Tom Melville 00:00
Hi, I'm Tom Melville, and welcome to voice of real Australia. Each episode we bring you people, places, and perspectives from beyond the big cities. It's difficult to check the news these days without hearing about coal. The debate in this country about the commodity's future is, to put it mildly, rancorous. For some, the shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuel exports needs to happen, and it needs to happen ten years ago. Others see a long future with coal a crucial part of Australia's energy mix, and a cornerstone of our economy. For many on the ground in places like the Bowen Basin in Queensland, or the Hunter in NSW -- who are experiencing structural changes first hand -- it's like being trapped in no-man's land in a culture war The people of the latrobe Valley, in Victoria's Gippsland region about 90 minutes north west of Melbourne, know exactly what it looks like when there's no transition plan in place. I visited Latrobe to find out more.
Mark Richards 00:55
We had people, literally their partners ringing up, saying that their partner has told them they're worth more dead than alive due to the fact that they had superannuation for death payouts. Those sorts of things aren't taken lightly and they're not said lightly. So you are talking a major disruption for people's lives.
Tom Melville 01:14
In Latrobe, coal is king. For a century the Victorian state-owned electricity company generated power here by burning the coal buried throughout the valley. Coal is in this town's DNA -- I get that sense from street names like coal circuit and miners way.
Mark Richards 01:28
Mark Richards, I'm the Vice President for Mining Energy Victoria
Tom Melville 01:31
Hazelwood, where Mark used to work, is a decommissioned, brown-coal fuelled Power Station, right on the edge of Morwell, Victoria. The mostly remediated site is only a few hundred metres away from the local CFMEU office, where we met. Across the road, the rusty remains of the power plant -- pipes and turbines and chimneys -- lie seemingly forgotten behind barbed wire. It is a forlorn place, up here on this windswept hill. There's little evidence of the industry which sustained this community for decades.
Mark Richards 01:59
I do love the place. born and bred here. Spent a couple of years where my father went overseas to further his career, then came back.
Tom Melville 02:07
After we spoke at the office, Mark and I continued our conversation outside -- which is why the recording is a bit different.
Mark Richards 02:13
Yeah, born and bred here, got family here. Generations of family here worked from the Australian paper industry right through to the mining and energy area.
Tom Melville 02:22
And you could you could get work work elsewhere?
Mark Richards 02:25
Certainly it's a highly professional field. So yes, you could pack up you could move, leave your community, find good money elsewhere, but there's such a thing as quality of life and lifelong friendships. You don't want to throw them away.
Tom Melville 02:36
Hazelwood power station was constructed between 1964 and 1971. At its peak it employed thousands of people. By the end of its life it was providing 25% of Victoria's energy needs -- as well as 14% of its carbon emissions. In 2005 it was rated the least efficient power station in the OECD by the world wildlife fund. And then in November 2016, ENGIE, the France-based majority owner of Hazelwood, announced the power station would cease operations by March the following year...five months warning.
Mark Richards 03:08
So I was a unit controller at Hazelwood, for approximately 28 years. The job entails a lot of engineering, electrical and mechanical. We produce power for, in the valley, basically for 100 years. That's coal power, thermal power. We had no real warning of closure. We had approximately we'll call it 700 people with probably 3000 jobs affected around that. We ran for 51 years, there was no redundancy scheme at the time.
Tom Melville 03:35
With no emerging industry in the region, Hazelwood's nearly 800 workers were left with limited options; find another job locally, attempt to transfer to another local power station, take redundancy or simply leave the valley.
Mark Richards 03:49
Don't know what else to say. You've got to pack up and move if you want to keep the same sort of job field or transfer to another job where you're paid you know, a third of the wage doesn't help our local economy.
Tom Melville 03:59
In an effort to maintain as many jobs as possible and a future for the region, Mark, along with his CFMEU colleagues, helped set up a worker transfer scheme. They encouraged older workers from other power stations to retire early and let younger former Hazelwood workers take their places.
Mark Richards 04:16
So it would mean slightly early retirement for the older workers at the new stations, and an ongoing job for the young families so they don't have to pack up, leave the schools and their family and move away. So we had a promise from Daniel Andrews, who's the premier for Victoria, that we'd have 150 or more. And the companies really made that very difficult even though they said they'd participate. They really literally come along kicking and screaming. We managed to get about 89 across
Tom Melville 04:43
But Mark says the worker transfer scheme is only prolonging the inevitable.
