|Description of this GroupDescription of this Group|
Scope of Group
The Minerals and Energy group includes the following Ministers:
Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings 1927-1965
Minister of Fuel and Power 1965-1977
Minister for Minerals and Energy 1977-1985.
In 1927 a Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings was appointed, inheriting responsibility for electrical undertakings from the Attorney-General (VRG 19). From 1927 to 1965 the major agency responsible to the Minister for Electrical Undertakings was the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002). In 1965, following the discovery of natural gas off the East Gippsland coast, a Minister of Fuel and Power was appointed to be responsible for the activities of the large fuel and energy authorities. The Gas and Fuel Corporation (VA 1040), formerly part of the Premier's portfolio (VRG 50), and the State Electricity Commission became part of the new Fuel and Power portfolio and a Ministry of Fuel and Power (VA 627) was established to co-ordinate the Government's energy policies. Until 1975 the Ministry was located within the Premier's Department (VA 2717); between 1975 and 1977 it was a department of state in its own right. However from 1965 to 1977 it was responsible to the Minister of Fuel and Power. In 1977 the portfolios of Fuel and Power and Mines (VRG 30) were merged to form the Minerals and Energy portfolio and the Department of Minerals and Energy (VA 611) was established to provide a policy development and co-ordinating role in the energy area and to take over the responsibilities of the Mines Department (VA 612).
Functional Responsibilities 1927-1965 : Electricity Supply and Generation
In 1927 a Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings was appointed, inheriting responsibility for electrical undertakings from the Attorney-General (VRG 19).
The major functions for which this Minister was responsible were those associated with the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002) which was required to:
co-ordinate the production and distribution of electricity
construct power stations and supply electricity
facilitate the amalgamation of electrical undertakings previously administered by municipalities (see also VRG 12), the railways and companies (see also VRG 6)
operate tramways in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, a responsibility later taken over by the Minister of Transport (VRG 49)
develop the state's brown coal and hydro-electric resources
regulate the industry through licensing of electrical mechanics, registration of contractors and the testing and approval of electrical equipment, installation methods and materials and appliances.
In 1939 and 1951 the Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings also assumed responsibility from the Minister of Transport (VRG 49) for the Power Houses Newport B and A respectively.
Historical Background : Electricity Generation and Supply
In 1880 the first electric lighting company was established in Melbourne and in 1894 the Melbourne City Council began to operate a power house in Spencer Street. Many companies were established with few restrictions until the passing of the Electric Light and Power Act 1896 (No.1413) which provided that no further electricity supply undertakings could be established without an Order-in-Council; that municipalities could supply electricity within their own district and could apply for authority to supply electricity in an area beyond their own district; that the consent of local councils was required prior to the granting of any Orders-in-Council (although there was provision for their refusal to be overturned by the Governor-in-Council); and that municipalities could buy existing undertakings at valuation after thirty years. The Act also empowered the Postmaster General (VRG 21) the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) and the Victorian Railways Commissioners (VA 2876) to conduct and maintain electric lines for government purposes.
The Act thus regulated the conditions under which electricity could be supplied and led to the eventual rationalisation of the industry. By the early twentieth century the main metropolitan suppliers were the Melbourne City Council, the North Melbourne Electric Tramways and Lighting Company, and the Melbourne Electric Supply Company which had power stations in Richmond and Geelong and operated the Geelong Tramway. The Electric Supply Company of Victoria supplied Ballarat and Bendigo and operated the tramways in those cities. Elsewhere municipalities continued to be involved in electrical undertakings.
In 1917 the Victorian Government appointed a Brown Coal Advisory Committee to investigate and report on the commercial utilization of brown coal with particular reference to the generation of electricity. The Committee consisted of the Managing Director and Chief Engineer of the Melbourne Electric Supply Company (F.W. Clements), the Chief Electrical Engineer of the Melbourne City Council (H.R. Harper), the Chief Electrical Engineer of the Victorian Railways (W. Stone), and the Director of the Geological Survey of Victoria (H. Herman) who was chairperson. The Committee was convened by the Minister of Mines on 13 June 1917 and presented its report on 25 September 1917.
The Committee recommended that a brown coal mining and electrical generating complex be established near Morwell and that power be transmitted to the City. The Committee further recommended that a body of three Electricity Commissioners be appointed to control the scheme.
This recommendation was adopted and the Electricity Commissioners Act 1918 (No.2996) was given Royal Assent on 7 January 1919. The Electricity Commissioners (VA 1002), appointed on 4 March 1919, were deemed to be a legally constituted body corporate from the date of their first meeting which was held on 7 March 1919 (Victoria Government Gazette 4 and 5 March 1919, p.729).
The Attorney General (VRG 19) was responsible for the Electricity Commissioners and their successor the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002; established by the 1920 Act No.3104) from 1919 until 1927, except for a period of six months in 1924 when the Treasurer (VRG 23) was responsible. During this period the Attorney General was responsible for the administration of the Electric Light and Power Acts which had previously been the responsibility of the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28).
