Melbourne’s Age newspaper has reported that an election promise by the Victorian Andrews state government, that the Latrobe Valley would become the centre of the Australian electric vehicle manufacturing industry and create 500 jobs, has apparently collapsed.
The Andrew Government announced a deal with electric truck start up, SEA Electric, in the lead up to the 2018 Victorian election, that was to see an electric truck assembly plant established in the Gippsland town of Morwell.
However, The Age earlier this week revealed that SEA Electric wrote to the Government in October asking to terminate the agreement.
The Age said that the deal to set up the Morwell factory has been troubled for years, but that the withdrawal is a “major blow to the Latrobe Valley, which is still recovering from the closure of the Hazelwood mine and power station in 2017, when 750 workers lost their jobs”.
The report said that the Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee heard on Tuesday this week, that the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions was still considering its response.
“The company contacted us in October this year, and advised us they will seek to terminate the grant, and the government is considering that,” Beth Jones, the department’s deputy secretary for rural and regional Victoria told The Age.
The department’s secretary Simon Phemister apparently could not say whether the jobs and project would now go ahead in any form after he was reported to have been pressed by local Nationals MP for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien
“At what point does the government formally announce to the community these 500 jobs are not going ahead?” Mr O’Brien was reported to have asked.
The paper said that SEA Electric was contacted for comment but did not print any response.
The report that the SEA Electric proposal had fallen through came just as the Morrison government detailed its policy on electric vehicles, which saw a significant backflip on its dismissal of electric vehicles in the lead up to the 2019 election.
SEA Electric confirmed to media in March this year that it was yet to it was yet to establish any operations in the Latrobe Valley, and said it could go elsewhere, and that it had returned funding to the Victorian government in frustration.
SEA Electric global president, Tony Fairweather told The Age back in March that the company had returned the funding because it wanted its agreement with the state government to be redrawn.
The Andrews government also expressed frustration saying it had supported SEA Electric to complete the deal.
The report said that Beth Jones told the parliamentary committee that only the company could explain why the deal had not been fulfilled.
“They’re not in a position to fulfil the milestones as agreed,” she said.
“For reasons only the company can answer to, we just have not been able to secure that commitment.”