UPDATE, Wednesday, 7.25am: The Victorian Energy minister was under the microscope in State Parliament last night after the shock announcement that the chief energy regulator would be replaced.
Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan left minister Lily D'Ambrosio with a number of questions to ponder after the adjournment debate last night.
On Tuesday the energy minister's office announced Energy Safe Victoria chief executive officer chief Paul Fearon would be retiring in November, at the start of what is being tipped as a potential extreme bushfire season.
"The action I seek is for the minister to ensure that the July 2019 promise for an investigation by retiring ESV chairman Mr Paul Fearon, into 'issues affecting the long term sustainability of power pole maintenance in the south-west', and the determination on prosecutions following the St Patrick's Day fires are completed, before he leaves his 10 year tenure," Mr Riordan said.
Three of the major four fires in the south-west on St Patrick's Day were in the member for Polwarth's electorate.
"In an elaborate press release today the Andrews Government has announced a 'New Direction for Energy Safe Victoria'," he continued.
"Constituents in my electorate hope that this new direction on the eve of some very important and much anticipated findings by Energy Safe Victoria may be used to bury or hide these two very important findings.
"It will be important that no excuse is used to delay these findings on the eve of what is predicated to be another volatile fire season."
Mr Riordan said he had raised many issues associated with bushfire matters in State Parliament.
"I have bought to this houses attention on numerous occasions deficiencies identified by myself, my community
and others on the knowledge that has been sat on for years by Energy Safe Victoria," he said.
"As early as 2004 Energy Safe Victoria was being advised by its own consultants and those of the power distribution companies that a 'bow wave' of old and near life distribution assets were coming to the end of their useful life.
"The St Patrick's Day fires have highlighted the consequences of past safe life infrastructure being relied on.
"Energy Safe Victoria is a vital regulator, who my community needs to have on its game.
"The minister cannot allow the changing of CEO's to be used as an excuse to avoid delivering clear regulatory guidance and necessary penalties and enforcement if distribution companies have failed in their duty of care," he said.
Tuesday, 3pm: Just days after a St Patrick's Day bushfire victim warned more lives would have to be endangered before necessary change was made to electricity regulation, the State Government has acted.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio on Tuesday announced the search was on for a new executive to lead Energy Safe Victoria.
ESV has long been considered a "toothless" regulator reliant on Powercor and other electricity distributors for technical expertise.
Last Saturday The Sisters dairy farmer Jill Porter called for sweeping changes to governments, regulators and electricity distributors.
But, she said she feared that unless more live were endangered or lost that necessary change would not happen.
The fire that burnt her and neighbouring properties at The Sisters and Garvoc districts was sparked after a rotten power pole snapped during catastrophic conditions on St Patrick's Day last year.
It was one of four main fires in the south-west that day started by electrical infrastructure.
Today, Ms D'Ambrosio said recruitment would begin immediately to ensure a smooth transition before outgoing director Paul Fearon's retirement in November, in the lead-up to the summer bushfire season.
She said the new appointment would be charged with continuing ESV's important work and overseeing the government's reforms to boost its capacity and powers.
The minister said the new appointee would act as the chair delegate to oversee the establishment of a three-person ESV Commission recommended last year by the extensive Grimes Review and endorsed by the government.
Pointedly, Ms D'Ambrosio said ESV had been given more resources and a mandate to better engage with the community and hold duty holders to account, which was vitally important as the industry transformed.
Auditing inspections for electrical infrastructure have tripled by increasing inspector numbers, which has also doubled ESV's capacity to undertake gas pipeline inspections.
This position plays a vital role in preparing Victoria for the continuing effects of climate change, new and emerging technologies and a transforming energy industry.
Mr Fearon will have been in the role 10 years during November.
"I thank Paul Fearon for the significant contribution he's made to the energy sector, and for his efforts in leading the important reforms identified by the Grimes review," the minister said.
"Energy Safe Victoria plays a vital role in monitoring the energy sector and holding those who do the wrong thing to account.
"We're looking for a new leader to continue this important work building a stronger energy regulator to keep Victorians safe."
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