Is this man really a doctor? Or just a clever Dick

richard-di-nataleWe reproduce below a speech given by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale on the Renewable Energy Amendment Bill on wind farms.

We have taken the liberty of addressing some of his remarks.

In short, Di Natale blames wind turbine syndrome on fear spread by the Waubra Foundation, lauds Simon Chapman for the “valuable” work he has undertaken in this area and says wind farms are “great, mate” and therefore beyond normal noise constraints put on other industries.

Nothing new here, people. It’s straight out of the Clean Energy Council propaganda handbook.

In short, you all know how to vote at the September election.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

THE SENATE CHAMBER, Federal Parliament of Australia

 SPEECH

Senator Richard Di Natale

Victoria

09:51

I must admit to some disappointment that we are today debating a bill about wind farm noise.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Excessive Noise from Windfarms) Bill has its origins in concerns about the supposed health effects of living next to wind farms.

Richard, have you ever sat with someone who lived near a wind farm and complained of health problems? If you engaged directly with people affected, you would understand there is nothing “supposed” about it.

Did you do any proper research before speaking on this Bill or did you just lap up tainted wind industry propaganda?

Did you read the recently released literature review from Ontario by public health physicians Drs Arra and Lynn, for instance, who found that there was NOT ONE STUDY which showed NO negative effect on neighbours to wind turbines?

Did you read the statement of evidence for the Cherry Tree VCAT hearing sent to you by your medical colleague, Dr Sarah Laurie, two days before this Bill was debated?

You can find it on this site.

Is it asking too much for you to move beyond the tight confines of your own political agenda (and that of wind industry lobbyists) and expose yourself to some reality?

Let’s read the rest of your speech and find out.

As Senator Milne noted in her contribution to the debate, an enormous variety of symptoms have been attributed to wind turbines. The list starts with headaches, nausea, loss of sleep and fatigue, and goes as far as things like terminal cancer. Indeed, allegations have been made that animals keel over dead as a result of wind turbines.

These reports from farmers were reported on the BBC. But a nice bit of convenient fact plucking. This report is more than three years old. It happened in Taiwan. It’s barely relevant in this debate. But already, we can see where you’re heading.

As a doctor, many of these symptoms are familiar to me, and they do have much in common with many other conditions that are associated with modern life. I do not doubt for a moment that these symptoms are real, but the cause is much more complicated than the substance of this Bill implies.

No. The issue is quite simple.  Some people get sick when the wind turbines are operating, and they are well when the turbines are off or they are away from home. 

Sleep deprivation is known to be caused by both audible noise and low frequency noise.  Wind turbines emit this noise, as well as infrasound and vibrations.  Professor Con Doolan has found a direct correlation between low frequency noise and episodes of “annoyance” – and he has further found the dose of sound energy corresponds directly with the severity of the symptoms.

What we are debating today are matters of scientific fact—are wind farms noisy, how much acoustic energy do they introduce into the environment, does that energy have a direct impact on the human body that can lead to health problems. These are not political questions; they are questions of empirical fact.

Couldn’t agree with you more.

I will come back to the facts of the health impacts of wind farms in a moment, but I do need to emphasise the importance of science in this debate. Science is the pursuit of truth; the pursuit of knowledge. As a scientist by training I have always respected, indeed have been in awe of, the scientific method and what it has achieved for the human race. The results are all around us. In a few generations, in the blink of history’s eye, we have seen air travel, electric power and instantaneous global communication all move from the miraculous to the routine.

My medical training instilled a deep respect for the scientific method as a way of sifting truth from falsehood.

Nowhere are the benefits more plain than in medicine. There is a deep respect for this method amongst medical practitioners and researchers.

Why then did you vote against this Bill, and against increased transparency for the wind industry?

After all, it is not that long ago that medicine concerned itself with balancing the humours and bloodletting. Nowadays a fairly routine trip to the hospital might involve a trip, for example, to a PET scanner. For a PET scan, unstable atomic nuclei are introduced into the body so we can build up a three-dimensional image based on the gamma rays that are emitted. It is just incredible. Few of us would probably stop to consider the centuries of painstaking work that made this possible, but it is reflected in the longer, healthier lives that we lead here today. Many or even most of us would not be alive were it not for the scientific advances of previous decades and centuries.

In other words, science works. Its fruits are on display and cannot be denied. Indeed, we take them for granted.

We cannot come up with cogent explanations for the workings of the mobile phone. I use an aeroplane frequently, and I will fly home tomorrow. I trust the phone and the aeroplane, and many other things, because they are built on sound and well tested scientific principles. Science deals with facts in a way that is fundamentally different from politics. Science is not about going into bat for a particular position, about finding some evidence to tailor some predetermined desired outcome.

