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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2869

Mr MARLES (Corio) (09:55): A year and a month ago, on 18 February 2014, a very significant economic knock shocked Geelong to its core—a knock that the Abbott Liberal government, more than a year on, has yet to address in any meaningful way. On 18 February, Alcoa ceased operations in Geelong at Point Henry and, as of today, there are 900 fewer jobs in my electorate of Corio. For the families and businesses that were directly affected by the closure and subsequent job losses, I will continue to call on this government to act. The Abbott government's management of this issue continues to be a disgrace. Still not a single cent has been committed by this government to assist Geelong through this event. I again call on the government to act to address the unemployment crisis and to assist former Alcoa workers and their families.

During its 51 years in operation, the Point Henry smelter produced more than 7.3 million tonnes of aluminium, enough to make 93,000 jumbo jets. This was more than just a workplace; it was a place that thousands of families relied on to build their lives and it was one of the key economic pillars of Geelong's private-sector economy. As Geelong continues to transition from the closure of current other businesses that have been pillars of its economy, it is important now to look to the future, and that includes the future of the Point Henry site itself, both the Alcoa site and the surrounding areas.

Point Henry really forms the south head of Corio Bay, with Point Lillias to the north. It is in effect a peninsula that juts out into the middle of the bay. As such, it is a dominant feature of the landscape of Geelong, visible from any point near the water. It has abundant bird life. It provides a base for windsurfers and fishermen alike. The views from Point Henry itself back into Geelong are spectacular.

It has of course been synonymous with the Alcoa smelter for more than half a century. But, with Alcoa gone, this critically important natural asset of the Geelong region needs to be reinvented, and how we reinvent it will have an enormous impact on our economic and cultural future. There are possibilities for development, for parkland, for sanctuaries; these will all need to be balanced. What we do in respect of Point Henry will provide opportunities, in my view, for the whole coastline, from East Geelong to Curlewis, but we have to get it right. Clearly, Alcoa themselves are central to the future of Point Henry, as it is still their site. A respectful dialogue is needed with them. But this should not stop the community from beginning the process and talking about what is next.

So today I am calling on people of Geelong to begin this discussion. In the weeks ahead, I will be convening a forum with key community stakeholders to brainstorm options and I will also be talking to Alcoa and to the new Andrews Labor government. Nothing will replace Alcoa and the organisations that were contracted to Alcoa. More than a year on from the announcement of its closure, Point Henry is a reminder of what Geelong has been for more than 60 years: an integral part of industrialised and modern Australia, and a source of livelihoods and pride for locals.

So I ask the public and the City of Greater Geelong to come and engage with me and others in the community about what they want to see at Point Henry. The Point Henry site has contributed billions of dollars to our economy in its time, and I am sure that, as we look to the future, Point Henry will continue to be a vitally important site for Geelong.