With the State Government set to release its 2019/2020 budget next Monday 27th May, Member for Morwell Russell Northe has called upon the State Government to ensure the Latrobe Valley region is not ignored when it comes to investment and new jobs for the region.
“Whilst I am pleased the State Government had made a number of pledges and pre-election commitments for the Latrobe Valley”, Mr Northe said, “We do want to see many of those initiatives actually funded in this budget. This includes promises to deliver a SEA Electric vehicle factory, a $217 million Latrobe Regional Hospital upgrade and 800 more free car parks in Traralgon and Morwell”.
“And we do not want a repeat of the Labor Government increasing taxes by an extra $252 million against a specific industry in a specific community like what occurred to our local power stations in the Government’s 2016 budget. This money should be redirected back into local programs and initiatives that make a real difference to local people”.
“For many months I’ve been raising a number of important matters on behalf of my community and I’ll look for considerations for those same issues when the Budget is handed down by the Treasurer next Monday,” Mr Northe said.
“One constant that I hear is the ongoing need to create local employment opportunities especially since Hazelwood Power Station was forced to close prematurely”, Mr Northe continued. “The reality is that many former Hazelwood Power Station and Carter Holt Harvey workers and contractors are finding it tough to find work locally or to find work in similar positions and this is having a detrimental impact upon not only those workers and their families, but our local economy”.
“We need to see a State Budget that supports jobs in the Latrobe Valley, in particular one that gives assistance to local businesses who wish to grow and expand and create local jobs. I’ve had so many business owners and developers contact me to say that this support is just currently not there. There are already approved projects that sit idle in our community, yet there seems no interest from the State Government in finding ways to unlock infrastructure barriers that are inhibiting these same projects”.
“In addition, many locals have expressed their views very strongly in ensuring Hazelwood Pondage has a future in our region. We do hope the State Government will set aside funds in this budget to undertake a feasibility study and explore options in having this iconic body of water reopened for public use”, Mr Northe said.
“Gippsland commuters are also aggrieved about the state of our local Public Transport system – not only are the services often disrupted, late, cancelled or coach replacements, our most vulnerable are paying more to utilise services in comparison to our regional counterparts”, Mr Northe explained. “I’ve been asking for some time: what benefits Gippsland commuters will derive from ongoing works on the network? Will our travel times will be reduced?”
“And why should local commuters including our seniors and students pay more to travel on public transport than their Ballarat, Geelong or Bendigo counterparts? The Budget needs to demonstrate that the Government are seriously looking at ways to fix these issues of disparity, including reviewing local public transport zones”.
“Another issue I’ll be keeping a keen eye on in this Budget, is the future Victorian Renewable Energy Targets (VRET), and exactly how the Government plan to achieve a VRET of 50 per cent by 2030“, Mr Northe said. “Whilst we understand that renewable energy generation will increase, it’s also important to recognise the fate of Latrobe Valley generators when the 50% VRET is applied”.
“As I’ve previously raised with the Minister for Energy, 80% of Victoria’s current energy generation is delivered by gas and coal. The logical conclusion is that more power stations will be forced to close or coal fired generation capacity will be significantly decreased before 2030, in order to achieve their target. What we need to see is strong, fact-based modelling and appropriate supports in place to help communities that will be affected by these decisions”.
“Another important issue that I’ve been advocating strongly for is for drought support for our local farming community in the Latrobe Valley”, Mr Northe said. “I’ve put to the Minister for Agriculture that it is unfair that farmers in Latrobe City are excluded from accessing a number of drought support programs despite encountering some of the worst drought conditions on record. I’ve also advocated for rate relief for Latrobe City farmers which would cost the State Government $2.6 million and I hope for the sake of our local farming community that such measures are detailed in the Budget on Monday”.
“Constituents are also reporting issues with the local crisis accommodation situation and I will be seeking for the State Government to provide increased support for our vulnerable citizens in times of need”, Mr Northe said. “I’m concerned that parents and children are without anywhere to live in our community and I know that it is a shock to most to learn of this happening more and more. This budget needs to provide investment into crisis accommodation for our area and provide support to our hardworking service organisations like Quantum Support Services and Community Housing Limited who are doing their best, with limited resources”.
“Mental Health is also an area that we all know that needs significant investment and I’ll be looking to see if the Government follow my calls for more funding for organisations such as Lifeline Gippsland and Barrier Breakers”, Mr Northe said. “Social and mental health outreach services are vital in our community, where we have an over representation of suicide and mental illness. We desperately need the State Government to increase its spending in this area and support these critical organisations”.
“In education, funding for a stand-alone Latrobe Specialist Development School is imperative, whilst the Life Education program needs additional support so it can deliver its vital programs to all Gippsland Primary Schools – not just to those who can afford it”.
“Whatever is announced on Monday, the community can be assured that I will continue to fight for a fair go for Latrobe Valley, in relation to these and any other issues that arise”, Mr Northe concluded.