Agreed. Talk to someone who is suffering WTS, or a fellow doctor with patients suffering WTS. Good science, like representative politics, needs an open mind, wouldn’t you say? And this would be a good place to start.

Science is a process; it takes into account the biases inherent in human nature and systematically eliminates them from the final result. Science is not a journey to some predetermined outcome but a commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads. That is quite foreign to the way public policy is generally made in this place.

And it would appear to be foreign to the way the Greens and the Labor party are approaching this issue.

It is paradoxical that our lives have become more dependent on science and technology while, at the same time, the status of science in the public debate is eroding. This is a fairly recent phenomenon. It was not that long ago that the polio vaccine, penicillin and even the atom bomb were branded as new reminders of how science is changing everyday lives and the future of our world. As constant scientific and technological innovation has become a part of background life, the significance of science has faded. As a result, scientists now occupy just another voice in the public debate. On a good day they are given equal billing with another lobby group or vested interest, and this is a dangerous thing when we are debating a matter of scientific fact such as whether wind farms are harmful to human health.

Here’s a suggestion. Stop debating and start reading the scientific papers. Get out in the field and listen to rural residents, including long standing (former) Greens supporters whose health is being damaged by wind turbines, and who you and your party have turned your backs on.

Scientists are not always the best people to participate in policy debates—they are often inexperienced and not skilled in the media, and they can be drowned out or outfoxed by those who are much better equipped for these tasks. Cashed-up lobby groups

If only the Waubra Foundation was a cashed up lobby group!  Just think of the research it could do.  Instead we have pensioners donating their pension cheques to ensure that independent acoustic monitoring happens (i.e. the monitoring the noise regulatory authorities should be doing and are not, which this Bill would have helped with).

have the skills and resources to distort debates, and it can be difficult for scientific experts to overcome this. We have seen before the dangers inherent in this way of doing things. The tobacco lobby were extraordinarily successful in muddying the waters around science. They did not need to prove that tobacco was safe,

Good point.  Pharmaceutical companies now have to ensure their products are safe.  So too do other companies before their products are let loose on the public.  Why does this not apply to wind turbines?  Surely we’ve learnt lessons from thalidomide and asbestos.

You are a doctor, aren’t you? A medical doctor? You don’t just have a PhD in poetry or something?

Sorry, we’d just thought we’d check.

that there was no link between smoking and lung cancer—all they had to do was instil in the public mind the idea that the question was not yet settled and then let inertia and commercial interests do the rest. The same thing is happening with climate change

This is the old political trick the Greens always use on wind farms.  Whether or not infrasound and low frequency noise/vibration from wind turbines, coal mining, gas fired power stations or compressors used in CSG mining cause adverse health effects has NOTHING to do with climate change, but everything to do with sound energy and neurophysiology.

think tanks, pet academics, fake grassroots groups; they have long been sowing doubt about the seemingly undeniable reality of climate change. They are not struggling for cash or access to the megaphone. Powerful and wealthy industries

Surely you know some of the biggest wind industry companies include those organisations that are noise polluters with gas fired power and CSG, like AGL?

How can you support AGL as a wind farm developer then oppose them in terms of CSG?

Both sides of the one company are wrecking the environment and hurting rural communities. You must call it Green pragmatism. We call it Green astigmatism.

have a commercial imperative to delay action on climate change, and it is frightening to see how successful they have been. This bill, which I contend is largely the product of such mischief by vested interests,

Why don’t the Greens do their own research?  Is it pure ideology?  Or is the wind industry funding you?  If so, by how much? 

This industry is knowingly and deliberately harming vulnerable Australian families, and driving them out of their  homes. And you not only choose to ignore this, you politically aid and abet this happening.

is one small example of the phenomenon that is now playing out all over the world—and critically here in Australia.

Senator Edwards:

What vested interests?

Good question.

Senator DI NATALE:

The irony is that these lobby groups are compelled to cloak their campaigns in the language of science.

Senator Boswell:

Just like you.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT Senator Fawcett

Order! I remind the chamber that Senator Di Natale has the right to be heard in silence.

Senator DI NATALE:

Because of their extraordinary success, science and the sciences do command public respect. We still see scientists as disinterested experts we can trust.

People like Simon Chapman have certainly shaken our trust in some areas of science.

