PM comes under fire

FEDERAL Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has lambasted Prime Minister Julia Gillard over comments apparently suggesting a possible Latrobe Valley power station closure would not necessarily result in job reductions.

During Federal Parliament question time last Thursday, Mr Chester quoted concerns by Energy Brix worker Angelo Gaudiano about his livelihood amid a possible closure of the power station.

“Blue-collar workers like Angelo Gaudiano stand to lose their jobs under the contract for closure policy,” Mr Chester said in parliament.

However in response Ms Gillard said Mr Chester was “making assumptions” about possible outcomes of the contract for closure process.

“I would say to the member that he cannot make assumptions about what might flow from the tender process,” Ms Gillard said.

Speaking to The Express on Friday, Mr Chester said he was “deeply disappointed” with Ms Gillard’s response.

“Her answer indicates how out of touch she is with reality .. there’s no possible way to shut down 2000 megawatts of coal fired generation in Australia without costing hundreds of jobs,” Mr Chester said.

However he conceded Ms Gillard’s comment could have reasonably been interpreted in another way; that the contract for closure process had “run off the rails” and it had no guarantee of being finalised.

“Either way the uncertainty is killing confidence in regional communities like ours, where hard workers just want the Prime Minister to be honest with them.”

This comes after further claims emerged last week by industry sources the government’s ‘contract for closure’ commitment could prove too costly to pursue, after (reports of) bullish negotiations between generators and the government.

A decision for the contract for closure process, for which Hazelwood, Yallourn and Energy Brix have applied, is due on 30 June.