St Patrick's Day fire victim calls for overhaul

St Patrick's Day fire victim calls for overhaul

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THE LONG ROAD: The Sisters dairy farmer Jill Porter speaks with Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Photo by Rob Gunstone.

THE LONG ROAD: The Sisters dairy farmer Jill Porter speaks with Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Photo by Rob Gunstone.

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Victim says customer-funded safety incentive will pay for any fines.

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A St Patrick's Day fires victim is calling for sweeping changes to encourage power companies to improve their safety.

The Sisters dairy farmer Jill Porter appealed for change after Energy Safe Victoria last week announced it had charged Powercor with six offences over fires that started at Terang and The Sisters on St Patrick's Day last year.

The charges filed in Warrnambool Magistrates Court carry maximum penalties of $250,000 each, a potential $1.5 million.

An independent review called for increased penalties in line with other similar regulatory bodies.

Maximum fines under WorkCover and the Environment Protection Authority are about $3 million.

Companies like Powercor receive a payment for reducing the number of fires their assets start each year.

Ms Porter said Powercor received $995,000 for 2017-18 despite its assets starting the devastating fires at The Sisters and Terang during that period.

She said, in effect, that payment would more than likely cover any fines Powercor received, if found guilty.

"There needs to be an incentive for distribution companies [to be safer]," she said.

"At present all costs are passed through to customers.

"So, not only did my community get burnt out causing irreparable damage, but we get to pay a second time for the fire."

Ms Porter said Powercor had yet to admit liability.

Powercor declined to comment because the matter was now before the court.

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