Eyes of nation on Collie: union
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.