ARARAT - Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu acknowledged the huge impact the stalled Hopkins Correctional Centre expansion project had made on the Ararat community during a visit on Sunday morning.
Mr Baillieu visited the prison site as a follow up to Friday’s announcement of the deal struck with the Commonwealth Bank and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank to restart the project and pay out all contractors owed money.
“I think this has had a very serious effect (on the community) and I think it is obviously the effect of the uncertainty and you can tell that from just talking to anyone locally,” Mr Baillieu said.
“Andrew McIntosh has been here a number of times since the Aegis group foundered and we understand completely the impact this has had on the local community, on the contractors, on the workers.
“Just the sheer uncertainty that obviously comes from the withdrawal of funds that might have otherwise been expected.”
Mr Baillieu and Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh met with Ararat Rural City Mayor, Colin McKenzie and CEO Andrew Evans and some of the contractors on the project at the prison site and discussed Friday’s announcement.
“We believe this project is important, not only to Victoria, but also obviously to the community of Ararat, and particularly to the contractors that have been on site here,” he said.
“There is no doubt this is important to all those who work in this region and the workers who have been party to this contract.
“Obviously the failure, the foundering of the PPP (Public Private Partnership) through Aegis has had a significant impact on this community and a significant impact on the contractors.
“As we announced on Friday this project will now continue, the Commonwealth Bank and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank have now stepped up to take on the key obligations of the Aegis consortium.
“We thank them for that and we look forward to them now working with the local community here and working with the sub-contractors to ensure the valid payments that are due are paid, a contractor is appointed and this proceeds as soon as possible.”
The time frame for contractors to be paid was one of the issues raised by Ararat Rural City Council representative and contractors during discussions with the Premier.
“The Commonwealth Bank have indicated that even in advance of the contractual close, which will now occur over the next couple of weeks, they will take steps to work with the sub-contractors to set up a process for an assessment and validation of those claims and as soon as that is complete the process will begin for the payments to commence,” Mr Baillieu said.
Mr Baillieu said he expected the payment process would occur within in a matter of weeks.
With no work having taken place at the site now for four moths, Mr Baillieu indicated that it was up to the banks when work would start again.
“It is in the banks’ best interests to start this project as soon as possible, I’m not going to go into all the details, but as soon as the work gets underway the better it will be for the banks, the better it will be for everybody,” Mr Baillieu said.
“I will anticipate that the banks will appoint a contractor sooner rather than later and then those processes to reinstate a workforce to re-establish sub-contractors will commence.”
Mr Baillieu acknowledged the past few months had involved a very difficult process.
“I do want to thank the people of this region - The contractors, the workers and all those involved in this project for their patience as we tried to deal with the problem we inherited from our predecessors,” he said.
“This is an important project, it is important for Victoria, it is important to get it back up and running.”