There is some conjecture about the success or otherwise of the Back to Work scheme, but it is my view that there are many anomalies in the scheme at the moment, including the fact that Latrobe Valley workers and the unemployed in my region are being dudded through the program. An example of this is that if you are a retrenched automotive worker or dairy industry worker the scheme is open for employers until 30 June 2018, but if you are a retrenched Hazelwood worker or unemployed in the Latrobe Valley the scheme will be terminated on 30 June 2017. So we are seeking that extension for another 12 months. In addition to that, the subsidy for a retrenched automotive worker sits at $7000, but if you are a retrenched Hazelwood worker that subsidy is $5000, so there is a $2000 difference.
We have this ridiculous situation at the moment where we know Hazelwood power station closed on 31 March this year and so for those retrenched workers who left at that time the scheme has only been open to them for three months, but the reality is far different from that. On the ground there are many workers who are still actually employed at Hazelwood power station; some of them are only just losing their jobs right now, and others will be terminated in the coming months, which means that those particular Hazelwood workers will not be eligible for support as the scheme sits at the moment.
And then of course we have these poor Carter Holt Harvey workers — 160 of them — who will start to lose their jobs in July and in August, but again under the rules that currently exist with this scheme, prospective employers for these workers will not be eligible to access the scheme, and that is simply not fair and equitable. I cannot understand why energy and timber workers in the Latrobe Valley are not as important as automotive workers or dairy industry workers. There are different rules and different categories. Bringing them into alignment would make sense to me, particularly for the Latrobe Valley region at the moment, where we have seen unemployment rise by more than 50 per cent in the last two years.