Northe challenges Premier on Hazelwood

A war of words erupted on the floor of State Parliament today when Member for Morwell Russell Northe attacked Premier Daniel Andrews over his commitment to help workers who will be affected by the closure of Hazelwood.

Mr Northe used the resumption of Parliament today to put a question to the Premier from Hazelwood worker Todd Birkbeck, who travelled to Melbourne to watch the sitting.

Mr Birkbeck, Mr Northe told parliament, was “seriously considering trying to sell up and move at considerable loss”.

“I feel we’ve been misled and let down by our State Government,” Mr Northe asked on Mr Birkbeck’s behalf.

“Workers at Hazelwood don’t want charity, they simply want a job into the future.”

“Premier, Todd is in the gallery today with his wife Michelle and son Tyler. Can you tell Todd and Michelle and Tyler why you didn’t bother fighting for Todd’s job?”

Mr Andrews told Parliament the decision to close was “a decision which has been made by a private company”.

“These are very difficult times and the most appropriate thing for us to do is to support, where appropriate, retraining, counselling, advice and then to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that businesses have every reason to establish and expand in the Latrobe Valley,” he said.

In response, Mr Northe accused the Premier of “talking about things that are happening after a decision”.

“The question was about why didn’t the Premier fight for Todd’s job prior to a decision being made?” he said.

When Mr Andrews resumed he said “the fact of the matter is the company has made a decision”.

“All levels of government have to be less concerned about playing the politics of those opposite and more concerned with standing with the affected workers and the broader Latrobe Valley community,” Mr Andrews said.

“When I was speaking with the Member for Morwell on Friday he wasn’t quite as angry as this.

“Instead, I thought in an act of great leadership made the point to me that we should work together and I said to him that I’m happy to make that commitment, but he crosses the green carpet (into Parliament) and suddenly it’s all about the politics.”

Mr Andrews’ answer drew manager of Opposition business, Box Hill MP Robert Clark, to interject on a point of order and accuse the Premier of “engaging in personal attacks when the local member is seeking answers about questions”.