THE Liddell power station closure is a “watershed moment” for owner AGL and Australia, says Greens icon Bob Brown on the eve of a Newcastle visit for Doctors for the Environment.
Turnbull Government pressure on AGL last week to sell Liddell rather than close it in 2022 was “an extraordinary bit of socialist intervention” only months after similar attempts in 2017, Mr Brown said.
It was even more extraordinary coming from a free-market government, he said.
“The so-called Monash group within the government is spruiking coal so the government’s showing it’s the new Luddite front in Australia, but it’s not about jobs or acting in Australia’s interests. It’s about an ideology of climate change deniers whose pro-coal policies have meant higher power prices for Australians.
“AGL’s at once good cop and bad cop. It’s got a big portfolio of fossil fuel assets on the one hand, and on the other hand it’s trying to shift from fossil fuels to renewables. It is a watershed moment for AGL and Australia.”
Dr Brown will speak at Newcastle City Hall on Friday about the power of community activism in trying to shape the kind of world we want to live in. The event is open to the public and is hosted by Doctors for the Environment, the Bob Brown Foundation and the Wilderness Society. The Friday night event is part of a three-day Doctors for the Environment conference in Newcastle from April 13-15.
Dr Brown said he was happy to travel to Newcastle from Tasmania for the conference because he supported Doctors for the Environment, and there had been strong links between environmental activism in the Hunter and Newcastle for decades.
His office wall carries a photo of Newcastle activist Ben Morrow, who was one of a number of Hunter people involved in protests to protect parts of the Tasmanian wilderness including the Weld and Styx valleys. Dr Brown described Mr Morrow, who died of cancer in 2008, as “an extraordinary young man” who was prosecuted by the Tasmanian government even after his cancer diagnosis.
Dr Brown said Doctors for the Environment’s work in the Hunter targeting the health impacts of power station and coal mine emissions on communities was “ringing the bell on an industry that is harming people’s health and lives”.
His childhood memories of train rides between New England through “the beautiful Hunter Valley” between New England and Sydney were now marred by a landscape “made ugly by the coal industry”.
”This is an industry on the way out. What politicians should be doing, rather than talking about extending Liddell or a new coal fired power station, is doing as much as can be done to ensure that the coal industry pays for what it’s done to this once-beautiful landscape,” Dr Brown said.
“It’s an industry that’s largely overseas-owned by people sitting in boardrooms a long way away who never get within a bull’s roar of the Hunter Valley.”
The Newcastle City Hall event on Friday starts at 6pm and will feature the Bob Brown Foundation’s recent campaign to have the Tarkine area of Tasmania listed as a World Heritage area.