Wednesday, 8 February 2012
I, and also on behalf of Senator Xenophon, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that on 23 June 2011 the Community Affairs References Committee tabled its final report, Social and economic impact of rural wind farms containing seven recommendations, including recommendations calling for studies on the effects of wind farms on human health; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) immediately act on the committee's recommendations in the report, and
(ii) support a moratorium on the construction of further wind turbines until the recommendations have been satisfactorily addressed.
I seek leave to move an amendment to the motion.
That the Senate—
Omit subparagraph (b)(ii), so that paragraph (b) now reads:
(b) calls on the Government to immediately act on the committee's recommendations in the report.
I would like to be really clear because there has been some confusion around this motion. Are we amending the motion that was circulated that was actually in the Notice Paper? It is not the one that Senator Madigan was subsequently talking to people about?
We are dealing with the motion that would appear on the Notice Paper as No. 616. There is an amendment moved by Senator Birmingham to that notice. We cannot deal with a motion that we do not have before us, so it must be the one that is in the Notice Paper.
That is correct. This would delete and omit part (b)(ii) of motion No. 616 in the Notice Paper. That would leave the remaining part calling on the government to immediately act on the committee's recommendations in the report relating to wind farms.
The Senate inquiry into the social and economic impact of rural wind farms received more than 100,000 submissions and made only seven recommendations. It is now 7½ months later and not one of these recommendations has been implemented. I have been holding wind farm forums across the country and have been overwhelmed by the stories of families living close to turbines. I am calling for the government to act on the recommendations given by its own inquiry chaired by Senator Siewert. The motion also calls for a moratorium on the construction of any new wind turbines. This call is identical to the moratoriums that other parties have called for when the adverse health effects of new technologies have been raised. If there is no moratorium, there is no incentive to act. I am not a scientist. Perhaps the severe debilitating effects of wind farms can be solved by a simple engineering solution. I do not know. We need to stop the construction of any further wind turbines until we can study any problems and implement the recommendations that the Senate inquiry itself has made. Personal and community health need to be at the top of our concerns as elected representatives. Protecting and serving people is our prime reason for being in parliament.
On behalf of the coalition—and I have explained what this amendment seeks to do—I say that we are very sympathetic to the issues that Senator Madigan has raised through this motion and that we do understand his concerns. Indeed, coalition senators—in particular, Senator Adams—have championed a number of these issues and concerns. We share Senator Madigan's concerns, and those of many in the community, that the government has not acted swiftly enough to implement the recommendations of this report. We hope that the Senate will pass the motion, brought forward by Senator Madigan in the amended terms, to try to increase the pressure on the government to do so. However, we do recognise that significant investments which have already been made and are in play would be impacted by a moratorium, and that would create a degree of business uncertainty. Unfortunately, that is why we find ourselves moving this amendment calling for the omission of a section of the motion.
I support the remarks of Senator Madigan. I make it clear that I think wind farms are an important part of the renewable energy mix. But there are genuine community concerns, as witnessed by the Senate inquiry into this. There were seven unanimous recommendations which seem to be reasonable and measured. They take a precautionary approach to the concerns of communities about wind farms and to addressing these concerns by ensuring that the health effects and other matters are dealt with. I think they are quite reasonable recommendations. I think it makes sense that, if you think that the government should act on these recommendations— such as the recommendation that the NHMRC be involved in monitoring the health effects—then it is not unreasonable that there be a moratorium until the recommendations are acted on. The moratorium would not necessarily have to last very long, but it would be an incentive to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon and community concerns comprehensively dealt with once and for all. That is why I think it is important, given the context of the inquiry, for the moratorium to be supported as well as the recommendations.