Government quiet on coal

THE State Government’s position on coal development has been shelved until next year, raising concern for the future of the abundant Latrobe Valley resource.

A spokeswoman for Industry and Resources Minister Wade Noonan told The Express the government’s “coal statement” would be released next year and that it would take the time needed to “get it right”.

“The recent Hazelwood closure announcement shows how much the coal industry is shifting, we need to make sure our position is up-to-date,” the spokeswoman said.

The coal policy announced in November 2015 had been earmarked for this month – promising to review previous government supported coal development programs.

At the time the review indicated the State Government’s scepticism to support coal projects, with Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio noting support to coal-related programs by previous governments had “limited success”.

The comprehensive document was also set to consider the economic, social and environmental factors relating to coal, but has since been called a perhaps less detailed “statement”.

On Friday, Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the government needed to come clean on its stance on coal and release its policy.

“Questions the community want answered include – how coal might be applied to a whole range of projects purposes. Does the government believe in using coal for future power generation?” Mr Northe said.

“Hundreds of jobs will be lost following the closure of Hazelwood power station, yet Daniel Andrews can’t even tell our community if he supports the use of coal for energy generation or for other purposes.”

Latrobe Valley Fertilisers chair Allan Blood – who plans to turn gas created from Latrobe Valley coal into fertiliser – said he hoped the reason for the delay was to get more input.

Mr Blood said it was important the policy ensured continued access of coal, provided a low-emissions footprint and be of benefit to the region.

He added such access must also include the Hazelwood coal mine.

“You can’t lock up that resource and turn it into a lake, it would be sacrilegious; there’s enough coal there to create several thousand jobs,” Mr Blood said.

Committee for Gippsland chief executive Mary Aldred was surprised by the delayed deadline after meeting with Mr Noonan about a month ago as part of a stakeholder consultation.

She said the meeting occurred after the announcement Hazelwood power station and mine would close.

“All of the indications have been the State Government would release its policy in December,” Ms Aldred said.

“Businesses really need that policy released with a clear vision for how government intend to use the resource so businesses understand the parameters they’re operating in.”