I rise to support Mr Tee’s motion, and in doing so I support regional jobs, regional development, renewable energy, investment in regional Victoria and sustainable communities and families. I will start by talking about jobs. We all understand that the creation of jobs and the investment of industry and jobs in regional Victoria is often a little bit more difficult than in other areas of the state. That is primarily because of transport, communication and associated costs. But when we are successful in securing those industries in our rural towns and regional cities we usually support them as well, whether it be at a local, state or federal government level.
At the moment the situation for the people of Portland is one that is full of anxiety. Keppel Prince Engineering is a major contributor to the wind farm industry. It employs something like 400 people in a number of activities.
With a population of approximately 11 000 people in Portland, Keppel Prince is the second-largest employer in the town. A threat to any job there results in pressure on families, let alone the number of jobs available. That means enormous pressure is placed on the town, its local economy and all other families directly and indirectly associated with the company.
It is not surprising that when it comes to the wind industry there is a lot of commentary in the Portland Observer and the Warrnambool Standard, particularly given, as other members here in this house from western Victoria have said, that area is basically the home of wind farm energy. I want to give the house a taste of what is being said in those newspapers, in particular in south-west Victoria. I quote from the Portland Observer of 5 September this year:
“One hundred jobs destined for Portland are on hold, as Keppel Prince looks interstate.
“Following the introduction of –“
the Minister for Planning’s guidelines, general manager Steve Garnet is reported as saying:
“Portland based Keppel Prince Engineering has suspended plans for a new $6 million painting and blasting facility, instead looking to develop in less regulated states.
The $6 million facility —
and I understand it was for grit blaster capability —
destined for Portland would have generated 100 new jobs …
Keppel Prince currently employs 450 in Portland, with 200 of those dedicated to the wind farm sector, a sector that may relocate.
The minister’s decisions were baseless, pandering to a vocal minority.”
He was also quoted as saying that they ‘would have to look elsewhere and that would be 200 jobs’.
On ABC South West Victoria Radio the mayor of the Glenelg Shire Council, Cr Bruce Cross, said:
“Main concern for Glenelg at this point is its influence on the manufacturing sector … The main thing to bear in mind at this point is that there are over 200 jobs in Portland that are directly aligned with manufacturing wind farms. There are certainly other jobs associated with the operation of existing wind farms.”
This is a point reinforced by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union which has coverage in the area. Gary Robb, who is secretary of the metals division of the AMWU, wrote in an email to me that:
“… wind farm companies such as Keppel Prince may be forced to close its workshop in Portland and relocate these jobs interstate where they could receive support from another state government, which would see over 300 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs lost to Victoria forever.
… the AMWU strongly oppose the suggested amendment and believe this state government should be building on the work the former ALP government had done to encourage wind farm investment in regional Victoria and grow manufacturing and create good paying regional jobs instead of sending them interstate where we will end up importing that work in from other states …”
There have been a number of commentaries in the Weekly Times, but I will just include one in my contribution this afternoon. It was on 31 August and it indicates that since the government handed councils planning control over wind farms earlier this year, the Moyne shire has voted against extending planning permits for the Ryan’s Corner and Hawkesdale farms.
Developers Union Fenosa Wind Australia said in a company statement that the projects proposed for south-western Victoria were valued at more than $400 million and would have created 150 jobs during construction and a further 20 jobs during operation.
Jobs in regional Victoria are incredibly important. The impact with which the wind industry is threatened as a result of the changed policy of the current government means there is severe pressure on and threats to a number of workers and their families. This is being done with the background of the government knowing full well that families out there at the moment are doing it tough and are up against a whole range of cost of living pressures.
One of the key elements of keeping families together is of course making sure they have jobs — and jobs that are within a reasonable travel time from the family home. Already in south-western Victoria family members are being forced to travel long distances to secure work, and many live away from the family home during the week and try to get home when they can on the weekends. Many are being forced east to Geelong and to Melbourne and beyond, as well as interstate. This has been the case particularly in the last 12 months as infrastructure works and major projects have basically dried up in western Victoria — and there are none planned in the foreseeable future.
This current situation is bad enough, but Mr Guy’s hurtful kick directed at the wind industry will mean working families in western Victoria will be under further and enormous strain and will be searching for work elsewhere. We all know what that leads to. Families in western Victoria really do not deserve the circumstances this government is putting them in.
I turn to the issue of investment and what is essentially the loss of regional development, and I will advise the house of a number of comments that have been made in recent times on this issue. Lane Crockett, Pacific Hydro general manager for Australia, is reported as saying on 29 August:
“In our view these changes send a disturbing signal to other infrastructure projects and investment in the state. In the context of planning policy requirements for consistency and fairness, these rules should apply to all infrastructure developments not just one industry.
However, under the new guidelines, Pacific Hydro does not envisage pursuing any new project development in Victoria …”
It should be noted that Pacific Hydro’s current three projects in Victoria are expected to ‘drive around $530 million in investment for regional Victoria’.
