Closure of Hazelwood highlights need for immediate national plan for Just Transition

Published: 3 Nov 2016

Following the announcement of almost 1,000 job losses with the closure of Hazelwood, the CFMEU Mining and Energy division called on the Federal Government to immediately devise and fully fund a national plan for industry transition in the energy sector.

The union’s National President, Tony Maher said the plan must include funding and support for training, redeployment and early retirement for those close to retirement age.

“With major employment centres like Hazelwood and Port Augusta power stations closing, we are seeing the real world impact of a transition to clean energy, without a plan to manage the impact on workers and communities,” Mr Maher said.

“Today’s announcement will flatten 1000 workers and their families. The entire Latrobe Valley will feel the impact of the closure of Hazelwood which is the beating heart of this community.

“But despite that, not many people will be surprised as it has been on the cards for some time. But that is precisely why workers are so deeply and bitterly disappointed in the Federal Government at this time.

“You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to know the electricity sector is changing, it has been doing so for years. These changes are occurring because of long-term economic restructuring and policies designed to shift from non-renewable energy sources to renewables.

“Malcolm Turnbull must either be surprised by today’s announcement at Hazelwood in which case he is ignorant, or he was aware it was coming and did nothing, in which case he is complacent and tied to a purist free market ideology, disconnected from the real world.”

Mr Maher said the Government has a responsibility to plan and manage the impact of those changes on hard working people and their communities.

“It is incumbent on the Government to immediately commit to devising and funding a Just Transition plan for the workforce and the community.

“That plan should include funding for training, adequate redeployment opportunities and funding for early retirement for older workers.

Mr Maher cited the Jotzo ANU paper from October 2015 as “a lonely but very welcome first effort to integrate social costs into electricity sector restructuring costs.”

“The ANU study used a figure of $150 million in social costs to close one power station in the Latrobe valley.  We think that’s very much on the low side if it properly funds re-training, early retirement and redeployment,” Mr Maher said.

“We call on the Federal Government to take the opportunity in Hazelwood to deliver a national plan that considers all future requirements for our sector,” said Mr Maher.