Nationals candidate for Morwell Sheridan Bond says a new high efficiency low emissions brown-coal fired power station would fix the Latrobe Valley's "high rate of unemployment".
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this week revealed the Latrobe Valley recorded a 0.5 per cent rise in the unemployment rate in the last 12 months – up to 7.7 per cent compared to July last year.
The data for the unemployment rate shows a slight increase in the unemployment rate over the past year, however, is lower than the unemployment rate was two years ago in July 2016 at nine per cent.
Ms Bond told The Express the state government's jobs initiative "hasn't worked thus far" and said a lack of incentives for new businesses to set up in the Latrobe Valley was to blame.
However, Labor member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing dismissed Ms Bond's comments and said the data "indicates very clearly" there had been an increase in employment across the region since the Labor government was elected.
"Obviously the rate has increased so whatever initiatives [the state government] is taking hasn't stopped the increase of the unemployment rate in the Valley," Ms Bond said.
"I suppose there is not enough incentive for business investment in the Valley at the moment and what we're seeing at the moment is the rolling impact of the closure of Hazelwood continuing."
Ms Bond said the government had not gone far enough to secure further investment in the Latrobe Valley since it was elected in 2014.
"The Coalition have a policy to establish a new low emissions high efficiency energy plant which would therefore create jobs and signal confidence in the region which would in turn create further business investment," Ms Bond said. "It's yet to be seen whether there is interest in investment in a low emissions high efficiency power station ... [but] if the policy settings aren't there, it's not worth talking to companies to invest in the Valley."
But Ms Shing slammed Ms Bond's remarks and said the "Nationals love to complain but when it comes to developing solutions and tackling long-term transition, they're nowhere to be found".
"We are absolutely determined to reduce unemployment and to grow local job opportunities and although unemployment figures indicate an increase in unemployment we have also created more than 4900 jobs since we took office," Mr Shing said.
"We've also seen a corresponding increase in labour market participation which has contributed to an increase in the unemployment rate.
"The claims that our job creation initiatives are not working is simply wrong. Through the Economic Facilitation Fund we've created more than 930 new jobs and we've driven more than $87 million of private investment into the region."