Collie: A town on its knees cries out for a saviour

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
AMWU secretary Steve McCartney opens the meeting.
Camera IconAMWU secretary Steve McCartney opens the meeting. Credit: Stuart McGuckin

Two people had to be physically restrained during a fiery meeting with the State Government over the future of a South West town locals say is on its knees.

About 200 Collie residents were told “don’t panic” when they fronted a meeting in the coal-mining town with Energy Minister Bill Johnston, and local Labor MPs Mick Murray and Don Punch.

But emotions boiled over as Mr Johnston outlined the Government’s plans for the town, with two people restrained halfway through the meeting.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union arranged the meeting to address concerns about the future of Collie’s coal industry, which has been beset by uncertainty in recent years.

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AMWU secretary Steve McCartney said the tensions were a sign of what was on the line. “We understand how much concern there is in the town and that’s why we started having these meetings in the first place,” he said. “We want to make sure our members and their children have a future here.”

Mr Johnston said Collie would continue to be the centre of WA’s energy sector for the foreseeable future but its residents needed to accept the technological changes within the industry.

“This isn’t about government policy because industry will make its own decisions about how they are supplied power,” he said. “That can be very difficult for a community like Collie.”

Mr McCartney said that was the reason the town’s economy had to diversify. “If we have industry next to industry it means that when one feels pain there is another one the town can fall back on,” he said.

“We don’t want what happened in the Eastern States to happen here. We need to make sure we’re not destroying a community then rebuilding it.”

Mr Murray said he understood why there was considerable angst but pay cuts of up to $40,000 in the mining industry had also played a part in Collie’s struggles.

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