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Nationals challenge Labor over Maryvale mill paper problems

Martin Cameron and Melina Bath at Opal Maryvale Mill

The Nationals Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron has challenged the Andrews Labor Government over the possible permanent closure of Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale white paper mill. Source: Timberbiz

Mr Cameron used his first opportunity in State Parliament last week to question the recently installed Minister for Manufacturing Sovereignty Ben Carroll over the closure.

“I asked the Minister why the government was sitting by while Opal’s white paper mill and production line was now sitting idle and facing permanent closure due to a lack of timber supply,” Mr Cameron said.

“This situation has resulted in 200 Latrobe Valley jobs under threat with many workers already stood down and it is the result of deliberate Labor Government policy.

“Labor has failed to act to address ongoing green lawfare in the courts which has dried up short-term timber supply as well as Labor’s policy to shut down the native timber industry in the medium term.

“This is a disaster for those workers and their families at the mill as well as the wider community and indeed our nation.”

ABC Gippsland reported last week that the Nippon Paper Group, which is one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies and the owner of Opal Australia, was due to make a decision on the future of the line last week.

Continuing problems obtaining hardwood timber was blamed for the temporary closure of the line. VicForests has been unable to supply suitable timber since late last year as protracted litigation has stopped VicForests from meeting some of its contracts. The Maryvale Mill emptied its stockpile of hardwood and was forced to close the white paper line.

Opal issued a statement saying that it is considering the potential future closure of its white side operations at the Maryvale mill. Timberbiz contacted Opal to ascertain whether a statement on the mill’s future would be made this week, but the company was unable to confirm or deny it.

However, the company said in a recent statement that it would be consulting extensively with its Maryvale team members, but no decisions have been made to date.

Mr Cameron said it was ironic that Labor had announced a Minister for Manufacturing Sovereignty and was now overseeing the closure of one of the State’s successful manufacturing businesses.

“There are no other manufacturers of white copy paper in the country and the result of this decision will be more imports from places that don’t have the environmental regulations in place that we do,” he said.

Mr Cameron said the Minister’s answer barely even addressed the issue, ranging from support to industry during the pandemic to sprouting the government’s SEC policy.

“The Minister then gave no guarantees of ongoing support for the affected workers and tried to sell Labor’s timber policy as something positive,” he said.

“This is not good enough – we need the government to act and actually deliver the timber that the government is obliged to supply to this mill and save these jobs.

“I am very disappointed in the Minister’s answer, and I will keep fighting to save these jobs and look after the workers at Maryvale.”