Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says “cheap power means jobs”, and renewable energy is not cheap.

Mr Joyce and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten visited communities around the Hazelwood power station this week.

Hazelwood is one of the nation’s least efficient and highest-polluting facilities, and has been slated to close in March 2017. The closure will result in the loss of about 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Gippsland region, and has been picked up as a political tool by both sides of the federal arena.

Mr Joyce said Victoria needed cheap base load power, and should not become overly reliant on renewable energy, like he believes South Australia has.

“Cheap power means you've got jobs. The way to get cheap power is base load power supply,” Mr Joyce said.

“You can't just pull that out [Hazelwood] without there being the creation of uncertainty, especially for industry.

“I would love to hear Bill's story about what he was going to do for jobs in the region.

“I look at the bloke and I can't see someone who has actually gone out in the sun and done a day's work.”

Mr Shorten met with Hazelwood power station workers, backing union calls for volunteer redundancies at all Victorian power stations.

“They've put forward that view that volunteers for redundancy should be called for across the power industry, and some of those who want to keep working in the power industry from Hazelwood could fill the vacancies from some of those other plants,” he said.

“This is where government comes in. You've got to lead, not follow. I think the Government has to sit down and talk to the generators.

“If you are operating a power generator, and you've got someone you know who is approaching retirement … and you know that down the road there's another bloke, or another woman, who … is very committed to working in the industry, why wouldn't you want to try and have a system which allocated the people who want to keep working in the industry for another couple of decades?”

Mr Joyce pointed to Federal Government projects in the region - including the Princes Highway duplication, the Port of Sale redevelopment, and an upgrade to Macalister Irrigation District infrastructure - as a sign that the Commonwealth is helping.

He visited the Macalister Demonstration Farm near Maffra, to confirm a $20 million upgrade package for the irrigation district.

The funds will be used to replace open channels with pipelines to reduce evaporation.

“It will produce about 200 jobs as they build it and 100 ongoing jobs after that,” Mr Joyce said.

“If we have a strong agricultural sector, and that is based on water infrastructure … we can deliver greater prosperity into the district into the future and try and mitigate some of the effects this is having, especially with the closure of Hazelwood.”