The closure of Hazelwood and Yallourn Power Stations need not spell disaster for the Latrobe Valley. Opportunities to build a diverse and sustainable local economy are plenty. Courage, funding, policy leadership and ongoing support from the State Government are needed to turn visions into realities.
Sustainable Australia Party submission:
Inquiry into the closure of Hazelwood and Yallourn power stations
4th August 2021
Legislative Council Economy and Infrastructure Committee
Parliament House, Spring Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002
By email to: [email protected]
Dear Sir or Madam
Submission - Inquiry into the Closure of the Hazelwood and Yallourn Power Stations
The Economy and Infrastructure Committee has invited submissions relating to its inquiry into:
- the impact of the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station on the economy and jobs of the Latrobe Valley, and the success or otherwise of economic recovery efforts to date,
- the expected economic impacts of the proposed closure of Yallourn Power Station in 2028 and options the State Government can pursue to offset the loss of more than 1,000 direct jobs from the plant, as well as associated contractors, and
- the success or otherwise of the Latrobe Valley Authority (LVA) to help the region transition, considering the decline of funding made available to the LVA over successive State Budgets
I thank the Committee for the opportunity to lodge a submission in relation to this inquiry.
Sustainable Australia Party is an independent community movement from the political centre, with a positive plan for an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable Australia. Further details about Sustainable Australia Party can be found at our website: www.sustainableaustralia.org.au
In our submission, with particular reference to item (b) of the terms of reference, we would like to propose several policy levers that would achieve positive outcomes in the Latrobe Valley in the wake of the closures of Hazelwood and Yallourn Power Stations, as well as pose relevant questions that should be addressed in the Committee’s final report.
- The State Government should introduce job guarantee programs for all workers transitioning out of the closing power stations, including retraining and realignment opportunities in, for example, the growing renewable energy sector, conservation, and land management.
- The State Government should be looking to retain, and where appropriate regain, public ownership of essential utilities including electricity, natural gas, and water assets across Victoria. These power station sites, state-owned, could be repurposed for some other public amenity. What is the State Government’s proposal for the disused facilities?
- The State Government should further develop land stewardship funds to support relevant farmers and rural landowners to help manage biodiversity values on their properties, including areas that are either high conservation value and/or unsuitable for agricultural use. This could feed into the job guarantee programs recommended in Item 1.
- The State Government must recognise the adverse effects of fracking and mining on agricultural land and communities, by imposing a moratorium on such activity. This should include the gas exploration operations in South Gippsland, which recommenced in July 2021. While they might appear tempting as a quick fix for job creation, as well as providing catchphrases for politicians such as ‘we’re keeping the lights and heating on in Victoria’, such activities are not viable long-term outcomes for the local community and environment.
- Sustainable Australia Party policy supports the potential mass production in Australia of a small-to-medium utilitarian electric commuter car for urban use. This should be supported by an appropriate charging network. What has happened to the proposed SEA Electric commercial electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Morwell? This was announced by the State Government 2018, but nothing has been delivered. Morwell, which has access to both road and rail transportation, is an ideal location for the plant and would create jobs in the Latrobe Valley at the same time as reinvigorating Victoria’s long-abandoned manufacturing sector.
- The State Government should do more to promote and develop the Latrobe City Food Manufacturing Precinct to attract businesses to the area and related jobs growth.
- Hydrogen gas is now being produced at a newly constructed plant located at the AGL Loy Yang Complex in the Latrobe Valley. Sustainable Australia Party is supportive of further research and investment into hydrogen and its potential as an alternative fuel source. We understand that this project is in its pilot phase, with potential to generate thousands of future jobs in the region.
- Sustainable Australia Party also calls on the State Government to fund and support the many renewable energy initiatives proposed in the Latrobe Valley, such as Star of the South, Perry Bridge Solar Farm, Fulham Solar Farm and the Gippsland Renewable Energy Park, to name a few. We note that Solis Gippsland Projects Pty Ltd has recently purchased the rights to develop the Penny Bridge and Fulham Solar Farms. We call on the Government to provide appropriate oversight to ensure these projects are managed and developed in the public interest and in particular the interests of communities in the Latrobe Valley.
- Finally, the State Government has overridden community wishes by granting approval to Chunxing Corporation Pty Ltd to establish a Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recycling facility at Fourth Rd, Hazelwood North, near Morwell, to process 50,000 tonnes per year of spent lead acid batteries and recycle them into 28,000 tonnes of refined lead per year. Vital agricultural land and waterways feeding into local communities now face contamination. Why has the State Government ignored the democratic rights of Latrobe Valley residents to self-determination in their own backyard? Sustainable Australia Party stands with community groups like ALiVe Inc. and calls on the Planning Minister to reverse his decision and find a more suitable location.
The closure of Hazelwood and Yallourn Power Stations need not spell disaster for the Latrobe Valley. According to Dr. Jim Stanford from The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work,
“…fossil fuel industries are not a major source of employment in Australia. They account for only 1% of jobs, and their relative importance has already declined in recent years. With appropriate policies to plan orderly transitions, support affected workers and communities as the transition occurs, and ensure strong job-creation in the rest of the economy, the phase-out of fossil fuel industries need not hurt Australia’s economy at all. To the contrary, if managed properly the energy transition will generate major benefits in investment, efficiency, and employment – and will ensure we can live in a habitable, sustainable environment...It would be more compassionate and honest to give fossil fuel workers (both current and prospective) fair notice of the changes coming and support them in building careers in occupations and industries that are ultimately more promising.” 
Opportunities to build a diverse and sustainable local economy are plenty. Courage, funding, policy leadership and ongoing support from the State Government are needed to turn visions into realities.
State Administrator – Victoria
Sustainable Australia Party
 Stanford, J. (2020) Employment Aspects of the Transition from Fossil Fuels in Australia, The Australia Institute Centre for Future Work, Canberra.