| March 27, 2017

The closure of Hazelwood Power Station

Delivered: Monday 27th March 2017, Federation Chamber, Parliament House, Canberra.

I find it quite incredible that we have this motion put before the House this afternoon, given the fact that the member for Bendigo, who has put this up, simply has not got her facts straight on where the truth is in relation to the motion put forward.

It is incredible that a Labor member of this House would highlight the damage to regional jobs that her own party and colleagues have in fact caused.

We all understand very clearly that, when it comes to these Hazelwood power stations and the way they have been closed, the Labor Party has its own policy that is all structured around its contract for closure scheme.

Here is the policy that is now coming home to roost.

We have Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, who effectively at the start of last year decided he was going to triple the tax and the royalties payable on brown coal in Gippsland.

You would not believe how much money he has raised out of these power stations: he has raised $255 million. He has put an extra tax on the operators to the tune of $255 million, and now that it is closing down he is going to offer the workers $266 million.

Talk about taking with one hand and giving with the other.

I cannot believe his audacity, and here we have the member for Bendigo wanting to highlight this.

She wants to put it out there and sing from the rafters what a horrible thing this is that these people have lost their jobs—effectively, caused by Labor Party increases in taxes associated with brown coal.

But don't take our word for it; the spokesperson for the Hazelwood power station Loy Yang B said that, when this tax was introduced, it would inevitably have a detrimental impact on the region's energy sector.

They said they had not been consulted on this decision.

Their other comment was that this government decision takes $20 million straight out of the Hazelwood business.

It has simply been Labor policy to close Hazelwood since 2010 and, now that it is closing, they are trying to turn around and offer a support package, a rescue package.

This should not surprise anybody in Gippsland, when you consider what they are also doing to Heyfield timber and Australia's sustainable hardwoods.

Daniel Andrews is doing his utmost to shut down the timber mill at Heyfield, to the extent where we have had thousands of CFMEU workers marching on the Victorian parliament only last week, expressing their utter disdain for Premier Andrews.

He has halved the available timber for the timber mill to effectively use in order to maintain its viability.

Obviously, they cannot. If you are given half the amount of timber to harvest that you were previously working with, you cannot remain viable.

And now that they are not going to remain viable, Daniel Andrews is saying, 'Maybe the federal government should buy it' or 'Maybe the federal government should walk in now and fix this up.'

This mess was created by the state government and, all of a sudden, they expect the federal government to come in and fix it up.

Right now, the Hazelwood Power Station is generating 22 per cent of Victoria's energy demands, and how we are expected to fill that gap, once they start turning the generators off, is anybody's guess.

The workers at Hazelwood are exceptionally proud of their jobs and they have been in constant contact.

There is another part of this motion that says the affected workers have not met with the government.

If the member for Bendigo had bothered to do a little bit of research, she would have realised that the management of the CFMEU were in Canberra last November.

The Facebook page of the member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, would suggest that he has been constantly meeting with the workers from Hazelwood.

If those opposite had bothered to do their research, they would also be aware that the federal government has been meeting not just with the union but also with workers from the Hazelwood plant.

There are a whole range of inaccuracies and untruths associated with this motion.

Here we have the Labor Party, who have taken $255 million with one hand, refusing to hand back the same amount of money now that Hazelwood is closing.

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