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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23314


Mr ZAHRA (3:04 PM) —The Local Community Input into Renewable Energy Developments Bill 2003 addresses an issue which is incredibly important to the people who live in the South Gippsland district. It is something which is affecting us right now and has a great capacity to affect us fundamentally over the course of the next two years. An article that appeared in the Age on 1 September stated that the Australian Wind Energy Association indicated that:

... 62 wind turbines are dotted along the Victorian coast, but plans have been lodged for about 1,000 to be operating between 2005 and 2006.

Mr Speaker, I am sure it would not have been lost on you that 2003 is drawing very quickly to an end. This means that, over the course of 2004-05, some 900 wind turbines are likely to be constructed in Victoria—most likely along the Victorian coastline. This represents a massive rate of development and it has great potential to damage a number of important industries associated with those coastal parts of Victoria.

I want to mention one of the things which Gippsland Tourism have been promoting over the course of the past seven or eight years. They have produced a brochure—and I have a copy here—which is headed, `Gippsland Tourism: clean, green and scenic'. It states, `Gippsland is known as one of the major ecotourism destinations of Australia—unspoiled, beautiful and well serviced for the most fastidious tourist. Gippsland offers a range of key attractions which are unparalleled in Australia.' It says that our coastline is `famous for its unspoiled features.' Our coastline will not be famous for its unspoiled features if we have wind turbines dotted along the Gippsland coast. It is important that we in the Commonwealth parliament act in relation to this type of development so that we can control where it takes place. The cost of electricity produced from places like the Latrobe Valley is about $18 per megawatt hour. The cost of electricity produced from wind generation is between $60 and $90 per megawatt hour.

The only reason that these developments are taking place right now on the south Gippsland coast is that a piece of legislation was passed by all of us in the Commonwealth parliament called the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000. The way to understand this is to consider what the Commonwealth do in providing these financial incentives in the same way as we do when we consider giving grants to local communities. We have put a number of conditions on those grants. My private member's bill provides for adding a condition for wind power station developers before they are able to issue renewable energy certificates, which is how they are able to get around the massive price difference between the cost of renewable energy and the cost of other energy sources. So my private member's bill includes a simple amendment to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act which would have the effect of allowing only those wind power stations that have been approved by local councils to issue renewable energy certificates. This would, in effect, return control in relation to these developments to local communities. It is fundamental that local communities which would bear the effect of these wind power stations being erected in their district should have a say as to whether or not the Commonwealth government grant—the ability to issue the renewable energy certificates—is provided.

By supporting this bill, we recognise that some outcomes have taken place since we all passed the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000, and the Commonwealth parliament should be mature enough to recognise that we now need to fix the problem and protect sensitive coastal districts like the south Gippsland coastal area. For the benefit of the House, I want to mention what some people in the electorate of McMillan have said about my private member's bill. The Mayor of South Gippsland Shire said:

Christian Zahra's bill is excellent on two points. Firstly, it takes away the subsidy unless council approves the installation, and it offers simplicity in dealing with the issue of wind farm application. Complexity and planning is the enemy of progress.

I also want to advise the House that the Baw Baw Shire Council in west Gippsland—not a coastal area but an area where some wind farms have been proposed—fully supported my bill when it considered it on 22 November. (Time expired)

Bill read a first time.


The SPEAKER —In accordance with standing order 104A, the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.