Give coal royalties to the Valley: Burgess

Bryce Eishold

Coal royalties from Latrobe Valley generators could help “empower the people of the Valley” under a proposal by independent candidate for Morwell Ray Burgess.

The Morwell businessman has called on both major parties to back a plan to establish a Future Latrobe Valley Fund.

The fund would administer 30 per cent of coal royalties from Latrobe Valley generators to help improve the region’s economic status, creating about $30 million a year to be spent on Latrobe Valley projects.

Funding for the proposal would come from money paid to the state government by power station owners.

The royalty cost is 22.8 cents per gigajoule of energy under the existing rate.

Under the plan, a board of local business people and engineers “with the skills to bring industry to the Valley” would be elected to oversee the fund.

Mr Burgess described it as “a share of the wealth generated by those who live and work here” and said the fund’s main purpose would be to attract industry investment and growth to the Valley.

He said the organisation would likely become an incorporated association, meaning business owners with an ABN would be eligible to join the body to vote in a board to oversee the fund.

“My vision is mainly economic … but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t attend to other areas of community life like maybe some social welfare-type things,” Mr Burgess told The Express.

“This strategy is an economic strategy and the people administrating the fund, on the board, would be charged with bringing economic development to the Valley.

“At the moment it would need to be businesspeople, they would need to have an ABN or run a business at the very least because we feel big decisions about our future are being made independently from us.”

The proposal is similar to that of Latrobe City’s Strength-Led Transition plan which outlines a proposal to create a Brown Coal Royalties Investment Fund.

The fund focuses on securing a portion of royalties paid to the state government by the mining companies with the intention to increase job growth in Latrobe City.

One of the first tasks the fund would consider implementing, according to Mr Burgess, would be the establishment of 128 apprenticeships for young people “to give them some hope” – with funding for the positions to be made available through the fund.

Mr Burgess estimates the program for new apprenticeships would cost $5 million a year.

However, it is unclear what the apprenticeships would specialise in or how students would be selected to take part in the program.

“We need to have people that are experienced and have a good network of contacts and a record of success in business,” Mr Burgess said.

“We would have some technical people that would help oversee the technical merits of the activities.

“It’s quite clear that the government would still be responsible for main health and wellbeing ideas, this fund wouldn’t be for those sorts of undertakings. This is a prosperity-driven idea based on economic growth.”