‘Show compassion for workers’

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan has encouraged business-owners to exercise compassion when approached by smoke-affected workers for time off.

It comes as authorities work to get a database running early this week, which will connect residents wanting respite with accommodation across Victoria.

Mr Ryan said on Thursday business-owners should have “regard to the reality of what everybody is contending with” and view requests for leave “compassionately”.

“I’d be very confident as a former small business operator that our small business folk here in Morwell will understand that their best asset by far is the people who work with them and they would view such requests accordingly,” Mr Ryan said.

Following on from calls by Premier Denis Napthine earlier last week for families to offer up their holiday homes to Morwell residents, Mr Ryan announced Latrobe City Council would work with Destination Gippsland and Tourism Victoria to establish a central point of access.

“The intention is to develop a system whereby we can have the people who wish to make their homes available register their properties and we can marry them with people who wish to take advantage of the opportunity of some respite,” Mr Ryan said.

He said the State Government would pay for the running of the service and potentially transport out of the area.

“For those able to access the system and need help to get there, I anticipate we would be able to give them help to get there,” Mr Ryan said.

The service is expected to be available early this week.

Mr Ryan said those planning to leave the Morwell area could now register their absence through the Red Cross and police would conduct extra patrols in a bid to prevent an increase in break-ins.

Inquiry announced

The State Government has announced it will launch an independent inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire incident after the situation is brought under control.

While the exact format of the inquiry is unclear, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Ryan said it would ensure all questions being asked by the community regarding regulation of Hazelwood’s mine management and the multi-departmental response to the smoke crisis would be examined.

“The people of Latrobe Valley are entitled to have those answers,” Mr Ryan said.