of concerns about the speed limit from other constituents, and had written to VicRoads, requesting more information about the increased limit and asking for it to be reviewed. Call to review Calder speed limit at Hattah NEWS 03 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014 MILDURA WEEKLY.COM.AU By BEN PISCIONERI HATTAH residents have described a recent in- crease in the speed limit on the Calder Highway in their area as a ‘disaster waiting to happen.’ The speed limit in front of the Hattah Lakes Store was increased from 90km/h to 110km/h in May this year as part of the Victorian Govern- ment’s Victorian Speed Limit Review. Residents say the straight stretch of road in front of the store has been the site of numer- ous close calls and near misses for several years, but those risks have been heightened by the recent increase in the speed limit. They said a danger- ous combination of up to 200 trucks on the road each day, most of them B-doubles, several entry/ exit points off the high- way, the busy Hattah Lakes Store and a lack of turning or overtaking lanes is a recipe for di- saster, made worse by a 20km/h increase in the speed limit. Hattah Lakes Store owner Alex Dowsley said the increased speed limit has also significantly cut the amount of time trucks have to get up to speed after turning onto the highway to avoid holding up traffic in both directions. Using trucks fully loaded with almonds or carrots entering the Calder Highway from the Hattah-Robinvale Road as an example, Mr Dow- sley said it was difficult for these drivers to avoid slowing down oncoming traffic. “Many of these trucks are entering the Calder Highway fully loaded from either a slow or stopped situation and are therefore a problem to 110km/h traffic com- ing up behind them,” he said. “One B-double driver estimates it takes about two kilometres to get back up to 100km/h when fully laden.” Making matters worse is the fact there are slight rises in the road on both the Ouyen and Mildura approaches to the store, which can sometimes ob- scure oncoming vehicles travelling at speed when drivers attempt to enter the highway. Residents say there are also serious safety is- sues when slowing down to pull into the Hattah Store with cars or trucks travelling behind them at 110km/h. In many cases, lo- cal residents have been forced to pull to the side of the road to allow cars to overtake them before getting back onto the highway and crossing into the store car park. They say that in many cases this practice was prompted by near- disastrous experiences where they have slowed to enter the Hattah Lakes Store with their indicator on, only to be overtaken on their driver’s side at more than 100km/h, just seconds before turn- ing themselves. And this is despite the stretch of road in front of the store being a non-overtaking area, with double white lines. Hattah school bus driver Elaine Bell is one of those to go through this experience. “I used to have trou- ble when it was 90km/h, let alone 110km/h. I had lots of close calls because I’m putting my indica- tor on and all people behind me can see is a straight stretch of road. They don’t see the double white lines,” Ms Bell said. “Lots of times I’ve had to pull up on the other side of the road and wait for them to pass. And It’s not just myself I’m worried about when this happens – I’m responsible for children as well.” • Continued Page 4 Hattah speed limit concern ‘It’s a disaster waiting to happen’ • community concern: Hattah residents Michael Petersen, Kellie Petersen and her son Bailey, Alex Dowsley, school bus driver Elaine Bell, and Kevin Petersen. Photograph: PAUL MENSCH • Our Page 3 story from September 19.
Friday September 26 Vol 8 No 47
Friday October 10 2014 Vol 8 No 49