On ABC’s The World Today of 29 August we heard from Russell Marsh from the Clean Energy Council. He said:
“On the face of it it would indicate that certainly wind development in Victoria is going to be severely affected and wind developers may start looking to other states to develop projects.
The 2K setback the government was talking about would do something like reduce investment in wind energy in Victoria by between 50 and 70 per cent. We were forecasting about, you know, over $3 billion worth of investment will disappear from Victoria as a result of the 2K setback policy.”
An article in the Pyrenees Advocate says:
“… the Ben More project, between Lexton and Amphitheatre, is still in the planning phase, and appears unlikely to gain approval.
The Ben More project was to have injected around $1 million a year back to the local community.”
Time and again we are getting told we are going to lose an enormous amount of investment that was planned for our economies and our local communities in regional Victoria and that the investment simply will go elsewhere. There was also a letter of the week on 27 August in the Warrnambool Standard, written by Geoff Rollinson, a local from Purnim on the Hopkins Highway. He wrote:
“The decision to reject permit extensions for the Hawkesdale and Ryan’s Corner wind farm projects and the subsequent loss of $430 million to the region is an ill wind indeed.
While I agree that project proponents can sometimes ride roughshod over councils and communities, the basis for rejecting the extensions are not based on any sound scientific or planning reasons.
As the wind changes in Moyne shire, of most concern is the ill wind. How councillors will defend knocking back projects that will enhance the economic, social and environmental bottom lines for us and our descendants remains a mystery.
When the local building industry is being impacted by depressed housing prices and volatile financial markets, we should take on, rather than reject, clean energy projects.”
That is just a taste of some of the comments being made in the local press. If we go by a selection of just a few of these comments from the enormous commentary on this issue, it is clear that regional development will stagnate, and local towns and economies will just not have the jobs to generate great spin-offs for our local communities.
Then there is the issue of renewable energy, the environment and community sustainability. A lot of that has been covered by Mr Tee, and Mr Barber has also covered it. I also raise the concerns of the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy group. The new guidelines will affect the group’s plan for a community wind farm. The group was planning to set up a three-turbine community wind farm to generate enough power for 3500 homes in Woodend, Mount Macedon and Newham. In an article published in the Macedon Ranges Leader of 6 September Peter Hansford, a representative of the group, is quoted as follows:
“It’s a great disappointment to a group that has been working on this project for four years and enjoys community support and interest.”
In an article in the Bendigo Advertiser of 30 August 2011 he was quoted as having said:
“Finding another location is pretty well impossible. If there is a mandated 2-kilometre setback, there’s no part which is 2 kilometres from the nearest house.
We have also heard from the Hepburn Wind project.”
In an article that appeared in the Age of 18 October 2010 Vicki Horrigan, a director, was quoted as having said:
“The turbines are estimated to produce about 12 200 megawatt hours each year … That’s enough to power 2300 homes, which is more than the number of households here in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.”
In relation to the Hepburn community wind farm near Daylesford, Andrew Bray, an organiser of 100% Renewable Energy, said in an opinion piece in the Warrnambool Standard of 7 September 2011:
“The winner of the Premier’s Sustainability Award, the Hepburn community wind farm near Daylesford, would not likely have been built under these laws.”
Cam Walker, of Friends of the Earth, said in a media release dated 29 August:
“At a time when we urgently need to generate more clean energy, this policy is sending us back to the Dark Ages.”
I could not agree more with Mr Walker’s comments.
Two sitting weeks ago I made a contribution in which I questioned this government’s commitment to tackling climate change. I questioned its insistence on putting significant hurdles in the way of the wind farm energy industry. Since that time, which was about four weeks ago, this government has again demonstrated its lack of commitment to the renewable energy sector through its withdrawal of the solar tariff rebate to Victorian households. This in itself jeopardises a further 20 jobs in Portland, jobs that are involved in the installation of solar panels. Again that is work undertaken by people at Keppel Prince.
In an article published in the Portland Observer and Guardian on 5 September the managing director of Keppel Prince, Steve Garner, said that these changes could threaten the jobs of 20 people. He is quoted as having said:
“I feel as though we’ve been kicked well and truly in the teeth …
… just another kick in the guts for the renewable industry.”
That sentiment expressed by Steve Garner just about sums it up. Many individual stakeholders, employer organisations, investors and community groups are saying that their voices are not being heard by this government on this issue. Instead the government has come up with a policy that seems to be based on the views of a small vocal group of people within the community and it overrides the rest of the community.
I am in total agreement with sentiments expressed in an editorial in the Age of 31 August which called on the Baillieu government to explain its policy rationale on wind farms. I certainly do not think that is too much to ask. I certainly do not think that is too much to expect from any government, but this government continues to refuse to provide that rationale, and that is why it is important that members vote for this disallowance motion.
Amendment VC82 will deliver a significant wrecking ball that will swing through Western Victoria Region. It will wreck jobs, it will wreck families, it will wreck regional development, it will wreck investment opportunities, it will wreck renewable energy opportunities, and very importantly it will wreck the opportunities for communities to become innovative and sustainable. On those grounds I urge those in the house to support this motion.