Coalition’s Contempt: Senators Slam Pathetic & Belated Response to Wind Farm Inquiry

senate review

STT followers will well remember the efforts made by a band of Federal Senators to lift the lid on Australia’s wind industry.

Starting back in April 2015, those Senators spent almost 6 months, attended 8 hearings in 4 States and the ACT, heard from dozens of witnesses and received almost 500 submissions, before producing their final report, which runs to some 350 pages – available here: Senate Report

The first 200 pages are filled with facts, clarity, common sense and compassion; the balance, labelled “Labor’s dissenting report”, was written by the wind industry’s parasites and spruikers – including the Clean Energy Council (these days a front for Infigen aka Babcock & Brown); the Australian Wind Alliance; and Leigh Ewbank from the Enemies of the Earth.

Predictably, Labor’s dissenting report was filled with fantasy, fallacy and fiction – pumping up the ‘wonders’ of wind; completely ignoring the cost of the single greatest subsidy rort in the history of the Commonwealth; and treating the wind industry’s hundreds of unnecessary victims – of incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound – with the kind of malice, usually reserved for sworn and bitter foreign enemies.

A veritable aeon has lapsed since that report was tabled and it took the same group of senators involved in the process to effectively badger the Coalition government to respond.

Justifiably furious, one of those senators, David Leyonhjelm let rip with this spray in the Senate Chamber a couple of weeks back.

Select Committee on Wind Turbines
Report
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Speaker Leyonhjelm, Sen David

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales): I rise to speak on the government’s response to the final report of the Senate select committee report on wind turbines. I was a member of that committee and contributed significantly to both its interim and final reports. I have taken a keen interest in ensuring that those reports did not gather dust, like so many other reports have done. In fact, we had some success in getting the government to respond to the interim report. But I regret to say its response to the final report has been anything but praiseworthy.

The committee submitted its final report to the Senate on 3 August 2015. On 16 March 2016, the chair of the committee, Senator John Madigan, moved a motion signed by the Senate crossbench calling on the government to respond by 10 May 2016. No response was received, and parliament was dissolved the day before that. On the first sitting day of the 45th Parliament, 30 August 2016, I lodged a motion signed by every single member of the new Senate crossbench asking for the government’s response to the inquiry to be laid on the table by 21 November 2016.

On 21 November there was still no government response. In fact, the government did not respond until 8 December 2016 – 16 months after the report was tabled. The required time for responding to Senate reports is three months. This is a mockery of our Senate process.

Now that it has responded, there are several aspects about its response that warrant comment. One of the priorities of the inquiry was to examine the impact of wind farms on those living and working in close proximity to them.

The committee heard how some of these people were suffering ill health, that their health improved when they moved away and deteriorated when they returned. It heard how these health effects were not understood by the medical world, were commonly dismissed and that the suffering of those affected was made worse by their shabby treatment. It heard how the wind industry and its cheerleaders in the media, academia and health belittled those adversely affected. One retired academic with no qualifications or even expertise in medical matters promoted the lie that only people in English-speaking countries were claiming to be adversely affected.

Some plausible explanations were put forward to explain the ill-health effects, mostly relating to infrasound or very low-frequency soundwaves. Evidence was given that infrasound is a known cause of ill health in humans and that wind turbines emit infrasound. What we do not have is confirmation that the infrasound emitted by wind farms is sufficient to cause adverse health effects.

Not everyone is affected, and those affected are not always invariably affected. As one who is easily affected by seasickness when others are not, I did not find that very difficult to understand. But, apparently, it is good enough for the wind industry, or ‘big wind’, as I describe them and their shills, to discredit those poor individuals who are made ill.

The committee also heard how the process for approving wind farms was a farce, with state policies ranging from non-existent to something that might as well not exist. It heard about: buck-passing between state governments and local governments, with nobody accepting responsibility for outcomes; how, once a wind farm is built, nobody is interested in whether it complies with its approval conditions; and that those approval conditions do not even include infrasound.

Some of these problems were highlighted in the interim report of the committee. Based on that report, I led a crossbench delegation to see then Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, to accept some of the recommendations. That led to the commitment of funds to a proper scientific investigation of the health effects of wind farms.

But, beyond that, very little has changed.

In particular, there were some very important recommendations in the final report that have not been treated seriously by the government in its response. The government has observed that wind farm approvals are a matter for individual state and territory governments and that it, therefore, cannot address the manifest inadequacies in their regulatory regimes.

This is profoundly wrong. Unless a wind farm meets Commonwealth requirements, renewable energy certificates cannot be issued. Without the certificates, the wind farm cannot sell them to electricity retailers. And selling certificates is its source of revenue. A wind farm needs the Commonwealth government more than it needs a state government. The Commonwealth is abdicating its responsibilities.