Politicians and lobby groups do their best to cash in on that. Science suffers from some of its worst abuses when it is misused and twisted to give a veneer of scientific respectability to a specific policy or ideology. This is pseudoscience, and it is rife in the public debate. Sorting real science from pseudoscience can be difficult for the public at large, and it is a challenge that the media are often not up to. It takes a lot of time and hard-won expertise to do that. After all, an anecdote is very, very powerful. We all know about the power of the personal story. Personal stories are really of little worth

Thanks for that.  This epitomises the Greens approach to this issue.  Individual people are “of little worth”. But individuals make-up communities. Where do you draw the line on collateral damage for your Green agenda?

when it comes to settling scientific questions, but they do have the power to sway a debate. They make for a juicy and readable story or a compelling TV moment, and the quest for balanced reporting makes it all too easy to give equal time to both sides of the debate. Especially in scientific matters where it may not be apparent where the consensus lies, it is easier to throw in quotes from competing experts. But, in reality, there are not two sides to every story—at least not two equal sides. In a debate like climate change,

Ah, muddying the waters again to deflect attention from the real issue.

giving the impression that there are two sides accomplishes precisely what the vested interests want. The science is undermined because it looks like the question is open and the debate is still a live one. As policymakers, we have to consider a variety of factors. Science is just one of them. Public values, priorities for scarce resources, and even election commitments all need to be taken into account, but we should be honest about it. Hand-picked evidence, friendly experts and data taken out of context are not science. That is just keeping up appearances. The role of science in policymaking is to find out what works.

Great, let’s get on and do some science  It’s what the Waubra Foundation has been asking for.

When used honestly, it is not just another tool that one can use to buttress a predetermined ideological position. Scientists look for evidence that disproves their theories. They know that, if they do not, others will do it for them, and they will look foolish and lazy.

To be honest, that’s how you Greens look to us.

No slogan, no matter how well received by a focus group, will help a scientist if her peers have failed to replicate experimental data. An inconsistency in theory cannot be dismissed based on good polling. In other words, integrity is critical in science.

We agree. That’s was this Bill was to have been about.

When used properly, science brings integrity back into public policy. On the substance of this bill: what does the science tell us about wind farms? Wind farms are a mature technology. There are over 200,000 of them operating in the world today. That is enough for us to have some confidence in the effects they have on health.

Richard, this is shameful.  Have another, closer look at the literature review put out by Drs Arra and Lynn. In fact, just have a look.

According to the NHMRC’s public statement on wind farms and health, there is no scientific evidence that indicates that wind turbines have a negative effect on human health.

This is a discredited report.

And not only that, you have just misquoted from it. 

Sleep deprivation has been consistently reported by residents and subjects in the limited studies which do exist, with much smaller wind turbines. 

The level of noise caused by a wind turbine at 350 metres, well short of the typical distance of houses from any turbine, is barely discernible from the ordinary background noise in a quiet bedroom.

This sounds like wind industry propaganda to us.

Measurements of the infrasound – that is, sound of a frequency too low to be detectable by human ears—show that levels near wind farms are lower than a typical urban environment. Of course, wind turbines are not completely silent. Experiencing the peace and quiet of the Australian countryside is one of my chief pleasures in life. Everyone should be entitled to a quiet environment and a good night’s sleep.

Absolutely.

However, noise issues are already regulated,

That is the problem. They are not effectively regulated and this Bill sought to ensure that they would be.

and wind farms are not exempt from these laws. So, on the one hand, we have good evidence that wind farms produce noise at low levels, often undetectable to the human ear, and we have a situation where science can suggest no mechanism whereby such noises could impact the human body.

Read Professor Salt’s paper to the New York Internoise Conference, and some of his previous work. 

On the other hand, we have a considerable body of stories from people who are suffering severe health impacts from their proximity to wind turbines. What is going on here?

Don’t you think it’s time we looked properly and objectively at this, just as the Senate inquiry recommended nearly two years ago.  Why has this not yet happened?

The special interests that are hell-bent on disrupting the scientific debate in our papers and on TV are also having an effect on people’s health. When outfits like the Waubra Foundation spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of wind turbines, this scares people.

WTS was first reported in Australia in 2004, well before the Waubra Foundation was around.

How do you explain that the same symptoms are being reported near the coal mines in the upper Hunter, where the same sound energy frequencies are occurring in quiet rural environments? 

It is a terrible thing to have to worry about your health and that of your family. I shudder to think of how anxious I would be if I thought a facility was being built next to my family’s farm that would pollute the environment and make us ill.

Why then didn’t you vote in favour of the Bill?

The symptoms attributed to the so-called wind turbine syndrome, including headaches, nausea, tinnitus and loss of sleep, appear to be the invention of a single person.

Who wrote this speech? Infigen Energy‘s PR department?

