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June 20, 2012

The Gillard Government is doing nothing to dispel uncertainty over Latrobe Valley jobs only 10 days out from the introduction of the carbon tax, according to Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

This week in Federal Parliament, Mr Chester directly questioned Climate Change Minister Greg Combet over the current status of the ‘Contract for Closure’ program – the Gillard Government’s policy to shut down coal-fired power generators.

“Given that we are just days away from the implementation of the carbon tax and given that the government was going to make some announcements on July 1 in relation to the Contract for Closure tender process, will the Minister deny that the government is going to announce an extension of time for Contract for Closure?” Mr Chester asked.

Despite the looming deadline, Minister Combet failed to deny that there would be an extension, only saying that the public policy announced last year was to conclude Contract for Closure negotiations by June 30.

“A number of the electricity generators in the Latrobe Valley region did indicate that they would like to discuss, in the appropriate process, the Contract for Closure issue, and those discussions have been continuing in an appropriate way through the department of my colleague the Minister for Resources and Energy. They are commercial-in-confidence discussions,” Minister Combet said.

“Our public policy announced in July last year, to which we continue to adhere, is that that process would be brought to a conclusion by 30 June, which of course is imminent. That remains our policy position. It is not appropriate for me to speculate on the outcome at this point in time, but the process that we initiated should appropriately be continued and a conclusion reached.”

Mr Chester raised the issue again in a supplementary question, pointing out the crisis of confidence in the Latrobe Valley and the uncertainty that had been created.

“This is a tax, and all the bribes and the slick advertising will not hide the fact that this tax is going to cascade through the economy and have a big impact on regional communities,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“The practical reality of the situation is that Contract for Closure negotiations are going nowhere fast, and I think the Minister knows that. The Latrobe Valley is suffering right now because of the uncertainty being created by this policy.

“There are no plans in place in relation to structural adjustment and there is a crisis of confidence going on right now in the Gippsland and Latrobe Valley region which is directly related to the carbon tax policy which the Prime Minister explicitly ruled out in the lead-up to the last election.”

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