Wednesday, 28 March 2012
ENERGY: BROWN COAL INITIATIVES
Mr BLACKWOOD (Narracan) -- My question is to the Minister for Energy and Resources. Can the minister inform the house of actions being taken in his portfolio to support investment and boost job creation in regional Victoria and any community support for this action?
Mr O'BRIEN (Minister for Energy and Resources) -- I thank the member for Narracan for his question and for his interest in developing jobs and industry in regional Victoria. Victoria has one of the world's largest deposits of brown coal, and the coalition government is absolutely committed to ensuring that this resource is developed for the benefit of the Victorian community. Our brown coal reserves have been assessed at around 430 billion tonnes. To put this into context, it is the second-largest deposit of brown coal on the planet next to Russia's.
It has an energy content greater than the North West Shelf and constitutes over 500 years of usage at current rates.
The Victorian government believes that our brown coal can and should play a key role in our energy future. Encouraging new investment and the right technologies can deliver a new generation of industry in the Latrobe Valley, boosting the local economy and creating new jobs. However, the nature of our brown coal, with its high moisture content, means that it cannot be exported in its natural state. Modern technology to dewater the coal and process it into higher value end products such as hydrogen, urea and fertiliser can also deliver much lower emissions. This provides an opportunity for value-adding in Victoria -- making higher value, low-emission products with Victorian workers in this state. That is the Victorian coalition government's goal -- to utilise our world-class brown coal to create higher value energy products, to deliver lower emissions, to deliver jobs and to deliver increased economic growth for Victoria.
The Victorian government will soon undertake a market interest test. This test will inform the final design and timing of the coal tender process and the decision to proceed. However, I can say that the reaction to the government's announcement has indicated there will be strong interest indeed. There has been significant support for this initiative. The previous government 10 years ago undertook a coal allocation process. It is fair to say that it was a bit of a dud, because the government at the time as part of its allocation had no requirement to actually develop the resource, to actually invest. I can only imagine that former Premier Bracks must have been very poorly advised by his staff at the time to have allowed that to happen. What a dud decision to advise Premier Bracks to allow that to happen. The person responsible should probably hang his head in shame.
The government's announcement has been well received by the community. Tim Piper from the Australian Industry Group is reported as having said:
"The Gippsland area is in the middle of some economic tough times and it should be good for employment."
Ed Vermeulen, mayor of Latrobe City Council, is reported as having said:
"We need to pursue that kind of future."
To ignore the resource here locally would be just folly and would be to our economic detriment as a state and as a nation.
Megan Davison from the Minerals Council of Australia was quoted as having said:
"There are many, many opportunities (for coal) to be converted into other commodities that can be exported and contribute to jobs in the state."
The federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, is reported as having said:
"Brown coal exports represent the potential to develop new technologies, industry and jobs in the Latrobe Valley. "
Apart from the usual suspects, apart from the extreme Greens, it seems that everyone is supportive of this proposal, although I think I have one comment. Somebody said, 'This is not a plan, it is a pipe dream'. Who would be opposed to jobs? Who would be opposed to development? Who would be opposed to low-emissions technology? Who would be opposed to a new export industry for Victoria? None other than the Labor Party spokesman supposedly responsible for jobs and infrastructure, the member for Tarneit.