Abbott visited draws protest

Voices of the Valley president Wendy farmer, Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group secretary Dan Caffrey and Eastern Victoria Greens candidate Tom Cummings with a message for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. photograph michelle slater

Voices of the Valley president Wendy farmer, Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group secretary Dan Caffrey and Eastern Victoria Greens candidate Tom Cummings with a message for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. photograph michelle slater

Latrobe Valley environment groups felt snubbed by former prime minister Tony Abbott when he was in Morwell on Monday and refused to speak about his plans for a new coal-fired power station.

Around a dozen locals representing Voices of the Valley, Latrobe Sustainability Group and the Greens were waiting for the Liberal backbencher to visit the Morwell RSL on a stop along the Pollie Pedal bicycle ride.

Protesters were pushing the former PM to abandon his call for a new high efficiency low emission coal-fired power station in favour for renewable energy jobs and infrastructure.

Mr Abbott was riding with about 40 cyclists, including Coalition colleague Kevin Andrews, through Gippsland to raise money for ex-service personnel charity Soldier On.

The outspoken backbencher was expected to face the press in Morwell to spruik the merits of Monash Forum manifesto plans for a new power station on the site of Hazelwood.

Both Mr Abbott and Mr Andrews posted a Facebook video of themselves outside Hazelwood on Sunday, talking about the project's potential benefits.

However, the MP slipped into the RSL via the front door on Monday, while the assembled media and protesters were waiting around the back.

"I've done my doorstop for the day, I'm happy to talk next time I do a doorstop," Mr Abbott said as he left the RSL, shunning media questions about leadership polls and the Liddell power station.

Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer went into the RSL to hand Mr Abbott a football with the words "stop playing political football with our community" written on it, before she was ejected.

Ms Farmer said she had attempted to invite the then-PM to the Latrobe Valley four years ago during the Hazelwood mine fire, but he didn't take up her offer.

"I was extremely disappointed he didn't face the community and poll the community to see if it wants more coal or renewable energy," Ms Farmer said.

"Instead, he used the front door so we couldn't talk to him. The Coalition has turned its back on us once again, and they turned their back on us today.

"We just want him to stop playing political football with our lives. Mr Abbott has proven his irrelevance."

Latrobe Sustainability Group secretary Dan Caffrey said he was also dismayed Mr Abbott avoided speaking to local environment groups.

"We can't be stupid enough to invest in new coal ventures when we are seeing the adverse effects of climate change," Mr Caffrey said.

"A new coal-fired power station will be loaded to the hilt with automation, and instead of providing hundreds of operational jobs, it would provide dozens of jobs at the most."

He said there were potential Latrobe Valley jobs from supplying material to the proposed Star of the Sea off-shore wind farm, as well as local community-owned renewable energy hubs, pumped hydro or solar thermal power stations.

Member for Gippsland Darren Chester described the protesters' behaviour as "disrespectful".

"It is disrespectful to be protesting on the grounds on the RSL when we have this group set up to help veterans," he said.

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