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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 109

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (10:44): Food manufacturing in Australia has a proud history, particularly in my electorate of Bendigo. Whilst the broader manufacturing sector is unfortunately declining in some areas, food and grocery manufacturing experienced growth last year, in 2016-17. According to the recent census, there are actually more people employed in food manufacturing today than there have been for quite some time. A report that was released a few weeks ago highlighted that in northern Victoria roughly 22,000 direct jobs contributed to food and grocery manufacturing.

The statistics for my electorate of Bendigo speak loudly about the importance of this industry to central Victoria. Bendigo electorate's food and grocery manufacturing industry generates over $2 billion of output annually and directly employs over 4,200 people, including 2½ thousand people who work in the local meat and meat production industry. I have talked many times in this place about the jobs at Hardwick in Kyneton, the jobs at Don KR in Castlemaine and the jobs in our chicken and poultry industry. Whilst there is some work to do to make sure that there is a skilled, ready workforce, ensuring that there are locals for local jobs first, I know that our region would be lost without these vital jobs to keep our local economy going. The industry also does well with value adding, which is reported to be close to half a billion dollars. An area that is at the top of the list for value adding in relation to food manufacturing is meat and poultry products. I've mentioned Don KR, and I'd be in trouble if I didn't mention also Moira Mac's, which does the chicken process adding.

Whilst we are doing well when it comes to food manufacturing, we are not doing well when it comes to gas and gas prices for many of these industries. The Bendigo Manufacturing Group, as well as other chambers of commerce, continually raises with me the problem of securing long-term gas contracts. Labor's commitment last week on a national gas reservation policy is so critical to keeping gas prices, and long and sustainable contracts, affordable for our food manufacturers. If we are to continue to have a bright future when it comes to food manufacturing, we need to ensure sustainable gas for these industries. I call on the government to match Labor's commitment on gas and to implement the policy that was announced last week.