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An electric vehicle factory planned for the Latrobe Valley may create fewer than the 500 jobs promised.
In October 2018, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a deal with the company SEA Electric to build the factory in the marginal seat of Morwell, creating 500 jobs.
But documents released to the ABC under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws showed the government's deal was for 300 jobs in the project's first phase and "up to" 200 additional jobs in stage two, which might not even go ahead.
A description of the project by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources said the 200 extra jobs were subject to stage two proceeding.
The company was yet to secure a site for the factory, despite approaching the Latrobe City Council in September last year for a site in Morwell.
A ministerial briefing paper released to the ABC showed the government expected the company to have "secured and built" a factory site in the Latrobe Valley by December 2019.
A garbage truck, electrified by SEA Electric.(Supplied: SEA Electric)The grant to SEA Electric was made as part of the government's $50 million Latrobe Valley Economic Growth Zone program, set up to create employment following the closure of the Hazelwood power station.
The Regional Development Minister, Jaclyn Symes, whose department oversees the fund, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to questions about the information contained in the FOI documents.
SEA Electric did not respond to a request for comment, but in October last year the company's managing director Tony Fairweather told the ABC the project would create fewer than 500 jobs to start with.
"The opportunity has always been 250 [jobs] to start with. The opportunity, to be frank, down there is significantly greater than that, with an ambition of 500 and maybe up to 1,000," he said.
The 34V model of electric commercial delivery van by Australian-owned vehicle manufacturer SEA Electric.(Supplied: SEA Electric)Workers stood downOn Thursday, May 14, the SEA Electric factory briefly became the focus of a parliamentary inquiry into the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Nationals MP Danny O’Brien told the hearing SEA Electric had stood down some of its existing workers and asked if the government had met all its obligations to the company.
The Jobs Minister, Martin Pakula, told the inquiry "it is the state's position that it has honoured all agreements with that organisation".
Afterwards, SEA Electric confirmed it had temporarily stood down nine assembly workers who went onto JobKeeper.
Concern over scheduleThe independent Member for Morwell Russell Northe said it appeared the project was "a long way behind schedule".
"The facility was supposed to be established, from my understanding, in 2021," Mr Northe said.
"We're now in May 2020 and it seems very, very unlikely given current circumstances that the facility — if it does proceed — will be on the timelines that the government promised some time ago."
The Latrobe City mayor, Dan Clancey, said the council understood the jobs would come in stages.
"We welcome any creation of jobs and certainly SEA Electric look like they're a great company that can sustain into the future," Cr Clancey said.
He said the council had been working with the company for about a year to find an appropriate site for the factory but nothing had been agreed yet.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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