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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3443


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (19:24): It is a pleasure to speak on this motion on wind turbine planning. I had hoped that the approach of the mover of the motion, the member for Pearce, would be to have a rational debate about the operation of the wind turbine industry and the unique opportunities it presents to respond to climate change concerns that many of us in this place, and certainly those of us on this side of the House, hold in relation to ensuring a clean energy future. I think the motion was framed initially in that way but, based on the last contribution, I begin to wonder whether it is a vendetta against the wind turbine industry as a whole rather than an expression of public health concerns. I had the thought that that was the approach being taken in the casting of the motion initially. Those on my side of the House, in government, certainly reflect on the importance of alternative energy sources in our country, and I certainly know in my home state of Victoria many of us reflect regularly on that because some of the planning decisions recently taken by the Baillieu state government in relation to the two-kilometre setback applicable to wind farms have had a significant and many would say a disproportionate and inappropriate impact upon the industry as a whole and upon opportunities for those who invest in the industry to proceed with the development of wind farms in Victoria.

In debating this motion we have to take a very sensible and rational approach to what are and are not realistic medical and health concerns associated with wind farms. I know that a great deal of work has been done on analysing the potential health effects of wind turbines. I know, for instance, that in 2009 the NHMRC conducted a comprehensive review of current scientific literature to determine whether there is a link between turbines and adverse health effects. At that time there was no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. In July 2010 we know that the NHMRC released a public statement entitled 'Wind turbines and health' and supporting evidence, 'Wind turbines and health: A rapid review of the evidence'. Following on from that, in 2011 we had a Senate inquiry and a scientific forum was held by the NHMRC in June of that year. We know that the NHMRC elected to conduct a further literature review, and that was appropriate to see whether any more scientific evidence had emerged.

It is appropriate that the NHMRC have the opportunity to determine whether any further decisions should be made regarding the updating of its current public statement and whether any further work is required. We know that it is established practice within the scientific community to undertake a literature review prior to deciding to proceed with further research to determine whether there is a case to respond to, to determine whether there is an appropriate reason for undertaking further research. That is exactly what the NHMRC is appropriately doing, and some of the elements of the motion before us are catered to by the work being undertaken by the NHMRC so it is not necessary to undertake the range of measures featured in the motion until such time as the NHMRC has furthered that work. The scientific literature review into wind turbines and health adopts a detailed and systematic approach to ensure that all important work in the area is captured.

It is worth noting that there is a rigorous endeavour by the NHMRC to appropriately analyse any concerns that arise in relation to health issues associated with wind turbines. A number of eminent scholars and academics have provided evidence to the Senate inquiry, and they certainly raise their own concerns about whether the case around the health issues potentially associated with wind turbines is overstated. Indeed, some of them have indicated that that appears to be the case. I certainly refer to the evidence provided in the submission of Professor Peter Seligman, who is from the Melbourne Energy Institute and has done significant work on cochlear implants and the Australian bionic ear.