Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. In light of the still unactioned research recommended by the inquiry into the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms in June 2011 and in light of the Prime Minister's own call for research, I refer to last week's unresearched position publication by the Australian Medical Association on the matter of wind farms affecting human health. Will the government request the immediate repeal of the AMA's misinformation until epidemiological research has been completed under Australian conditions? If not, why not?
I thank the senator for his question and for some advance notice of it. I can assure the senator that the coalition is committed to ensuring that the Australian public can be well informed with high-quality research on this issue. The NHMRC intends to announce a targeted call for research in this area once NHMRC's information paper has been finalised. The NHMRC is aware that some literature has not been captured in this systematic review as it was published after the search time frame. Public consultation will ensure all relevant evidence is identified and considered. It would be useful for senators to note comments from Professor Anderson from the NHMRC, as stated in Senate estimates:
Our position paper was put out in 2010. We will update our position paper after we have completed the feedback from the community on the information paper, looked at the evidence that has occurred since then, as we have said on our website, and then finalised the information paper. Then we will consider what extra research needs to be done. Since the research so far is poor quality, it is almost certain that there is research that needs to be done.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Last week my office became aware of the actions of energy company AGL, which wrote letters to doctors practising in the vicinity of the Macarthur wind farm advising doctors there were no health impacts for people living near wind turbines. Does the government condemn AGL's improper influence over the formal medical diagnostic process and recognise the importance of Australian independent research on the topic?
The lack of reliable, independent evidence can sometimes allow vested interests on either side of the debate to promulgate questionable information to support their respective cases. This is why the government is committed to ensuring Australians have high access to high-quality research on the issue.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The Howard Liberal government initiated a national department of health review of the health effects of noise in 2004. This report was shelved by successive ALP governments. Does the Abbott government still plan on conducting research into audible and subaudible environmental noise as flagged in that report?
I can reiterate for the senator the government's commitment to develop an independent research program to investigate the potential health effects of wind farms and we are committed to high-quality research on this issue. Public consultation will ensure all relevant evidence is identified and considered. The current work that the NHMRC is conducting is an NHMRC commissioned independent review to examine the possible impacts of wind farm emissions on human health, including audible and inaudible noise, electromagnetic radiation and shadow flicker. The independent systematic review report identified 3,000 references, including public submissions, but only 11 publications describing seven studies were suitable for analysis. The NHMRC's systematic review is essential to identifying gaps in the current evidence base and directing areas for targeted research.