Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Portland Aluminium to see firsthand the brilliant work that is being done to get the smelter back online following December’s catastrophic power outage. I am pleased to report that the work to repair the smelting pots is expected to be completed by the end of this week. It has been a tough few months for the staff, but what I saw last Wednesday was a reflection of the attitude of people from my electorate — heads down and working around the clock to get on with the job.
The recovery has been a huge team effort, with the plant manager, Peter Chellis, and staff from every department at the smelter working together to ensure full production of its world-class aluminium. One of the supervisors, Danielle, told me it had brought the staff even closer together, with people working alongside others they would not normally work with and in areas they do not normally work in. They said this has given everyone a better appreciation of what everyone does at the smelter. While full production is the ultimate goal, we also cannot forget that the smelter’s future is only secure for the next four years. A cheap and reliable energy supply is critical to ensure the smelter can continue producing well beyond 2020. There are too many jobs and too much economic activity dependent on the smelter for us to forget about this dire need.
In January the Premier said he had committed his whole team to working on the energy issue, and I note there was money in the budget to explore energy sources for the smelter, but we cannot wait any longer. The last thing the staff and the Portland community need is uncertainty like there was leading up to January. I understand the focus has been on getting the smelter back to full capacity, and now that that is on the horizon we need to start looking to the long term.