Member for Morwell Russell Northe has said that today’s revelation that the State Government will provide Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill with a $200 million subsidy, is verification that their irresponsible ban on native timber logging is flawed. (Herald Sun article “Taxpayers to hand over hundreds of millions to lock in jobs threatened by native timber ban”, Monday 2/3/2020 attached).
“The native timber ban announced last year and the lack of consideration in its quick implementation was troubling enough”, Mr Northe said. “Yet this new supposed deal also provides scant detail or information on how jobs at Australian Paper will be sustained and how other local crucial jobs in the timber sector will be protected”.
In November last year, the Andrews Government announced it would phase out the logging of native timber in Victoria, plunging 21,000 forestry jobs into doubt.
In the last sitting week of State Parliament for 2019, Mr Northe used Question Time to ask whether modelling had been undertaken to understand the detrimental impacts to the electorate of Morwell, putting to the Premier;
“…can you guarantee that Australian Paper will have access to the timber resources it requires and subsequently guarantee that not one job will be lost at its Maryvale site?”
In his response, Premier Andrews expressed confidence that Australian Paper will have security within the Government’s transition away from native timber harvesting; however, many experienced industry personnel state otherwise, particularly in the wake of significant bushfire impacts.
“But what I take from this new information, is a complete acknowledgement from the Government that this native timber ban does in fact threaten Australian Paper’s Maryvale future operations”, Mr Northe continued. “And the sheer fact that this funding was an in-confidence arrangement makes it clear, that the Government were attempting to conceal this fact from the public”.
“Whilst the Government wrongly states that this agreement provides certainty to Australian Paper workers, it can’t or won’t commit to saying that not one job at the Maryvale site will be lost. How this provides certainty is beyond me!”
“Australian Paper employs nearly 1,000 workers in my electorate and any threat to their and their family’s livelihoods is a terrible concern”, Mr Northe continued. “Particularly on the back of closures of other large-scale employers such as Hazelwood and Carter Holt Harvey in recent years, which are also due to irresponsible policies of the State Government”.
“I’m sure workers in the timber industry and their families just want the Government to commit to protecting their jobs and livelihoods. Despite today’s revelation of a secret $200 million investment, this guarantee is yet to be made”, Mr Northe concluded.