THE Federal National party’s weekend conference rejected a controversial motion calling for support of the renewable energy sector and the federal government to back related projects based in regional centres.
The motion was moved and spoken for strongly mostly by delegates from Western Australia who raised concerns about excessive costs and access to power generation in regional areas.
The WA delegation also expressed concerns the party must be progressive through a statement of support for renewable energy projects and seeking to capture future economic opportunities.
But a rear-guard action – spearheaded by former long-serving Queensland Senator Ron Boswell and current Queensland Hinkler MP Keith Pitt – saw the motion eventually defeated by a 43-34 vote.
Opponents of the motion, including Queensland National Party Womens’ president Theresa Craig, argued that renewable energy projects like wind farms were heavily subsidised by taxpayer funds which they opposed.
Ms Craig said, as a scientist and a regional person “I’d love to support this but I can’t because the facts do not add up”.
“Unfortunately the Green propaganda has not given us the facts,” she said.
“Today, 5 per cent of clean energy adds an extra 15pc to our utility bill; reference Queensland University of Technology.”
Ms Craig said research by the Heartland Institute had also said that every job created by the renewable energy sector meant two to three jobs were lost.
“Renewable energies are the way of the future but right at the moment it’s being subsidised,” she said.
“What we need to do is put the support into getting renewable energies that can stand on their-own two feet.
“We as farmers, don’t we have to stand on our own two feet?
“We have to do it by ourselves, so this needs to be done the same way for the renewable energy people.”
Young WA Nationals president Lachlan Hunter.
Young WA Nationals president Lachlan Hunter said he majored in agricultural science studies at UWA and believed the conference should “get over the semantics” and consider the motion’s intent.
Mr Hunter said the motion wasn’t saying coal should be “cut out” or remove the way energy is traditionally produced in Australia.
He said it was “simply saying we support the renewable energy sector and to have those projects based in regional centres”.
“Don’t get hung up on the words ‘renewable energy’ just because it’s related to the Greens,” he said.
“I think we can be proactive in this space and actually support it if the science does prove that it’s out there and it’s a sustainable industry.”
Newly elected WA Nationals president James Hayward also spoke strongly for the motion saying its critics had strayed “well beyond what it’s about”.
He said the reality was, “sustainable energy is something that we need to embrace in some form”.
“Windmills that chop up birds are perhaps not the answer,” he said.
“This motion does not say (renewable energy) is the answer; it says this space needs to be part of who we are and what we do.
“We cannot allow the Greens or Labor to take responsibility for looking after our space, our environment.
“We’ve got a generation of younger people growing up and those people, for whatever reason, are simply more connected to the idea of looking after the environment and we need to grasp and get hold of that.
“This motion doesn’t talk about offering financial incentives.
“It just says it’s on the radar for us and we know that technology is out there and part of the future and we need to embrace it.”
But Mr Boswell returned fire with an impassioned plea saying he was “vehemently” against the motion.
“Whichever way you cut and dice this motion the motion goes out that says you support renewable energy,” he said.
Mr Boswell said his advice to Mr Hayward, gained by serving a number of years in federal parliament, was “don’t ever try and be a Green”.
“Don’t ever try and be one (a Green) because you are neither the Nationals or a Green and you just lose everyone so let’s be distinct about what we stand for,” he said.
Mr Boswell said subsidies on renewable energy were impacting energy prices and adding to agricultural production or processing costs in areas like beef, grains and dairy.
“You are paying through the nose for this renewable energy,” he said.
“Rural Australia is probably paying more than anyone else for it.
“It will only work if it’s subsidised and who’s going to pay for it, you are.”
WA Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Dave Grills said those in favour of the motion were asking the Nationals Australia to support renewable energy and were not asking for billions and billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars.
“We’re asking for your support to do it because economically, it suits regional WA,” he said.
Another speaker, representing Wide Bay in Queensland said, “I’m totally over it with my tax dollars paying for subsidies for renewable energy windmills”.
“I resent my birds in this nation being chopped sliced and diced by these devices.”
Mr Pitt said there was a place for renewables for remote power generation but that decision should be made by those who distribute it.
He said under the current agreed, Renewable Energy Target ET of 33,000 gigawatt hours, as much capacity as has been produced in last 15 years, will need to be built in five years.
Mr Pitt said renewable energy certificates on an average of $47 would, over the next 15 years, cost electricity users $24 billion – but could go as high as $93 costing $43 billion.
“Every single job in renewables is subsidised to $200,000,” he said.
Queensland LNP speaker Rohan McPhee said the purpose of the motion had been misconstrued.
“We’re not calling for the federal government to go out and start paying for wind farms in regional towns,” he said.
“This is just encouraging innovation and investment in renewable energy.
“Whether or not you believe in climate change - and we can debate that for days - but the fact of the matter is the world consensus is it’s here and whether we like it or not we have to get with the program.
“We’re going to be left behind.
“Australia has such a great landscape for innovation in this area we’ve got so much space - we’ve got sun and wind and we’ve got so much potential to develop new technologies in the renewable energy sector.
“It’s a global market and the renewable energy market is growing every day for new technology.
“The fear I have is that if we don’t support this motion we don’t send a message to potential businesses that can grow and innovate new technology and we get left behind.”