Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (18:50): I am the member for McMillan and I represent the workers in the Latrobe Valley.
Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.
Mark Twain, 1835-1910.
Today, it is not a pleasure for me to hear the hear the conversations between members of this House, where voices are raised and considerations are given outside of those people who are directly affected by this change. Listening to Fran Kelly’s program in Morwell the other morning, as I was at a faraway place, I heard one of the workers come on to discuss, obviously, this plant that he loved. I did not get his name. He said to Fran, ‘Fran, it’s an old girl and it’s done its time. You can fix it and we can keep it going, but even if you do it’s still an old girl and it will always be needing attention far beyond the attention that can reasonably be given to the Hazelwood power plant to keep it going.’
I have not been privy to the negotiations of the company with the government. I know there were increases in coal royalties that may have had some effect on the company’s own position. I know that the Greens in Victoria were using this to thump the state Labor government every day of the week—the dirtiest coal power station in Australia or the world et cetera. But my workers felt that, every time someone had a go or a crack at them, they were at—excuse the pun—the coalface of that attack. I want to say to those workers: ‘That was unfair. That’s not right. You’ve given your all, and some of you have given three generations of your families’ work on people’s behalf, my behalf, my family’s behalf and on our behalf. You’ve given your time, energy, and expertise and you have given it to Victoria and Australia to grow our manufacturing industry to give us opportunities we would not otherwise have, so I am reflecting on the fact that you gave to us something that no-one else could give to us, through Sir John Monash, who gave to us the great opportunities for Victoria’s manufacturing industry over many years.’
Now times have changed and there is an expectation of the Australian community and even this parliament that that which was is no longer and cannot be sustained. The previous speaker was absolutely correct. There is probably more than millions to be spent to upgrade the plant on occupational health and safety grounds, and that would only be the beginning. To keep this plant going, you are talking a billion—a thousand million—or more dollars. And on behalf of my people, I would say, ‘Take me to Driffield and build me a new and far better, cleaner coal-fired power station, if that is your intent to keep it going for three years.’ You are not going to spend a billion and a half on the old lady. If you are going to do that, spend a billion and a half working on how you can best use the coal, whether it beats the fertiliser or hydrogen or all the opportunities that have been laid out before us where you can use that amazing God-given resource that is the Latrobe Valley.
I say to the members here, in five minutes you cannot describe the wealth that has been given to us by this old power plant. You cannot describe how those workers will feel when they walk out of that plant this week. I agree with you, some of them will be going to another power plant, and that is great. For some, it is time to retire, and that is fine too. But all those left in the middle ground will have to make decisions that are difficult for them. They will have to say to their children, ‘We’ve got to move.’ One of the workers said, ‘We’ve got to move to South Australia,’ and his daughter said, ‘I don’t want to move, Dad. This is my life: Latrobe Valley. My friends are all here.’ Everyone in this parliament feels for that young girl who does not want to move because of the situation that has happened in her father’s life that she does not understand. If I were that 13-year-old girl, I would be upset too.
I say to this House: let us forget the bickering over Hazelwood Power Station, and let us look to the future and the opportunities that are there to grow Gippsland in a way that we can all, every one of us—I need to finish on this—can be proud of.