The government response says state government planning regulations require a noise monitoring regime as part of wind farm development approvals for both approval and operational stages. This is not always true. And, in any case, no state requires monitoring of infrasound. The response says the government is moving to develop national wind farm guidelines. This should be a priority, given its significance to state governments. It is a golden opportunity to address the impact of wind farms that were raised in evidence. And, yet, the government is dragging the chain.

The response says the government does not want the Productivity Commission to examine the impact of renewable energy, of which wind is the main component. Its impact on electricity prices was discussed by Senator Back in the previous address. The government says that the Australian Energy Market Commission produces an annual report on retail electricity price trends and that it does not believe further analysis is required by the Productivity Commission at this time.

When is the right time to find out how much this utterly indefensible policy is costing the Australian economy or what the social harm being caused by energy poverty is? Do poor people have to die of cold or heat exhaustion before the insanity of ever-rising electricity prices is stopped?

Australia’s postwar prosperity is attributable to the fact that we had a reliable source of cheap energy. Cheap, coal-fired power is what has kept the lights on and people in jobs for over a century. It also ensured that everyone could afford to stay warm in winter and cool in summer, no matter whether they were poor or rich. That is no longer the case. How many dead people are an acceptable price for Australia’s contribution to combating climate change?
Senate Hansard, 9 February 2017

Senator David Leyonhelm

David Leyonhjelm calls out the Coalition’s contempt.

***

Another committee member who joined in David Leyonhjelm’s attack on government stone-walling was Liberal Senator from WA, Chris Back

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (17:56): by leave – I thank the chamber for its indulgence to speak on the government’s response to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines. I know I am amongst friends on both sides.

The Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines reported to the Senate on 3 August in 2015. The government did not respond to the recommendations until 8 December 2016, some 16 months after the select committee had put its report into the Senate. That is exceedingly disappointing given the amount of work that was done.

In March 2016, the chair of the committee, Senator John Madigan, moved a motion signed by the crossbench members requesting the government response by 10 May 2016. Parliament was dissolved for the election, so that did not happen. On the first sitting day of this parliament, the 45th Parliament, on 30 August, Senator Leyonhjelm lodged a motion signed by every member of the new Senate crossbench asking the government to respond by 21 November 2016. So it is somewhat disappointing, then, that we have only just had the government’s response now.

There were 491 submissions to the committee. The committee, under the chairmanship of then Senator Madigan and the deputy chairmanship of then Senator Day, held eight public hearings across Australia. An enormous amount of work was undertaken. I take this opportunity to thank all members of the community who wrote submissions and came forward to provide evidence. It was very, very emotional for many of them. In some instances submissions needed to remain confidential for people’s personal safety. In fact, there were many, many witnesses who had great apprehension about appearing before the committee.

There were 15 important recommendations in the report that addressed the ongoing issues associated with industrial wind turbines in Australia. I must say that they are recommendations that have remained without response until now. I am sure Senator Leyonhjelm will have his own comment to make on that as well.

During the time since we had the inquiry, we have seen the wheels come off the wagon of the renewable sector, particularly that which resides in industrial wind turbines. You do not have to think back too far – you only have to think back to this time yesterday when, as usual, in South Australia, where some 40 per cent of energy is now supplied by renewables if the wind blows, the wind did not blow, so South Australia suffered what probably might be its fifth blackout since August-September last year.

At the time, in the minds of many people this particular issue was unimportant. In fact there was a degree of ridiculed associated with this inquiry, the conduct of it and the people who were appearing. I can assure you that the people of South Australia are not laughing today. They are very, very concerned about the circumstance of a state that cannot keep the lights on and cannot keep the power up: businesses losing staff, losing money and going to the wall.

This is probably not the most important in terms of overall scale, but in the big blackout in the spring of 2016 they were so ill prepared in South Australia that the airport could not operate, hospitals could not operate, surgeons had to stop operating in theatres; but, worst of all, the Flinders Medical School, which held the frozen embryos and hopes of so many families in South Australia, could not keep up the power, and those frozen embryos were destroyed. I think that is a real personal indication of what we are talking about and the impact on families that occurred.

In the time left to me I want to focus on two of the recommendations. Recommendation 14 was:

The committee recommends that the Australian Government direct the Productivity Commission to conduct research into the impact of wind power electricity generation on retail electricity prices.

It has to be done. We are getting so much conflicting information from so many different sources around this country from those who support renewables, particularly industrial-wind-turbine-generated power, to those like me who do not. But it is the case that this analysis has not been done. We are 16 years into a renewable energy scheme and nobody knows the cost.

