Tun­nel de­bate erupts

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

Vic­to­ria’s La­bor gov­ern­ment has ac­cused State Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan of putting Be­nalla jobs at risk by voic­ing her party’s po­si­tion in op­pos­ing the West­gate Tun­nel project.

Last week Vic­to­rian Roads and Road Safety Min­is­ter Luke Don­nel­lan vis­ited Be­nalla to an­nounce a $60 mil­lion con­crete man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, which will cre­ate 400 lo­cal jobs.

The fac­tory, which will be op­er­ated by the John Hol­land group, will sup­ply the West­gate Tun­nel project as its first con­tract.

Vic­to­rian In­dus­try and Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Ben Car­roll said Steph Ryan was putting pol­i­tics be­fore jobs and needed to stand up to the Lib­er­als and put peo­ple first.

‘‘This reck­less move to stop the West Gate Tun­nel is putting 400 jobs in Be­nalla on the line,’’ Mr Car­roll said.

How­ever, Ms Ryan said La­bor was just play­ing cheap pol­i­tics and the Na­tion­als op­pos­ing the tun­nel would have no af­fect on the planned fa­cil­ity and the jobs it would of­fer.

‘‘We will be go­ing to the (Novem­ber) elec­tion with a full in­fra­struc­ture agenda, which the plant pro­posed by John Hol­land will be able to sup­ply,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘We have al­ready an­nounced a $5.5 bil­lion pro­gram of in­ter­sec­tion re­moval works, a project which John Hol­land will un­doubt­edly bid for,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture com­pa­nies like John Hol­land reg­u­larly ten­der for gov­ern­ment work.

‘‘They do not build plants like these for one project.

‘‘I think it is fan­tas­tic that John Hol­land have recog­nised the value of the skilled work­force Be­nalla can pro­vide and the ben­e­fits we have been sell­ing for years: namely that we have a fan­tas­tic con­nec­tion to road and rail to de­liver precast con­crete for projects in re­gional Vic­to­ria, Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

‘‘The com­pany’s de­ci­sion to build here has noth­ing to do with Daniel An­drews and that is demon­strated by the fact that they have said — ir­re­spec­tive of the West Gate Dis­trib­u­tor — there will be 300 on­go­ing jobs at the plant. ‘‘It’s great that Daniel An­drews is sud­denly con­cerned about jobs in our com­mu­nity af­ter do­ing noth­ing for the past three years, but it is ab­so­lutely shame­ful that he and his cronies are will­ing to use them as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball.’’

There is no doubt the West­gate Tun­nel project is the cat­a­lyst for the new con­crete man­u­fac­tur­ing plant be­ing built in Be­nalla, it is also true that the fa­cil­ity will not ex­ist solely for that rea­son.

How­ever, the speed it is be­ing built and the tim­ing of those 400 jobs be­ing cre­ated is most likely a di­rect re­sult of the con­tract to sup­ply the West­gate Tun­nel project.

The lock­ing of horns and mud­sling­ing be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties is no doubt at least partly due to the fact we are in an elec­tion year with each cham­pi­oning their own poli­cies and projects over the other.

Luck­ily for Be­nalla the re­al­ity is that the con­crete fac­tory is be­ing built and re­gard­less of who holds sway in the Vic­to­rian Par­lia­ment it will be in a posi- tion to ten­der for fu­ture projects.

Whether the Lib­eral Na­tion­als will be suc­cess­ful in block­ing the West­gate Tun­nel project is still up for de­bate, and if they do, how it might af­fect the short­term suc­cess of the Be­nalla fa­cil­ity and the jobs it can of­fer is any­one’s guess.

One thing is for sure, be­tween now and the Novem­ber state elec­tion we are likely to see in in­crease in an­i­mos­ity be­tween the ma­jor par­ties, and each will no doubt have an opin­ion on any project the other puts for­ward.

Right: State Mem­ber for North­ern Vic­to­ria Ja­clyn Symes was joined in Be­nalla last week by Vic­to­rian Roads and Road Safety Min­is­ter Luke Don­nel­lan to an­nounce the new con­crete man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. Also pic­tured, Be­nalla Ru­ral City Mayor Don Firth and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Tony McIl­roy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.