darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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October 1, 2012

People have asked me why I was so determined to fight the Labor Party’s plans to shut down Hazelwood Power Station under the failed ‘contract for closure’ policy.

The reasons were simple: jobs, jobs and jobs.

When I was first running for Parliament, I promised to fight for the jobs in our traditional industries and to support efforts to diversify our region’s economy and help to create more jobs.

The inherent decency of a job is fundamental to our combined futures.

My campaign to oppose the ‘contract for closure’ program was part of keeping that jobs election promise. The government’s decision to abandon the plan to use taxpayers’ money to prematurely close down local power stations is a win for our community. It’s not the end of the battle, but it does provide some reprieve.

In wages alone, it means more than $100 million per year will remain in the Latrobe Valley and that money supports other small businesses and helps our community to grow.

From an environmental perspective, it makes more sense for a government to assist the power generating industry to clean up its operations than to close it down and undermine energy security in the process. Our state was built on the back of reliable, baseload energy from the Latrobe Valley.

Our power station workers should be celebrated for their efforts, not vilified as ‘big polluters’ by the Greens and Labor MPs who have no respect for our community.

Providing families with opportunities to have a meaningful career in our region and giving young people the hope that there will be work opportunities for them in the future is a critical role for governments.

Rather than the public service, it’s the business community that creates most of the employment in the Latrobe Valley and the uncertainty created by the Gillard Government’s carbon tax and contract for closure policy has eroded public confidence.

This crisis of confidence has contributed to a downturn in the construction sector and many other business owners who have contacted my office have reported difficult trading conditions in retail, hospitality and service industries.

Now that ‘contract for closure’ has been abandoned, the Gillard Government needs to get on board with the many innovative projects that have been put forward by our region to help it adjust to the carbon tax.

The government must not use this change of policy as an excuse to ignore our region’s needs. There have been a lot of visits and a lot of nice sounding words from Labor Ministers – now we need action.

I’m pleased to see the back of the ‘contract for closure’ policy and I’m determined to work with all levels of government and the local community to help build a better future for our region.

And for me, it’s still all about jobs.

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