Kennett's Coode Island betrayal condemned

August 13, 1997

Kennett's Coode Island betrayal condemned

By Jeremy Smith

MELBOURNE — On August 3, Footscray residents expressed their anger at the Kennett government's announcement that it would not honour its promise to move the Coode Island chemical storage complex.

A public meeting attended by 150 residents was organised by the Hazardous Materials Action Group (HAZMAG), the City of Maribyrnong, and the City of Port Phillip. Residents said the decision confirmed long-held suspicions that financial motives would compel the government to change its mind.

The government's original site of Point Lillias was abandoned after strong protests by residents there highlighted the potential damage that a new complex could inflict on the local environment.

Peter Brotherton, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, recalled the Coode Island explosion that occurred on August 1, 1991. The sentiment that Coode Island must go was so great, he told the meeting, that the Kirner Labor government was forced to establish an independent panel of review. However, the panel's findings were ignored by Kirner and have never been addressed by the Kennett government. Instead, $18 million have been spent on cosmetic safety measures.

Brotherton estimated that $200 million dollars would have to be spent to bring the Coode Island facilities up to international standards.

Peter Marshall, secretary of the Firefighters Union, warned of the sad state of Melbourne's Metropolitan Fire Brigade after recent cuts. There are 300 less firefighters than at the time of the Coode Island explosion.

Colleen Hartland from HAZMAG passionately reminded the audience that there had been 40 incidents at Coode Island and four major chemical accidents in Melbourne's western suburbs in the last 10 years. "We face choices today. We can sit back and believe what the chemical industry says. Or we can fight back", she said.

The meeting passed resolutions condemning the government's decision, calling for the lease to be withdrawn, the formation of a campaign committee and a demonstration on August 24.

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