Step up, Premier Andrews!
The protestors were there, so too were the Greens, and even the Liberal Party sent a representative. But sadly, and I hope not ominously, Labor Party MPs declined the invitation to participate in this morning's rally on Parliament steps.
I had approached the rally with mixed feelings. Partly I was jubilant. It was so wonderful to hear last week that the infamous polluter, AGL, had announced that it was abandoning all its coal seam gas projects in NSW. No doubt the sustained resistance of masses of ordinary people to fracking was largely to thank for that outcome.
And fracking is very much on the agenda for Victoria as State politicians resume work after the summer break. That is why it was so important that influential organisations including Friends of the Earth, Environment Victoria, Lock the Gate and Yes 2 Renewables joined the mixed group of city and country protestors this morning.
But I was sad too because today is the second anniversary of the Hazelwood coal mine fire. As the fire raged over the following 45 days, the people of Morwell and surrounding districts lived within a haze of toxic smoke, which made them ill then and has been responsible for ongoing health problems ever since. And the longer term environmental and health impact has yet to be discovered. Appallingly, charges have yet to be laid against the French multi-national company ENGIE (known in Australia as GDF Suez), which owns Hazelwood.
A woman from Morwell addressed the rally and described vividly the dreadful and ongoing impact the disaster is having on the lives and well-being of her community. I felt particularly sorry for her that Government ministers were not there to hear. Also for the fourth generation farmer, (apologies that I did not catch either of your names), who travelled from his beloved Gippsland to Melbourne to speak to us about the perils of fracking.
We need to make it crystal clear to Premier Andrews and his government that the time for rhetoric is over. They need to come up with vision and radical action. In particular old power plants like Hazelwood must be shut down and Victoria kept Fracking-free.