Mr NORTHE (Morwell) — The uncertain future of Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley continues to cause angst for local residents and businesses. The no. 1 priority for our community is jobs, and regretfully we have seen a massive increase in unemployment within Latrobe city since December 2014. It was 7.3 per cent then, and it is 10.7 per cent now.
As I have stated many times in this Parliament, it is hard to fathom that the Andrews Labor government previously abolished a number of key local economic development and training programs whilst it sat and watched our unemployment rate soar, but the reality is that that is what has happened. There were was much work undertaken through the coalition’s Latrobe Valley Industry and Employment Roadmap, and the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee was even established in 2011. The reinstatement of these and other initiatives would be a good start to boost local confidence. Unfortunately the position of the Andrews Labor government is very unclear. The Treasurer visited Paris last week, but what were the topics of conversation? Did the Treasurer say that it is his government’s policy to close Hazelwood? Who knows. What we need is a plan. We need certainty, and we need all levels of government, businesses and unions working in collaboration to tackle these significant challenges.
We should also not forget one of the Latrobe Valley’s other major employers in Australian Paper. The Andrews government has to come clean on whether it is intending to create the Great Forest National Park. If it does, then thousands of workers employed directly and indirectly through Australian Paper will have their jobs placed at severe risk. The minister responsible must stop hiding behind her Forest Industry Taskforce and provide certainty for Latrobe Valley and Gippsland workers in this important sector.