Mr NORTHE (Morwell) — We are now only nine days from the closure of the Hazelwood power station — nine days till the loss of hundreds of jobs and massive uncertainty for many workers, contractors, service providers and their families. This government stands condemned for its policy and budget decisions that have contributed to this outrageous decision. We all know Labor wants Hazelwood to close — that is what they have been saying for seven years, yet at the same time they cry crocodile tears.
If this government had genuinely cared, they would not have lumped Latrobe Valley generators with an extra $252 million in taxes just last year, and they would close Hazelwood gradually, like they promised. More than 3100 people have signed and supported petitions calling for, at the very least, a gradual closure of Hazelwood, and despite the Premier saying he would fight for every Victorian job, that apparently does not apply to workers, contractors and service providers of Hazelwood.
The Hazelwood closure comes at a time when under this government the unemployment rate for Latrobe city has risen from 7.3 per cent in December 2014 to 11.2 per cent in December 2016 — a rise of more than 50 per cent. When you abolish a number of local-specific economic development and community-related programs, along with having polices to close a local business that employs thousands of people directly and indirectly, and then tax businesses in that same industry hundreds of millions of dollars, is it really any surprise to see unemployment rise so dramatically in the Latrobe Valley? The scary part is that these figures are before Hazelwood has even closed, in addition to the hundreds of jobs at risk in the timber industry across the Latrobe Valley and the Gippsland region.