Mining export region dismissed

A VICTORIAN senator and a university academic this week dismissed talk of the Latrobe Valley becoming a mining export region.

In past months the federal and state governments claimed the Valley has a future in coal export.

Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson recently told an international symposium this region could rival Pilbara in its export capacity.

Monash University Business and Economics Professor Stephen King, however, dismissed the claims as “wishful thinking” and said “government belt-tightening” meant any “substantial investment that could transform the Latrobe Valley into a coal export hub is unlikely to be forthcoming”.

In an article in The Conversation, “an independent source of information…from the university and research sector”, Professor King said private industry was “unlikely to fund such a scheme by itself in the absence of proven technology and without export contracts in hand”.

In the same week Federal DLP Senator John Madigan said federal and state ministers were “spruiking coal exports, coal liquefaction and coal to urea” in the Valley, hoping they would be funded by the private industry, in an effort to divert attention away from the lack of any “serious funding commitments to create new industries, new jobs and new skills in the Latrobe Valley”.

Professor King’s article was titled ‘A brown coal export hub? Tell them they’re dreaming!’ while Senator Madigan accused the Federal Government of “hiding behind a perfect storm of bulldust”.

Professor King said the lack of coal export potential did not, however, “spell doom and gloom for the region”.

He said growth in Asia had increased demand for high quality dairy products and continued investment in the Valley’s export dairy industry, already flourishing, was expected to continue. The Valley’s existing electricity transmission infrastructure also meant it had an “economic advantage” for anyone considering new generation investment.

With Melbourne’s population growing and most of its power needs being met by the Valley, Professor King said the carbon tax would ensure new investment in cleaner sources of power and much of this would “occur in and around the Latrobe Valley”.

Senator Madigan called on federal and state governments to address impending “major skills shortage problems and related training matters” so the Valley could retain skilled people to run the state’s power industry in the future.

“When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, I will start taking these people seriously when they stop talking about digging up coal for export and start spelling out how they are going to keep Victoria’s lights on and develop new sustainable industries with real jobs in the Valley,” he said.