Xenophon calls it: ultimately, this is a question about excessive noise

XenophonSpeech tabled on behalf of Senator Nick Xenophon, February 28, 2013

Hansard:  Australian Federal Senate

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (10:32): The incorporated speech read as follows—

This Bill seeks to amend the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act to give powers to the Clean Energy Regulator that ensure accredited wind farms do not create excessive noise.

Under the Bill, the definition of excessive noise would be background noise plus 10 dBA.

Should a wind farm be found to be contravening the excessive noise provisions of this Bill, it would be prevented from creating and on-selling large-scale generation certificates.

The importance of having a nationally applicable definition of excessive noise has been explained by Dr Bob Thorne, a well-regarded independent acoustician. Dr Thorne said:

The thing that none of us has is a consistency across all states. That leads to my mind to the most important function of this Bill: it gives a consistent approach to excessive noise throughout all of Australia… This is where I would see the benefit of this particular Bill in that it provides a certainty of approach to all states, it provides a certainty of approach to the industry and it gives a clear definition to all the different states legislation.

The benefits of a definition of excessive noise that applies to all states and territories will provide clarity and consistency of application throughout Australia.

Those who live close to wind farms can therefore be assured the wind farms are required to operate in accordance with established noise guidelines so that any disturbance caused by wind farm noise is minimised.

Ultimately, this is about empowering individuals and communities who have felt disempowered as a result of these large industrial structures and the excessive noise they create.

The suggested limit of background plus 10 dBA is in fact generous compared with current Australian noise guidelines.

The South Australian Environmental Protection Authority’s noise guidelines impose a limit of background plus 5 dBA in cases not involving wind farms.

So we must consider is that, in some areas, noise from wind farms is limited at 40dBA, or background plus 5 dBA, whichever is greater. This figure completely fails to take into account the fact that background noise — the sounds we hear all the time — is going to be far lower in rural and regional areas than in metropolitan areas, and instead allows the highest possible level of noise to occur.

The comparative ‘noise nuisance’ of 40dBA will naturally be much higher in the areas where wind farms are built.

During the Environment and Communications committee inquiry into this Bill, leading acoustician Dr Steven Cooper gave the following evidence:

The standards say that if a noise is above the background it is likely to be annoying and that exceedances of up to five are of marginal significance. So the concept has been that for general noise you can have noise that is audible but once you get to about five, above the background, it starts to present problems to the community or those people being affected by the noise. So if the background is higher in a city environment, then you can have a higher noise level. If you are near a large industrial estate or near a freeway that generates noise, then you are in a noisier environment and you can have a higher level of noise emission from the industrial sources.

This graph clearly shows that, as you move to quieter environments, then the criteria that apply should also drop down.

Excessive noise in general has been shown to cause sleep disturbance and disruption, as discussed in the World Health Organisation’s ‘Guidelines for Community Noise’.

There is so much information flying around in this debate that it important that independent research into the potential health effects of excessive noise from wind farms is undertaken.

I note that the Coalition has circulated amendments which, if enacted, would require the NHMRC to cause research to be conducted into the possible effects of noise from wind farms on human health.

I thank the Coalition members who have spent a significant amount of time working with Senator Madigan and me to construct some workable amendments. While I do have some concerns about their other amendments, I strongly support the need for more research.

Unfortunately the wind farm debate has been tarnished to some extent by certain individuals who choose to attack those who complain that their health has been adversely affected.

Allowing for independent research is something we should all support, no matter which side of the debate you are coming from.

A unanimous report from the Community Affairs References Committee in 2011 into the social and economic impact of wind farms in regional areas recommended that independent research be undertaken into the reported health effects.

And at this stage it’s appropriate to pay tribute to the late Judith Adams and her tireless work in this area.

The committee also recommended that further consideration be given to the separation distance between wind farms and residences, and that further research be done on the noise effects of wind farms, including infrasound.

I want to take this opportunity to discuss some of the arguments that have been raised against this Bill.

Some, including Senator Milne, have claimed this Bill is ‘anti-wind farm’ and part of a campaign against renewable energy.

