Eyes of na­tion on Col­lie: union

South Western Times - - News - Stu­art McGuckin

Aus­tralian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Work­ers Union sec­re­tary Steve McCart­ney says peo­ple from across the coun­try will look to­wards how suc­cess­fully Col­lie tran­si­tions from be­ing a coal min­ing and en­er­gy­driven town.

His com­ments came after the most re­cent com­mu­nity meet­ing to dis­cuss the town’s fu­ture at­tracted more than 150 peo­ple on Fri­day.

“You could sell tick­ets to this all around Aus­tralia be­cause peo­ple want to see how this tran­si­tion works and what the State Gov­ern­ment has planned,” Mr McCart­ney said.

“What we are hop­ing to do is show a way for­ward for fu­ture tran­si­tions to make sure there isn’t the same im­pact that there was at Hazel­wood and other towns.”

A wide cross-sec­tion of com­mu­nity mem­bers, work­ers and farm­ers from sur­round­ing ar­eas were rep­re­sented.

“We had a re­ally fruit­ful dis­cus­sion about the way for­ward and build­ing a story about what is good for Col­lie,” Mr McCart­ney said.

“A lot of peo­ple have felt like they haven’t been able to have a say and there was plenty of time to dis­cuss the is­sues and de­bate them amongst our­selves.

“It was a re­ally healthy con­ver­sa­tion to have.”

The meet­ing cen­tred on de­vel­op­ing a struc­ture which could be put to gov­ern­ment and went for more than two and a half hours.

“It cen­tres around sta­bil­is­ing the econ­omy of Col­lie — if we sta­bilise the econ­omy what we start to do is res­cue the in­vest­ments of ev­ery­one in Col­lie,” Mr McCart­ney said.

“We don’t want an­other place that falls over then the gov­ern­ment comes in say­ing ‘by the way, we want to look for some jobs’, we want to make sure there is min­i­mal fi­nan­cial im­pact and we want to know when.”

Col­lie shire pres­i­dent Sarah Stan­ley agreed there were unan­swered ques­tions re­gard­ing the tran­si­tion.

“It is heart­en­ing to see the fo­cus at all lev­els to work col­lab­o­ra­tively to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion,” she said.

“But there con­tin­ues to be unan­swered ques­tions around the pro­jected gen­er­a­tion mix and time­lines for re­tire­ment of as­sets.”

Mr McCart­ney was asked by the group to write to En­ergy Min­is­ter Bill John­ston invit­ing him to at­tend the next meet­ing on Jan­uary 25.

“We want him to give us an idea of his vi­sion for the tran­si­tion and what we want to do is value add to that by mak­ing sure he un­der­stands where the com­mu­nity sits and what it needs,” he said.

Cr Stan­ley said the coun­cil would wel­come dis­cus­sion with Mr John­ston be­cause his port­fo­lio cov­ered Col­lie’s key in­dus­tries.

The Col­lie com­mu­nity con­tin­ued to show it wants an­swers to sev­eral ques­tions con­cern­ing plans to di­ver­sify the town’s econ­omy at a third com­mu­nity meet­ing on Fri­day.

The num­bers in at­ten­dance were triple that recorded at ei­ther of the first two meet­ings and by the end of the night it was de­cided an in­vi­ta­tion needed to be ex­tended to MLA Bill John­ston to at­tend the fourth meet­ing at the end of Jan­uary.

It is an in­vite he would be well ad­vised to take up.

Mr John­ston is in a prime po­si­tion to an­swer the com­mu­nity’s grow­ing con­cerns re­gard­ing a time­line, given his re­cent ap­point­ment to the en­ergy port­fo­lio.

The Min­is­ter con­tin­ues to hold the mines and pe­tro­leum and in­dus­trial re­la­tions port­fo­lios which are all heav­ily linked to the town’s main in­dus­tries.

Coal min­ing and en­ergy pro­duc­tion have been the pow­er­house of the Col­lie econ­omy for more than a cen­tury.

As the de­mand for coal falls amid a shift to­wards re­new­able elec­tric­ity sources, the com­mu­nity has come to terms with the need to tran­si­tion to a more di­verse econ­omy.

It should be com­mended for the work it has put in al­ready and its readi­ness to move be­yond coal min­ing and en­ergy pro­duc­tion.

All it needs now is to know a time­line to work to­wards and for the State Gov­ern­ment to come to the party by show­ing some over­all guid­ance.

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