Dr Nina Pierpont’s peer reviewed study was first published in 2009? She started receiving complaints about WTS in 2004.  Dr Amanda Harry’s study was published in 2003, in the UK. Dr David Iser first alerted the Victorian Government to people getting sick from Toora wind farm in 2004.

Had anyone heard of Sarah Laurie then?

Come on Richard, who’s picking up the tab for your lunch? We mean, really …

Those symptoms are not unknown. There are many historical examples of illnesses such as these associated with the rise of modern technology. In the 19th century, the symptoms we are discussing here today were given the label ‘neurasthenia’. In 1880, George Beard attributed the causes of neurasthenia to a collection of things, including wireless telegraphy, science itself, steam power, newspapers and the education of women.

However, these symptoms did not disappear as we got used to the innovations that caused that anxiety back then. More modern examples include high-voltage powerlines, wireless phone towers, fluoridated water and, indeed, vaccination. All of these have been associated with the symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache and so forth. In every case, the best science has failed to find a causative link between these issues and adverse effects on human health.

Again, Con Doolan’s case study. Contrary to your “theory”, there is evidence of direct causation.  It is unfortunate that the wind developer refused to cooperate so it was not possible to conclusively prove the sound energy came from the wind turbines. All we want is to do the science, Richard.

Indeed, with things like wireless internet or powerlines, it is often possible to prove that the symptoms continue as long as the sufferer believes that they are being exposed to the source,

Let’s do the science and we can test your theory.

even when the source no longer exists. In medical science this is known as the nocebo effect: the belief that something causes you real harm. These problems, known as psychogenic illnesses, are well documented in the scientific literature. Psychogenic conditions may be on the rise. A growing distrust in science is manifesting itself in a suspicion of conventional medicine and technology. The advent of the internet—which is, incidentally, another one of science’s great achievements—has widened access to information and misinformation. Anyone concerned about health impacts can find no shortage of information to fan the flames of their fears. Wind turbines would appear to be but the latest example of this phenomenon.

You’ve been hanging out with the Chapstick, haven’t you?  

Simon Chapman, who has made some valuable contributions

Ah ha, we could tell. His modus operandi is to vilify sick people.

to this debate and has investigated the situation,

… by hanging out with wind developers, attending their conferences.

has found that only a small minority of wind farms have attracted health complaints. In evidence he gave to the inquiry into this bill he found that, while nobody in Western Australia has ever made such a complaint, it is where anti-wind-farm activism is present that complaints occur.

Again, how do you explain Toora? In 2004 there was no anti-wind farm activism?

Complaints about health tend to follow publicity about health effects.

There are two reasons for that. 

First, people who have been suffering with the problems finally realise what might be causing them (as in the case of David and Alida Mortimer hearing someone from Cape Bridgewater explain their own symtoms).

Second, publicity results in education of the public, and greater awareness in the local community. 

Because of the vilification and stigmatisation that still goes on, most people do not speak out publicly, or the symptoms must become extreme for them to do so.

In short, there is no substantial evidence that wind farms impact on human health.

You are ignoring the evidence.

But the literature on psychogenic illness is very compelling in this case. Further evidence that has been tendered to the inquiry into this bill points out that people who have financial interests in a wind farm near their properties exhibit none of these symptoms.

Sorry mate, you’re an embarrassment.  Again, what about the Mortimers? What about the gag agreements which prevent people  from speaking out? 

Even Slater and Gordon has admitted gag agreements exist – in that case to stop sick turbine neighbours from speaking out when they have been bought out by the developer. 

And you have just voted against a Bill which would have made it harder for the perpetrators of noise pollution to continue to abuse their neighbours. 

Thanks Richard.  Wonderful.  Just what we would have expected from a physician who has taken the hypocritical oath.

They are also rare in non-English speaking populations, such as in Denmark.

That’s not what Danish doctors Mauri Johannson and Vivi Schlunnsen have said. The language difference makes it hard to get the Danish stories into English but they are coming.

where they have many more wind turbines but less access to the English literature on the supposed ailments associated with wind power. I want to be clear about this: I do not doubt the testimony of those who are experiencing these symptoms.

Wonderful.  At least we agree on that.  Better than vilifying the victims, eh?

I believe that those symptoms are genuine and do lead to suffering. When somebody says they are experiencing pain or are in discomfort, we should not deny them that experience. Those symptoms are real. What I do contest is the source of these symptoms. The evidence is very clear that the acoustics of the turbines do not have a measurable impact on human health

Fail. 

Go and do some homework. 

