Neither the Victorian government or opposition will cement its stance on coalmining in the Latrobe Valley, amid reports that plans to release coalfields in the region have been put off due to the looming state election.
An unnamed senior government insider told Fairfax Media there would be no announcements on coal before the election due to unease over the Hazelwood mine fire in February and concerns it could costs votes in seats such as Morwell.
The Hazelwood coalmine burned for 45 days and an inquiry into the blaze found residents should have been told to leave the town of Morwell almost two weeks before they were advised to get out.
On Sunday, Premier Denis Napthine denied plans were being put off because of the November 29 election, and said the government was undertaking research and consultation about the best use of brown coal.
“Further research is being done, further work needs to be done,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“We’re going through a logical, appropriate process for better utilising our brown coal resource.”
He said Latrobe Valley residents had lived and worked with coal all their lives and supported development of the resource because it was a major economic driver of the region.
Deputy Opposition Leader James Merlino said on Sunday that Labor could not pre-empt its stance on the issue until it viewed the details of unallocated coal licence applications.
He said Dr Napthine was keeping that information secret before the election.
“This is sitting on the premier’s desk. He is desperately trying to keep it secret before the election and there is no wonder that he doesn’t want to be open with the people of Morwell,” Mr Merlino told reporters.
Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said the organisation was looking for a clear commitment from all parties not to develop new coalmines in Victoria.