We do know that the cost of subsidising industrial wind turbines is massive. As we draw closer to 2020 the shortfall charge payments could reach $1.5 billion a year, or more than $20 billion by 2030. Indeed, it is possible, if the policies of some of the governments of this country come into place, that we could be seeing a figure of $40 billion in cost by 2030. That is $1,600 for every man, woman and child in this country.

I do not think consumers know that when a wind turbine generates electricity in this country they are paying $850,000 per wind turbine per year by way of subsidies. That is when they actually generate anything and sell any power.

As I said, only yesterday we had a situation in which South Australia could not keep the lights on. The spot price for electricity hit $14,000 per megawatt hour. In any event the forward spot price for electricity in South Australia at the moment is $150 per megawatt hour, while it is only $50 in Victoria. But do not let the Victorians get any relief out of this, because their state Labor government, having made the decision to close coal-fired power stations, is also rushing towards a so-called renewable platform. I can tell them that they are rushing towards an absolute train wreck.

A cost-benefit analysis of the effect of wind turbines has never been so important. The results will show that the nation, now and certainly should the federal Labor Party come to government and enact a 50 per cent renewable energy policy, is absolutely and utterly unsustainable.

The second recommendation to which I refer is recommendation 15:

The Renewable Energy Target should be amended so that all new investments in renewable energy between 2015 and 2020 will be eligible to create renewable energy certificates for a period of no more than five years – accepting the grandfathering of those that were already in existence.

Indeed, because we have the excellent system of the Emissions Reduction Fund organised by the coalition government through direct action on climate change, we do have Australian carbon credit units. I believe and the committee believed at that time that there is a tremendous opportunity to morph from these renewable energy certificates, which at the moment are at a cost of about $88 per certificate and apparently relieving about one tonne of carbon dioxide, through to the carbon credit units, which are about $10 to $11 per unit and again are giving about one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.

At the time, the comment kept being made, and even in its response the government said that it ‘notes that wind farm approvals are a matter for individual state and territory governments’. I have had long discussions with the federal minister. I have spoken in this place and in the public arena.

If we look at the events in South Australia in the last few days and the events that we are going to see in Victoria, Tasmania and particularly in Queensland, which says that it is going to 50 per cent renewables, I have to say that the community of Australia expects the federal government to take a leadership role in the provision of safe, sustainable, reliable and economic power. It is fundamental to all Australians that this happens. The states who have undertaken this have failed, and I believe the recommendations of this report remain current today.
Senate Hansard, 9 February 2017

Chris Back

Chris Back slams his own team for its lazy arrogance.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Why did we ever bother to present at Gullen Range Wind Farm PAC’s and the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines to go absolutely nowhere?

    The efforts Charley Barber and I devoted to this work, as with others adversely affected by the coming of wind farms, was both time consuming and personally costly.

    For the findings/recommendations of this thorough and costly Inquiry to go nowhere is an absolute disgrace and utterly insulting. This is especially so as the evidence is mounting regarding the futility of wind generated power.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=2f8f4584-0415-437c-ab95-677096de1a87&subId=304949

    http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=0029e3c4-a279-4781-8a76-f024b30accd0&subId=304786

  2. My Comments in reference to Crispin Comments are that the Conduct of the Wind Farm commissioner may be in breach of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958 -Sect 83A(2): A person must not use a document which is, and which he or she knows to be, false, with the intention of inducing another person to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act that other person’s or to another person’s prejudice .

    The fact of that matter is that the Wind farm commissioner has said to me that no house is allowed to be within the 40 dB noise contour line before consideration of SACs. I have been to Sonia and Crispin’s home. I became ill and could not eat the tea that was provided, because I become overcome by pains in the diaphragm area of my body. This is the same type of pain that forced us to sell all of our properties at Waubra so as to mitigate the pain. My Son also suffered to such an extent he could not work our land even though he did not live in the Waubra wind Farm Area.

    The windfarm at Cape Bridgewater has special audible characteristics because I heard them very clearly. The Wind Farm Commissioner by saying that the turbines could not be placed as close now, does NOT do a thing to address your problem. The incidence of SACs requires that there is a 5dB penalty, that penalty against the background plus 5dB or 40dB which ever is higher is the standard. That means one should only be able hear very little sound coming from the wind turbines because this sound would need to be the same or no higher than 35dB, and of course this sound would surely have been measured as required in a complaint situation identified in the issued permit.

    The first and foremost consideration by the Commissioner would be to question the sound received and obtain this evidence from the regulator of the continuous sound pressure (LAeq) within 10m of Sonia home. If the commissioner has not been able to obtain this information as required by the permit document in relation to the permitted measured sound pressure at Sonia’s home, the responsible person who has refused to provide this information may be subject to up to 10 years jail time for this crime.

