Budget – Latrobe Valley Authority

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:35): I rise to speak on the budget 2023–24. In doing so I would like to talk about budget paper 3 and the section on the Latrobe Valley Authority (LVA) that received $7.2 million in the said budget. When you go to the budget paper it says under ‘Latrobe Valley Authority’:

… supporting the management of economic transition in the region.

For anyone who is not aware, the Latrobe Valley is certainly a place of huge transition at the moment, some of it forced upon it by policies of the Andrews government, and we are really in a difficult position moving forward.

So what did the LVA do? It put out a discussion paper in January, and after six and a half years of being in operation – over $300 million – it put out another, ‘plan’. It is the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland Transition Plan. It is just astounding. It is not a plan. It talks about a lot of motherhood statements. It has an introduction: ‘What is this plan?’ It talks about: ‘How can the plan be used?’ It talks about focus areas – and these things I think are certainly of value to focus on – and the transition path: education and training; employment; the economy; livability; and coordination, collaboration and shared leadership. It talks about measuring the plan, but what it does not do is define the plan. It talks around everything else without giving the people of the Latrobe Valley a firm road map. It talks about a road map, it just does not give them a road map into the future – $300-plus million, six and a half years, and this is what we are left with.

It also talks about guiding principles. It talks about 52 recommendations. Let me just read a couple of random ones that I have here from the report:

Increased workforce participation through accessible employment pathways and inclusive employment practices

This is just one. This is one of the 52:

Design focused programs to increase workforce participation and remove barriers to employment.

Did that take a number of people – there are around 30 people working in the LVA – six and a half years to come up with that one? What about:

Continue investment in services, infrastructure and amenities that will attract and retain sufficient skilled workers in the region.

That is a recommendation. I cannot say rude words here, but it is like: what is going on? Another one:

Improve the built environment to provide attractive, easily accessible and safe public spaces for community gathering.

Like, yes, fine. But what is this report for? It talks about a blueprint, but it is not a blueprint. It has not had any pre feasibility studies about potential industries that should move in. There is not a graph or a time line of expectation where you can have an accountability level. If it is for investment, there is nothing there for investment to hang its hat on. It references other strategic plans – okay. It references one that I totally oppose, which is the forestry transition program that is just nonsensical and is not supported, overwhelmingly, by the people in the Valley. Thank you very much, Mr Martin Cameron, for coming in and providing that sensible balance.

It mentions TAFE and Fed Uni. We need all of those, but where is the plan? There is a section that I agree with entirely from EnergyAustralia. They are about to close their Yallourn power station, by 2028, only a few years away. It says:

Energy Australia estimates that each Yallourn Power Station worker generates an additional 4 to 5 jobs in the region.

Well, they are going to close. Where is the direction from the Andrews government, from the Latrobe Valley Authority, which was paid a lot of money to come up with a very nice reference book that is aspirational but not directional. I absolutely condemn the Andrews government for this. There was an opportunity to provide that purpose for this very important region. It has failed to do so. It has given us SEA Electric and taken it away, it has given us the Comm Games over there and taken them away. It is talking about the SEC, which it references, but where is the direction? It does not exist.