November 3, 2016
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says the Federal Government will immediately provide a $43 million support package for families and workers in the Latrobe Valley affected by the closure of Hazelwood Power Station.
Engie and Mitsui, the joint owners of the Hazelwood, have taken an independent commercial decision to cease operating the facility in March 2017.
Mr Chester said Hazelwood was not only a provider of baseload power for Victoria, meeting 22 per cent of its energy demand, but it was also a “provider of baseload jobs for the Latrobe Valley”.
He said the Federal Government has announced $43 million in additional investment to the Latrobe Valley, including $3 million in employment support for Hazelwood workers, a $20 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package to assist local small to medium businesses, and a $20 million regional jobs and infrastructure fund.
Mr Chester said it was also up to Engie and Mitsui to ensure workers and families were not left behind.
“Workers must receive their full entitlements and get the help they need with the transition to new jobs locally,” Mr Chester said.
“I’m working positively with other levels of government to get money on the table for local projects and to support jobs in existing industries. The additional $43 million investment from the Federal Government is on top of the record funding for local roads and defence facilities.
“There needs to be a willingness to support workers gain new skills and to attract new industries to our region.”
Mr Chester said he remained relentlessly optimistic about the Latrobe Valley’s future.
“The continued growth in health, education and tourism sectors are all positives, in addition to the strength of our traditional industries such as agriculture and food processing, forest products, defence and energy production,” Mr Chester said.
“We have a diverse and resilient economy. All levels of government should be investing in Gippsland with improved connectivity of road, rail and telecommunications links.
“The Hazelwood decision is bad news for workers, families and the local community. But there’s a bright future for our region in growing our traditional industries and helping to create new jobs.
“We have several months to get plans in place to minimise the impact on region.
Jobs and future opportunities for young people remain my highest priority.”
Mr Chester is one of five Cabinet Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead a Ministerial Committee to co-ordinate and oversee the Federal Government’s response to the Hazelwood decision.
Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent has provided direct input into the regional response package.
The committee will work together with all levels of government and the community to ensure that the Latrobe Valley community, in particular the affected workers and their families, are well placed to manage the transition following the closure of Hazelwood.
The Minister for Regional Development, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, and Mr Chester today announced that the Latrobe Valley would become the 10th Region under the Government’s Regional Jobs and Investment Package attracting funding of $20 million.
The Federal Government will work in partnership with the local community to determine priorities for this funding.
The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, is announcing a series of small business roundtables in the Latrobe Valley recognising the impact of the closure on this critical portion of the community.
To support affected workers to get back into gainful employment as soon as possible, the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, has announced an immediate $3 million labour market structural adjustment package for Hazelwood’s workers and their partners.
This package will include accelerated access to job retraining and assistance, and the support of a dedicated employment facilitator.
In addition to the above measures, the Federal Government is already investing in the Latrobe Valley and greater Gippsland region to deliver jobs and growth with $600 million already committed for major infrastructure works.