Three Coalition politicians and one candidate attended the “wind power fraud rally” in front of parliament house on Tuesday where around 150 protesters called for the abolition of the renewable energy target and a ban on all new wind farms.
Signs at the rally urged: “Stop the wind power fraud,” and referred to a “renewable energy scam”, insisting that “wind farms wreck health and jobs”, but the signs contained none of the vitriol or “ditch the witch”-type slogans that marked anti-carbon tax rallies in recent years.
Radio presenter Alan Jones addressed the rally and began by reminding those present that “the purpose is to be peaceful and make sure the argument wins the day”.
“Be careful with your placards and make sure they are all in good taste,” he warned the crowd, acknowledging the smaller than expected turnout by saying: “There aren’t a lot of people here. They don’t have time or the resources.”
The rally attendees largely heeded his advice, although a few protesters were wearing T-shirts with a picture of a man’s bottom on, saying: “Stick your turbines where they fit, not near our homes.”
Protesters at the rally asserted that wind farms were “fraudulent” because, they claimed, two of them in Victoria, including the Waubra wind farm, were not compliant with their permit conditions.
But Liberal senator Chris Back acknowledged he had been alerted by wind company Acciona to a letter sent to politicians from the Victorian department of planning and community development stating that “the minister for planning has not determined whether the wind farm is or is not compliant with the relevant planning permit”. It said: “The minister or the department have never stated that the Waubra Wind Farm is not compliant with the planning permit. It cannot be assumed or inferred from the departmental advice that Waubra Wind Farm is not compliant with the relevant planning permit and I seek your co-operation in correcting the public record.”
Back insisted that the state planning minister, Matthew Guy, had told parliament differently and said he would get to the bottom of the discrepancy.
Retiring Queensland senator Ron Boswell told the rally “wind power, solar power and renewable energy” were all “fraudulent” and were increasing electricity costs and hurting Australian industries. Also attending were New South Wales backbencher Craig Kelly and DLP senator John Madigan and Liberal star candidate Angus Taylor, who is contesting the NSW seat of Hume.
Most of those at the rally said they lived near proposed wind farms and were very worried about their impact on property values and their health.
Victorian wool grower Annie Gardner, who has made numerous media appearances to talk about the impacts she attributes to wind turbines near her property, said: “The whoosh of turbines is louder than a train, lying in bed at night the bed vibrates … and you can feel the ultrasound [non-audible] sound. It’s like being on a plane. Your ears are popping and you have pressure in your nose and your teeth and a pain like an axe in the back of your head.”
If elected in September, the Coalition will impose new noise-monitoring rules on wind farms, requiring the multi-billion dollar industry to provide “real-time” noise monitoring, with the findings immediately publicly available, so nearby residents concerned about the alleged health impact of wind farms can compare the results with strict state government noise controls.
The Coalition resources spokesman, Ian Macfarlane said the Coalition continued to back the renewable energy target and the wind industry, but the rules were necessary to maintain public acceptance.
Back received a roar of approval when he said the issue was “tearing rural and regional Australia apart”.
A recent study by Prof Simon Chapman of Sydney University found incidence of sickness claimed to be caused by wind farms was far more prevalent in communities where anti-wind farm lobbyists had been active. Chapman suggested such illness might be a psychological phenomenon caused by the belief that turbines make people sick. “As anti-wind farm interest groups began to stress health problems in their advocacy, and to target new wind farm developments, complaints grew,” said Chapman.
Organisers of a rival pro-wind rally in central Canberra said their event attracted over 500 people. It was attended by the Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, Labor parliamentary secretary Yvette D’Ath and the independent Tony Windsor.
As Essential Media poll earlier this month found 76% of people supported building wind farms to generate renewable energy, including 82% of Labor voters, 71% of Liberal and National party voters and 89% of Green voters.
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