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Labor sparks Heyfield mill fire sale

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford still refuses to admit the Labor Government’s offer to buy the Heyfield mill is just smoke and mirrors.

In Parliament today, Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked the Minister why the Andrews Labor Government failed to make a commercially realistic offer to the mill that would secure the 260 local jobs.

But Ms Pulford failed to provide an answer, even refusing to answer simple questions about why she has been removed from the negotiations.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods has confirmed the mill would wind down its operations from August due to “expected short supply of logs to the mill again this year” meaning 50 jobs would be lost a month earlier than initially thought.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews and Jaala Pulford continually fail to provide Heyfield mill workers with any confidence Labor will fight for their jobs.

The Premier seems to be forcing a fire sale of the Heyfield mill after Labor’s changed timber policy undermined the business’ viability.

The Premier is putting possums before the jobs of 260 people and the wider Heyfield community.

Labor’s desperate attempt to secure greens preferences and create the Great Forest National Park by stealth has left the future of the Heyfield mill and Victoria’s forestry industry in jeopardy.

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Heyfield mill closure to begin early

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods has announced today it will close its Heyfield mill earlier than planned.

ASH confirmed today the mill will wind down from August due to “VicForests expected short supply of logs to the mill again this year”.

At a recent hearing for the parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, VicForests Acting CEO Nathan Trushell confirmed the amount of timber available to industry has dropped by nearly 60,000m3 due to confirmed possum sightings and projected future sightings.

Mr Trushell also said the possum was being discovered at a rate “much higher than ever anticipated”.

There are 260 people employed at the Heyfield mill, while the mill’s operations support 7000 jobs down the line.

Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy and Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull visited the Heyfield mill again today to speak with ASH.

Comments attributable to Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy

The Liberal-Nationals understand the importance of this business to the Heyfield community and committed in February that an elected Liberal-Nationals government would keep the mill open and save these jobs.

Daniel Andrews' promise to fight for every Victorian job was clearly a lie. The Andrews government has presided over thousands of lost Gippsland jobs with no remorse for their failure to step in and save them.

Comments attributable to Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh

The Heyfield community and Victoria’s forestry industry have endured increasingly difficult conditions under a Labor Government more concerned with protecting possums than Victorian jobs.

The Premier for Melbourne is so desperate to keep his own job and the greens preferences that got him there that he is condemning 260 jobs in the Heyfield community.

Comments attributable to Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull

The closure of the Heyfield mill is devastating news for the workers, their families and the Heyfield community.

Daniel Andrews promised to visit Heyfield in February, but more than three months later he still refuses to show any support for our community.

The Premier for Melbourne fails to understand the mill doesn’t need a new owner to save these jobs, it needs a change in government policy.

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Labor refuses to save forestry jobs

Thursday 1 June 2017

Background

The Andrews Labor Government could save thousands of forestry jobs in Victoria by reducing the size of ‘highly precautionary’ timber harvest exclusion zones.

At a parliamentary inquiry into VicForests, VicForests Acting CEO Nathan Trushell confirmed the Leadbeater’s Possum was being detected at a rate “much higher than ever anticipated”.

Mr Trushell also described the current 200m buffer zones as “highly precautionary and having a significant impact on industry”.

At May 18 this year, 617 Leadbeater’s Possum colonies had been recorded and an estimated 1851 individual possums found.

Mr Trushell also confirmed the amount of timber available to industry had dropped by nearly 60,000m3 because of possum sightings and projected sightings in the future.

The Andrews Labor Government is months overdue with a required review of the exclusion zones.

At a Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing today, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford showed an embarrassing lack of understanding of her portfolio and had to refer to Department staff when questioned if she had seen the exclusion zone review.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh

Daniel Andrews has created this crisis in our forestry industry and is trying to force a fire sale of Heyfield’s mill instead of saving jobs and reducing the size of the exclusion zones.

Demand has never been higher for Victoria’s high-quality timber products but Daniel Andrews has put the industry in peril.

The 200m buffer zones were put in place at a time when Leadbeater’s possum numbers were unknown and they were supposed to be reviewed once 200 colonies were found but Daniel Andrews looks hell bent on creating the Great Forest National Park by stealth instead.

Daniel Andrews is sacrificing timber workers and their livelihoods because he is desperate to cling to power and needs city greens preferences next election.

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Federal Govt delivers what Andrews Labor Govt refuses to

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Country Victorians will get the vital investments they need after the Federal Liberal Nationals Government delivered for the projects that Daniel Andrews refuses to fund.

Investments in rail and road infrastructure projects in regional Victoria and new agriculture initiatives for our primary producers were welcome commitments in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

The $8bn inland freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane will take trucks off our roads and cut the cost for farmers to transport their product to port.

While Daniel Andrews refuses to spend a cent of State Government money on his $1.45bn wish list for regional rail, the Federal Liberal Nationals Government has invested $1bn in regional rail and other infrastructure projects.

This includes a $100 million investment in the north east rail line – five times more than was allocated in Labor’s unfunded wish list – and $290m for track duplications and upgrades on the Gippsland line.

