Senate debates

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Excessive Noise from Wind Farms) Bill 2012; Second Reading

11:18 am

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Let me tell you about the Waubra Foundation. Back in 2009 Waubra hit the news when powerful forces linked to mining interests and Australia's climate sceptic factory, the Institute of Public Affairs, which is in turn linked to the Liberal Party, used what was then the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere as an easy target for their antiwind scare campaign and they established the Waubra Foundation. That Waubra Foundation was set up by Mr Mitchell. He is part of the Landscape Guardians. He also has the investment company Lowell Resources Funds Management Ltd, which lists coal in various forms as the standout investment performer and shares the same PO box in South Melbourne with the Waubra Foundation. It is obvious. If you go to astroturfing and look at the connections, you can see where they come together. You get exactly what you have here—and that is a campaign to do in renewable energy, in particular wind.

Let us get to some of the so-called health impacts. Let us go to the spokespeople for wind turbine syndrome. The qualifications of the spokespeople were exaggerated and were forced to be corrected because there is no serious background research science behind Dr Laurie, the spokesperson for the Waubra Foundation, in terms of acoustics and so on. There are all these allegations about wind turbine sickness and syndrome. There are meant to be 222 separate health diseases and symptoms as a result of wind farms. I will tell you what some of them are. These are the diseases and symptoms experienced by people and animals as a result of wind farms: dental infections, feet sores that would not heal until they moved out of the house, kidney damage, leukaemia, skin and lung cancer, nausea, children losing interest in school and refusing to go to school, spontaneous abortions by horses, chickens laying yokeless eggs, Peacock-mating problems, earthworms abandoning the properties and the sudden death of 400 goats. Now come on!

We have just heard Senator Birmingham telling us that we should be taking this seriously and we should equally weigh up the claims of the Waubra Foundation and so on. The science community is out there saying that this is ridiculous. The scientists concerned have said that wind farm syndrome is actually a psychogenic condition. People are told they are going to be sick and if they do not have a financial interest in the wind farm then suddenly they get sick. Isn't it interesting that where people have a financial interest in the wind farm, whether it is a lease arrangement or a joint venture, those people do not get sick? I find that extraordinary. If you have a financial interest, you do not get sick. If you just do not like looking at it and you have not got any money in it and you might have in the fossil fuel industry then it is a different thing.

We hear Senator Birmingham say he is terribly worried about setbacks for wind farms, but what about coal seam gas? I am going to come to that because he was suggesting that there is some equivalence between wind farms and coal seam gas. Let me tell Senator Birmingham that coal seam gas actually requires a physical intervention which results in gas coming up and fugitive emissions that are going into the atmosphere. Those are methane emissions that are driving climate change. Those are scientific facts; those are evidence based facts. There is no equivalence whatsoever. You cannot look at these two things as if they are somehow equivalent. That is a load of nonsense.

There are thousands of wind turbines in Germany, Denmark and Spain but those people have not got wind turbine syndrome. How is it possible that the Germans, the Danes and the Spaniards do not get sick, but people in North America and Australia get sick? How is that possible? There is a lot to suggest that actually these illnesses are psychosomatic, because a whole lot of the bogus literature that is not peer reviewed is overwhelmingly written in English. It is not until you read about it in English apparently that you get sick, so the Spanish, the Germans and the Danes do not get sick at all.

Where is the concern for the coal dust and particulate matter from coalmines that is causing illnesses? That is evidence based and documented. It seems nobody in the coalition is the least bit concerned about the real health impacts that are already occurring as a result of expanded coalmining, coal seam gas and the like. So what we have here is a carefully constructed and orchestrated campaign by astroturf organisations and brought to Australia via the Institute of Public Affairs and the Waubra Foundation. It is obvious to me that this is now a strategy put together by the Landscape Guardians and the IPA. It is all about trying to do over renewable energy.

As I said before, Peter Mitchell has 25 years of history in the fossil fuel industry. He was the founding Chairman of the Moonie Oil Company and a chairman or a director of related companies, including Clyde Petroleum, Avalon Energy, North Flinders Mines, Paringa Mining and Exploration, and so on. So there you go. You have absolute evidence that the person running the campaign against wind is totally associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Like the Landscape Guardians, the Waubra Foundation is highly secretive. There is no information about its funding or its sponsorship. The audited financial statements of the Landscape Guardians contain no expenditure but money seems to be no object to them. They have full-time campaigners, an advertising budget, travelling expenses and a media monitoring service and yet they have no expenditure in terms of their audited financial statements. How is it so?

