Saturday, 11 November 2006

Liberal poll win will kill the wind industry

Thursday 9/11/2006 Page: 11

Employer warns of job losses -

HUNDREDS of people employed in the booming wind energy industry will be thrown out of work if the Opposition wins the state election, one of Victoria's major regional city employers will warn today.

In a passionate notice to be distributed to its 450 employees, Portland wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince says: "Make no mistake about it - if the Liberal Party wins the election on November 25, it will effectively kill the wind industry in this town." General manager Stephen Garner tells his workers that the Liberals' plan to abolish the Bracks Government's subsidy scheme for renewable energy would sever "the main artery to the heart of Keppel Prince".

Emphasising that he has no political connections, Mr Garner writes: "The choice you make on election day could have a major impact on Portland and our surrounding communities." His dramatic intervention in the election campaign comes as a left-leaning national think tank nominates Victoria as the best performing state in Australia, based on economic, social and environmental measures.

The Sydney-based Evatt Foundation has put Victoria at the top of its annual "league table" of states for the first time in the survey's 13-year history. It said Victoria was the best performing state in social policy, second best on the environment (after South Australia) and fourth on economic policy (behind the boom states of Western Australia and Queensland and then NSW).

Premier Steve Bracks last night seized on the report's description of Victoria's result as "a clearly superior all-round policy performance".

But Mr Bracks added: With today's increase in interest rates and the impact of the drought, Labor recognises there is more work to be done to meet these challenges and keep Victoria at the top."

Mr Garner said last night that two weeks ago he had pleaded with Liberal frontbencher and former leader Denis Napthine, whose electorate is based in Portland, to persuade the Opposition Keppel to embrace Labor's renewable energy scheme. When Dr Napthine said he stood by the Liberal policy to abolish the scheme, which requires energy retailers to source 10 per cent of their power from renewable energy by 2016, Mr Garner told him he felt compelled to speak out before the election.

"The wind industry can't survive without the subsidies," he said last night.

In the notice to his employees, Mr Garner writes: We employ around 450 people - 120 of whom are directly employed in the manufacture of towers for the rapidly expanding wind energy business. It is a fact that we will be employing an extra 20 people when we expand our operations to include a third shift on the two production lines.

If the Liberals are elected on November 25, not only will this cancel our plans for expansion, but we will be forced to lay off up to 80 of our existing employees." Last night he said the job losses would spread beyond his firm to about 250 people in the wind industry in Portland.