Mark Richards 04:47
From Hazelwood we did have an opportunity to transfer those workers to you know, three power stations. When you close another one there is really only two more power stations. I mean, where do you go next? We need a new industry to revitalise this area, we've produced power for Victoria for over 100 years, and that's to neighbouring states. When's the payback going to come for this region to help look after us?
Wendy Farmer 05:12
It was terrifying. It was really terrifying. I know that it puts so much stress on our own household. And what made it even more terrifying was the politics. And I mean federal politics on that confusion about energy. But it was also on our finances and what the future was going to look like for us.
Tom Melville 05:36
Wendy Farmer's husband worked at Hazelwood, right up until the end. We're sitting in her kitchen at her home, close enough, she tells me, to the nearby Yallourn power station that she often finds soot coating the leaves in her garden and filling up the roof cavities. Her husband was one of the older employees who gave their jobs up to support younger workers.
Wendy Farmer 05:55
Really in November, the beginning of November was when the guys were told there would be no jobs, five months and we are closing. It was a shock for everybody. My husband then started talking at work. And his decision was to actually take early retirement, maybe seven to 10 years earlier than he would have. But there are a lot of older guys saying well, we need to stand aside, we've set up, we've been able to buy our house, to let the younger guys continue in the industry.
Tom Melville 06:25
The Latrobe Valley is no stranger to substantial job losses in the energy sector. Current estimates suggest that When the state electricity company was privatised in the nineties, around 10,000 people were left without work. As with Hazelwood, there was no transition plan.
Wendy Farmer 06:40
When they privatised it, our area really became quite depressed. A lot of people left, a lot of guys committed suicide. People didn't spend money... or that actually the guys that took a pay out spent it really quickly but then they had nothing. They became unemployed, they became depressed, and the area became depressed.
Tom Melville 07:03
During privatisation, Mark Richards was a young power station worker just starting out. He was lucky enough to keep his job in the sector, but he saw his community suffer.
Mark Richards 07:12
This place was absolutely devastated. You could go buy three houses in a row for less than $30,000 each in Morwell. We haven't seen that sort of disruption this time around. But with the worker transfer scheme, and with the government putting in tonin 66 million that helped stabilise I think a few things. Don't believe it's enough and there's no new industry for it to be ongoing. But it's a step in the right direction. I mean, when an industry worth, you know, $150 million I think every year just in employee tax disappears, you can't expect that money in the community to just grow on trees. It has to be replaced and you need real jobs created to move forward.
Graeme Middlemiss 07:49
I'm Graham Middlemiss. I am a counselor at Latrobe City Council.
Tom Melville 07:53
Graeme worked in coal mining for years, he says what's happening now has similarities to the impact of the state electricity company's privatisation.
Graeme Middlemiss 08:00
So we had massive unemployment for a period probably 10 years following mid 90s. We've gradually recovered from that. Now, I say this, should I say the backbone of our economy is going parallel to the brown coal power stations being and mines being threatened, we have a situation with the government saying there will be no logging in native forest after 2030. So that's nine years away. And we have the southern hemispheres largest paper mill here, another massive employer, you would have to doubt the future of that company. We're under threat from all sides.
Tom Melville 08:41
He says the job loss figure most often quoted regarding Hazelwood is an underestimate.
Graeme Middlemiss 08:46
With the privatisation, much of the maintenance and repair work for the power stations was outsourced. And there are companies throughout of the valley that specialise in various parts of power stations and paper mills. And if you take one power station out of the work, say it was Hazelwood, instead of working five days a week, the staff might only have worked for four days a week. Now we'll get another one out. So they go down to three. And what effectively happened, that workforce didn't drop back to four days a week half of them lost their jobs. So it was a much greater flow on that I don't think the government planned for and I don't think anybody was aware of and it'll happen again here to.
Tom Melville 09:23
Privatisation impacted not only industry, but it changed the shape of the community as a whole.
Graeme Middlemiss 09:28
When the privatisation occurred in the mid 90s. We had 77,000 people in our city. We had just about the same population as Ballarat and Bendigo, Ballarat and Bendigo are now pushing 100,000. We're back to 75,000. We actually lost 7000 people, anybody with a skill that was transportable, left in the 90s. We're back in the same situation again. So we have to have the jobs to offer these people.
Tom Melville 09:56
According to Graeme this means more than government funding strategies or training, more than simply throwing money at the issues. Solutions need to come in the form of meaningful, long term employment.
