REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Mill closure more than just a paper cut

Reading this online? Of course you are. But have you considered the consequence? Photo: Shutterstock
Reading this online? Of course you are. But have you considered the consequence? Photo: Shutterstock

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Border Mail editor Xavier Mardling.

SADNESS: Norske Skog workers leave the plant at Albury earlier this month after they were told the mill would cease production by December before assets were handed over to Visy in the first quarter of 2020. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

SADNESS: Norske Skog workers leave the plant at Albury earlier this month after they were told the mill would cease production by December before assets were handed over to Visy in the first quarter of 2020. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

Newton's third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

So it won't come as any great shock to those of you reading this newsletter on a screen - i.e. everyone - that as more and more of us consume our news online, it has an impact on the sustainability of paper mills around the country.

Couple that with soaring energy prices and, while still incredibly tough to swallow, you can see why Norske Skog made the difficult decision to shut down its Albury mill, which has been in operation for more than 38 years.

SPECIAL ROLL: Workers with the one millionth tonne of newsprint to come off the production line at the Ettamogah factory, just north of Albury. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

SPECIAL ROLL: Workers with the one millionth tonne of newsprint to come off the production line at the Ettamogah factory, just north of Albury. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

The sale of the site to Visy means that most of the mill's 180 workers will be out of a job by Christmas and, to reinforce Newton's third law, the closure has Albury-Wodonga transport business Border Express assessing whether any redundancies will occur over the next few months.

That's tough to digest, but let's be clear, news of Visy's purchase isn't all doom and gloom.

The company has a proven track record of investment, as evidenced by its $1.9 billion splash in the US recently, and once the plant has been repurposed for whatever its plans may be, the site is sure to be a job-driving money spinner for the Albury-Wodonga region.

But that could take 18-24 months to come to unfold which means, not for the first time in the past year, Norske Skog workers have been confronted with an incredibly tough situation.

WELL RESPECTED: Floral tributes and messages from the families of Ben Pascall, 28, and Lyndon Quinlivan, 35, were placed outside the workers' entrance to Norske Skog last year. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

WELL RESPECTED: Floral tributes and messages from the families of Ben Pascall, 28, and Lyndon Quinlivan, 35, were placed outside the workers' entrance to Norske Skog last year. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

Last year, Ben Pascall and Lyndon Quinlivan, died in a workplace accident, which left another employee in a critical condition. Another employee was not physically injured in the accident, but died weeks later.

The Albury-Wodonga community wrapped its arms around the mill and its workers then and I'm sure they'll do the same this time around, too.

So whether it's at Visy's existing plant in Wodonga, the Mars Petcare factory just up the road or the recently expanded Seeley International, we need those 180 workers to find another role in our community.

BRIDGE TOO FAR?: The population of Albury-Wodonga could triple to 375,000 people in 20 years as part of a "regional deal" pilot with the federal government, worth millions of dollars. Senator Bridget McKenzie announced the "bold vision" in her televised National Press Club speech, held in Wodonga in March. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

BRIDGE TOO FAR?: The population of Albury-Wodonga could triple to 375,000 people in 20 years as part of a "regional deal" pilot with the federal government, worth millions of dollars. Senator Bridget McKenzie announced the "bold vision" in her televised National Press Club speech, held in Wodonga in March. Picture: THE BORDER MAIL

Earlier this year, Nationals deputy leader Senator Bridget McKenzie told the National Press Club in Wodonga that the Twin Cities could reach a combined population of 375,000 in two decades.

That's roughly triple the number of people we have now. It's a figure that looks good on paper but, without jobs, it's not worth the paper it's printed on.

Xavier Mardling,

Editor, The Border Mail

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