The official opening that never was

Hazelwood Power Station’s official opening on 11 March 1971 was to be a unique and prestigious affair.

But an industrial dispute meant the formal proceedings, including a visit from Premier Henry Bolte, did not go ahead.

Morwell resident and former State Electricity Commission services superintendent Max Williamson was tasked with coordinating the construction of a large podium for the dignitaries to stand on.

“It was quite a structure and our boys were more than happy to spend the time in doing that,” Mr Williamson recalled.

“There was a sense of excitement. It was the flagship SEC power station.

“Here was a chance to make a big occasion of it and have an official opening.”

Forty-six years later, Mr Williamson still has the formal invitation and associated paraphernalia to attend the event including a program, name tag, glossy booklet and timetable for the ‘Gippslander‘ train departing from Flinders Street Station that morning.

But the event was somewhat of an anti-climax, with Sir Bolte failing to show up.

The Express reported on 17 March 1971 that the opening was called off because the Municipal Officers’ Association “would not give assurance that it would not strike during the ceremony”.

“Any such strike would have caused power to have been restricted in most of Victoria,” the article stated.

Mr Williamson said Sir Bolte had become a target for the unions.

“He was known to say ‘let them march’. They saw him as someone who needs to be cut down and taught a lesson,” he said.

Mr Williamson recalled the event went ahead in some form, with local politicians and community members.

His timber platform, however went unused.

“To my memory I don’t think anyone was brave enough to stand up on it and take over the role of opening it up, I think that would be inappropriate for that to happen,” Mr Williamson said.

“It was just an appendage. We dismantled it later on and put it back in the store.”