It’s heartening to see politicians from both parties jumping on board the council’s efforts to secure the Coles Distribution Centre in Goulburn.
For a moment there, we thought it was getting political between Goulburn MP Pru Goward and Labor candidate for the seat, Dr Ursula Stephens. In truth, Dr Stephens only fielded calls from concerned employees and called for a coordinated strategy over the next five years.
Both have workers and their futures at heart and Ms Goward is right – it shouldn’t be a political football.
We think forces can combine to glean more information on Coles’ reasons to close the centre by 2023. Not only that, it will be an ideal opportunity to promote Goulburn as a site for an automated DC. But as we said in this space on Monday, robotics will increasingly play a role in the freight and logistics sector. Just how many jobs would it mean if we were to secure a Coles facility?
It doesn’t mean we can’t try but the tentative meeting date in the week starting November 19 is notable. Coles hopes to complete its de-merger from Wesfarmers at an annual general meeting on November 15. By then its intentions will surely be endorsed by shareholders and it may be a lost cause to convince them otherwise.
But we a also wonder how far down the track they really are. Workers were only told of the plan on Friday. No consultation has taken place and greenfield sites have not been selected.
Wesfarmers CEO Rob Scott told the AFR that Coles had been considering the investment in automation for four or five years. Asked why Coles hadn’t made the investment before the de-merger, he said the timing had been entirely driven by the chain.
In summary, there’s much to play out yet. At least we have a seat at the table.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack talked up the importance of regional development in his visit this week.
We’ve seen some big dollars flow into our region from federal grants but it wasn’t always the case. It was the coalition government after all that froze Financial Assistance Grants to councils for several years, hindering their ability to provide infrastructure. The State too has been a late comer to the party.
They appear to be on the same page now, at least in this region. Let’s hope the effort will secure some real gains.