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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4382


Mr SCHULTZ (Hume) (19:35): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2011-2012. This budget is truly a reflection of the Gillard government and, more importantly, its performance to date—bitterly disappointing. It is bitterly disappointing because again we have a tired and terminal Labor government plunging this country into net government debt and deficit. The Gillard government has set a new record for net government debt, which will be an astonishing $107 billion in 2011-12 and is forecast to remain above $100 billion across the forward estimates. This amounts to more than $4,700 of debt for every Australian. Sadly, due to a handful of Independent members of parliament representing conservative electorates, the Australian people again are subjected to the staggering economic incompetence illustrated in this typical tax-and-spend Labor budget.

By omitting any reference to the already announced carbon tax or carbon credits in this budget, Australians can rightly ask how the government and Treasury are laying the foundations for a carbon taxed economy next year. Will the rollout of the carbon taxed economy be another rushed job? Small business, individuals and families across Australia have borne the brunt of the Rudd-Gillard government's stuff-ups from pink batt rorts to the school halls fiasco. Labor's form for project implementation over the past three years hardly inspires confidence that they can handle major structural reform of the economy. The government needed to come clean with its carbon tax and credits proposal in this budget. Despite the lack of detail common to nearly all Labor announcements, such as the one on the carbon tax, towns and landholders in my electorate of Hume are already suffering from a shift to the green economy. Crucial to this new green economy crusade is the transition away from cheap, efficient and clean coal power technology to inefficient and expensive alternative energy sources such as wind turbines, all advertised as a means of reducing Australia's comparatively small CO2 emissions.

I have two major issues with the push towards greater wind turbine development, particularly in the electorate of Hume—firstly, claims that wind turbines are efficient and reliable and, secondly, the impact inadequately regulated wind turbine construction in New South Wales is having on the property rights of landholders, not to mention the predatory and clandestine practices of wind turbine developers.

The claim that wind turbines are a viable and reliable alternative to fossil fuels is farcical. Wind turbine technology has proven to be neither cheap nor efficient when compared with our baseload coal technology. According to the Auditor-General in Victoria, this year the cost per megawatt hour for wind turbine technology was between 80c and $1.20, compared with brown coal which cost 35c—so it is nearly three times more expensive. Make no mistake: there is a direct link between the construction of expensive-to-run wind turbines and the increases you are seeing in your electricity bills every month.

There appears to be a hidden agenda on the part of wind turbine developers centred around the federal government's carbon tax. Wind turbine developers are saying they are going to supply electricity, including enough clean energy to power up to 180,000 homes a year and preventing up to one million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution entering the environment. That information came from a Rugby wind farm press release of 17 May this year. What the developers and operators cannot and will not tell you is how they are going to produce that kind of energy when it has been proven that wind turbines operate only 30 per cent of the year. Nor will they admit that the wind turbine's inherent inefficiency is why permission is being sought in several shires in my electorate for gas-fired peaking stations, such as the one proposed in Dalton, to be built to top up the shortfall left by wind generators. A concerned constituent wrote to me recently and put it another way:

If I went to the Minister for Transport and offered to sell him a fleet of buses or trains, telling him that they would work only 30% of the time, he couldn't use them in peak periods because we didn't know when they would work and also he may find that they work when he didn't want them to (late at night or early in the morning)—what do you think the Minister for Transport would say?

The transition to inefficient, unreliable and expensive wind turbine energy production is occurring throughout the shires of the Hume electorate at an alarming rate—a rate that is preventing landholders and communities from taking stock of the full implications these industrial wind turbine developments will have on their families, their neighbours and their communities. Due to inadequate regulation under the former New South Wales Labor government, wind turbine developers have been able to override the property rights of individual landholders and communities. I have had lobbyists for wind turbines inform me of allegedly 'extraordinarily high' support for wind turbine construction in the New South Wales-ACT border region. This is not the message I am getting. Through extensive research I have uncovered the analysis of data from the ERM survey which the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage and wind turbine developers rely upon to show community support for wind turbines. The survey they rely upon was conducted over just seven days, from 27 July to 2 August 2007—four years ago—well before local landowners and communities were aware of the full implications of wind turbine construction.

