June 7, 2016: Adjournment debate – PortHaul

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Industry and Employment, and the action I seek is for him to meet with Porthaul, a bulk transport company in Portland, and to assist it in attracting employees to regional Victoria.

On 9 December I asked the former Minister for Employment what the government was doing to assist Porthaul to attract the 56 new employees it needed to meet its operational requirements. The response was that Regional Development Victoria had been working with the business and all recruitment issues had been solved.

I have since been told that this is not the case. The owner, Brian Williamson, tells me he has had no contact from any minister’s office or with any Victorian government department.

Porthaul still has a desperate need for staff. Despite already filling 25 jobs on its own, there are 10 positions vacant right now, and Mr Williamson anticipates that he will need to fill a further 12 positions in the next two to three weeks to meet contract commitments.

Mr Williamson does not want a handout; he just needs a bit of help to find employees and attract them to regional Victoria and perhaps with some training.

The business has already invested in a program to ensure its drivers are well trained — a very necessary part of the job given they are in charge of driving loads of up to 80 tonnes, with the added challenge of navigating the worst roads in Victoria according to VicRoads data. These roads are shared with families, school buses and other people going about their daily business.

With the state government’s promise of 100 000 jobs floundering, I would have thought it would have been bending over backwards to assist. Mr Williamson tells me the South Australian government has been more than willing to assist, already helping him to fill five positions.

The South Australian government has been so helpful that Mr Williamson is now seriously considering relocating his business across the border to Mount Gambier. That would see more than 100 jobs ripped from Portland and Victoria and planted in South Australia, putting another dent in the government’s promise.

With Portland Aluminium receiving the bad news from the Treasurer that he will not help it, thus putting 2000 direct and indirect jobs at risk, another employer leaving the city is the last thing anyone wants.

I would imagine a growing business exiting regional Victoria and taking away more jobs is the last thing the government would want. The action I seek is for the minister to meet with Porthaul and discuss with it ways to assist to ensure this strong and important local business remains based in Portland and Victoria.