By Ali Leahy
Yesterday 150 people from across Victoria united in Hastings to say ‘No’ to a brand new coal export port.
The Victorian Government is continuing to prove that they really are determined to stick their heads in the sand and keep them there until the sea level rises sufficiently. It is pushing ahead with its plans to expand the dying fossil fuel industry, instead of investing in clean, safe renewable energy.
The Government’s inspired idea is to create the world’s biggest brown coal export industry in Victoria. But the people of Hastings, Gippsland and metro Melbourne wanted – again – to remind the government that farmland, fisheries, community and our climate are more important than a few last desperate dollars.
And why Hastings? In its wisdom the government feels that Hastings (near Phillip Island) is a good place to build the new infrastructure a coal export industry would need. This would be a coal port and a massive coal drying facility, which is necessary to make the brown coal less likely to catch on fire when we export it overseas – but more on this later. Alternative places they feel might be suitable are Corner Inlet (Port Anthony, next to Wilson’s Prom) and Ninety Mile Beach (McGaurans Beach).
Why were so many people upset about it? For starters they want to use $90 million of taxpayers money to fund this project which will not only destroy beautiful coastal areas, but will also mean more coal mines and more dirty coal trucks between the LaTrobe valley and the coast. Also if this new brown coal is burnt it will be responsible for 53 times the carbon emissions Australia already produces every year.
Speakers highlighted this ridiculousness, with Karri Giles from Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council pointing out that Hastings is not ‘Melbourne’s armpit’. Jenny Wharfe, Blue Wedges coalition spokesperson, was drowned out by cheers from the crowd when she yelled “we won’t let them bugger the bay.” And Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria explained that the technology needed hasn’t been developed yet. They haven’t even figured out how to make the highly flammable substance safe enough to be exported without spontaneously combusting. To try to figure out how to do that, coal companies want even more taxpayers’ money to develop brown coal-drying technology.
The concerned faces in the crowd and the patience with which everyone listened to nearly an hour of speeches on a cold and windy day, showed that this is a serious issue. We know that burning fossil fuels like coal is the main way humans are causing climate change. We know this would cause irreparable harm to the bay, to the fishing industry, tourism and agriculture.
So while the coal mining companies try to find a way to make more money for themselves; yesterday at Hastings the community got together to tell them to get serious about distributing renewable energy or find a new job.