Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood has used debate in the Victorian Parliament to highlight the true impact of the closure of Hazelwood on the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland and wider Victorian community.
Mr Blackwood said the closure of Hazelwood would have far reaching impacts on public and private sectors who have had access to reliable readily available base load power for generations and warned that Victoria could lose its competitive advantage against other states in a number of industries.
‘Hazelwood provides power that is critical to the operation of business, in particular those that depend on reliable, consistent and cost-effective electricity supply 24/7,’ Mr Blackwood said.
‘The economy of Victoria has for years been underpinned by the energy of the Valley.
Our manufacturing sector, dairy farming, sawmilling, heavy and light industrial enterprises and our metropolitan train system, to name a few, have all enjoyed reliable, consistent and cost-effective energy at the flick of a switch and that has given Victorian businesses a massive competitive edge in the marketplace.
‘The influence and impact of the economic benefit of the power industry is felt across so many communities in Gippsland, far beyond the boundaries of Traralgon, Morwell and Moe.
Mr Blackwood said businesses across his electorate of Narracan relied on cost-effective power from Hazelwood and the closure would increase costs at a time when business can least afford it.
‘Gippsland Precision Engineering, a local Warragul family business established by Garry Olsson more than 23 years ago, has been providing fabrication services to Hazelwood, which had grown to represent 95 per cent of his business activity.
‘Gary started with four employees and gradually expanded and grew to employ 20. Over the last two years Hazelwood has reduced its maintenance spend to almost nothing and Gippsland Precision Engineering now employs only three, and closure of this family business is imminent.
Mr Blackwood was also critical of the lack of intervention by the Andrews Labor Government in the past two years to assist a reasonable staged closure of Hazelwood highlighting the increased coal royalties which had been imposed as well as the impact on policy by extreme groups such as the Greens who had no real understanding of industry within the Valley.
‘There is no doubt that the Andrew’s Government decision to increase coal royalty by $252 million per year, which has ripped $20 million from the bottom line of Hazelwood, has a direct hit on the future of Gippsland Precision Engineering and the employment opportunities of boilermakers and other tradespeople right across Gippsland.
‘Perhaps the Treasurer could have seen fit to discuss (with Engie) the future energy needs of Victoria. The Treasurer has publically stated that he did not ask Engie to keep Hazelwood open.
‘Most genuine, sane-thinking, business-minded people would have raised the option of keeping Hazelwood open to allow a timely transition to closure.
‘Perhaps the opportunity could have been grabbed to suggest a set time frame of, say, five years, which may have given governments time to actually encourage the establishment of new businesses in the Valley or relocation of others to the Valley.
‘I would have thought it entirely appropriate to discuss the opportunities for a new power station, a power station that would provide baseload power and real jobs and would employ a workforce that is already trained up, experience and ready to go.
‘But, no; because that would have upset the Greens. So bugger the Valley and its workers, and who cares about future demand for baseload.
‘No, it wouldn’t have made sense at all to play to the strengths of the Valley and build on its reputation as skilled, reliable and experienced workforce while utilising a coal resource in tandem with new technology that would deliver baseload power from a modern power station 50 per cent cleaner than Hazelwood.
Mr Blackwood said that the Valley was a very resilient community that does not deserve to have key investment and job opportunities taken away from it by a city centric Andrews Labor Government who rely on Greens preferences to retain suburban Melbourne seats.
‘Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley can’t afford to have job and investment opportunities ripped away by ideological activists who have no regard for the region beyond their own closure crusade.
‘Premier Andrews will be remembered as the premier that turned his back on securing the future energy needs of Victoria and the Premier that sold out the workers of the Valley for his own political gain,’ said Mr Blackwood.