Government leads focus on industries for the future
The Australian government shares the disappointment of the Geelong community following Alcoa's decision to close its Point Henry Smelter and two rolling mills, according to Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane.
It also understands this is a sad day for the more than 900 affected workers and their families. Macfarlane said while the announcement would be a blow for the local community, it is now more important than ever to progress the government's Economic Review of Victoria, which has been conducting hearings to identify future manufacturing and industry directions for the state, and get rid of cost business burdens like the carbon tax.
"The Australian government has been working with the Victorian government, local businesses, employees and industry groups through this review – hearing firsthand from a range of companies and organisations who are working in emerging, not traditional, business sectors. The draft report of this review panel is due to be considered next week," Macfarlane said.
"A major focus of this panel has been to assess the structural and industry changes needed to allow regional communities like Geelong to absorb the significant transformation underway in manufacturing and industry and to put these regions on the right footing to move into the industries of the future.
"Along with the separate economic panel reviewing manufacturing in South Australia, the submissions to this review process have been positive and show that there are significant strengths in Australian industry.
"In the wake of Alcoa's announcement, and the additional challenges it will present to the Victorian economy, it's now more important than ever that the government gets rid of the red tape, regulation and unnecessary cost burdens that are standing in the way of investor confidence to create new investment and new jobs.
"The government is moving ahead with our plans to get rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax in order to cut business costs. We are also proceeding with our plans to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
"Alcoa raised the alarm about the cost of the carbon tax at its aluminium smelters back in 2011. It has since been forced to wear a very significant carbon liability at its Point Henry smelter.
"It's regrettable that the $40 million spent by the former Labor government to 'help put them on a sustainable footing for the future' according to former minister Greg Combet in June 2012, has not been successful in helping the company beyond July 2014. But this highlights the need for governments to provide the right infrastructure and operating environment in which our companies can grow their competitiveness.
"This government will fight for Australian workers and Australian industry by working to slash costs, encourage new investment and position Australia to capitalise on the industries of the future.
"We will stand with the workers and community in Geelong as they work through this difficult time, not by offering cheap rhetoric and short-term handouts, but by encouraging investor confidence, the opportunity to re-skill and the environment to allow smaller companies to diversify into new and emerging sectors.
"I don't deny the challenge this presents for Geelong. This is not a regional issue; it is part of a global evolution of industry which is causing major changes in 'old world' industry sectors across the globe. But I will fight for this region as it evolves from a traditional industry base to jobs of the future."
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