Greens’ coal plan gets cold reception

The Greens are pushing for a joint state and federal government body to lead the Latrobe Valley’s transition from the brown coal industry.

However, Regional Development Australia Gippsland and Latrobe City Council have pointed to two existing transition bodies – Latrobe Valley Transition Committee and the Gippsland Carbon Transition Committee.

This week Greens state MP Ellen Sandell proposed a statutory authority similar to the Geelong Authority to revitalise the area, following the demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry.

The Andrews Government provided the Geelong Authority with $500,000 in start-up funds and $3 million to initiate new projects in the region in August.

“The coal industry is already dying globally, and we urgently need to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms Sandell said.

“The Greens want to support the Latrobe Valley community to transition from coal-fired power stations to clean, renewable industries.”

It follows the party’s campaign to “replace” Hazelwood Power Station, including a door-knocking campaign in marginal Labor and Greens seats in Melbourne.

Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington said a Latrobe Valley Transition Committee, established as part of the Latrobe Valley Industry and Employment Roadmap, had only just begun.

Mr Elkington said there was an argument for vulnerable industries, including the brown coal-fired power stations and paper to receive specialised government assistance.

“The Transition Committee and RDA Gippsland are critically examining the structure and programs necessary to commence transition activity,” Mr Elkington said.

“There are messages from power generators, such as AGL, who are interested in participating in the transition exercise, while Yallourn Power Station and Hazelwood… their life is finite and they need to know how they would transition their own workforce,” he said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said he was supportive of the principle of a diverse economy, but there was no need to “reinvent the wheel”, noting the RDA Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund.

“We need to consider the short, medium and long-term goals of employers considering the significant challenges to the energy and timber industry,” Mr Northe said.

“They need to be a big player in any conversation going forward.”

Latrobe City mayor Dale Harriman said the Greens were “18 months behind the eight ball”, with council’s Gippsland Carbon Transition Committee working towards transition to other industries with imminent business people and federal and state government connections.

Cr Harriman invited the Greens to contact him to understand what they were already doing to protect the community.

“We are working on attracting new industries to the area and sitting down and talking to members of the power industry because not all members of the power industry are wholly into coal,” he said