Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Minister confirms he relied on report that wind farm project at Bald Hills would eventually cause the extinction of the orange-bellied parrot.

Download WordDownload Word



This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.





Wednesday 26 July 2006

Minister confirms he relied on report that wind farm project at Bald Hills would eventually cause the extinction of the orange-bellied parrot


MARK C OLVIN: The Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell is denying reports that he ignored explicit advice from his department, which recommended that he approve a wind farm in south-western Victoria. 


Senator Campbell vetoed the Bald Hills project in April on the basis that it posed an unacceptable risk to the endangered orange-bellied parrot. 


It's been revealed that the minister's senior departmental staff recommended that he approve the wind farm project, in a report one month earlier. 


The company behind the project says at last the truth is out about the minister's decision. 


And Labor's environment spokesman says it's clearly a political one. 


Alison Caldwell reports. 


ALISON CALDWELL: The Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell denies that he ignored advice from his own department when he vetoed the Bald Hills wind farm project in April. 


IAN CAMPBELL: Look, I get advice from my department on all issues on a daily basis, I don't always accept it. The bottom line is that if you want "yes minister" in action, I'm the wrong guy to be your minister.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Yesterday, the Federal Court heard how senior officers in the Department of Environment and Heritage advised the minister to allow the project to go ahead. 


Senator Campbell says he received the advice, but denies he ignored it when he made his decision to veto the project. 


IAN CAMPBELL: I stand by it and I'd make it again tomorrow. The report that I relied upon said that the orange-bellied parrot would be impacted, and that its future, basically its extinction could be fast tracked if we built a wind farm.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Andrew Newbold is the director of Wind Power, the company behind the project. He says at last the truth is out about the minister's decision. 


ANDREW NEWBOLD: The departmental advice received by Mr Campbell was basically on all fours with our arguments, and that is that our project is likely to have very little if not no impact whatsoever on the OBP (orange-bellied parrot). I would have thought that's recently damming for him.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Written by the Department of Environment and Heritage's First Assistant Secretary, Gerard Early, the report recommended the minister approve the project and said:  


"There did not appear to be direct evidence of any impact on the orange-bellied parrot." 


ALISON CALDWELL: Within weeks of receiving that report, the minister vetoed the proposal, on the basis of a separate report, written late last year, which said wind turbines could kill up to one orange-bellied parrot a year. 


Labor says the minister made a purely political decision, when he banned the Bald Hills wind farm. 


Labor's Environment Spokesman Anthony Albanese. 


ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, this quite extraordinary, it quite contradicts the statement by the Environment Minister on the 5th of April that he was making this decision on the basis of advice that had been commissioned by his department.  


It's now clear that this decision was all about politics, nothing to do with saving parrots, nothing to do with environmental and scientific advice.  


ALISON CALDWELL: The company behind the Bald Hills wind farm project failed in its bid to subpoena the Environment Minister, but its case will still be heard by the Federal Court in late August. Wind Power wants the minister's decision to be set aside.  


Andrew Newbold again. 


ANDREW NEWBOLD: Alison we're very confident. Clearly there's been a breach of natural justice. We weren't given an opportunity to see the report before the minister made his decision, or were we given the opportunity to make submissions on the report.  


So we believe and have advice to the effect that we've got very good grounds that we will succeed, but you can never be certain in these things.  


ALISON CALDWELL: And I guess the problem for you is that the decision will then go back to the minister?  


ANDREW NEWBOLD: Yeah, he'll have to re-decide if we're successful in having it set aside. We just hope that the second time round, you know, he acts fairly and justly.  


MARK COLVIN: Andrew Newbold, the Director of Wind Power, ending Alison Caldwell's report.