With respect, this Bill is not anti anything except excessive noise.

We already have laws in place to control noise levels around airports, major roads, and other significant infrastructure.

How is this any different?

Yes, there are state and territory laws in place that put noise limits on wind farms. But these vary from region to region, and can’t be enforced anyway because there is no real-time noise data available.

Senator Milne also spoke at length against the reported health effects of wind farms. She went so far as to claim that ‘where people have a financial interest in the wind farm… these people do not get sick’.

Firstly, I’d like to mention the case of David and Alida Mortimer in the South East of South Australia. They are turbine hosts — they get a financial benefit from having a turbine on their property — but they have been very vocal about the negative impact this has had on their lives.

This Bill is not about the purported health effects of wind farms. This Bill is about excessive noise — something that is widely acknowledged can have an impact on sleep and quality of life.

But where is the harm in commissioning research into possible health effects? If there is no link, then what is there to fear?

Senator Milne also said she believed Senator Madigan and I were ‘part of a campaign against wind energy and renewables in Australia’.

I repudiate that in the strongest terms.

Professor Simon Chapman, whose work on the plain packaging legislation and tobacco advertising I greatly admire, also accused me of being an “anti-wind farm zealot”, adding that my interest in this cause brought about a “sad decline of a once admirable independent.”

At least he thought I was admirable once.

Professor Chapman is of course welcome to express his opinion, and I am pleased to be able to express mine.

I am not anti-wind farm.

In fact, I am pro-renewable energy. It is on the public record that I believe it is important that we have a mandated renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020.

I also believe that we have a very long way to go to achieve that.

My issue is not with that target but with the way the target is achieved through an over-reliance on one specific form of technology — wind turbines.

Wind farms do not provide a reliable baseload power, which means dirty coal-fired power stations need to be kept on standby.

We need to be investing in baseload reliable renewables, and I worry that our reliance on wind energy is in fact stifling investment in other areas, such as geothermal, solar thermal and tidal power.

So I am not anti-wind power.

But I do believe that wind power is only one part of the solution, and we shouldn’t focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.

In September last year, The Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd wrote about a two year analysis of Victorian wind farms, undertaken by mechanical engineer Hamish Cumming.

Lloyd wrote:

[Cummings] analysis shows that despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from green energy schemes driven by the renewable energy target, Victorias wind farm developments have saved virtually zero carbon dioxide emissions in the state.

He goes on to describe how, despite the feed of wind-generated power into the grid, fossil fuel generators do not reduce their rate of coal consumption.

In South Australia, Cumming estimated that the cost of greenhouse gas abatement was at $1484 a tonne.

I believe climate change is real and must be addressed urgently. We must do everything we can to mitigate the damage it has and will cause to our environment and our economy.

Part of that challenge is reshaping our economy to move towards less carbon-intensive ways of operating across all sectors. It is a fine balance between using a carrot and a stick.

We are not striking that balance.

For example, the structure of the current carbon tax could act as a positive disincentive to investment in other forms of renewable energy.

So, while I of course commend this Bill, I believe we also need to look at our over-reliance on wind energy and the repercussions for investments in other innovative forms of renewable energy.

I note that the Government does have upcoming legislation to extend a tax rebate to geothermal exploration activities.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

But geothermal projects still struggle to get access to funding, even when specific amounts have been set aside.

For example, in a response to an estimates question I placed on notice last year, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism stated that the Government had committed a total of $899 million to renewable energy projects.

Of this, only $302 million was for solar projects and $205 million was for geothermal.

And, even worse, only $104 million had actually been received by grant recipients.

This shows a serious neglect in funding alternative forms of energy.

We put all our eggs in one basket with coal-fired power, and we’re now paying the price. Let’s learn from that and not make the same mistake again.

I understand there is a lot of controversy about wind farms, and that these arguments make some people uncomfortable.

But ultimately, this is a question about excessive noise. It is fair and reasonable that there be a national standard for noise, and that wind farms publish live information to show their compliance with this standard.

In the end, communities must be empowered. They must have access to real-time information on the noise generated from these turbines, because right now they are fighting legal battles with one hand tied behind their back.

