Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (10:02): I’m not angry very often, but I do get angry when there are attacks on Latrobe Valley people, residents and community when they are without foundation. Doctors for the Environment claimed that 8.5 per cent of babies born in the Latrobe Valley are of low weight compared to the Victorian average of 6.6 per cent, so just under a two per cent difference. This is very misleading. There are lots of factors that may cause lower weight babies in the Latrobe Valley, including mostly socioeconomic reasons.
The Latrobe Valley comes under attack far more often than any area in the whole of Australia. What did the recent study say? The Victorian government commissioned the recent Hazelwood Health Study, after the fire. It used medical and scientific advice to determine if there’d been any impact on mums and bubs from the mine fire and concluded that there was none, including no impact on low-weight births. Yet here we have these Doctors for the Environment coming out with a direct attack on the Latrobe Valley again.
I’ve had enough of the attacks on the Latrobe Valley. That very morning when that article came out, I was driving across to the Latrobe Valley. I was just thinking how pristine and beautiful it is. Yes, there was a wisp of smoke coming out of one of the power stations, but mostly what you see is steam. It is an outrageous attack on a community that has struggled over a long period of time with massive economic changes—privatisation of all the power stations. Recently there was the closing of Hazelwood, which was an old power station which was going to close eventually anyway and be replaced by another power station.
I am of the view, and I’ve said this before, that the brown coal that has stabilised the economic powerhouse that Victoria is from Sir John Monash’s time—and the great engineering that went into the Latrobe Valley—is still gold for many reasons, whether you’re going to turn it into magnesium, use it for fertiliser or use it to power future power stations that will be more efficient than the ones we have today, which are 50- to 100-year-old engineering.
Leave the Latrobe Valley alone. You may want to win a by-election in Batman, Greens, but leave the Latrobe Valley alone. You have never created a job. You have never looked after the people of the Latrobe Valley. You have never worried about whether they’ll get the best education they can possibly get, the best health care they can possibly get or the best future that they can possibly have. The Latrobe Valley has a great future. It is up to us as leaders to find our way through that—find a way to that place where the Latrobe Valley will once again be the focus of pride for the Australian community and not the focus of the attacks that it has been subject to in this terrible article.