CONTROVERSY over a proposal to raise the price of burial plots in central Victoria by up to 300 per cent has reached state parliament.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh last week asked the government why Remembrance Parks Central Victoria was not obliged to consult with the purchasers of burial plots, funeral directors, and stonemasons before proposing increases.
Health Minister Martin Foley told parliament no decision had been made in relation to the proposed increases, and that "cemetery trusts go through a process of consultation and engagement regularly with their communities about their future plans".
"Sadly, the Leader of The Nationals is ill advised in his comments because no such decision has been made. No such decision has been made by independent cemeteries trust in that community.
"What we do know is that cemetery trusts go through a process of consultation and engagement regularly with their communities about their future plans."
Mr Foley said organisations such as RPCV worked on the basis of feedback.
"They work on the basis of engagement with their communities, and I look forward to that community engaging with its cemetery trust and arriving at an outcome that is in the interests of that wider community, including the arrangements that that particular cemetery trust will put in place in due course after it engages constructively and responsibly, as you would expect, with its local community."
Bendigo Funerals director Simon Mulqueen has previously described the planned increases by RPCV as distressing and distasteful, and "a slap in the face for low-income families" who would struggle to afford the new cemetery fees.
"There is no justification for this. It's just a money grab."
Mr Foley said he was confident that the process being undertaken by RPCV would not result in the outcome Mr Walsh had raised.
"I have engaged, as I do regularly, with a range of cemetery trusts on those arrangements, and I am confident that the arrangement that the Leader of the National Party seeks to, as those opposite regularly do, scare people with - because they have got no other policy position, will not occur."
Mr Mulqueen said it was important to remember that the proposed changes would impact families, and not funeral directors, and at a time when there was already stress and emotional turmoil in their lives.
In a scathing criticism of RPCV and its proposal, Mr Muqueen last month said trusts have responsibilities to the community, and that he believed RPCV ''has abandoned the community in favour of money."
The Department of Health has the final say on whether the increases are adopted, and RPCV maintains the new pricing regime was arrived at after an external organisation was appointed to conduct a review of the business.
All submissions received by the May 3 deadline as part of RPCV's consultation process is expected to form part of a package submitted to the department as part of the process to get approval.
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