THE political football that is Alstom’s Ballarat-based manufacturing plant was put in the spotlight again on Sunday with the announcement that 12 extra trains would be constructed at the facility.
The announcement all but puts to bed chances the plant could shut as early as next year, with both major parties indicating plans to have trains built at the facility.
The commitment was one of many made at Sunday’s Liberal Party regional campaign launch held in Ballarat, again showing the city’s importance to major parties in the lead-up to this month’s election.
With three marginal seats up for grabs close to Ballarat, Liberal MPs flocked to the Ballarat Lodge for the event to show their support for local candidates.
These MPs were greeted by a large contingent of firefighters and paramedics who booed and chanted at the arrival of a variety of key Liberal Party figures.
Along with the announcement of 12 new X’Trapolis trains to be ordered from the Alstom facility, Premier Denis Napthine said a new rolling stock order would include 75 new suburban trains, 75 new trams and 24 individual V/Locity railcars.
However, this new plan matches Labor’s initiative to increase the local component of any build, with V/Line carriages to be 70 per cent locally made and Metro trains to be 50 per cent locally made.
Dr Napthine also announced a $100 million Regional Cities Infrastructure Program would be created as well as a $75 million youth unemployment strategy which would include help for local businesses who employ young people.
Also announced was a $100 rebate on kindergarten fees for children attending kindergarten in the year before school.
Liberal candidate for Wendouree Craig Coltman said he believed the three seats, Ripon, Wendouree, Buninyong, were keys to winning the election.
Mr Coltman was the first speaker at the event and said in particular the rolling stock announcement was big for Ballarat.
“This commitment to 12 new trains secures Alstom’s future, it is not a shallow promise like Daniel Andrews has come up with,” he said.
Mr Coltman said he believed the 12 new trains would be tagged onto a previous order meaning the company would continue building while preparing to apply for new tenders.
Both ex-premiers Ted Baillieu and Jeff Kennett were in also in attendance at the event.
Despite the announcements Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said she believed Dr Napthine had almost been “shamed” into speaking about Alstom.
“Why didn’t he say 'Alstom' months ago?” she said.
Ms Knight said many of the announcements lacked a Ballarat focus.
“I was kind of waiting to hear what might be announced for Ballarat and I am still waiting,” she said.
“Clearly missing was any mention of TAFE and you cant fix youth unemployment without TAFE.”