In the same way that aircraft noise near airports is publicly available, the same approach should be taken to wind farms.

Surely in the interests of transparency, the industry should not object to this information being made available to local communities.

As I said before, this is no different from noise restrictions in place elsewhere.

I indicate my support for this Bill, and I hope this is only the beginning of the debate on these issues.

australian parliament house

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Grant Winberg says:

    I would like to repeat the vote of thanks to the two Senators for doing more than just saying they represent the people of Australia – they truly do care and do represent the people. It is very sad that the misguided and ignorant and corrupted prevented you from instilling transparency, compliance and accountability in the wind turbine industry.

  2. ex Green now Milne is in charge says:

    Thankyou Nick and John for your courage and integrity in spades for speaking the truth.

    The fact that there is no serious political or scientific effort to respond to the noise and acoustic issues as raised in your Bill and elsewhere, by governments or corporations anywhere in the world points to the fact that up to now, mainstream media (and selected ‘academics’), with some notable exceptions are embedded with government.

    As Chomsky has described extensively, the mainstream media serves the interests of state and corporate power. That corporate power has now enlisted gullible green groups and elements of Labor left (and some on the right) suggests that the end of the Greens is nigh. Perhaps that’s why Bob B has jumped ship. It is also why Lovelock is despairing? https://stopthesethings.com/?s=lovelock

    I trust you will be around in our parliament for a long time yet- our democracy needs you.

  3. The Callous Wind says:

    I applaud Nick Xenophon and John Madigan for their excessive noise bill. Nick is a real trooper as far as I am concerned. When the Ceres Wind Turbine Project Development Application was lodged and it made the papers, Nick rang and was out here within a couple of hours to do a television interview with the Heartland Farmers, to express their concerns. He spent another couple of hours here talking to all of those involved.
    Wind turbine noise is a huge problem around the world, but it has been played down by the proponents of the wind industry. To quote Nick, “Unfortunately the wind farm debate has been tarnished to some extent by certain individuals who choose to attack those who complain that their health has been adversely affected.”
    I think we know who most of those are, their thoughts are out there for the whole world to see. One blogger in particular is very vocal about the so called Nocebo effect. They will produce pages of facts and figures and graphs, all put together by the wind industry and their buddies, proving that turbines do not produce noise or infrasound, hell, they even sleep underneath them to prove a point. Somebody forgot to tell them that the problem is not underneath the turbine, it is projected out up to 3 and 4 kilometers, even more in some instances. One interesting observation I have made, is that none of them actually live anywhere near a wind farm.
    Unfortunately for them, what is happening in the real world, does not correspond with their facts and figures. Maybe these keyboard warriors should get out into the real world and find out what is happening.Their other argument is that it has never been proven that there is a connection between infra sound and wind turbines, no, it hasn’t, but it has never been proven that there isn’t a connection between the wind turbines and infra sound, either. Hopefully that will be resolved with the upcoming EPA testing at Waterloo.
    They will also tell you that it is only the people who are not receiving financial gain from the turbines, that get ill. Perhaps I can quote Nick again, “Firstly, I’d like to mention the case of David and Alida Mortimer in the South East of South Australia. They are turbine hosts — they get a financial benefit from having a turbine on their property — but they have been very vocal about the negative impact this has had on their lives”.
    How is it these proponents of the wind industry keep feeding us the same old crap, when in the real world, people are getting ill, being forced from their homes, because the turbines are driving them nuts, 24/7.Maybe they have something to hide. Haven’t they seen the videos on Youtube, read the newspaper reports, the current affairs programmes, with people in tears, desperate, not knowing what to do and nobody listening. I have a friend at Waterloo, born and bred there, never had health or sleeping problems in his life, until the wind farm was built, now he can’t sleep, has headaches, feels dizzy, to the point where he bought a $250,000 house in Saddleworth, so that he can go down there and sleep at night. Once he is there, he is fine, but his business is in Waterloo.
    Well boys, the winds of change are here, you might have to take up a new cause, because the wind industry is about to run out of puff.

