darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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October 29, 2009

Legislation that could lead to the closure of Latrobe Valley power stations and cost thousands of jobs in Gippsland has been debated in Federal Parliament this week.

The Rudd Labor Government has re-introduced its controversial Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) into the House of Representatives where it was debated until 11pm on Wednesday in a marathon sitting of Parliament.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is intending to vote against the proposed legislation, saying it will inflict enormous economic pain on the region for insignificant environmental gain – given that Australia’s emissions are just 1.4% of the total global emissions.

Mr Chester said a vote for the CPRS was a vote for more expensive power, more expensive transport and more expensive food.

“I fear that several thousand jobs will be at risk in my electorate over the next 10 to 15 years under this scheme,” Mr Chester told Federal Parliament.

“My electorate is one of the most exposed to this policy of any community in Australia – perhaps even the most exposed when you consider the existence of the Latrobe Valley brown coal generators, the oil and gas industry and the quite large dairy industry in the Macalister Irrigation District.

“The Latrobe City Council commissioned its own analysis, an independent report, on the economic importance of the Latrobe Valley coal and electricty industries.   The report was prepared last year and showed that the coal and electricity sectors provide $802 million per year or 21.2% of the gross regional product of the Latrobe Valley.

“There are 125 people employed in the coalmining sector and 1,705 people employed in the electricity supply sector.   The flow-on impacts or flow-on benefits from these industries provide enormous opportunities for private contractors and the overall wealth of the Gippsland-Latrobe Valley region and the broader Victorian economy.”

Mr Chester branded the legislation “an enormous con” which “does not stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.”

“There is support, for action on climate change, but Australians are being conned into believing that this is the answer.  There is no Australian solution to climate change in isolation.  There needs to be a global commitment,” Mr Chester said.

“It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to pursue this legislation before we have a clear understanding of what action, if any, our major trading partners and the rest of the world are prepared to take.

“I fear that without a global agreement we are voting to give foreign companies a competitive advantage over our own companies.

“We are voting for more expensive power and transport costs.  We are voting to increase costs for all our small businesses.  We are voting for a massive tax on every part of our lives.”

Mr Chester said he could not support any legislation that would cost jobs in Gippsland.

“I recognise that there could be future opportunities in my electorate related to the opportunity for renewable energy technology, clean coal and carbon capture and storage,” he said.

“But these are jobs in the future which may or may not develop as the areas of technology are developed. Gippslanders would rather have the jobs they have in hand right now than some airy-fairy promise about jobs which may come down the track.”

Mr Chester stressed the need for Latrobe Valley power generators to stay viable to invest in clean coal technology but said current compensation levels are $7 billion short of the predicted asset value loss.

“The government has offered generators $3 billion in compensation, but the loss in asset value is more likely to be in the vicinity of $10 billion,” he said.

“We need Latrobe Valley power generators to remain commercially viable and to invest in the research and the technology required for a cleaner coal future.

“If the power generators are not financially viable under this government’s CPRS, we are all in for a shock in terms of the reliability of our baseload power supply.”

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