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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6392

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (11:44): I thank the member for Gippsland for his question. He has attended a number of the forums that we have held in the Latrobe Valley to look at the challenges that are presented down there but most of all to identify future opportunities. I just make this point about what we have done in the Latrobe Valley. It is very interesting that we have been able to secure an agreement with the Victorian government, who opposes what we are doing with carbon pricing, to work in partnership for the economic development and diversification not just of the valley but of the whole Gippsland region. Partnership agreements with the states are absolutely fundamental, in my view, if we are to get this model of regional development right. We can put up the funds that I talked about before, but on their own they are not going to be enough. We have got to leverage the other funding and we have got to encourage regions to join the dots, so that they do not just look through the silo of a regional development fund, or for that matter the $200 million Structural Adjustment Fund, but look to the opportunities, for example, in the Education Infrastructure Fund and in the Health and Hospitals Infrastructure Fund—which I think the member just made reference to in relation to the Latrobe Regional Hospital.

I am terribly proud of having been able to negotiate that agreement and that framework and also establish the committee that is working to identify opportunities. The guidelines for the Structural Adjustment Fund for the regions most affected by the carbon pricing initiative are still being considered and, in any event, they were always going to be contingent upon impact once we knew where the contracts for closure were going to occur. On that question, the member for Gippsland has asked me about progress. This is really an issue that should be addressed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, because he has responsibility for it. We have called for the expressions of interest for contracts of closure. They are going through their process at the moment. He has made the point that the effects of the closure of Hazelwood would dwarf the $200 million assistance, and even if a fair slab were allocated to the Latrobe Valley it may not be enough. I do not agree with that. I have just recently been involved in negotiating, in partnership with the Tasmanian government, structural adjustment initiatives for job creation activity in Tasmania. As you know, with the forest issue down there, there is a potential $120 million available to Tasmania, but it is conditional on getting an agreement. To show good faith, we made the first $20 million not conditional.

We have allocated all of that money. Quite frankly, the $20 million that we have allocated has the potential over coming years to create 4,000 jobs. This is the opportunity. You do not need, in my view, a lot of money to make these things happen. What you need is a lot of good ideas. You need businesses prepared to make the investment, with governments coming in to fill the gap. Whether it is a gap in terms of infrastructure, whether it is a gap in terms of training, that is the sort of thing we have got to be doing. That is what I want to develop in the Latrobe Valley. That is why we have got not just the state government framework but we have got all the local councils involved. We have got regional input. We have been using the university to help identify opportunities. In the Latrobe Valley, forget about the carbon price that is going to be put on; what about the opportunities in the electorate of Gippsland for carbon farming? They have some of the richest farmland in the country, and the opportunity to enrich and improve soil productivity, capture the carbon and trade the credits creates the opportunity for another income stream. They have also got the big potential for growth in the dairy industry and the food processing industry. There are funds that enable that to happen. I think we have got to look beyond the silos in terms of considering the opportunities down there, because they are enormous.