Heyfield Mill

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - 12:00pm
Speaker:
Samantha Dunn

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development. Can the minister confirm that the government will be purchasing the Heyfield mill with four individuals as co-owners — namely, Vince Hurley, CEO of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods; Daniel Wright, sales and marketing manager at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods; Garry Henthorn, engineering manager at the mill; and Anthony Wilkes, mill supervisor-bench operator at the mill — and can the minister confirm that these individuals have not been able to secure financing from any bank so the state government is lending each individual $1 million to buy their share of the mill?

Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — I thank Ms Dunn for her question. The government is determined to provide the best possible outcome for employees at Heyfield. We have been working with management and the owners of the mill. A couple of months ago we announced that we had an in-principle agreement with the owners, the Hermal Group, to purchase the mill. The management group certainly will continue to have a future in the mill. I am certainly happy to concede I do not know much about running a mill, but the management group certainly do. The arrangements, though, are still being finalised. These are matters that are the subject of ongoing discussion and final due diligence checks. We are very confident in being able to finalise these arrangements soon, but the information that Ms Dunn specifically seeks is a matter of confidential commercial negotiations. I think the question is fundamentally unhelpful for us trying to bring these matters to a resolution, and I am not in a position to provide further detail on Ms Dunn’s question.

Supplementary question

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — I thank the minister for her answer. Minister, can you confirm that in addition to the four individual buyers the state government will be assuming all debts of the mill, including any potential redundancies at that mill?

Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — I thank Ms Dunn for her further question. As I have indicated, this is a mill that was to be closing. This is a mill that the current owners have indicated to their staff on a number of occasions they would be closing. The mill is now not closing because of the government’s intervention. Members in this chamber, perhaps aside from the community of Heyfield, would be the most informed people about this, as it has been the subject of a great deal of debate and interest in this chamber. I will not labour the point again. You all know the circumstances very well. We have a company that had been promised a timber supply that was completely unreasonable — precious unavailable resources — put in place by the former government, which created a real pinch point for the mill at Heyfield. The owners said the mill would close. That was not an acceptable outcome for our government. We announced —

The PRESIDENT — The minister’s time has expired.