The Victorian Opposition has demanded the Government reopen the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry to consider revelations people may have died from health complications caused by smoke from the blaze.
Adrian Barnett, from the Queensland University of Technology, analysed official Births, Deaths and Marriages data, which was obtained by the ABC’s 7.30 program and was not seen by the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.
Professor Barnett found there was a high probability there had been 11 premature deaths in the Latrobe Valley that could be attributed to the mine fire.
The fire burned for 45 days, near Morwell in Victoria’s south-east in February, putting thick, acrid smoke over the nearby town.
State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the analysis was troubling.
“The fact that this was not considered by the board of inquiry means that the board of inquiry must be reopened and must look at this issue,” he said.
“There must be satisfaction for the people of Morwell that when the Government said they would look into the disaster and the handling of it properly and fully that they will actually do that.”
“We’ve acted responsibly and appropriately in tackling what was a difficult fire situation,” he said.
“In supporting the families, supporting the community and putting into place an independent inquiry and adopting the recommendations of that inquiry.”
The board of inquiry made 18 recommendations to government authorities and the mine’s operator GDF Suez.
It urged the Department of Health to equip itself to undertake rapid air quality monitoring across Victoria and to provide health advice within 24 hours of an incident.
The Government said it would appoint former Victoria Police chief commissioner Neil Comrie to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.
Dr Napthine today reiterated the Government would adopt all the inquiry’s recommendations.