By Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has today announced a major restructure of the public service, with major implications for environmental policy and which could give the green light to new coal projects.
Friends of the Earth fear that the newly formed Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI), with its dedicated division focused on “facilitating significant projects which require a whole-of-government approach” is a veiled way of fast-tracking environmentally damaging developments.
Many Victorians were deeply disappointed by the anti-environmental direction taken by the government under the leadership of Ted Baillieu. Victorians care about their environment and don’t want environmental protection to fall victim to development.
In his media release announcing the restructure, the Premier said that bringing the Energy and Resources portfolio into DSDBI will enable a “sharper focus on major development opportunities such as Victoria’s coal resources”.
Any attempt to open up new coal resources will be deeply unpopular and be met with sustained opposition.
Expanding the coal industry made sense in the 1940s and 50s. With everything we know about climate change and the opportunities presented by renewable energy, it is madness to suggest any further development of coal in the 21st century.
Rather than concentrate on polluting coal and coal seam gas projects, the government could use the new development unit to expedite projects that harness renewable energy resources.
Wind energy has benefited Dr Napthine more than any other politician in the state. Two-thirds of the state’s wind turbines are located in his electorate. Sadly he has refused to re-write the rules, while attempting to position himself as being pro renewables. As any politician knows, sitting on a fence rapidly becomes electorally uncomfortable.
There’s still time for Dr Napthine, who represents South Western Victoria, to take a different path. Friends of the Earth hopes he will commit to re-writing Victoria’s regressive wind planning policy (VC82).
Friends of the Earth petition gathers momentum!
More than 1300 Victorians have signed a Friends of the Earth petition calling on Premier Napthine to re-write the government’s anti-wind farm laws and return balance to the planning system for renewable energy. You can sign our petition here and join them.