These projects are fully funded and will deliver real benefits for country rail passengers who are sick of the Andrews Labor Government’s announce first, fund later approach.

I welcome the more than $4.1 billion investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors and the $4bn Regional Investment Corporation which will support growth in our rural and regional communities.

The Federal Liberal Nationals have delivered where the Andrews Labor Government refuses to.

Regional Victorians deserve better than Labor’s offer of scraps off the table after the $9.7 billion sale of the Port of Melbourne lease.

The Federal Budget delivers funding and vision for infrastructure and rail for country Victorians who have been abandoned by the Labor Premier for Melbourne.

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Country Vic going backwards under Labor

Tuesday 6 December 2016

 

A report released today by SGS Economic and Planning has shown that regional Victoria’s economy shrank by 1 per cent in 2015-16, making it the only area in all of Australia to have its economy go backwards.

Shadow Minister for Regional Development Tim McCurdy said “regional Victoria is going backwards under Daniel Andrews and his city-centric Labor Government”.

“Under Daniel Andrews, country roads and bridges funding has been spent in the Premier’s own city electorate and regional rail commuters have been stranded for days due to Labor’s failure to maintain the rail lines,” Mr McCurdy said.

“Whether it is taking an axe to the Country Fire Authority or leaving country roads in disrepair, regional Victorians have been the biggest losers under Daniel Andrews’ Government.”

Mr McCurdy said Daniel Andrews has no plan to manage Victoria’s population growth.

“More than 90 per cent of Victoria’s population growth is centred on Melbourne, an unsustainable situation that hurts both the city and the country,” Mr McCurdy said.

“The Liberal Nationals are developing a comprehensive plan to manage the huge growth in Victoria’s population and make sure regional Victoria is a beneficiary of the opportunities population growth provides not a loser from it.”

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Half-year training update months overdue

The Andrews Labor Government are hiding the extent of Victoria's training crisis, failing to release the half-yearly update on the state of our TAFE and training sector.

Steve Herbert's time-keeping skills are on par with his dismal record-keeping skills.

We are nearly to the end of the year and have no idea of the state of our training system after the Andrews Labor Government failed to release the half-yearly update for 2016.

It is now months overdue.

Steve Herbert leaves a shameful legacy of plummeting training enrolments and $175 million in cuts to student training at TAFE.

Gayle Tierney has inherited a fragmented and struggling training sector from an incompetent Minister, but she shouldn’t cover for him by continuing to delay the release of the half-year data.

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Victorians in the dark on Hazelwood closure

The Andrews Labor Government has left Victorians in the dark on the impacts of the closure of Hazelwood power station on energy pricing and security of supply.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe called on the Government to detail a real plan for the Latrobe Valley’s future in State Parliament yesterday. Rumours of Hazelwood’s closure, a key employer that provides hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, would put further pressure on Latrobe Valley’s unemployment crisis.

Rumours of Hazelwood’s closure, a key employer that provides hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, would put further pressure on Latrobe Valley’s unemployment crisis.

Mr Northe said if the station closed, there would be a profound impact on the community.

“Daniel Andrews has spent his first two years in government ignoring our region, cutting funding and sitting idle as thousands of people lost their jobs,” Mr Northe said.

“We are already in the midst of an unemployment crisis – even without the jobs that could be lost at Hazelwood.

“Labor flagged the power station’s closure in 2010, yet six years on and faced with closure, they have no plan for Latrobe Valley’s future.

“The Latrobe Valley wants answers – what is Daniel Andrews’ plan to retain jobs? How will Victoria’s energy supply be secured?

Will the cost of electricity soar under Labor’s renewable energy target?”

Mr Northe, Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh and Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath recently met with Hazelwood operators and key stakeholders to discuss the power station’s possible closure.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, and business and industry put forward ideas that could help support workers and the community if the power station were closed.

“Our local business, industry and community groups must be included in determining a plan for the Latrobe Valley’s future,” Mr Northe said.

“Daniel Andrews abandoned the Coalition’s industry and employment plan, including Skilling the Valley, the $15 million Latrobe jobs fund and even the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee.

“The Andrews Labor Government has shamefully neglected the Latrobe community for too long.”

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Labor must come clean on Hazelwood closure

Member for Morwell Russell Northe has said reports this morning that the Hazelwood mine, one of the Latrobe Valley’s key employers, plans to close its doors in April are a “distressing” prospect for the local community.

“Jobs in the region are very hard to come by with unemployment currently at 19.7 per cent in Morwell. If the mine’s approximately 550 direct jobs and hundreds and hundreds of indirect jobs disappear it will snowball a growing unemployment crisis in the Valley,” Mr Northe said.

“Labor first slated closure of Hazelwood in 2010 – they’ve got their wish, so it would be a show of absolute ignorance for Labor to sit on their hands until Latrobe Valley workers are left without jobs.

“Labor must come clean now on what they know of this closure and what their plan is to keep jobs in the Latrobe community.

“The Nationals understand this closure would have a significant impact on the local community. I will meet with business and industry in the near future to discuss what can be done to ease this pressure on our local workforce.”