Tasmania is the lucky state.
Author Donald Horne in his 1964 book, The Lucky Country, which became a moniker for Australia described the Great South Land as lucky, but not without challenges and faults.
"Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise," he wrote.
Horne would follow The Lucky Country with Death of the Lucky Country in 1976.
He needed to spend more time in Tasmania. Some say we are fortunate to live on the island state. The more I adventure, the more wholeheartedly I agree.
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Mainlanders consider their island bigger and better lands; more shining lights and wider plains. But, to be honest, better doesn't exist. Tasmania is often described in the same parlance as Ireland; cold, rocky and desolate; encouraging hope of somewhere else; somewhere more plentiful; somewhere luckier. The more remote the more beautiful; the more idyllic the more grateful we feel. In separation there is opportunity. Travelling in country Victoria, a monolithic brown coal-fired thermal power station emphatically seizes our attention. The plant produces 50 per cent of Victoria's electricity supply; enough for two million homes.
The brown coal is burned, producing steam that turns the turbines.
Dark and unfriendly and big and bold. It is gothic in appearance. One traveller said it to be the largest man-made structure he had ever seen. So large, it was breathtaking. Occupying nearly 6000 hectares; black and industrial, like a vision from the past. Fired by brown coal - the old world powering an ambitious and prosperous new world land.
Pastures surround; perhaps an overstatement; more dust with hints of green that has not been in abundance for several years.
If electricity production was a Facebook relationship status in Australia - it would read: it's complicated.Brian Wightman
Unless you're from further south, you don't truly understand, you don't fully appreciate.
The race, a conveyor belt, spans longer than a jetty; much longer. The coal sent on its way by four bucket-wheel excavators working an open cut mine. It's close to the Basslink interconnector connecting Tasmania to the mainland grid. During low water periods, we purchase electricity from the power station. It's the reason our state was required to pay a price on carbon. Our trip is basically self-sufficient except when we plug into power made from this brown-coal. If electricity production was a Facebook relationship status in Australia - it would read: it's complicated.
The power station employees 152 Victorians and, at least, 40 contractors plus more indirect jobs contributing to the valley and the region. These jobs are very hard to replace; perhaps impossible.
It is the largest power plant in Australia generating 3280MW at full capacity. By comparison, Hydro Tasmania's largest power plant, the Gordon Power Station, generates 432MW with water turning the turbines to make electricity that supplies 13 per cent of Tasmania's requirements.
About 10 people work at the station, supported by 1200 Hydro Tasmania staff. Trevallyn Power Station produces 100MW. TEMCO uses 60MW, providing jobs for more than 300 Tasmanians. The figures make it easy to understand Victoria's reliance on brown coal. After all, they have the fastest-growing population in the nation to support.
Tasmania has an ambitious project - the Battery of the Nation that will assist Victoria to inevitably transition from fossil fuels to renewables. A second interconnector is essential to maximise this opportunity. Late last week, greater Hobart residents were placed on water restrictions. The 2015-16 energy crisis caused by drought and breakage in the Basslink cable left the Gordon Dam at record lows. The state employed diesel generators to meet demand. Tasmania aims to be 100 per cent renewable by 2022; well ahead of any other state or territory. We are currently tracking at 92 per cent renewable energy production. Wind farms will complement hydropower to reach the target. Tasmania as the battery and food-bowl of the nation is not just political speak, it is essential for Australia's future. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth my late father would say. Even with the challenges we face, Tasmania is the lucky state.
- Brian Wightman is a former Attorney-General and school principal.
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