Bath calls on Labor to establish Latrobe Valley industry fund to boost employment

Friday 21 August 2015

Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath is calling on the Labor Government to establish a fund which is aimed at boosting employment, industry and infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley.

Speaking in parliament yesterday Ms Bath criticised the Andrews Melbourne Labor Government’s decision to cut the highly successful $15 million Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund (LVIIF) which was established by the Coalition.

“The Latrobe Valley in my electorate has reasonably high unemployment levels so Labor’s decision to cut this highly successful job creating program really astounded me,” Ms Bath said.

“The Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund supported more than 40 businesses and leveraged close to $100 million in investment, creating 1200 jobs in our community.

“This highly successful program which not only created employment but diversified our local economy has now been cut and nothing has been put in its place which would have the same positive impact.”

Along with the growth fund being axed Labor also cut the Coalition’s Putting Locals First Program a $100 million initiative designed to enable regional communities to devise and deliver service and infrastructure responses which reflected local priorities.

“This program funded some wonderful projects in the Latrobe Valley and the local business community has made it very clear to me they are extremely disappointed that a program similar to the Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund has not been set up by the Andrews Government,” Ms Bath said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the LVIIF was a great example of how people and businesses were prepared to invest when a government provided support and showed confidence in the local business community.

He said Labor’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund was not an adequate replacement for the LVIIF and did not provide the same targeted benefits.

“I had hoped that in its wisdom the Labor Government would continue the Latrobe Valley Infrastructure Fund or at least something similar but instead it has shown it is more interested in investing in city projects,” Mr Northe said.

He said the Andrews Government was using its regional fund as a way of cost-shifting to spend more in the city.

“There hasn’t been anything new for the Latrobe Valley, it has been a grab bag of projects that would normally be funded by departmental budgets like health, sport, education and agriculture.

“Labor has thrown these projects into its so called ‘regional fund’ so more money is left to spend on projects in Melbourne.”

Both Nationals MPs said they were concerned boosting employment, industry and infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley was not a high priority for the Labor government.

“This is why I have called on the government to establish a fund specifically for the Latrobe Valley to boost jobs and growth in this region,” Ms Bath said.