Collie community calls on ministers to hear their message
The Collie community has pleaded with Energy Minister Bill Johnston to help save their town as emotions boiled over at the fourth in a series of community meetings.
About 200 community members listened to Mr Johnston outline the Government’s plans for the town on Friday before tensions flared midway through the meeting to a point where two people had to be physically held apart.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Steve McCartney said it was 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 have members in this town and we want to make sure our members and their children have a future here.”
Community members who have spent their entire working lives in coal mines and at power stations as well as struggling small business owners took opportunities to put questions to the Minister.
Mr Johnston said Collie would continue to be the centre of the energy sector in WA for as long as he could envisage but people needed to accept 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 there needed to be a diversification of industry in the town.
“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.”
A message of “don’t panic” was reiterated by Mr Johnston, Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray and Bunbury MLA Don Punch.
“We have made money available for whatever industry wants to make a decision to come here,” Mr Johnston said.
“This is a free market and we can’t force industry to come — all we can do is provide a good environment for them to come.”
Mr Murray said plenty was being done to get the best outcome and the town had a bright future.
“Although people may be nervous they need to remember that there is not going to be any immediate shutdown of the current industries that have been the backbone of our town,” he said.
“I can understand the angst amongst community members, particularly small business, however it must be reminded that we have seen employees in the mining industry in Collie take a pay cut of up to $40,000, which has had an obvious impact on the small business and retail sector.”
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Forestry Minister Dave Kelly will be invited to the fifth community meeting on March 8.
“We want to continue getting information to the people in power so they understand the pressure people are under in Collie,” Mr McCartney said.
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