Twelve months later, following some dogged campaigning across the state, we’ve put Hazelwood front and centre of the election campaign. Three weeks ago the Premier told ABC radio that “it's important to close down Hazelwood because it's the dirtiest and most polluting power station in Australia”. We could have written that! While talk can be cheap, those comments represent an incredible leap from where we were 12 months ago.
We’ve gone from a situation where no major political party would acknowledge that Victoria has a problem with its reliance on brown coal, to an election campaign where the debate is around who will close how much of Hazelwood and by when. Along the way we’ve had a legislated target to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020, a new feed-in tariff for large scale solar and a doubling of the state target for energy efficiency. We must be doing something right.
If ever a major victory was in reach for the Australian climate movement this is that time. We can make history by ensuring that Hazelwood is Australia’s first coal-fired power station closed for climate change reasons. And we can do it properly by looking after workers and communities in the process.
The ALP must be able to see the political opportunity for them to ‘go big’ on climate change by closing all of Hazelwood. The Greens certainly can – they outlined a plan this week to replace all of Hazelwood by 2014. As for Ted Baillieu, perhaps he’ll surprise us in the final weeks of the campaign. Surely he’ll have something significant to say on climate change, won’t he?
Mark Wakeham is Environment Victoria’s Campaigns Director.