It is also interesting to note that that ERM document refers in annexure B6 to 11 studies in the UK between 1990 and 1996 which contain similar figures to the 90 per cent support for wind energy quoted by the Australian ERM survey. It would appear the figures are a direct lift from the UK study. Furthermore, there is no evidence as to the survey methodology. For example, was it undertaken by post; was it by push polling over the phone; was it by direct visitation to local residents; did all of the respondents to the alleged survey live in New South Wales or within the local government areas where wind turbines are to be located or indeed within the boundaries of the Hume electorate, where hundreds of wind turbines are programmed to be constructed; how many individual respondents and/or businesses were surveyed; and where precisely were these respondents domiciled?

Considering the volume of concerns from affected landholders flooding my office and the well-attended public meetings held throughout the electorate of Hume, I would be very interested to see if a similar survey would yield a 9/10 approval for wind turbines today. My judgment is that it would not. I would, however, suggest conducting the survey a little better by directly surveying respondents who are affected—landholders who would be living next to these monuments to a misguided green-left ideology—rather than so-called distant semi-urban communities in Goulburn, Yass and Canberra, whatever that means. No survey can give us a true indication of the trauma, despair and hopelessness local landholders affected by wind turbine developments are feeling. The daughter of one elderly couple wrote to me earlier this month and said this:

I contact you now with a heart filled with anxiety, worry, disbelief and concern for my parents' future, as they have received a 'letter of acquisition' over their home for the purpose of the Gullen Range Wind Farm development.

She goes on:

The proposed turbines of particular concern would be placed at distances of just 500m, 600m and 800m from our family home. Mum and Dad have worked the whole of their lives to save for 'their joint dream … a home on a bit of land outside of town in the peace and quiet to enjoy their retirement ...'. Now they are being forced to have to make an unbearable decision of having to sell their home or stay on and suffer the effects of the turbines appearing around them. Dad is 80 yrs and Mum 72. It is heartbreaking to see them reduced to tears with the very notion of what it is that is being proposed.

There is also the case of the young couple near Crookwell who, after years of planning, saving and finally finishing building their dream home, have just been served with a letter of acquisition. What has happened to the property rights of my constituents? When did we allow their property rights to be usurped by carbon-credit-hungry wind turbine developers? Or a government hell-bent on steamrolling an ideological environmental agenda over the democratic rights of landholders in order to desperately cling to power?

These landholders, young and old, have also been subjected to the not-so-well-known clandestine and predatory practices of wind turbine developers. Discussions between landholders and developers are followed with the signing of confidentiality agreements, preventing neighbours discussing with one another developments going on in their own backyards. Alarmingly, I am advised that, when landholders threaten to take action against their neighbours, wind turbine developers have told these neighbours they will provide legal assistance to them.

Those who, despite hearing about all the health, noise and flicker worries, choose to host wind turbines on their property absolutely have that right—especially after a desperate decade of drought—but it should not be at the expense of their neighbours. The same common sense would apply if they were planning to build a 165-metre building immediately adjacent to their neighbour's residence.

The aspect of this issue that I find most disturbing is the response my constituents have received from those who constantly harp that they represent rural and regional Australia. I am disappointed that local state members, who gave people the impression they were going to do something for them at the last state election, appear to have compromised those undertakings in exchange for keys to chauffeur driven white cars. I was distressed to hear from a farmer who will be affected by a wind turbines development that he approached the Nationals leader in New South Wales regarding the seriousness of the problems I have been outlining only to be told that he could not possibly get a meeting for three months. This indifferent treatment of the democratic rights of my constituents may be politically convenient for a new government but it will not be tolerated by me.

Given the apparent contamination of the approval processes and the role played by the New South Wales planning department and other New South Wales government agencies, on behalf of my constituents I have written to the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and the Minister for the Environment, phoned the Minister for Resources and Energy, and most recently forwarded a letter to Premier O'Farrell requesting an immediate moratorium on any further wind turbine development in New South Wales pending a possible public inquiry or indeed, following on from preliminary investigation, a possible royal commission into the industry as a whole. I am not holding my breath, as indifference and arrogance has already surfaced in the six-week-old New South Wales coalition government.

Wind power generation is touted as a proven technology by its proponents, who conveniently fail to mention it has become a globally abandoned technology with developers walking away from so-called wind farms when government subsidies are reduced or removed. Regrettably, by this time the damage has been done—all the more reason to introduce a moratorium on any further development. I give my pledge to the 15 families that are faced with losing their homes that I will aggressively pursue this matter on their behalf, regardless of the politics of the government of the day.