Push to spend royalties here

EASTERN Victoria upper house MP Harriet Shing has responded to calls for brown coal royalties to be spent in the region by highlighting the State Government’s investment in the Latrobe Valley.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan on Thursday issued a statement calling for the State Government to set up a fund which would allow brown coal royalties to be spent in the region.

In last year’s May budget, the government announced it would triple brown coal royalties, with the new rate kicking in on 1 January this year and expected to raise $252 million over four years.

But Ms Shing said the government was already investing in the region.

“What we’ve seen across the board is a well-considered, planned and beneficial investment in skills and training, education, infrastructure and jobs across a variety of industries and sectors,” she said.

“As the local representative for the State Government I will continue to do that work to make sure that Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley gets as much revenue and financial support as we possibly can to continue the momentum we’ve seen start to take root in the Valley in recent times.”

Cr O’Callaghan’s call for the State Government to spend more in the region came on the eve of Premier Daniel Andrews’ visit on Friday, where he announced an $85 million sports infrastructure package for the Latrobe Valley.

He also announced a $20 million worker transfer scheme, which will offer early retirements at other Latrobe Valley power stations to create positions for Hazelwood workers who will lose their jobs on 31 March.

Both announcements were funded out of the government’s $266 million Hazelwood transition package.

In her statement, Cr O’Callaghan said she was “determined that the Latrobe City community sees their fair share” of the increased revenue.

“It is our community who for generations have lived alongside the open cut coal mines; along with the fugitive dust, varying air quality and other impositions that come with it,” she said in her statement.

“And while we support the utilisation of the plentiful coal deposit, it seems a fair exchange for the state to acknowledge ongoing contribution by returning the royalties to support a just transition.”

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the proposal “certainly has some merit particularly if you’re not already investing in other programs in the region”.

“Unless you’ve had those sorts of programs running consistently, the merit of having those royalties invested back into the Latrobe Valley region makes sense,” Mr Northe said.

“It’s not dissimilar to the Regional Growth Fund (established by the previous Coalition government), it’s not dissimilar to the Royalties for the Regions program in Western Australia.”