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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2807

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I indicated that the decision of the Parliament has been vindicated by the procedures of the Environment Protection Authority. That Authority had the opportunity to hear witnesses and to hear the points of view of those who had objected to the location of the plant at Newport.

Senator Poyser - That is a lot of nonsense.

Senator GREENWOOD - Senator Poyseris a member of the Victorian Labor Party which had the opportunity to go before these various bodies to express its protest and to ask the Environment Protection Authority and the Environment Protection Appeals Board to consider the various matters upon which it is now relying but no attempt was made to do so.

I think it was on 23 November 1972 that the Premier of Victoria indicated that the matter would be referred by the Government to the Environment Protection Authority. It was on the day following that a union ban was placed upon the construction of the power station and that is the union ban which is still prevailing. It is not the only ban now because others have joined in. This represents a concerted attempt by a number of unions which are concerned only to have a direct confrontation with the Victorian Government to assert their authority and to indicate it is in the hands of the unions that power lies. A number of unions said that they would black ban the project. This was after the decision of the Environment Protection Appeal Board some 2 or 3 months ago. At the time that that statement was made the Victorian Premier properly said that the unions attitude represented a defiance of parliament and the elected government. He said: It is a question of who is running Victoria. '

Leaving aside the totally unreasonable stance of any group which claims to exert a private power to determine how public authorities should act, there are a number of matters relevant to particular points raised by the unions which ought to be mentioned. The unions claimed that the power station ought to be resited. This is an issue which was considered by the State Electricity Commission in preparing its report after 5 years investigation. Any attempt at resiting would involve a cost which I have been assured would be in excess of $100m and this would delay the project further for several months. Why change the site from an area in which, on the expert advice that our Commission in Victoria received, it is a perfect proper development?

It is said now, although it was not said originally, that the project will result in a wastage of natural gas. This was not one of the early considerations raised. It is an eleventh hour proposal which was not previously publicly supported. The facts simply are that the amount of natural gas which would be used over the next 20 to 25 years until the turn of the century would represent about 10 per cent of the available known natural gas resources at the present time. It is quite unreasonable whatever might be the theoretical arguments to say that there would be a diminution of the supplies of natural gas to other persons who would be using it.

If there were to be a resiting of the project new procedures would have to be laid down. There would have to be new hearings by the Environment Protection Authority. Doubtless, there would be appeals to the Environment Protection Appeal Board and the question of land acquisition might well be involved. As well as the matter being delayed extra cost would be involved. These are considerations of considerable weight but when added to the basic question of the right or authority of the union movement to take this action, they are an indication of the unreasonableness of the stand which is taken. It is very significant, in view of the political affiliations of those who control these unions, to note the original 5 unions concerned in this matter. They are the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, the Furnishing Trades Society- one might wonder what particular interest that society has in a power station at Newport- the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union, and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association of Australasia. Of course, a number of building unions have now joined in. It is a question now of the whole Trades Hall Council with, I understand, one exception voting in favour of the proposal.

I think it is relevant to recall that Dr Cass as the Minister for Environment and Conservation had originally said that he felt the Environment Protection Appeal Board had reached a decision which it was difficult to understand. He subsequently recanted and on 7 October he said there was little more that could be demanded of the State Electricity Commission in taking more precautions against air pollution than it had already taken. I think it is relevant also to consider some of the statements which were made to indicate how the Opposition's position has changed from -

Senator Cavanagh - Have it incorporated, Senator.

Senator Murphy - Can the honourable senator not do this tomorrow on the adjournment?

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