Graeme Middlemiss 10:06
If you look at the Northern European model where they plan well ahead, and then they retrain their people into justice, skilled jobs and same sort of level of payment, etc, none of that has taken place. That's the real problem. To give you an idea of what are called muddled planning, the government announced a $535 million upgrade of the railway line, just here beside us so all the Hazelwood guys will put through a course to get a certificate which would allow them to work on railway.
Tom Melville 10:40
Mark Richards was one of those Hazelwood workers who accepted training with the hope he'd get a job working on that big new rail project.
Mark Richards 10:46
So to get a license, you need to go through the training process, we did that I held off on paying for my medical because the job wasn't going to start straight away. Three years later, the rail work hadn't started. So that was training that actually laps the certification laps during that period.
Tom Melville 11:01
So you were no longer qualified?
Mark Richards 11:03
Essentially yes, no longer qualified because the job hadn't come, still hasn't arrived. It's on the way. But the timing wasn't there. So these things, it's not just about training people. It's not just about closure or new jobs. It's about making sure the timing if you create new jobs while the old jobs are still going, new people get those jobs don't get a transition.
Geoff Dyke 11:21
I'm Geoff Dyke secretary for Mining and Energy Victoria.
Tom Melville 11:25
Geoff works at Loy Yang B power station, and also for the CFMEU. He says retraining workers was a key part of the union's worker transfer strategy.
Geoff Dyke 11:34
Our strategy given the days of closure was sprung on us very short notice was to look for real jobs. And we saw three aspects. One was transferring workers by retiring up older workers at other stations and letting the young guys would guys move into their jobs. The second one was rehabilitation of the coal mine. And the third one was demolition of the power station. Now, at its peak, there was about 150 people involved in demolition of the power station. We had the peak for the mine rehab about 100. Now they're real jobs.
Tom Melville 12:10
But what good is training when there are no opportunities in your chosen field? Remediating a power station creates jobs, Geoff says, and few of those went to Hazelwood's retrenched workers.
Geoff Dyke 12:21
An example, a lot of the training is... government's just throw money out and say I will retrain people and they train a lot of the Hazelwood workers in asbestos removal. When demolition of the station came round and we required removal asbestos. The contract was let to a Melbourne company. and Melbourne people come up and remove the asbestos, even though the ex-Hazelwood workers have been trained in that work. And the company's response: "well, it's not our problem. We just let the contract and they engage whoever they want under the contract." So a lot of the training really didn't lead to meaningful reemployment outcomes.
Tom Melville 13:00
The closure of Hazelwood power station and its on-site coal mine meant the loss of hundreds of jobs - a significant number to a relatively small community, particularly when they're as highly skilled and well paid as many electricity generation jobs are. But for Geoff, the loss of jobs affects more than just the worker.
Geoff Dyke 13:16
It's not just the worker moving interstate, it's their family. So you lose in two kids from school, you're losing his wife who may be on community groups. So the community suffers socially. But it also suffers economically because that whole family's not spending in the region. It's not just one person. It's all four people.
Tom Melville 13:37
The main towns in the Latrobe valley are Churchill, Morwell, Traralgon, and Moe. Years of deindustrialisation and mass lay-offs have resulted in stagnation and rising crime rates. Shops are closed and the big fear for parents is that there'll be nothing to keep their kids in the area, no jobs and no future. The jobless rate in the region is about 8% -- in Morwell that figure jumps to over 13%, more than twice the national average. When I was in Latrobe, Energy Australia -- a Hong Kong owned company -- announced that the Yallourn Power Station would close in 2028, four years ahead of schedule. That's more than 500 jobs set to go in the valley in just a few years.
Ashley Schoer 14:17
My name is Ashley Schoer unit controller at Yallourn W power station. And I've worked there for 34 years 36 years in the industry and 34 at Yallourn.
Tom Melville 14:27
Have you lived in the valley for your whole life?
Ashley Schoer 14:30
Born in Latrobe Valley and lived here my whole life, parents have lived here for probably 50 years.
Tom Melville 14:37
Ashley and I meet at the CFMEU office, he was on the school run that afternoon, so he has his son with him. We chat while the restless kid vies for our attention. As a current employee at Yallourn, Ashley is nervous about his career being cut short when it closes in 2028.
Ashley Schoer 14:52
The only good thing out of seven years is we've got a firm date. Now, whether that will change or not we're not sure of. But obviously, that's a better situation than we had with Hazelwood getting four or five months notice. Wouldn't say it's going to be business as usual because there's a lot of detail, we still don't know, around the
Tom Melville 15:09
While 2028 is currently the scheduled date of closure, as Ashley points out, these things aren't set in stone.
