THE Andrews Labor Government is determined to export regional Victorian jobs and investment to other states according to Leader of The Nationals Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh.
Horsham’s Australian Plant Proteins – a $20 million investment in Horsham – cannot get any help from the Victorian government.
The company already has blueprints to double its infrastructure investment to $40 million and expand its workforce to at least 50 and beyond that a $130 million expansion into a ‘super centre’ factory within three years.
But has been given the cold shoulder by a government sinking billions of taxpayer dollars into Melbourne-centric projects Mr Walsh said.
“In a community such as Horsham to have a new industry come to town; to deal directly with local farmers and give them a significant new market for pulses and to create that many jobs is a godsend,” he said.
“But now it is all hanging in the balance because the Andrews Government says it doesn’t have the money.”
Mr Walsh said the Coalition established the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) in 2010-2014 with half a billion dollars; and providing the fund with an additional $500 million boost in 2014 for a further four years.
He said Labor continued to run the fund for the next four years “and then stopped the funding in 2019”.
The Andrews Labor Government has not only simply left the RGF a hollow shell – it then slashed another $137 million from its operational budget,” Mr Walsh added.
“Yet Australian Plant Proteins is the perfect example of how some government assistance can turn a promising idea into a success story,” he added.
“Australian Plant Protein chose Horsham as its primary site because of its access to vast cropping are; but the company can just as easily move an hour or two west into South Australia where its management already know they will get support.
“Support because the South Australian Government recognises that helping expand regional business is a rock-solid investment in the whole state’s future.”
Mr Walsh said Australian Plant Proteins is not pie-in-the-sky stuff, it is operational with a proven, Australian made and Australian owned enterprise.
“If there is one harsh lesson to have been learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic it is that we need to bring manufacturing home to Victoria and recapture industry at every level. This will strengthen local businesses and provide more local jobs for local people,” he said.
“The people behind the Horsham business have already made it plain that doing business with the Andrews Labor Government is far from embracing and encouraging.
“Because of that they have already widened their next-stage expansion options to include other broadacre farming states.”
Mr Walsh said The Weekly Advertiser has spelt it out in very clearly “We’re talking about a new Australian international export business ticking all the boxes from regional development to state health and prosperity and ready to supply a hungry market nationally and beyond – a market immune from China trade complications”.
A company spokesman – Phil McFarlane, who grew up on a family farm at Brim – has confirmed while the high-quality plant-based operation wants to remain in Horsham there has been no final decision on the massive super-centre factory’s location.
“Much of that depends on state government interest and support,” Mr McFarlane said.
Mr Walsh said on present responses from the Andrews Government; Australian Plant Proteins “might as well start using the Adelaide Crows colours in its corporate livery”.