Monday, 14 July 2014
Bass Electorate: Bell Bay Aluminium
I rise to discuss the importance of Rio Tinto's aluminium smelter at Bell Bay, in my electorate of Bass, which is a major contributor to the Tasmanian economy. This was the first aluminium smelter built in the Southern Hemisphere, but, sadly, it is one of the few businesses of this size left in northern Tasmania. Bell Bay Aluminium, either directly or indirectly, employs over 1,000 Tasmanians and uses about 25 per cent of Tasmania's total electricity. Importantly, 80 per cent of the electricity it uses is produced by renewable energy, or hydropower.
So you may wonder: why does this business, which uses 80 per cent renewable energy, contribute to the renewable energy target? As I have made clear in recent comments to the media, I believe Bell Bay Aluminium should be 100 per cent exempted from the renewable energy target. In a recent radio interview, Greens leader Senator Christine Milne dismissed concerns about how Labor-Greens policies were impacting jobs at Bell Bay, where over 120 jobs have been cut in the last two years. In keeping with the recent Labor-Greens tradition of framing the national debate as some sort of class war between billionaires and poor people, she said: 'Aluminium companies have been profiting off the backs of the community for years.' What Senator Milne wants to do is sell the electricity the smelter uses into the national grid. She is happy to sacrifice the jobs at Bell Bay, on the altar of Greens' ideology, even though that business is powered by 80 per cent renewable energy. As the editor of Launceston's Examiner, Martin Gilmour, said in a recent column, Senator Milne's statement was 'rubbish'. Bell Bay Aluminium contributes almost $700 million per year to Tasmania's gross state product and it supports over 1,000 Tasmanian jobs. Selling the power interstate, as Senator Milne prefers, would generate only $130 million to $140 million and virtually no jobs.
To heap indignity on stupidity, Launceston based Senator Helen Polley and her Greens colleague Peter Whish-Wilson have remained silent in the face of Senator Milne's ideologically driven attacks. By contrast, my position is clear: I strongly support Bell Bay Aluminium and the vital contribution this business makes to Tasmania's economy. I call on Labor Senator Helen Polley, who lives very close to Bell Bay, to please explain: does she endorse Senator Milne's remarks and, if not, why has she remained silent? I call on Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who is also based in Launceston, to please explain: does he support his leader's callous disregard for jobs at Bell Bay and, if not, why has he remained silent? It is time for these senators to stand up for jobs in northern Tasmania and to repudiate Senator Milne's ridiculous public comments.