Lack of transition plan a concern for Greens candidates

Federal Greens candidates in Gippsland have criticised the Federal Government budget’s failure to include a transition plan away from fossil fuels, a continued tax for seasonal backpacker workers and cuts to Centrelink.

Greens candidate for Gippsland Ian Onley said the Latrobe Valley was one of Australia’s power houses and had a bright future in renewable energy, but there was no plan to transition from the current energy market.

It follows the State Government announcing $40 million for the region’s transition in the form of a Morwell Hi-Tech precinct aimed at attracting growth and industry.

Greens leader and Senator Richard Di Natale and Member for Melbourne Ellen Sandell also visited Morwell last month to discuss the party’s ‘Renew Australia’ plan for a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, with the community.

Mr Onley said following the Paris climate summit, there would be an international carbon trading scheme, ‘like it or not’.

“Energy is a key to our prosperity and we have enormous natural advantages in renewables. If we don’t seize our opportunities and embrace the future, we will fall behind,” Mr Onley said.

The Gormandale biodynamic egg farmer also hit out at the Federal Government’s backpacker tax, which places a 32.5 per cent rate on every dollar earned by working holidaymakers from 1 July.

Mr Onley said the backpacker tax represented little in government revenue and would hurt tourism and farmers in Gippsland who rely heavily on backpackers for seasonal work.

“The backpacker tax hasn’t been abandoned. These workers are really important to farmers and tourism in our area, especially for seasonal work,” Mr Onley said.

Greens candidate for McMillan Donna Lancaster said she was concerned how the cuts to the Centrelink service would affect McMillan residents, with so many accessing childcare payment rebates, aged pensions and parental leave schemes.

The department is set to lose about 810 staff next year and savings in the order of half a billion dollars.

With an increasing concern for jobs in the area, Ms Lancaster said cuts to the ‘safety-net service’ would not help residents.

“The staff are already under great pressure and with cuts to the phone services, increasing pressure will be put on staff at walk-in centres,” Ms Lancaster said.

“I am concerned not just for those trying to access services, but the staff’s welfare as they deal with increasingly frustrated customers.”