Ashley Schoer 15:14
When we came into work, well Tuesday, we thought it was 2032 was the date. Wednesday morning it was 2028. So what's to say that, you know, in six months time, there might be 2024. It changed by four years overnight? So yeah, I mean, obviously, we're going to work on the seven year plan of the lab, because that's what we've got. But is it guaranteed? I'm not sure.
Tom Melville 15:32
The key for Ashley is that Energy Australia and the government are held to account for ensuring the livelihoods of Yallourn's workers.
Ashley Schoer 15:38
I suppose the main thing for me, I mean, obviously, there's an impact on the broader community, which is really important and that's something we need to address. But for the people that are that are working there, and that all of a sudden had four years chopped off their potential working career, we need to make sure those people looked after and Energy Australia has stated that June 2028 is the date of closure. And they've said that the government is supporting them, we need to make sure that happens. We need to make sure that those people that are working in our supported and paid right up until at least June 2028. So I think that's really important. And then there is a transition scheme in place to allow them to continue working after that. We need to ensure that Energy Australia is held to that promise, and everyone gets paid until then.
Chris Barfoot 16:24
I'm Chris Barfoot. I'm actually an engineer and a scientist. And I used to work with the state electricity commission for 33 years. My father was there for 30 years before that. And my grandfather used to work there as well.
Tom Melville 16:36
You used to work in Hazelwood?
Chris Barfoot 16:38
I worked at Hazelwood, I worked at Yallourn, I worked at Loy Yang A I worked in Hazelwood, mine, Yallourn mine, Loy Yang A mine.
Tom Melville 16:45
Chris now works as an independent consultant in the renewables sector. He experienced the closure of Hazelwood first hand and, as a former employee at Yallourn, is watching closely to see how the scheduled closure is carried out.
Chris Barfoot 16:57
An average power station is designed to last for 30 years, Hazelwood had gone over 50 Yallourn which is the next one coming up is coming up to 47 years. So I think next year for the first unit. So they've just got old. And as I've got olde, they get harder and harder to maintain the cost to operate them increases and the reliability drops off. As an example, generally speaking, at Hazelwood, you should have had 16 outages a year 16 shutdowns of units. My worst year I had 120. And that's just giving you an idea of how much the reliability had fallen away.
Tom Melville 17:33
While Chris understands all too well the risks that are inherent in the closure, he also sees it as a chance to develop new industry in the region.
Chris Barfoot 17:40
But making things happen and getting new businesses down takes time. It takes government policy, it takes incentives. It takes negotiation. But it also takes a chance to sit back and look at the opportunities that it creates. Closing Hazelwood opened up 1600 megawatts of capability onto the grid. That means other power stations, other systems being offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, pumped hydro, whatever, it has opportunities to join into that grid now.
Tom Melville 18:10
On top of that Chris believes decommissioned brown-coal sites should be repurposed for future industries.
Chris Barfoot 18:16
So now what we're proposing is things like utilising the mine pits which are likely to be filled with just water. But why wouldn't we put floating solar on those. Now, floating solar, what it does is, obviously it's solar panels that will float on on water, but it also cools the panels that allows them to have 15% gain in efficiency as part of that. But it also provides the power you need if you need to aerate the water if you need to pump the water or anything else or provide firefighting services or anything like that. And for example, the Hazelwood mine pit alone would take about 780 megawatts of solar, the Yallourn pits would take over 1000 megawatts of solar.
Tom Melville 18:56
Chris says that local renewable energy projects offer a benefit to all industries through cheaper electricity.
Chris Barfoot 19:02
Because the thing is, if you are close to a power station or be it solar, be it wind, whatever, you have the opportunity to work behind the meter, preferably, which will give you the cheapest power you will ever have. That gives you an economic advantage over every competitor. And this is a sort of thing we have to sell to people we have to get them to understand that working with these products or with these projects, has potential to really push the benefit right through the community.
Tom Melville 19:30
Wendy Farmer, who you heard from earlier, is President of Voices of the Valley, an advocacy group established in the wake of the 2014 Hazelwood fire, which saw the power station's adjacent open cut coal mine burn for 45 days. Toxic fumes engulfed the town of Morwell, putting not only energy production at risk but the health of community members. Wendy says they've been trying for years to get the conversation about transition started.
