The Andrews Labor Government has fumbled questions about its plan to bring back the State Electricity Commission, failing to provide detail about the promised delivery of jobs for the Latrobe Valley.
In a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing last week it was revealed the SEC office and its 29 staff were located in Melbourne, and the Minister for the State Electricity Commission refused to answer questions about whether the SEC head office would be based in Morwell.
Under inquiry from The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, the Minister would only commit to “a presence” for the SEC in Morwell and declared she was “not in a position to answer” how many of the 59,000 jobs promised would be in the Valley.
The Nationals Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, said the Minister’s response exposed more holes in Labor’s ill-considered plan to ‘bring power back to the people’.
“Make no mistake, the vagaries surrounding the return of the SEC are all part of the plan,” Mr Cameron said.
“From the very start, this has been nothing but a sham. Labor’s candidate for the seat of Morwell said last year: ‘the SEC will be brought back to Morwell’, but there is no defined funding in this year’s $44.5 million budget allocation for a Morwell office.
“Labor is not going to establish a new office in Morwell as promised – they are going to funnel an undisclosed number of staff into the existing GovHub.”
Unemployment in the Latrobe Valley is almost double the state average, and in the last 11 years the number of jobs in Latrobe have decreased 8 per cent while other regional areas have experienced jobs growth of between 11 and 37 per cent.*
“We know unemployment is high in the Valley, and thousands of jobs will be lost this year alone as a result of Labor’s shutdown of the native timber industry and white paper production at Maryvale,” Mr Cameron said.
“On top of this, the illusory promise that a revived SEC will be ‘brought back to Morwell’ and create 59,000 jobs reeks of a government using a very real issue to try and grab votes.
“Labor is prepared to blow $1 billion and plunge the state further into debt by investing in renewables, but the private sector has already proven this can be done and they can do it without taxpayer funding.
“Here in the Valley we are ground zero for the transition to renewables, but the Andrews Labor Government has proven it is completely out of touch with the realities of power generation and the local economy with this half-baked plan.”