    There may well be other breaches of the above act because distance is not written in permit requirement; referring to distance without consideration to the sound pressure level, is a false reference to the permit document.

    Noel Dean

    • Crispin Trist says:

      Thank you Noel for your comment. We`ll be in touch.

      Thank you also to both Jackie and Sommer for your feed back below. A picture can save a thousand words as they say.

  3. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Thankyou Crispin and Sonia for this honest, factual and terrifying evidence of the disaster that is the wind industry.
    Cape Bridgewater was a place I loved a place with spectacular vistas that I went out of my way to visit – now it is a place I avoid, after seeing the wanton destruction in the name of ‘saving the earth’, but which has done nothing more than providing an opportunity of profiteering for this disgusting industry’s stalwarts.
    That so many people who are meant to be intelligent and well educated, people who say they love the environment and campaign to save it support this disaster is beyond comprehension and leaves me with a dread for our children’s future and education.
    Education that is fast becoming indoctrination with the full consent of our Governments.
    That so many people are still being placed in situations of harm is criminal, why are the people you so often see marching for people’s rights not marching for the rights of those unwillingly being used as sacrificial fodder.
    Where are they – no doubt sitting in their cosy inner city apartments reading about the loss of eco-systems, damaged environments and people being left to fend for themselves with no hope of restoration of their environments – those poor soles in far off lands where industries have caused harm – are these campaigners blind to what is going on in their own land!
    To all those everywhere here and around the world who are suffering the result of this phallic symbol industry – you WILL win the industry is now being challenged to prove itself on all counts – it may take time but it will result in a WIN for the people, the environment and everything that relies on it.

  4. Anyone seeing this video, who does not feel compassion for people whose homes have been ruined by turbines is absolutely numb with their lack of compassion…the ‘walking dead’.

  5. Crispin Trist says:

    Thank you Senator Chris Back and Senator David Leyonhjelm for keeping the pressure on the Wind Industry.

    There are many displaced people around Australia now since this industry bulldozed its way into rural communities. The lives of hard-working agricultural families have been turned upside down, directly and socially within these communities.

    The National Wind Farm Commissioner has visited some homes. He commented at our house in Cape Bridgewater on hearing the turbines, “they could not be built so close now”.

    However, progress is funereal. To quote ‘Black Adder’, “He is about as effective as a cat flap in an elephant house”.

    Do your job Commissioner.

    The noise issues at the Cape Bridgewater Wind Energy Facility are very real. And yet despite Pacific Hydro stating that it is a compliant wind farm, the company seems to have forgotten their front page headline in the Warrnambool Standard dated August 7th 2013. “TURBINES APOLOGY: Company sorry for screeching.”

    Is it time to revisit noise compliance testing?

    Despite Pacific Hydro hiding behind a joint statement between them and acoustician Steven Cooper, stating that it was a compliant wind farm, Steven Cooper was not testing for compliance. He was instructed not to do so by the company. I wonder why?

    The noise issues persist at the facility. If Pacific Hydro made a public apology for the screech, then surely this is an admission that there are noise compliance issues. The CBWEF turbines are also becoming noisier with age. The blades are making more high pitched tones as well as ripping, slapping and tearing the air. The noise can persist for days at a time, never mind 10 minute intervals. Remember, these blades weight more than 7 or 8 tonnes each. This kind of weight does not move through the air silently. Although the recent blades seen arriving in Portland appear to have had work done to their trailing edges in an effort to mirror the design of an owl`s wings. Only time will tell if this has made any difference. But the fact this work is being undertaken clearly suggests that there is a blade noise problem with the earlier design. However, this is unlikely to alter the problem with the infrasound generated by such large pieces of machinery in the landscape.

    Time to revisit noise compliance testing with an independent acoustician of our choice. We are the poor sods who have to live next door to these noisy, unhealthy non human scale facilities. The Cape Bridgewater Wind Energy Facility is turned on and off from Germany and monitored from Space. I do not think that the noise at ground level in Cape Bridgewater is going to disturb their sleep.

    Please find the link to my family`s ‘Thank you Senator John Madigan’ video below:

    You can also find the link to my YouTube channel here:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaQGT7PUhAsTZ8u2Cp3infA

  6. One big reason for the federal government withdrawing funding for Lomborg’s Consensus Centre was because its cost/benefit analysis of renewables would have made them look stupid. As will a Productivity Commission report.
    If more publicity can be given to the situation with RECs paying for the average turbine in 4 years, but wind farms receiving them for 20 years, then government reducing them has to be a vote winner. Wake up pollies!

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