In full sup­port of plant

Benalla Ensign - - News -

I am in full sup­port of John Hol­land’s de­ci­sion to build a new precast con­crete plant in Be­nalla.

Sug­ges­tions by La­bor MPs that I am not are com­pletely false.

What I do not sup­port is Daniel An­drews’ flawed plan for the West Gate tun­nel, one of the projects John Hol­land has been sub­con­tracted to sup­ply.

When the an­nounce­ment about the new plant was made the week be­fore last, coun­cil said John Hol­land in­tended to build the plant to sup­ply not just the West Gate tun­nel, but in­fra­struc­ture projects across the east­ern seaboard of Aus­tralia.

The gov­ern­ment says it will pro­vide 400 jobs, although coun­cil doc­u­ments sug­gest up to 230 em­ploy­ees.

As a ma­jor con­struc­tion com­pany, John Hol­land ten­ders for in­fra­struc­ture work all over Aus­tralia and Be­nalla of­fers di­rect ac­cess to the $9.3 bil­lion in­land rail net­work that the Fed­eral Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment is build­ing, which means a plant built here will be able to sup­ply projects in Bris­bane, Syd­ney and Mel­bourne.

Fur­ther­more, the Lib­er­als and The Na­tion­als have al­ready an­nounced $5.5 bil­lion worth of road in­fra­struc­ture projects, with more com­mit­ments to come ahead of the elec­tion.

These are projects that a ma­jor con­struc­tion com­pany like John Hol­land will bid for and which a plant in Be­nalla could sup­ply.

The de­ci­sion to build the plant in Be­nalla is John Hol­land’s, not the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment’s and I have sought a meet­ing with them to dis­cuss their plans.

Dis­ap­point­ingly, how- ever, Daniel An­drews has sought to use these jobs as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball in a much wider de­bate.

For months now, the Lib­er­als and The Na­tion­als have been rais­ing con­cerns about the West Gate tun­nel.

Our con­cerns about the project are three­fold.

Firstly, La­bor went to the last elec­tion promis­ing a $500 mil­lion road that they said was shovel ready.

In­stead, they are now propos­ing to build a road that will cost 12 times that.

Se­condly, de­spite the enor­mity of the project, the project never went to ten­der, but was in­stead done as a sweet­heart deal with Transur­ban, the ma­jor con­trac­tor, be­hind closed doors.

Thirdly, as part of the deal with Transur­ban, the gov­ern­ment has given them the green light to mas­sively in­crease tolls on Ci­tyLink and to ex­tend them for a fur­ther 20 years.

We wrote to the builders last year out­lin­ing our con­cerns about the project and urg­ing them not to in­cur sub­stan­tial costs un­til proper plan­ning pro­cesses were com­plete.

De­spite this, Daniel An­drews went out the week be­fore last and an­nounced the tun­nel any­way, say­ing it would cre­ate 400 jobs in Be­nalla, but know­ing full well that he did not have the re­quired plan­ning ap­provals to un­der­take the tun­nel project.

When they an­nounced the plant, La­bor told re­porters that I would seek to block it in Par­lia­ment, which shows its plan all along has been less about jobs and more about petty wedge pol­i­tics.

We have used Par­lia­ment to seek ad­di­tional doc­u­ments about the project from the gov­ern­ment, so it can be prop­erly scru­ti­nised.

We have also moved to stop La­bor from fund­ing the project by ex­tend­ing tolls on Ci­tyLink be­cause it is un­fair to make Ci­tyLink mo­torists, in­clud­ing peo­ple trav­el­ling to Mel­bourne from our part of the world, to pay for a road they won’t use.

It’s worth not­ing that when Daniel An­drews was asked by re­porters last week whether the project would go ahead, his re­sponse was that he would use any means avail­able.

In short, La­bor wants Mel­bourne peo­ple to be­lieve that the project is go­ing ahead, but you to be­lieve that, be­cause of me, it won’t go ahead.

I know that peo­ple don’t care about these silly po­lit­i­cal games.

I’ll con­tinue to fight for more jobs in Be­nalla and for the in­vest­ment our town needs, like new trains and a new school, but I’m not go­ing to play nasty po­lit­i­cal games that toy with the fu­ture of our town.

Steph Ryan

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