TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is to the Treasurer. Can the
Treasurer update the house on what the Brumby Labor government is doing to
protect jobs in the south-west of Victoria?
LENDERS (Treasurer) — I thank Ms Tierney for her question. The south-west
coast is an extraordinarily great region in the state of Victoria, and Mr Koch
and I are in strong accord on that. It is a great part of the state. It is
strong because of its people, its resources and the way the two of them go
together in generating jobs in the region. I went to the south-west coast, to
the three western-most municipalities, just last week, I think it was. I had the
privilege of spending some time with Ms Tierney at round tables in both Portland and
Warrnambool where we had discussions with the local business communities about
what they need to grow jobs in their area. We met a range of people.
Mr P. Davis interjected.
Mr LENDERS — I will take up Mr Philip Davis’s interjection:
they have a stunning local member of Parliament in my colleague Gayle Tierney,
who is connected with these communities and knows everybody in those
communities. It is very good for a minister who is going out into a region like
the south-west coast to have a local MP who is a strong advocate and who is
connected with the communities and can show you where things are going and feed
back that information every time you engage with her on her local communities.
Ms Tierney and I visited Portland Aluminium, one of the large
companies in the area, which is facing some significant challenges at the
moment. We met with people from that company and discussed some of those
Mr P. Davis interjected.
Mr LENDERS — I will take up Mr Philip Davis’s interjection
about a cheque handed over to Portland Aluminium. If we go to the history of why
Portland Aluminium is in place, it goes back to the 1970s when Digby Crozier,
the then Liberal member for Portland, was worried about the Country Party
breathing down his neck. He made a series of promises which he could not
deliver, and it took a Labor government to deliver them to set up the jobs in
Portland and to bring the electricity grid across as the start of a national
grid. A Labor government fixed up the mess that Digby Crozier started because he
was fearful that the Country Party would take his seat.
We are talking about handing over a cheque. At that time there
was an arrangement in place between the State Electricity Commission and
Former Liberal state treasurer Alan Stockdale then privatised
the SEC, so now the Loy Yang B power station provides power to Portland
Aluminium, and the state government, because of Alan Stockdale’s privatisation,
is subsidising the price of that electricity.
We have a range of very complex issues that
we need to address. In the town of Portland the largest employer, with more than
600 staff, has challenges across — —
Mr D. Davis interjected.
Mr LENDERS — I take up Mr David Davis’s interjection. We have
Mr Brown Davis and Mr Green Davis both coming in on it. What is the greatest
uncertainty about the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) at the moment? It
is not that a worldwide scheme will eventually come into place; it is not that a
conference will be held in Copenhagen; it is not that there is a Waxman bill in
the US. It is that the Australian Senate cannot make up its mind.
The biggest uncertainty for CPRS in Australia today that
affects Portland Aluminium is that Malcolm Turnbull cannot get his act together;
the Liberal Party does not know what it is doing; The Nationals do not support
the Liberal Party; and the backbench does not support the shadow cabinet — and
so we have business uncertainty that threatens jobs in Portland today.
Along the south-west coast we have a series of industries and
we talk about Portland Aluminium. We also talk about the extraordinary number of
gas-fired power stations. Ms Tierney took me to the great producer of wind
turbines, Keppel Prince. Again there is a great local manufacturer in Portland
building wind turbines for the renewable energy industry for the future. We saw
a series of growth industries in the area, such as Pacific Hydro, Porthaul Bulk
Transport, Shaw River power station and NewEn Australia — a range of energy
companies and a range of service providers. There are great opportunities along
the south-west coast.
I will close on the note that there are opportunities in the
area. The greatest uncertainty for businesses on the south-west coast is the
federal coalition’s inability to get its act together on CPRS. They are seeking
certainty. It is a great workforce and it is a great set of businesses. They are
supported and facilitated by the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund, this
great Labor government initiative. Whether we are upgrading local ports at Port
Campbell or the Warrnambool airport, which it helped to facilitate, there are
numerous programs. The south-west coast is a great region. I am delighted to go
there at any time with Ms Tierney to talk to local businesses about what we can
do to create jobs in that area. But the single factor that would add certainty
today would be if Malcolm Turnbull and his coalition got their act together and
let the business community know: are they for CPRS? Are they against it? What
are they going to do with it? People want to plan and move forward.