Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has been lashed by Labor MPs, union leaders and peak mining bodies over her claims the South Australian town of Whyalla can thrive as a centre of wind energy if a carbon tax forced the closure of steelmaker OneSteel.
Tony Abbott joined the attack yesterday, accusing the South Australian senator of “living in a dreamworld”.
“This idea that Whyalla could become some kind of eco-village with everyone living in gingerbread houses is just slightly crackers,” the Opposition Leader said.
Australian Workers Union state secretary Wayne Hanson vowed to keep working with the federal government to save up to 4000 steel industry jobs in the regional city of 22,000 people.
“I don’t know what planet Senator Hanson-Young is on, or what she’s been smoking, but indeed if she’s not a smoker she’s certainly been standing too close to the barbecue,” Mr Hanson said yesterday.
The Australian reported yesterday that Senator Hanson-Young believed Whyalla could survive if the steelworks closed under a carbon tax and, with the right investment, could transform itself into a hub of wind energy.
Yesterday, she stood by the comments, saying Whyalla’s location meant it was “perfectly placed” to take advantage of the region’s strong winds.
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel said the closure of OneSteel would turn Whyalla into a “ghost town”. “At best, Senator Hanson-Young’s wind power solution would likely only provide 10 per cent of the workers with replacement jobs over the next decade or more,” Mr Kuchel said.
South Australian Industry Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the senator’s comments were “irresponsible and childish”.
“She’s the Senator for South Australia. How dare she say that about a great industry in Whyalla? Whyalla was built on steel,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
Senator Hanson-Young has refused to say who would supply the steel for wind farm turbines if OneSteel closed its doors.
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