The “Switch off Hazelwood, Switch on Renewable Energy” protest targeted Australia’s dirtiest coal-fired power station, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, on October 10. It was successful but muted in contrast to its predecessor in 2009.
The mood was no less festive, but this year, there was no climate camp, no mass actions and no arrests.
The numbers were smaller: up to 200 protesters were present. The police presence, up to 300 officers, including several on horseback, was overkill. The authorities erected a temporary fence to prevent protesters from knocking down or scaling the perimeter, as happened the year before.
Julia Diehm from the legal support team told protesters the state government had passed laws in 2009 to suppress “eco-terrorists”, such as those at the Hazelwood rally. She asked protesters to monitor police behaviour and report incidents of police harassment to the legal support team. Shaun Murray from Friends of the Earth and Mark Ogge from Beyond Zero Emissions also spoke.
On the two-kilometre walk to Hazelwood, marchers chanted: “Coal. Don’t dig it! Leave it in the ground. Get with it!”
Penelope Swales sang protest songs at the gate, with comedian Rod Quantock as MC. Greens candidate Samantha Dunn, running for Eastern Victoria in the state election, read a statement from federal Greens deputy leader Christine Milne. “The Greens hear you and are calling for 100% renewables”, she said. “Coal-fired power stations must be closed, and coal companies must pay for pollution.”
Deb Hart from LIVE, a Melbourne climate action group, called Hazelwood a “death machine”.
Two “climate emergency service” workers, helped by construction workers, hoisted a five-metre high wooden structure with “Solar Power 24/7” written on it. Protesters held aluminium-foil panels, representing an alternative solar energy plant. “MP Mr Honourable”, “Andy Union Worker”, and “CEO Rachel”, representing the renewable energy industry, opened the mock new energy plant.