Wendy Farmer 19:54
Our organization would go to politicians and councils and say "hey guys, we have to try transition" and we were basically being shot down: "How dare you use that word in... around here? We're going to have coal for a long time. Hazelwood's going to be 2028 2032? We're going to have a coal." So we would put the argument in well, it takes more than 10 years to build a road in the valley. So let's start thinking about what the future will be.
Tom Melville 20:20
But there's scepticism in the valley about the green revolution and what it means for the community. The first question is jobs - particularly well-paid, meaningful jobs of the kind Geoff Dyke and his colleagues at Loy Yang B Power station have. Geoff says while his current six-figure job is highly skilled, the alternative in the renewable energy sector is stark.
Geoff Dyke 20:40
Renewables is not a viable option for our workers to transition to their workers are some of the highest paid, you know, in the country. And most of these jobs in the renewable sector are some of the lowest, you know, if you're washing solar panels and spraying weeds underneath them. It's not very high skilled work for skilled workers, it's more probable that our workers will leave and work in the oil and gas industry or other technical, skilled industries where they can use their skills. So...
Tom Melville 21:10
Outside the valley, presumably?
Geoff Dyke 21:12
Yes, well, there's nothing here.
Tom Melville 21:14
Chris Barfoot says a renewables industry won't come easily and won't come without decisive action in a number of areas.
Chris Barfoot 21:20
But what's equally critical with building those type of industries, is making sure that you build manufacturing to go with it. Because if you build a solar farm, it's a short term employer, you get a lot of employment during construction. But then, as I remember, the manager for Asia Pacific, sitting down with me at lunch one day, and he said, I build a solar farm in Thailand, and I've got one guy who cuts the grass, one who washes the panels and one who changes the inverter when the little red light goes on. And that's really about it. So if you want longer term employment, when you bring in the renewable industries, you must build the manufacturing base next to it. And that's the thing that gives you the green industries, which then gives you the benefit of going into Europe because you don't have the carbon tax or the carbon levies imposed. And they're the things that make the long term businesses build dramatically.
Tom Melville 22:11
The real renewable jobs, Mark Richards says, are in the manufacturing of components for solar and wind farms -- but that's not happening in the valley, either.
Mark Richards 22:20
With renewables, one thing I would say is that when you're looking at what makes up a wind farm, for example, the tubes that hauled the wind generator up and not even made here, they're being imported that steel, we could be doing it with Australian steel. We're not making blades here. We're not making the gearboxes none of that's being made here. It's all imported from overseas at the cheapest, right? So I don't actually see how the manufacturing side even adds a single job to it. We're not even assembling Lego essentially.
Tom Melville 22:46
But some people in LaTrobe believe that an energy transition doesn't necessarily mean a shift away from brown coal. Councillor Graeme Middlemiss again.
Graeme Middlemiss 22:54
No denying the argument that the current open cycle power stations don't have a long term future. But there are other uses for brown coal, we've just had the first successful operation of turning brown coal into hydrogen. And there are a number of other chemical plant proposals where there will be no emissions from the brown coal will be converted into chemicals effectively.
Tom Melville 23:16
Graeme believes that the demonisation of coal fire power has led to a lack of willingness from community, government and the private sector to embrace alternative uses for brown coal.
Graeme Middlemiss 23:25
What really annoys me in this is that we can't get any traction in any discussion surroundign alternative uses of brown coal. Which when you look at our community, it's one of the few assets compete with other regional centers around Australia, it is our strength and I still think there is a case to be made for that strength to remain here without greenhouse gas emissions.
Tom Melville 23:48
As Graeme says, brown coal could be used in hydrogen power generation, and an early stage project examining its viability as an industry has just started in the Latrobe Valley. Sharon Gibson is Mayor of Latrobe city council. She says she's hopeful the pilot program will lead to a large scale plant.
Sharon Gibson 24:05
Now the Japanese and the state and Federals Governments have put in hundreds of millions of dollars into this project. And it's designed to make hydrogen from the coal and it's to be shipped over to Japan. Now, they've done... they've just flick the switch on the pilot plants. And supposedly it's assured that yes, it will work. And once they they iron out all the bugs if you like then they'll look at doing a large scale plant.
Tom Melville 24:43
Sharon believes the Latrobe Valley should become a centre for hydrogen production.
