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Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 May 2017

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment (Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner) Bill 2017. This bill creates a Latrobe Valley mine rehabilitation commissioner. It outlines that commissioner's functions, which are to plan for the rehabilitation of coalmine land and to implement a regional rehabilitation strategy in consultation with the community. The bill requires the commissioner to also prepare and publish a Latrobe Valley regional rehabilitation strategy.

The Greens support this bill. We welcome the fact that we have got the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry right. The original inquiry, held under the previous government, failed to consider rehabilitation planning, and that was a significant concern to the community. We see now through the subsequent inquiry that that is the case, and this bill is the outcome of that.

What is missing now is a statewide transition plan away from coal. We saw the uncertainty that the closure of Hazelwood brought to the community and the effect of the failure to have a proper, long-term transition plan for the workers and for those communities in place. We saw why a long-term, statewide strategy to phase out coal is so important for those communities — to end that uncertainty and not leave workers and communities in the lurch.

The Greens have a 90 per cent renewables by 2030 plan and a plan to phase out coal-fired power stations. Our renewable energy plan includes a mix of large-scale solar, household solar, wind, battery and existing hydro sources. We believe that mix of energy sources and technology will bring us safe, secure, reliable and affordable energy by 2030. We need a number of mechanisms to get there, including using reverse auctions, breaking down those barriers in the energy market that prevent households and businesses from installing solar and prevent both household batteries and large-scale battery installations, updating our energy grid so it can handle the new energy that is being brought on board and getting those pollution standards in place for coal-fired power stations, very similar to what President Obama proposed in the United States. Those pollution standards will take the most polluting coal-fired power stations off the grid first, finishing with the ones that are least polluting.

This is a jobs-rich plan. We know there are so many jobs in renewable energy and in energy efficiency. These jobs need to be unlocked. We know there is billions of dollars of investment coming from energy as our coal-fired stations come to the end of their lives and close. We know there is going to be billions of dollars of investment. It is really important that that investment goes towards renewable energy and to jobs in those sectors.

It is also important to make sure that those workers in those communities affected by the closure of coal-fired stations are not left in the lurch. A number of coal-fired power stations have closed in Australia over the last several years, and one of the issues that those workers in those communities have faced is the short time between the announcement of the closure of that coal-fired power station and the actual closure itself and the loss of those jobs. Sometimes it is just a matter of months.

Obviously there is the issue of simply leaving it up to the market. What we have found here is the failure to have a long-term transition policy for workers in place means that the government is still scrambling and still putting together the sorts of things it needs to do for workers. It is still finalising programs. What you need to do is to start the pipeline of investment in those communities before the coal-fired power stations close, before the announcement of the closure, and actually have set in stone those emissions intensity targets so communities know when those coal-fired power stations are going to close. That way we can give certainty to those communities and those workforces and get the best value for money in terms of transitioning them as well as seeking investments that can go into those communities.

It is unfortunate that the opposition have taken the approach they have to renewable energy. You are lucky to hear the word 'climate' or the phrase 'climate change' coming from the opposition. In response to the closure of Hazelwood we have seen them want to scrap the Victorian renewable energy target. In fact they have gone even further and announced a 'cash for coal' policy, which means essentially going to the owners of those coal-fired power stations with a blank cheque and saying, 'What do you need to keep these ageing coal-fired power stations open?'. That is an incredibly reckless policy.

This is coming from the same party that privatised those power stations, taking them out of public control. They are now going to them, opening the public wallet and saying, 'What do you need to stay open?'. This is when those private owners are making financial decisions to get out of coal because we all know coal is a bad bet financially. We know the markets are moving away from coal; we know companies are not investing in new coal-fired power stations. So it is an incredibly reckless policy for the opposition to be opening its chequebook and going to them saying, 'What do you need?'.

As I said in my response to the budget yesterday, I thought former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's 'pay the polluters' climate policy was reckless. He scrapped the price on carbon and then said to the polluters, 'We'll pay you for the emissions that you're going to reduce'. I think there was some contention about whether those reductions were going to happen anyway. Certainly that is not a value for money proposition, but this policy is even worse. This is actually paying the polluters to keep polluting. What a reckless climate policy that is. And all the while people are staying in those jobs when jobs are available in the renewable energy industry.

It is very unfortunate that the coalition have gone down that path, but, as I said earlier, what is missing now is a plan from this government to phase out coal-fired power stations and put in place that long-term investment for the transition of workers in those affected communities. I will be supporting this bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh).

Debate adjourned until later this day.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 May 2017
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