Article by: Hari Yellina
Farmers opposed to AusNet’s plans to build a transmission corridor across western Victoria say they want federal Labor to use their return authority to force a modification on the project. Catherine King, a federal MP, won her eighth election on Saturday, maintaining the Ballarat seat. Ms King said she is prioritising “delivering for the community” on a local level, but it is uncertain whether she will return to cabinet as Infrastructure Minister. The Western Victorian Transmission Network Project (WVTNP), which could see a 190-kilometer above-ground transmission corridor erected from Bulgana to Melbourne, is one of the most publicly debated — and reviled — projects in her electorate.
Ms King told Steve Martin of ABC Ballarat Breakfast today that her abilities as a federal MP to influence change on the project are restricted, but she will “do all she can.” “Both the new Hawke member (Sam Rae) and I will make a proposal to the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) arguing that we need an alternate route, look into undergrounding, and make a case for the community,” she said. AusNet indicated last month that the EES report to Planning Victoria would be postponed owing to COVID impacts and to allow for more community input. Ms. King also plans to change the regulatory procedure for future transmission projects, according to her.
“We recognise, along with Chris Bowen (current Shadow Energy Minister), that the regulatory process for transmission projects is not fit for purpose moving forward,” she stated. “Given that this (WVTNP) has already had regulatory approval, it’s not possible to reexamine that, but what it means if there’s any challenge to this process… and if we’re able to improve that regulatory process in that time, it will benefit the community.” “However, I don’t want to raise hopes that I or the next Labor government have the capacity to halt them at the federal level”. “There hasn’t been any federal government.” Will Elsworth, a farmer and engineer from Smeaton, is one of over 4,000 people who have joined the Facebook community group “Piss Off AusNet: Spud and Spa Region.”