Labor’s timber rehash won’t save Opal jobs

The Nationals have condemned the Andrews Government comments over job stand downs at Opal’s Maryvale Mill, calling it a sham announcement and a poor rebadge of failed previous policy.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath said Labor’s $120 million announcement for the establishment of new plantations was a rehash of its $110 million Gippsland Plantations Investment Plan that resulted in no increased land under plantation.

“Essentially, it’s same announcement, tweaked ever so slightly, but frankly it’s disrespectful to the hundreds of manufacturing Opal jobs that are at immediate risk.

“The only actions that will secure jobs at Maryvale Mill for Labor to end the ongoing green lawfare by closing the loopholes in the Timber Code of Practice and reversing its diabolical decision to end sustainable native industry in Victoria.

“The blatant contempt of our timber workers and their communities by Daniel Andrews is shameful.

“Unlike Labor, The Nationals are not seeking to white wash stand downs; the only acceptable solution is an immediate protection of local manufacturing jobs through the continuation of our sustainable native timber industry.”

Member for Morwell Martin Cameron condemned the Andrews Government, calling it out for dismissing the situation at Opal as a “supply challenge”.

“Putting hundreds of Latrobe Valley jobs at immediate risk to appease city based green voters is a disgrace, it’s not a “supply challenge”, people’s lives and livelihoods are at risk here,” said Mr Cameron.

“Time and time again, Daniel Andrews has demonstrated he is only interested in pursuing green ideology – he continually fails to stand up for Latrobe Valley industries and our workers.

“In Labor’s own words, it’s working to ‘defer’ job losses – how is this even acceptable?

“Fighting to retain sustainable local manufacturing jobs should be the highest priority.”

Ms Bath said Labor’s claiming it will establish new plantations to save Valley jobs is farcical and not supported by the facts.

“Under the Andrews Government’s flawed Victorian Forestry Plan, native hardwood timber supply has dwindled, and planation hardwood has halved to only 2 million cubic metres per annum, while Victorian softwood supply has reduced by 570,000 cubic metres per annum.

“Furthermore, because of high competition for land, the area under plantation has shrunk by 50,000 ha over the past five years.

“Plantation hardwood trees take a minimum of 20 years to become viable, this is cold comfort to those workers who have been stood down.

“Martin Cameron and I will be taking this issue to parliament and continue the fight for workers at the Maryvale Mill – we will take every opportunity to expose the fatal flaws in Labor’s diabolical forestry plan.”