The truth about LVA funding

One step forward, two steps back: Funding has been provided for the Latrobe Valley Authority to again run the Ladder Step Up program. However, the state government has attracted criticism after it was revealed most of the money allocated to the LVA in the state budget will go toward LVA operational costs and staff wages. File photograph



THE Parliamentary Inquiry into budget estimates found that the Latrobe Valley Authority’s $7.2 million in funding allocated in the 2023-24 state budget would almost entirely go toward operational costs and its 32 fulltime employees.

There has been major confusion over the proposed state government’s $7.2 million in funding for the Latrobe Valley Authority announced in last month’s state budget.

During extensive questions by Members of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s inquiry into the 2023-24 state budget estimates, Member for Eastern Victoria and Minister for Regional Development Harriet Shing revealed how funding for the LVA was mainly for operational costs.

Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, during his question time as a member of the inquiry committee, asked if the entire $7.2 million dollars would go to LVA staffing costs.

Beth Jones, CEO of Regional Development Victoria, said, “Not fully, Mr O’Brien, the $7.2 (million) is largely for staff wages, but it also includes some program funding for the Ladder Step Up program and for the transition program.”

The state budget papers indicated that the funding would continue the Latrobe Valley Authority’s (LVA) operations, support the management of the economic transition, identify future opportunities through a transition plan and facilitate business concierge services specific to the Latrobe Valley.

Funding is also provided for the Ladder Step Up program to provide employment support for young people in the Latrobe Valley and for the Inclusive Employment Program delivery by the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council. This investment will mitigate the impacts of industry closures and ensure that communities and workers have the required skills and support to capture emerging opportunities in future growth sectors.

When Mr O’Brien asked if any grant funding was left within the LVA, Ms Shing responded that other grants were available.

After constant questioning from Mr O’Brien, it was later revealed by Ms Shing and Ms Jones that $6.47 million of the total funding will be allocated to staffing and overall operational costs, leaving $730,000 left to fund the proposed projects.

Ms Jones explained that the $6.47 million was for “Overheads; there’s a range of operational costs, costs of buildings, costs of vehicles, so it’s encompassing all those things.”

Ms Jones also disclosed that 32 fulltime Latrobe Valley Authority employees were based in the Latrobe Valley and that the LVA was “by Gippslanders for Gippslanders,” Ms Shing added.

Mr O’Brien offered a staunch criticism of the Latrobe Valley Authority, stating there has been constant motherhood statements from the LVA regarding a transition but no real action.

“They’ve got a draft of the transition plan out, and there are no recommendations, no concrete actions, it talks about a vision … it’s motherhood stuff,” he said.

Mr Shing was quick to defend the LVA stating, “Transition is difficult; the transition has been incredibly challenging for the Latrobe Valley and for Gippsland more broadly.”

Nationals Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron in a press statement slammed the state government, saying its decisions again left Latrobe Valley residents behind.

“The true extent of the rort that is Daniel Andrews’ Latrobe Valley Authority has been exposed,” he said.

“This proves the Latrobe Valley Authority is nothing but a glorified shop front set-up by Labor to give the illusion they care about the Latrobe Valley and its future when nothing could be further from the truth.

“The LVA was meant to help the Valley deal with the economic fallout of the closure of Hazelwood, but we have seen very little in the way of deliverables or evidence to suggest it has helped in any way.

“I’m sure the Andrews Labor government was hoping it could just shut up shop at the LVA, but I, for one, won’t sit idly by and watch this government dish out another blow to the Latrobe Valley.”

Mr Cameron suggested the economic setbacks will persist in the Valley because of the state government’s ill-funding arrangements.

“Daniel Andrews has killed off Maryvale’s white paper production and hundreds of jobs with it; he has failed to deliver on major promises including the electric vehicle manufacturing plant and food manufacturing precinct; he has shut down the timber industry; and now he is lining the pockets of office staff with money that should be spent on ensuring the Latrobe Valley can grow and prosper,” he said.

“The Labor government’s ill-conceived and vague plan for helping the Latrobe Valley transition is an absolute sham, and at a time when the region needs real support, we instead have a government that is all smoke and mirrors and no substance.”

The Express reached out to a government spokesperson for comment, who remained tight-lipped about how the LVA funding would be allocated; they simply stated that the state government remained supportive of the Latrobe Valley workers, families and the community.

“We’ve made a record investment of more than $2 billion which includes programs and support delivered by the Latrobe Valley Authority and created an additional 4000 jobs across the region since 2014,” they said.

“The Victorian Budget 2023/24 includes $7.2 million for the Latrobe Valley Authority to continue its important work in the region. This includes delivery of the Ladder Step Up program and Inclusive Worker Transition program, along with ongoing support for the region’s transition.”

Giving reference to the fact that over the past year, the LVA has been developing a Latrobe Valley Transition Plan to ensure that the region is prepared for industry transition.

The plan will focus on strategies for economic diversification and employment growth.