We suggest you start with the Arra and Lynn Literature Review for a start.  Much better than relying on the regurgitated wind industry “spin”.

but, of course, the anxiety created by wind farm opponents does. Stress and worry

Low frequency noise is known to cause stress.  Don’t you think that is part of the problem?  The existing scientific research would suggest so.

have enormous consequences for health and wellbeing. Once the seeds of fear have been sown, it is very difficult to undo the health consequences. I therefore heartily condemn those who continue to spread this misinformation.It is the spread of misinformation that harms, not the wind turbines themselves. A bill such as this only exacerbates that fear and aids those who want to hinder the development of wind power for other commercial reasons.

Richard,  we condemn you for your ignorance, your laziness, and your willingness to parrot the propaganda of a corrupt industry.

This speech has all the intellectual depth of a teaspoon.

You are just a clever Dick, after all.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Andreas Marciniak says:

    You are just a clever Dick, after all. NO HE’S NOT
    (“The symptoms attributed to the so-called wind turbine syndrome, including headaches, nausea, tinnitus and loss of sleep, appear to be the invention of a single person.”)Yes It was ME, Andreas Marciniak of Waterloo South Australia, and now I’m a Wind Farm refugee, and I love it, after all I have nothing better to do, don’t I Dr. Richard Di Natale,and if you would have just looked in the right place you would have found just like I did, that complaints about Turbines go back over 20 years, and most happen to be in Europe, just didn’t want to see what was really out there. or just Google my Name or check out what I found on my Facebook page, but be very careful you might just learn something new !oohh I nearly forgot if you want to find out how good and Green these Industrial machines are just Google Hawaii find farm, you will find out what they are good for lol.

  2. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Well there’s much about this diatribe speech I could comment on, but here are a few notes I made while reading it: fake grass roots groups – generalisation – what’s scientific about that. Cashed up – hum he must have been talking about the CEC. We are hindering work to stop climate change – hum, how much C02 does it take to manufacture and erect a turbine? 200,000 turbines installed so they must be OK – how many people were smoking tobacco before companies were found to be hiding they had known the truth for many years, same for asbestos?
    Reading this speech it sounds as if he has problems, he is very confused as to whom he is supporting because a lot of what he says sounds as if he is working for those who want scientific research, but then be switches to being supportive of those who don’t (the industry and its supporters), he says scientific research should be done, then appears to say it has been done. He is a Greens member, but supports those who are causing damage to the environment. He talks about scientific research processes but completely ignores them where peoples health is concerned.
    Could he have a duel personality or is the subject just too much for him to adequately comprehend?

  3. Dicks are general quite useful when required this one is an epic fail.

  4. What a dog of a man, although that description is unfair to the dogs of this world, a much better description could be had using more colorful language.
    People like this just flat out tell lies, they are pandering not only to the wind industry but to the fools that they know will vote for them for their stance on this, the inner urbans who want to save the planet, but are the ones who are killing it. Its rather ironic that they profess to be “green” unyet live in the middle of the city and denigrate country people as slow or hicks. (yes some are – farmers with turbines)
    The current day greens need to change their name, they are not green, but grey, what do they stand for? well who knows, but it seems like not much unless someone is going to give them a handout

  5. Well,well, we have a Chapstick & a Dick – what fools, all they have to do is read the science that is there & coming out.

  6. Maybe we have a solution. What if every taxpayer in Australia only paid half their due tax, leaving out the REC component, then industrial turbines would not be funded.

  7. Grant Winberg says:

    What a crazy, foolish individual. Ranting on, digging himself deeper into the hole he will now find himself stuck in forever, irretrievably. Why not just vote NO. Two letters, one word and he could have lived to fight another day. Instead, he kept on reading from the Infigen scrip, leaving him with absolutely no apparent integrity, and certainly no credibility. Can’t he see that the Renewable Energy Amendment Bill was put together to impose compliance and accountability in the industry. We, the tax payers, are funding REC’s with no reasonable measurement of the recipient’s compliance with the terms of their approval, and the consequent right to then, and only then, receive our money.
    Goodnight Senator Richard Di Natale, you are now irrelevant.

  8. ex Green now Milne is in charge says:

    Dick: “A bill such as this only exacerbates that fear and aids those who want to hinder the development of wind power for other commercial reasons.”

    I guess they are the same reasons that fossil fuel companies such as BP, Chevron and Origin (CSG giant in Australia) have invested in wind for example?

    Dick, really, you must have your head up your tar sands! Where is your evidence? There is none. The fossil fuel conspiracy doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

    Or are you continuing to snort Christine Milne’s secret stash of Astroturf she found in her compost bin a while back? I have heard it can precipitate acute psychotic episodes in susceptible green subjects.

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