Governments consumed in war over Hazelwood coverage

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Accusations the Victorian Government is responsible for the closure of Hazelwood have drawn fire from Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who has accused the Federal Government of engaging in a “big blame game”.

Mr Shorten took aim at the Federal Government’s response while speaking to the media during a visit to Moe engineering firm Safetech on Monday.

The Opposition leader’s comments follow criticism from state and federal Coalition figures that measures in the state budget to increase coal royalties by 300 per cent were responsible for Engie’s decision to close the plant.

Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and State Opposition leader Matthew Guy were among politicians to take to social media to blame the closure on the Andrews Government.

Mr Shorten disagreed with the assessment.

“What has caused the closure of Hazelwood is a range of matters, not the least of which is the multi-national owner has decided that it’s cheaper and easier to close the plant than keep it running,” he said.

“Now, it’s been on the cards that Hazelwood would close but I think the workforce had a reasonable expectation that the eight units would be closed two units at a time and that it wouldn’t all just happen in March of next year.”

Mr Shorten took aim at the size of the Federal Government’s assistance package for the Latrobe Valley, which offered $43 million in comparison to the State Government’s $266 million.

He said the State Government package was “superior” to what had been offered by the Federal Government.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester rejected the comments and said Mr Shorten lacked credibility on the issue following his support for the carbon tax during the Gillard Government.

“It’s disappointing that Mr Shorten is seeking to make political points at a time when I’m completely focused on the jobs of local workers and the broader impact on the community,” he said.

“Mr Shorten’s Federal Labor policy was to shut Hazelwood five years ago – anything he says now about the future of power generation in the Latrobe Valley seems very empty.”

He said the Federal Government funding would be spent after “close consultation with the community”.

“I’m determined to make sure we get the maximum value from these federal funds,” Mr Chester said.

“In addition to that money I’m working as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to see what other projects can be brought forward in Gippsland/Latrobe Valley.”