Australian Greens health spokesperson and former GP and public health specialist, Dr Richard Di Natale, said today that the Morwell coal mine fire report shows why we need a National Clean Air Act.
“The Hazelwood mine fire was a public health disaster for the people of Morwell and it should give us all cause to reflect on the way we want to generate power in this country,” said Senator Di Natale.
“Last year I led a Senate Inquiry into the health impacts of air pollution which found that the mining, transportation and combustion of coal all pollute the air with fine particles that can exacerbate diseases like asthma and over the long term lead to serious conditions such as lung cancer.
While the coal mine fire posed a serious threat to people’s health, the people of Morwell remain at increased risk because of the ongoing exposure to particulate matter as a result of the continued operation of the coal mine and power station.
“The report into the fire recommends a national standard for very small particles known as PM2.5 but that barely scratches the surface of what is needed. Air pollution has been responsible for twice as many annual fatalities as the national road toll and it has been ignored by the old parties for too long.
“Australia needs a National Clean Air Act to set enforceable standards that will protect the health of the community. We also need to start factoring in the health impacts of coal in any discussion about power generation.
“The Abbott Government’s sham review into the Renewable Energy Target compared the cost of various sources of electricity but it didn’t incorporate the health costs of coal. The $100 million taxpayer funded clean-up of the Morwell coal mine fire is effectively an enormous public subsidy to the coal industry.
“Transitioning to clean renewable energy sources is as important for our own health as it is for the health of our climate. Nothing is more important than the air we all breathe and the water we drink.”
Media contact: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600