Assistance package expected

Treasurer Tim Pallas has assured a substantial assistance package to address the welfare of power station and mine workers in the event of a Hazelwood closure.

During a press conference Mr Pallas said he would not go into the context of his discussions with French utility owner Engie in Paris earlier this month, but acknowledged he had received a “greater level of clarity” about the company’s position.

“The company hasn’t made any final statement as yet, but if we get to the point where they determine that they are not proceeding operations, we would expect a very substantial package of assistance directed to the welfare of the workforce,” Mr Pallas said.

“I wouldn’t imagine that anybody would expect anything less of the government.”

It follows French newspaper Les Echos on Sunday reporting Engie had decided to close down the Valley power station at a meeting between the board and executives after weeks of local business representatives categorically repeating “no decision had been made”.

Mr Pallas said he raised a number of issues with the company ranging from the welfare of the Latrobe Valley, the impact on the cost of energy and operating price and the state’s capacity for adequate energy supply going forward.

“There’s a lot for us to work through, but we can only start the conversation until we get a formal and final position from the company,” Mr Pallas said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said it was “enormously frustrating” that the Treasurer and the state of Victoria had flown to Paris to meet with Engie, but would not reveal the content of the conversations.

“To leave the community further in the dark about what Engie’s plans are, and what the State Government’s plans are is appalling,” Mr Northe said.

The local MP said he had conversations with local representatives at Hazelwood last week, who were similarly in the dark about the company’s position.

“I can only go on what has been conveyed to me, and they’re not even sure if a decision has been made,” Mr Northe said.

Mr Pallas said he understood it was “irritating” the company’s decision was unclear, but it was important the state put forward its concerns for the community and workforce.

“They could not provide, and understandingly will not provide to me whether or not the requisite investment will be made until their board has determined the issue,” he said.

“The discussion was about what the company’s intentions may or may not be and circumstances that may or may not occur.”