Premier Daniel Andrews has admitted his plan to bring forward the end of the native timber industry to January 2024 provides no guarantees of new employment opportunities in timber towns.
During Friday’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearings, The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien challenged Premier Andrews on the decision to bring the end of native timber industry forward to the end of the year.
Mr O’Brien said the decision to end the industry was a political one that could have been overcome if the Government wanted to.
“I have been calling on the Andrews Labor Government for years to step in and make the legislative changes to the Code of Practice for Timber Production, in the same fashion that the NSW government has, to mitigate the legal challenges that have shut down the industry.
“While it is clear to most that timber communities are paying the price of Labor’s capitulation to inner city green groups, the Premier is now citing legal advice from the Solicitor General and senior legal counsel to justify his decision. He says that advice indicates legislating to protect the industry is not possible.
“But when pressed to release that advice, he refuses to do so. Apparently we need to ‘trust’ a government that has demonstrated time and again that when it comes to Gippsland jobs and timber, it can’t be trusted.”
Mr O’Brien challenged the Premier with a list of broken promises.
“From the broken promise of 500 jobs for the Latrobe Valley at SEA Electric, the failed commitment to establish a new plantation nursery at Nowa Nowa and the utter failure to plant a single new plantation since a 2017 $110 million budget commitment, the Andrews Labor Government has time and time again proved that they don’t follow through.
“The Premier himself guaranteed the job security of Opal’s paper mill in Maryvale until 2050 but there have been 130 job redundancies so far this year – with more to come.”
Mr O’Brien asked the Premier what alternative industry has or will be established in a timber town since the 2019 announcement that the Andrews Labor Government intended to “transition” the native timber industry.
“The Premier’s responded that he never promised the alternative jobs would be located in timber towns. That’s exactly the point – where are these people who lose their jobs supposed to go? And what happens to the communities left behind?
“The Premier says he will stand by affected workers and towns, but his record says the opposite.”