By Josh Kenworthy | Melbourne editor

Hazelwood Power station in Victoria. Image: Jenny Jagerhorn

Hazelwood Power station in Victoria. Image: Jenny Jagerhorn

The Victorian government’s plan to shut down Hazelwood Power Station, outlined in its Climate Change White Paper, has been welcomed by unions in the area.

The Gippsland Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) Secretary/Treasurer, John Parker said he was pleased with the white paper because it gave the industry enough notice to begin shifting to new industries.

“We’ve been saying to the government, ‘we want to know the truth and we want to know your best estimate of what’s going to happen’.”

Parker said, “The employer’s association have been saying for quite a while, behind the scenes, that by 2020 with a carbon trading scheme two of the power stations will probably be gone. And what we’ve said [to the government] is that we need… to be able to do that transition now.”

He also described the closure as a “brave call” by state government to give the early notice which is in stark contrast to the thousands of people left unemployed during the privatisations of the Kennett era.

GTLC Assistant Secretary, Steve Dodd, said it is now important that the government “consult the community and the unions about setting up new jobs for the people to run into.”

According to Parker, the average age of Hazelwood workers is 55 so it is expected that retirement will help with phasing out of Hazelwood while the rest of Gippsland’s skilled work force, mostly working in the power industry, will need to transfer to new industries like solar, construction, wind or dairy.

The white paper, released on Monday, outlines plans to shut down one quarter of Hazelwood Power Station by 2014 and to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

Environment Victoria (EV) said the emissions target showed strong leadership.

“Victoria’s new target is a strong leadership move that is head and shoulders above any other state or national emissions reduction target in Australia. It is in stark contrast to the weak targets and lack of policy from both the Federal ALP and Coalition,” EV chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“While the science tells us we need to go further than a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, the Premier is building a bridge between what we are currently doing about climate change in Australia and what we need to be doing,” she said.

Josh Kenworthy is a student currently at Monash University in Melbourne.

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