The EDO welcomes today’s announcement by the state government of a board of inquiry, headed by his Honour Bernard Teague, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, into the fire at the Hazelwood mine. The board of inquiry announced by the government is also known as a judicial inquiry.
“The EDO has been calling for a judicial inquiry into the mine fire for weeks now.” said the EDO’s Principal Lawyer Felicity Millner. “It is critical that any inquiry be able to investigate the actions of GDF Suez and regulators, so a judicial inquiry is warranted in this case.”
“We agree with the government that a board of inquiry is the most appropriate legal form for an inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire, given its serious impacts on the Morwell community and the serious questions that have been raised regarding the regulation and management of the mine.”
“The next critical step is the development of terms of reference, which will be crucial for an effective inquiry. They will define the issues the inquiry is to investigate and make findings on,” she explained.
There are serious questions to be answered about the fire in the Hazelwood mine that need to be covered by the terms of reference for the inquiry. These include:
- Whether the mine approvals and regulations were adequate
- If they were adequate, why did GDF Suez not comply with the regulations, and why the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation did not require compliance?
- If they were not adequate, what regulations need to be changed to ensure that this does not happen again in future?
- Was the response by the government to the health risks posed by the fire to the people of Morwell good enough?
“It is essential that any terms of reference allow the inquiry to investigate whether the mine was appropriately regulated, and whether the regulations were complied with by GDF Suez” said Ms Millner.
“If the regulations were not adequate, or if the Department did not take action to ensure that the regulations were complied with, then the inquiry needs to consider this, so that a disaster like this mine fire does not happen again.”