Initially the Electricity Commissioners were to report on measures to be taken to ensure the eventual amalgamation and co-ordination of all electrical undertakings and on the standards of plant and equipment required to ensure an efficient supply. The Commissioners were also empowered to construct electrical undertakings and to supply electricity, though a few companies and many municipalities continued to supply electricity for many years after the State Electricity Commission was established. Some municipalities still distribute electricity in their municipalities, buying it in bulk from the Commission, for example the City of Melbourne.
Provision for the development of brown coal mining and electricity generation near Morwell was made in the Electricity Supply Loan Act 1919 (No.3029). In their annual report of 30 June 1920, the Commissioners reported that land had been acquired near Morwell and that progress had been made in the development of brown coal mining. By 1921 open cut mining operations had commenced and by 1924 electricity was being generated from the Yallourn Power Station, and supplied to Melbourne.
Functional Responsibilities 1965-1977 : Electricity, Gas and Fuel
The Minister of Fuel and Power was appointed in 1965 to administer the Fuel and Power Act 1965 (No.7308). The Act provided for the Minister: "to determine the means by which the present and future sources and supplies of fuel and power in Victoria can be developed and utilized to the best advantage of the people of Victoria and to promote the co-ordinated development and utilization of such sources and supplies by those means".
Responsibility for the following Acts was also passed to the Minister:
Electric Light and Power Act 1958
State Electricity Commission Act 1958
Electrical Undertakings Act 1963
Gas and Fuel Corporation Act 1958
Gas and Fuel (Borrowing) Act 1961
Gas and Fuel (Colonial Gas Association Undertakings) Act 1959
Gas and Fuel (Maryborough Undertaking) Act 1958 (section 7).
Responsibility for the Gas and Fuel Corporation (VA 1040) was inherited from the Premier (VRG 50). As well as being responsible for the activities of the State Electricity Commission (VA 1002), as listed above, the Minister was responsible for:
the production and distribution of gas made from brown coal and other sources
the regulation of the industry and the establishment of safety standards
the acquisition of gas works previously owned and operated by municipalities (see also VRG 12) and companies (see also VRG 6).
With the discovery of extensive oil and natural gas deposits the Minister of Fuel and Power became responsible for the development of these resources and for co-ordinating the operations of the State Electricity Commission, the Gas and Fuel Corporation, the Victorian Pipelines Commission (from 1967-1971) and oil and gas companies.
The Ministry was also required to plan for the introduction of nuclear energy into Victoria.
In 1975 responsibility for the Brown Coal Research and Development Committee was also assumed by this portfolio.
Functional Responsibilities 1977-1985 : Minerals and Energy
In 1977 a Minister for Minerals and Energy became responsible for all functions of government previously administered by the Minister for Mines and the Minister for Fuel and Power following the passing of the Minerals and Energy Act 1976.
Consequently the prime functions of this portfolio, in addition to those listed above relating to electricity, gas and fuel, became:
to investigate the State's geological structure, mineral wealth and underground water resources,
to provide technical services and information to the mining industry
to supervise the safe working of mines, quarries, pipelines and onshore and offshore petroleum installations
to license mining activity and give financial assistance to the mining industry
to regulate the manufacture, transportation and storage of explosives and the transportation and storage of inflammable liquids and liquefied gases
to test gas meters and gas for calorific value, purity and pressure
to administer the Boards of Examiners for Engine Drivers, Mine Managers and Coal Mine Managers; the Sludge Abatement and Victorian Coal Mine Workers Accident Relief Boards; the Coal Mine Workers Pension Tribunal and the Extractive Industries Advisory Committee
to act as an investigating agency for the Environment Protection Authority in relation to groundwater and the monitoring of groundwater pollution
to provide scientific and geological advice to study groups established by the Land Conservation Council
to provide assistance to the Victorian Brown Coal Research and Development Committee and to the Victorian Solar Energy Research Committee.
In 1983 responsibility for the Coal Miners Accident Relief Board and Pension Tribunal was inherited by the Treasurer (VRG 23).
In 1984 responsibility for the hazardous materials such as explosives, inflammable liquids and liquefied petroleum gas was transferred to the Minister of Employment and Training (VRG 42).
In 1985 responsibility for all functions in this portfolio were acquired by the newly appointed Minister for Industry, Technology and Resources (VRG 82).
NOTE: For more information about the mining function, see VRG 30 Mines.
Location of Records
Holdings from this portfolio are minimal. There are very few records in custody from the Ministry of Fuel and Power (VA 627), State Electricity Commission (VA 1002) or other associated agencies and authorities. Earlier holdings of mining records (see also VRG 30) are more substantial, but patchy.
See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.13.0.
Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings 1927-1966
Minister of Fuel and Power 1966-1979
Minister of Minerals and Energy 1979-1985.