Sharon Gibson 24:46
We need to be the hydrogen capital of Australia and look at all colours of hydrogen. Because yes, it's possibly the ultimate is green hydrogen. But you can't do that now that's 30 years before you could actually have enough power from it. So okay. In the meantime, well, we have other forms of hydrogen right here. So why can't we be the hydrogen capital of Australia?
Tom Melville 25:15
Wendy Farmer believes that by taking the politics out of it, and engaging community, results will follow.
Wendy Farmer 25:20
Example is South Australia. Great example. And we have this little bit of a saying, first, they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. And South Australia was very much like that when you know, Port Augusta are closed, and people were saying we want renewable energy, and people were laughing that they wanted renewable energy. And then they started some things and they had this political fight about when the transmission lines fell down: "Oh that's because of the renewable energy" and you know, politics playing on that. And guess what, look at South Australia now they have some of the lowest prices of energy, they won.
Tom Melville 26:00
What does an ideal future for the valley look like?
Wendy Farmer 26:04
I think a social... so ideal Valley looks like a socially connected community. It looks like our young people being able to stay because there are jobs. It looks cleaner. Actually, it looks like we have blue skies. It's a beautiful area, that we still have way too many emissions. And it is what the community wants. It's what the community wants is happy with.
Tom Melville 26:30
Latrobe is just one example, a warning even. There are 21 coal fired power stations around the country, and even more coal mining hubs. Regions like the Hunter in NSW, or Collie in Western Australia are facing similar challenges to the people of Latrobe. Currently, there is no plan to help the tens of thousands of workers employed in Australia's fossil fuel industry transition to new jobs as we move away from coal. Mark Richards points to the success of Germany's coal transition , and argues that a centralised, long-term plan is necessary to help Australia's workers make the transition.
Mark Richards 27:02
We know that can be fixed, we've seen in Germany, they went from 500,000 coal miners down to I don't wanna say 10,000, but over since 1969 till now. And that's because I worked in tripartite with government unions and business, they knew something had to be done. They planned for it, they marked the years and they set a target, they also committed money to it. So in summary, I would say that the transition in Germany talked about changing the whole industry, they call it black industry, as in call. They also transition gig workers from other stations. They got to a point where sometimes you couldn't and they want to move, but no one was forcibly retrenched nobody. So you may have found a job that paid you know, half the pay somewhere else in the same field and the government would top up their wage until they retired. That's foresight, that's realising you don't chuck communities on the scrapheap and you have a plan. Currently, we don't have this in Australia.
Tom Melville 27:54
Chris Barfoot says closures like the one scheduled for Yallourn are inevitable, but if we plan for the future, change doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Chris Barfoot 28:02
This is a strange thing we've found is that it's all been about designing your own future. If you let the future happen to you, you just get steamrolled. If you take the step forward, and you say this is what it could be. Suddenly people start to accept that people start to work with you and say we want to be part of that. Change happens, it hurts. You don't make a butterfly out of a caterpillar without bending a few bits. Yeah. So you just got to have a vision, you've got to look forward. But if you do that, if you've got that vision, you'll suddenly find people will follow. And if the people start following, life is good.
Tom Melville 28:36
Sharon Gibson says that the Latrobe Valley has, for years, provided cheap electricity to Victoria and that if these people don't reciprocate that support, The Valley will struggle to make a viable transition.
Sharon Gibson 28:47
For too long the powers at be and not slag on... You know, the powers that be have relied on the Latrobe city. They've relied on our resources. Now they need to give back. You don't want our resources the way it has been used for nearly 100 years. Okay, then help us transition properly. I think that's very, very fair.
Tom Melville 29:21
Are you fearful for the community?
Sharon Gibson 29:24
No, I think this is an opportunity for the community if there's proper bipartisan agreement with state and federal and us.
Tom Melville 29:38
If this story has affected you in any way, Lifeline is there to help call 13 11 14. That's it for this episode of Voice of Real Australia. Thanks for listening. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. I'll be back in a couple of weeks. If you like the podcast please tell your friends and give us a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts. It really helps. If you'd like to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org, that's voice at aust "a-u-s-t" community media dot com dot a-u. Our Facebook page is Facebook.com/voiceofrealAustralia. Follow me on Twitter @TomMelville124 Voice of Real Australia is recorded in the studios of the Newcastle Herald. It's produced by Laura Corrigan and me, your host, Tom Melville, with help from Ethan Hamilton. Special thanks this week go to Matthew Kelly. Our editors are Gayle Tomlinson and Chad Watson. This is an ACM podcast.