RENEWABLE energy operators in the south-west have remained silent after the state government announced it would drop its Victoria-specific carbon target.

Environment Minister Ryan Smith yesterday released the findings of the independent review which was triggered by the federal government’s carbon tax package last year.

The review found that dual state and national emissions targets would impose additional costs on Victorian households, leading Spring Street to axe its greenhouse gas reduction deadline of 20 per cent by 2020.

“The days of spending large amounts of Victorian taxpayers’ money on expensive advertisements, symbolic gestures, meetings and seminars are over,” Mr Smith said.

“As Professor Ross Garnaut suggested, we will focus on helping home-owners and the business sector to cope with rising power prices.”

The former Brumby government introduced legislation to cut emissions 20 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 after the failure of the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme to pass federal parliament.

In opposition, the state Coalition supported the 20 per cent target but have distanced themselves from the proposal during the past 12 months.

The Standard yesterday contacted a number of renewable energy companies with projects based in the south-west.

Some were unavailable and others declined to comment.

Opposition energy spokeswoman Lily D’Ambrosio said economic benefits extended to south-west Victoria through renewable energy projects would be jeopardised by the state government’s change of heart.

“With the stroke of a pen, Premier Ted Baillieu has sent renewable energy investors a clear message — Victoria is closed for business,” she said.

“The decision … sends a clear message to the south-west community that the government has no interest in the renewable energy sector and the benefits it has brought to the region.”

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper said it was important for business to have consistency across the country.

Environment Victoria chief Kelly O’Shannassy said the target had been about cutting pollution from the economy and attracting clean energy investment.

Mr Garnaut said he saw no need for separate state emissions targets if there is an appropriate national strategy.

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Health and Community Services Union members rally outside Denis Napthine’s office. A COMMITTED group of the region’s mental health workers rallied on Liebig Street yesterday to raise awareness for an industrial dispute of their own.

Just weeks after hospital nurses and midwives were awarded a 21 per cent pay increase, Warrnambool’s psychiatric nurses, mental health clinicians and workers stopped work for two hours to hold the community rally outside the office of Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine.

The two-hour strike and protest rally was part of an ongoing statewide industrial and community campaign in support of enterprise bargaining claims for fair pay and conditions, as well as increased funding to mental health services in Victoria.

Health and Community Services Union state organiser Angela Landmann said despite an election promise to fix the problems, through negotiations the state government had failed to improve services or resolve any bargaining points.

“Today we’re raising awareness about the crisis in mental health services,” she said.

“The Chief Psychiatrist did an investigation into deaths at mental health facilities, recommending we increase staff levels and hire more highly-trained staff.

“Mental health makes up about 20 per cent of health needs but only gets seven to 10 per cent of funding.

“The government wants to remove funding from the community teams in Warrnambool to deal with resourcing issues.

“After Easter we’ve voted to take further action if we still see no results, so we’ll be increasing rolling stoppages across the state.”

About 50 mental health workers across Warrnambool and more than 100 in the south-west could be asked to take part in further action.

Union assistant state secretary Paul Healey said mental health services struggled to cope with demand.

“The suicide rate in the community is higher than the road toll,” Mr Healey said.

“The Baillieu government made big promises before the state election to fix the problems, but have failed to deliver.”

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OCTOBER’S municipal elections are shaping up to be a hotbed of unrest in Warrnambool, with new candidates in the wings wanting to bring fresh blood to the city council debate table.

Second-time candidate Peter Sycopoulis and businessman Graeme Rodger have told The Standard several business operators had indicated they were unhappy with council’s performance and were keen to stand.

This week’s council decision to refuse a planning application by Mr Rodger’s family company to install eight electronic gaming machines at the Flying Horse Inn Bar and Brewery stirred up his annoyance again.

Mr Rodger, who served on the council about a decade ago, is a developer and contractor who has locked horns with the council on several major issues in recent years.

He said the council failed to understand business issues.

“The sooner we bring on a new set of candidates for council the better,” he said.

“I know that a group of business operators is preparing to stand.”

Mayor Jacinta Ermacora denied there was a lack of business acumen around the table.

“I would argue that council has created a very business-friendly environment in Warrnambool,” she said.

“Council’s decision on gaming was a difficult one requiring consideration of significant competing interests and it is not always possible to keep everyone happy.”