Professor Simon Chapman notes:

Most wind farms around the world and in Australia have no history of complaints, and most of those which do, have seen the local area targeted by external anti-wind farm activists who spread panic and tell frightened locals to report anything they might experience to their doctor. The activist groups even provide symptom menus to assist residents—

in case they had not actually identified the symptoms for themselves. This is an absolutely appalling situation and at the Senate inquiry we had Mr Holmes a Court, who is chairman of the Hepburn wind farm and submitted a leaked running sheet from the Australian Environment Foundation. It was addressed to the guardians detailing the strategy for a protest at Leonards Hill, including the signage to be held up by the crowd of predominantly outsiders. We also know that the Australian Environment Foundation is an astroturf organisation. Again, it is funded by vested interests. It is designed to look like, of course, the Australian Conservation Foundation and that has been a long-term subject of concern. The Environment Foundation's Executive Director, Max Rheese, is the executive director of another anti-renewables group, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, one of over 100 climate sceptic astroturfers. Who funds them? There is some evidence to suggest it could be Exxon. I would be very interested to know if in fact they come clean about whether it is Exxon.

As to the actual particulars of the legislation, one of the most ridiculous parts of this legislation is—and listen to this—the bill would empower the Clean Energy Regulator to suspend accreditation of a power station if they believe the power station is being operated in contravention of 'a law written or unwritten'. The Australian Energy Regulator shutting down a power station on the basis of an 'unwritten' law—what does that mean? The law of whom or of what? This is a silly idea and it is a nonsense.

As to the suggestion in terms of the decibel standards, actually the Australian states already regulate wind farms to a tougher standard than is being proposed by Senator Madigan in this bill. Whether Senator Madigan and Senator Xenophon are aware of the extent of astroturfing, the links of all these organisations to the fossil fuel sector and the broader campaign against renewables that is being run and is showing up as an anti-wind farm campaign, I have no idea of the extent to which they know that, understand that or whatever. But there is absolutely no science base to the allegations that are being made. As Professor Simon Chapman has noted, what we have now is a psychogenic condition—and if a condition needs to be treated it is that. I have said to the wind farm operators that if they want to end wind farm syndrome in Australia all they have to do is develop a business model that enables communities to financially benefit from wind farms. Then they will find that even these astroturfers cannot stir up a level of concern because people have actually got a financial interest in the wind farms and will look at them in a far more balanced way.

We have got a serious crisis here. We have the world meeting in Doha right now with the globe on track for three to four degrees of warming. Today in Victoria we have a heatwave expected and in Western Australia storms are expected. Look all around the world. The World Meteorological Organization released overnight the latest impacts of global warming—and make no mistake: the people running the anti-wind farm campaign and anti-renewables renewables campaign do not want the world to act on climate change and they want to derail renewable energy. This leaked memo out of the United States shows that this is a fake campaign being run by those vested interests. The tactics they are suggesting are to partner with think tanks across the political spectrum such as the Brookings Institute, the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute and, as I said, no doubt the IPA are up to their necks in it as well; to encourage critical thinking for members and the public about renewables; to recruit volunteers without establishing a formal national organisation and using them as people to lobby lawmakers; to get out strong public relations; and to collaborate with like-minded groups such as Tea Party activists and the like—and, of course, that is exactly what is happening here in Australia.

So I think the Senate needs to recognise (a) this bill has no merit—and I would be interested to know whether the coalition thinks the Energy Regulator should be able to shut down a power generator on the basis of laws 'written or unwritten'—and (b) we have a bill which the committee found comprehensively ought not to be passed. Obviously, the committee rejected the voodoo science that has been put forward in many of these cases, with 222 separate health diseases and symptoms, supposedly experienced by people as a result of wind farms, for which there is no substance. But the bigger issue here is this. If we are to actually try to constrain global warming to less than two degrees, we have to get to 100 per cent renewables as quickly as possible. We need appropriate planning laws, and there is no doubt about that, and what we do not need is astroturf organisations which are driving fear into communities and actually bringing in people from outside in order to frighten communities as they try to knock over wind farms because they interfere with the vested interests of the fossil fuel sector. That is what we are getting into here and I am not surprised. When you have got the IPA linked to Heartland and other organisations in the US, Senator Bernardi as spokesperson for the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Liberal Party's connections to the Institute of Public Affairs, no wonder we have got all of this happening in Australia.

It is part of climate scepticism, climate denial or reality of climate change and a deliberate strategy to do over renewable energy. I do not think the Senate should have any part of it. Before the Waubra Foundation expects anyone to take them seriously, they should come out with their financial statements and make it plain as to where they get their funding. Until we get an idea of where they get their funding, I am going to stand by the claim that I am making that they are an astroturf organisation for the fossil fuel sector who are meddling in public debate in Australia.

