Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– Regional Victoria is doing it tough, and there is no government focus on regional development. The job losses in regional Victoria are hitting communities very hard. It is not just our regional cities or our second city, Geelong; our smaller towns are also finding it hard. It is not just larger companies, such as Shell, or large manufacturing operations, with question marks over both Alcoa and Ford; it is also smaller engineering shops, cafes, retail, machinery and equipment businesses, and even hardware shops that are closing.
Portland is doing it tough. It has 6.9 per cent unemployment, with youth unemployment rates going through the roof. Portland has a unique set of circumstances. Geographically it is a significant distance from other towns and regional centres in western Victoria.
It is highly dependent on two companies and has high levels of socioeconomic status indicators. It also has overwhelming natural assets that can assist in building a local sustainable economy. Government intervention is needed; a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach is urgently needed. Locals have banded together to organise forums and a campaign under the banner of Save Our Jobs. Yet last Wednesday night no political party representatives, except for Labor, bothered to turn up at the well-attended Save Our Jobs public meeting in Portland. Labor cares. It cares about jobs. It is Labor that cares about Portland, not the Napthine government.