“I would support any person considering putting up their hand to serve our city. The best council team is a diverse one, with broad representation across our community.”

Already businessmen Darren Harris, Brian Kelson and Jed Mast have put their hands up, along with Mr Sycopoulis and policeman David MacPhail.

“There’s a strong feeling in the community that the council is being run like a poor-performing political party rather than a business,” Mr Sycopoulis said.

“Council must be run on a strict budget, spending money like it’s your own and not someone else’s.”

Cr Hulin said he know of at least four people keen to nominate, but denied it would be an organised bloc.

“They believe they can contribute business skills and rise above the 5-2 voting pattern that dominates council now,” he said.

Nominations for all Victorian councils close on September 25 for October 27 elections.

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AN amphitheatre at Cannon Hill has been suggested by Warrnambool mayor Jacinta Ermacora as a way of revitalising the prominent natural landmark.

The scenic hill overlooking Lake Pertobe and the foreshore is a popular vantage spot for locals and visitors, only two block away from the central business district.

Its potential was recognised in the new city centre revitalisation structure plan, officially released by the city council this week for public comment.

The plan recommended upgrading Cannon Hill to become “a key parkland attractor and southern anchor to the city centre, as well as a more inviting place for daily city users”. It suggested reconfiguring car parking to provide parkland/seating areas with elevated views over the lake and foreshore, improving park furniture and landscaping, plus improving pedestrian and cycling links.

Cr Ermacora said consultants who prepared the extensive plan recognised the area’s value from an outsider’s point of view.

“It’s a great expression of potential linking our city centre to the Cannon Hill area,” she said.

Cr Ermacora suggested a stone amphitheatre could be built into the natural slope on the southern side of the hill, providing a great venue for concerts, festivals and relaxation.

“I want to stimulate community thinking on this and get people’s ideas,” she said.

The structure plan, which had its origins in a community workshop more than three years ago, is out for public comment for six weeks.

It sets a vision for the next 25 years covering a diverse range of issues, including parking, traffic, street revitalisation and heritage.

Cr Ermacora said one of the main themes was to make the CBD safer for pedestrians and cyclists, while still allowing traffic through.

Concern was raised by councillors Rob Askew and John Harris, who said good vehicle access to the central shopping area must be maintained, particularly for country residents. “If we make it too hard for people to get into the CBD parking areas they will desert the area,” Cr Harris said.

Cr Askew also cautioned about allowing “minimal heritage value structures to impede good developments in the city centre”.

He said the plan could prompt some owners to improve their properties.

Cr Jennifer Lowe said parking would be the most contentious issue within the plan and consideration must be made for future needs.

She called for a marketing campaign to urge widespread feedback.

City growth director Bill Millard said the plan would be critical in assisting the council to gain government funding for improvements.

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Welcome: international students Wu Jeat Kwan (left), from Malaysia, Amy Chaffee, United States, Heidemarie Pettaues, Austria, Phurit Laochareon, Thailand, Gina Sellinger, US, Silvia De San Laureano, Spain, and Kelsey Heinrich, US. STUDENTS from around the world were welcomed into Warrnambool’s schools, university and TAFE yesterday.

More than 60 international students attended Warrnambool City Council’s official welcoming ceremony in the evening after starting 2012 studies at Deakin University’s Warrnambool Campus, South West TAFE and local secondary schools.

Deakin University Warrnambool head of campus, Professor Greg Wood, said international students brought cultural diversity to Warrnambool.

“They bring a different perspective based on their different cultures, which adds to the social fabric of Warrnambool,” Professor Wood said.

“By sharing their life experiences they enrich the learning experience for everyone on our campus.”

South West Institute of TAFE chief executive Joe Piper said hosting international students provided the region an opportunity to not only work and socialise with a broader international community but to boost the local business sector.

“It expands the global knowledge of our region and it certainly allows international students to provide a professional service to our region in some areas that need it at the moment,” Mr Piper said.

“We welcome them as an ongoing commitment from our institute to broader international education.”

Mayor Jacinta Ermacora said Warrnambool had a growing interest in international cultures.

“It’s always a great experience for schools and families that welcome these students each year and hopefully their stays provide opportunities for extended visits throughout their lives,” she said.

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