Hunt promises wind farm clampdown

19 Jun, 2015 02:00 AM
A new scientific committee will yet again investigate the health impacts of wind turbines

A NATIONAL wind farm commissioner to investigate complaints about wind turbines will be appointed by the Abbott government as anti-wind energy senators move to curb the industry's growth.

The senator driving the push, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, said the crossbench sought Tony Abbot's backing after the Prime Minister told broadcaster Alan Jones he wanted fewer turbines in Australia.

"Once you have the Prime Minister's general agreement on what you're trying to achieve, you don't get as much pushback from elsewhere," Senator Leyonhjelm told Fairfax Media.

"We were encouraged by the Prime Minister's interview last week and that's what prompted us to seek a meeting with him."

A draft letter, leaked to The Guardian on Thursday, from Environment Minister Greg Hunt outlines several measures the government could pursue to clamp down on wind energy, which Mr Abbott has described as "visually awful" and noisy.

The proposal has delayed a vote in the Senate on legislation to reduce Australia's renewable energy target to 33,000 gigawatt hours of annual renewable energy production by 2020, which is now not expected to take place until Monday.

The proposed agreement is part of a deal with the crossbench as the government looks for support to include the burning of native timber in legislation for a reduced renewable energy target. It comes after last-minute talks between the crossbench, Mr Abbott and Mr Hunt on Wednesday and Thursday.

It includes a plan for a national wind farm commissioner who would "handle complaints from concerned residents about the operations of wind turbine facilities".

The letter also agrees to establish a new scientific committee to again investigate the health impacts of wind turbines after multiple inquiries into the subject.

Numerous reviews by leading medical bodies, including the government's own National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), have found no reliable or consistent evidence to support the claim that low frequency sound from wind farms causes health problems.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the government wanted to work with the crossbench to ensure the RET is passed, "but to also ensure that local community groups who have raised concerns about renewable energy projects can have these concerns heard and considered."

"We note that in the NHMRC report released in February, the Council 'considers that further high quality research on the possible health effects of wind farms is required'," the spokesman said.

An interim report from a Senate inquiry led by anti-wind senators Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Bob Day made recommendations on Thursday afternoon.

Among its seven recommendations are calls for a national wind farm ombudsman, a scientific committee to investigate the impact on human health of "audible noise and infrasound" and the creation of national wind farm guidelines that state and territory governments would have to reflect in their planning.

Senator Leyonhjelm said components of the leaked draft letter from the government had since changed and talks would continue through the weekend.

A key sticking point is that some crossbenchers want tougher measures to direct more renewable energy investment toward solar and other forms of renewable energy and away from wind.

In the draft, the government agrees to consider proposals such as promote start up grants for solar and encouraging the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – which it intends to abolish – to invest heavily in solar instead of wind energy.

But Senator Leyonhjelm and some other anti-wind senators are not convinced this goes far enough.

The Greens reacted angrily on Thursday, accusing the government of "hypocrisy" and of pandering to "extreme views" in both the Coalition and crossbench.

"Isn't it remarkable that a government that has hung its first term on this reduction of red tape agenda would now impose this huge additional layer of red tape on an industry that is jobs rich, that is good for the climate, that's good for investment, good for people," Greens leader Richard Di Natale said.

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19/06/2015 5:41:02 AM

It's the state Govt that has rubber stamped these power stations. The application for my local one was amateurish and full of mistruths about supposed one on one consultation that never occurred. It was passed by the Lib/Nats. Our local council also never consulted with local residents but made policy to support the power station. It won't bother the residents in town so why do they care. This is the same attitude from both the state, fed Govt & city voters. As long as we only build them away from the voters it doesn't matter what happens to the ones living near to the power stations.
slippery slope
19/06/2015 5:47:13 AM

Hopefully the coal industry will be crying out for equal rights - a commissioner to determine the health consequences of coal mines and coal transport before approvals are granted. Must have a level playing field!
19/06/2015 12:01:17 PM

Any talk of a coal mine clampdown?
19/06/2015 12:49:40 PM

I don't know why peoples are opposing the renewable/green energy. Wind & Solar is the great source of green energy which will be future in the world. We can't make the world carbon free in a day, it will be accumulating effect which will contributing global warming. Battery Car is also a new innovation. Solar Impulse aeroplan is also another example. Any green innovation is good for our environment and next generation.
19/06/2015 1:44:51 PM

We have a Senate enquiry, open and transparent. See what comes out of it but lets not stand around in a circle chanting a Green sing song about renewables. All actions have consequences and I never sing to any particular party line. I make my own studies,
Philip Downie
19/06/2015 1:52:38 PM

Keep going Greg, along with the independents until you find a researcher to give you the answer you want. You call yourself a scientist yeah right. Now we have Alan Jones running the country. Now they can do high class work which tells you what about the work they have already been paid for, rubbish!
20/06/2015 5:43:58 AM

Always surprised me they do not build wind farms in cities... They could put them on top of buildings... I guess they would be an eyesore and some would say they create problems..
20/06/2015 10:15:14 AM

Solar maybe, but not windmills. After adding up the costs and energy used to manufacture, transport and erect these windmills, plus the ongoing payment to the landowner they will never be economical. They are a farce!
21/06/2015 12:18:17 PM

If alternative energy can stand on its own two feet and meet the same standards as other energy, that's fine. The reality is it's massively subsidised by direct handouts from taxpayers and further protected by legislation that effectively forces you and me to buy it at inflated prices. Plus they get a free pass for many planning procedures. The vested interests behind alternative energy have one of the fiercest lobby groups in Australia and I thank the Abbott government for standing up to them on behalf of ordinary people. Very little of this technology is developed in Australia by the way.
22/06/2015 7:38:01 AM

jp, do your homework. No energy is free. Governments around the world pay massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. As well as this, fossil fuels have enormous additional costs, especially health costs..Most importantly, despite the anti-science claims of the deniers, fossil fuels are having an observed and measured effect on global climate. See: /resources/energysubsidies/
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