I do credit them with success with the Baillieu government in Victoria. The sooner that the Baillieu government gets over it and recognises that they are doing in the prospect of wind energy in Victoria, which is being picked up elsewhere in the country—I think that Senator Xenophon and Senator Madigan are part of a campaign against wind energy and renewables in Australia. That is a very bad thing in terms of responding to the climate crisis and responding to the very real health impacts. If you want to get to health impacts, let us deal with the health impacts of particulate matter and coals, for example, and of methane from coal seam gas emissions rather than these astroturf organisations' claims, which I believe are voodoo science.


Harry Makris
Posted on 8 Dec 2012 1:54 pm (Report this comment)


In Regard to the application for Keyneton Wind Farm......711/V006/12

My intention is to be brief.....
...It must be absolutely clear by "Now" that there is something terribly Wrong with the Wind farm roll out strategy in this State .....and nationally .....I suspect......
What began as a feel good venture in theory.. (catching the wind), has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster on the ground...all one needs to do is follow the 'Curve" of the debate....ramping up to all media, local, state, national radio, TV and the Internet.....and it is not going to go away.

The negative impact on communities has been exposed time after time, and at length...(see the responses/submissions to the Wind farm Interim Development Plan Amendment (SA), together with State(s) and Senate Inquiries into the matter)......However, the most troubling aspect for me (Right Here, Right Now)) is that of "Community Division.which can make life intolerable.

It is important for Rural communities (distinct from the cities) to have a sense of community (safety/security and social cohesion) which has been the case, and also my experience, since I moved to the district (Keyneton) some 37 years ago.......but now.....with the proposal and application for a wind farm in the area,.... things have certainly changed. The "motherhood spin" of the Industry and Government is out of touch with Realitycontinuing to present flawed information/presentations and implying benefits ($$) to curry favour.? .which will be of interest to the ACCC (Fact).
Now we have proponents for, and objectors to the proposal at each others throats over a multitude of concerns - (the list is endless, as I am sure will be revealed in the diversity and intensity of other submissions, and are real!!, and not to be taken lightly) ....makes one sick that that this has to be Done.....
An effect/impact,. the COST cannot be calculated...A true Tragedy (paradox).
The Keyneton wind farm proposal is an insult to intelligence, and exposes the gulf of misunderstanding between the Citi-centric and the Rural way of life. Accordingly, Rural communities have taken up the mantle to put an end to this Insanity by exposing how "bad it isand .."how bad it can getthat is, if reason does not Prevail.....
Already District Councils have joined State and Federal politicians in supporting the concerns of Rural Communities and have begun refusing approvals.. stepping up to the plate and demanding "clarity" into the effects of wind farms in their districts.
Simply put, the roll out strategy is Flawed....a waste, and a legacy for the Future to deal with....and my humble opinion....the State Government has been "sucked in" and "has got into bed" with Big Wind Money..(Interim DPA amendment)....Why do I think that..?.....
..Because no one in their right mind would do what they are doing .Energy policy and electricity pricing Chaos, and outraged communities get a Grip!!!.
..I mean...If governments always got it right...we would not need elections would we..?...Indeed...the price of Democracy is eternal vigilance...and if our elected representatives cannot be vigilant, then the citizenry must..
Seems as if Convenience (wind farm sites), and opportunities for huge Profits has given way to good sense, all at the peoples expense. Knee-jerk short term planning fuelled by self-interest....What else could one possibly think..Feel free to destroy Keyneton since you do not live hereI trust that the Commission will visit Keyneton before making its recommendations to the Minister seated on high
..with the Final Say. ..whats the good of that Accordingly, I would advise against the applicationand let it be on the Ministers head to ..Approve
You are right...I am not happywhy should I be..?.....
When you challenge peoples Lives and Livelihoods, Expect some return mail.
...All it would take to arrest the situation and restore Peace, would be to build these installations on dedicated wind farm land of which Australia has ample.. ......together with dedicated Transmission Lines and corridors (strategically planned to address future State development) and then, hook up with the existing in the Green Net (or similar) Proposition
In the Interest of all ....the Citizenry . .the Corporations.. .the Government...
and importantly, the Future of the State/Nation....
.........a Moratorium should be placed on any further wind farm development based on the current model.......
...I ask you to be mindful of the fact, that these projects have a minimum life of 25 years and beyond (many terms, of many governments, of whatever conviction, seemingly to be always cleaning up the mess left behind by the last).
Accordingly......a New (bi-partisan} model for Essential Infrastructure should be developed, one which is viable (balanced) and can accommodate the interests of all parties..... ...that.. is the role of Government.
Even though it is a Mess to say the does in fact represent the timely opportunity to get things "right"....alternatively, they can only get "worse" which is now apparent. and of no benefit to Anyone.
Thank you for your time.
Harry Makris ....Keyneton