Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:22): Tomorrow many workers will leave the Hazelwood Power Station for the last time. It is in, any sense of the word, the end of an era after 52 years for the people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley. It will be quite an emotional day for many people, obviously for the workers themselves and their families but also for the small businesses and contractors in our region. We stand together as a community in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley and it is good to be joined here today by the member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, whose electorate is also going to be adversely affected by the closure of Hazelwood.
I want to direct my comments today to the workers and the families themselves. On behalf of a grateful community, I simply want to say thank you—thank you for the work you have done. You should be proud of what you have contributed to the great state of Victoria and to the regions of the Latrobe Valley and the broader Gippsland community. When you walk out tomorrow, walk out with your heads held high.
This is a difficult day for you and your families, but it is no time for politics. In the past people who work in the power stations in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley have been unfairly vilified. They have been vilified by some sections of the community because of their association with what is allegedly the world’s dirtiest power station, but they have been doing a job that our nation wanted them to do—a job that has kept Victoria prosperous and successful for generations. The criticism of the Hazelwood workers needs to stop tomorrow. We need to simply gather around that community and support them in their future aspirations.
Hazelwood has been not just a provider of base load energy; it has been a provider of base load jobs. It has been important to the Greater Gippsland region. I am determined to work with all community members and urge that we remain as united as we possibly can as we face the critical challenges in our region. The member for McMillan and I will be fighting together to ensure we receive the support we need in critical infrastructure and support services that will help to create jobs into the future.
I have designed some T-shirts which have been printed and will be made available in my community which simply promote our pride in being part of this great region of Victoria. I know T-shirts are not going to change outcomes for people. They do not create jobs, but they will create an atmosphere of confidence and positivity about the future. Again, I simply say to those Hazelwood workers, to the contractors and to all other power station workers in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley: you are a passionate, proud and positive people. We need to work together in the future—and we will work together in the future. We are determined to make sure that the Latrobe Valley becomes the great community it needs to be in the future as well. We have a rich and proud history, and I am very confident that we can have a safer, stronger and better Gippsland and Latrobe Valley into the future. I have no doubt whatsoever that the best days of the Latrobe Valley are ahead of us.