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Geelong can recover from Alcoa closure

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A current and a former Victorian premier have backed Geelong’s ability to bounce back, following yesterday’s announcement that the Point Henry Alcoa smelter would close this year.

The closure of the smelter will take an estimated 800 jobs with it, including further losses at an adjacent rolling mill. As well as this, Fairfax notes that 510 jobs will go at Ford’s Geelong plant in 2016, and a possible 500 at Shell in Geelong, which is up for sale.

There have also been recent redundancies or announcements regarding Boral’s Waurn Ponds plant, and Qantas at Avalon airport.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the Point Henry news had been on the cards for some times, and the Geelong economy remained resilient and diverse, and has been in transition for some time. Though these may not be directly relevant to the sacked workers, Napthine pointed to new jobs at Cotton On, the NDIS headquarters and Coles.

“If you expand the number of jobs in the region, if you increase the options and choices, you create the opportunities for workers and their families to have employment in the future," he said, according to Fairfax. "Geelong is a diverse economy, it is a strong economy,” said the premier.

"And Geelong will work through this... We will work with the workers, work with the families, to create new job opportunities for these people."

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten has said that Labor would like the federal government to add $50 million to Geelong’s Regional Innovation Investment Fund, and that the region had been hit by an “industrial asteroid”.

"If [the federal government] won't fight to help retrain workers, if they are stingy with the resources, that is what will hurt Geelong," Shorten said.

According to its council website, Geelong counts manufacturing as its third-biggest employer, behind only health care and retail.

Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett noted that the city had bounced back from shocks worse than the current ones, citing the 1990 collapse of the Pyramid Building Society.

Writing in an editorial for News Corp, Kennett claimed, “we turned the city to face the water through the waterfront development, we used the vacant wool stores to bring Deakin University into the town, we established the world-leading Fibre Centre.”

“Geelong must build on the many good things that are occurring in the city. It is not starting from scratch, but we have to add a new phase to the well-laid plans of the past few years.

“Geelong, you have done it before and you can and will do it again.”

Image: guidetogeelong.com.au

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