  4. Please, Christine Milne, go visit the people affected and stay with them for a few nights. I know you will not do that as it doesn’t suite your rediculous agenda, to not actually save the World but to stop it. Actually I am dam sick of our country’s wealth being trashed by your idiotic policies. Further to insinuate, that somehow the Wind Turbine Victims [ WTV ] are somehow faking their symtoms puts you in the” Oxygen Thief Class ” along with all the other Politicians who support this Fraudent and money wasting Fraud.
    Never ever give up.

  5. Well done Senators! It’s comforting to know that someone is bringing this up for discussion in Federal Parliament. We have 1km setback from noise sensitive locations in WA (ie homes) but no setback from boundary lines, so too bad if we wish to build a dwelling near our boundary at a later date. Please keep the discussions happening until others start to listen. We need action on this!

  6. Harry Makris says:

    Ultimately ….This is a question of Good Government

    …Will it come to this Again…a timely reminder….

    ….was it a Declaration more Prophetic than Historic.? ….encompassing, not only One’s Rights…but also One’s Duty… beautifully written to be referred to by all Peoples.
    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America 1776

    ……….When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another ….and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,…..
    …… a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires
    that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    ….We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —
    ………That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
    ……….That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

    ………. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer,…. while evils are sufferable ….. ……than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    …..But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, …..it is their Right,…. it is their Duty, ..to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —
    ……Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

    …..The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
    ……To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  7. Good on you Nick! You have begun the debate regarding noise issues. But what about the totally unacceptably close 2km setback from homes. 2 ks is nothing when we are talking about 150 metre monstrosities. What about the visual amenity which we all moved to these country area to enjoy. Oh that’s right. John Rau took away our right to appeal against visual amenity with the state wide interim development plan amendment. How can anyone possibly live amongst what is essentially an Industrial power generation installation of unprecedented proportions such as these. It is inhuman. It is a crime against the people and the environment. What about the bird life which will vanish from every area these things are placed. Already endangered bird life. Oh I guess that’s ok if we manufacture some ‘GREEN ENERGY’ right? How in the hell can we ever look at the sky again without feelings of great despair. Imagine our sunrises and sunsets not with the beauty they offer but with machine blades spinning, dominating our visual amenity? This whole turbine business is pure madness. Put them out in the remote regions of Australia AWAY from ALL human habitation. This is what REALLY needs to happen. This wind farm business is NOT just about noise.


  1. […] Solid data providing confirmation of the noise impacts also provides a basis for proper regulation and control of operating wind farms. Real-time noise monitoring with an ability to enforce properly set noise limits – targeting low-frequency noise and infrasound, rather than the irrelevant dB(A) measure used as the basis for all noise guidelines – by shutting down turbines at night time – presents as the obvious way to avoid or minimise the harm caused to neighbours. At the Federal level the obvious penalty for non-compliance with properly set noise standards is to remove the operator’s entitlement to receive Renewable Energy Certificates – something put on the table by SA’s favourite Greek, Senator Nick Xenophon and backed by Victorian Senator John “Marshall” Madigan (see our post here). […]

  2. […] has sought to water-down the Draft Excessive Noise Bill promoted by Madigan and Xenophon that would bring some reason and sanity back to controlling noise […]

  3. […] was the limit included in the original draft put forward by Nick Xenophon and John Madigan and the heavy hitters in the Coalition are very keen to see it gets […]

  4. […] Coalition will introduce the Draft Excessive Noise legislation promoted by Nick Xenophon and John Madigan which – as well as forcing wind weasels to hand […]

  5. […] hears that one of Nick’s first moves is to ensure that the Draft Excessive Noise Bill is toughened up and slotted through the […]

  6. […] – and proper protection for families at existing wind farms – then look no further than Nick Xenophon and John […]

  7. […] will be joined by the Blacksmith from Ballarat, John Madigan and SA’s favourite Greek, Nick Xenophon, who will hold the balance of power in The Senate after 7 […]

  8. […] is happy to introduce Dick to Bruce Scott, Craig Kelly, Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Angus Taylor who most certainly get the importance of base-load renewables –  […]

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