The Victorian Greens ongoing campaign to close Hazelwood Power Station has been served a formidable hand after the party gained unprecedented political power at the state election.
However, Greens leader Greg Barber has backed away from “blocking supply” of legislation through parliament’s upper house to force the station’s 2015 decommission.
“We’re not going to be talking about holding policies to ransom here, however this is a terribly important issue we will be pushing come next year,” Mr Barber said.
The powerful position comes after the declaration of electoral results by the Victorian Electoral Commission yesterday, which saw the Greens take five upper house seats, up from a previous record of three seats in the last two terms.
However, the result falls short of the seven required by the party to hold ‘balance of power’; with the remainder of upper house seats going to the Coalition (16), Labor (14) and minor parties (five).
During the election campaign the Greens announced it would push for Hazelwood’s closure in 2015 if it won balance of power in the lower or upper house at the November election. The ambitious policy also targeted the retirement of the Yallourn and Loy Yang B power stations by 2023, while implementing a “jobs rich” program of station decommissioning and mine rehabilitation.
“While we don’t technically have the balance of power, the numbers mean no bill will pass the parliament without Greens or Coalition support,” he said.
“I can assure you we will be using this position to ensure one of the most important issues in the state right now is put firmly back on the government’s agenda.”
Mr Barber marked the possible future closure of Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter as a critical moment which he said will only jeopardise the state’s already oversupplied electricity market and longevity of Latrobe Valley power stations.
“If I was the government I wouldn’t be waiting for that crisis to turn up on the front page of a newspaper and I’d be putting in place a plan for how the Latrobe Valley community is going to get through these inevitable closures,” Mr Barber said.
“Closures need to occur through a regulated schedule with clear dates. That’s not to say you walk in and flick the switch off; there’s a whole range of liability measures and considerations which need to be considered here.”
However Mr Barber acknowledged the Greens were yet to produce any detailed studies of how power stations would close through government intervention.
“I don’t know if anyone in government has done anything in the cost and timelines of decommissioning power plants, apart from the power stations themselves.”