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Victoria: Minister for Planning and Wind Power Limited welcome Federal Court ruling that led Senator Campbell to review wind farm project at Bald Hills.

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Friday 4 August 2006

Victoria: Minister for Planning and Wind Power Limited welcome Federal Court ruling that led Senator Campbell to review wind farm project at Bald Hills


MARK COLVIN: The Victorian Government is demanding that the Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, be stripped of his portfolio after he backed down on his controversial decision to veto a Victorian wind farm.  


Senator Campbell had refused
to approve the project on the grounds that it might threaten an endangered parrot. 


The would-be wind farmer has been contesting the Minister's decision in the Federal Court. 


The case was settled today, with Senator Campbell agreeing to set aside his decision on the $220-million project and consider new information. 


Samantha Donovan has the story.  


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Senator Campbell overturned Victorian Government approval for the wind farm in eastern Victoria in April, on the grounds that its 52 turbines could threaten the endangered Orange Bellied Parrot.  


The decision was condemned by the Victorian Labor Government, which said a consultant's report indicated that one parrot would perhaps be killed by a turbine at the site once every 600 years. 


It also prompted accusations of political bias from the Victorian Government, and claims that Senator Campbell made the decision because the electorate's sitting Federal Liberal MP had campaigned against the farm at the last election. 


The Victorian Government repeated those claims last week, when it emerged in court that Senator Campbell had acted against his own department's advice in refusing approval for the wind farm. 


In an agreement approved today by the Federal Court, the farm proponent Windpower has agreed to drop its challenge to the decision, because Senator Campbell says he's prepared to look at new information. 


The Victorian Planning Minister Rob Hulls says the Senator's back-down vindicates the Victorian Government's position. 


ROB HULLS: We believe that he had used an improper exercise of his power. We believe that he hadn't shown due regard for process. 


He has now agreed that he will reconsider his decision according to law. Well, what on earth did he base his original decision on? It was purely political. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: And Mr Hulls says the episode proves that Senator Campbell is incompetent. 


ROB HULLS: He can't be trusted with decisions as important as safeguarding our environment for future generations. And my view is the Prime Minister should take the opportunity of a rumoured reshuffle to shuffle Mr Campbell right out of Cabinet. 


This bloke scuttled a $220-million wind farm for purely political purposes. He got caught out and was taken to court. He's now agreeing that his decision should be set aside and he'll make a decision according to law. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: But Senator Campbell denies Minister Hulls' claim that he's being forced to back-down on his decision to veto the farm. 


IAN CAMPBELL: Mr Hulls again has misled … we have basically agreed that to the proponents' suggestion that they go away, have some time to consider all of the information that they've now got at their disposal, and quite frankly, they would have had at their disposal had they not forced me to make a decision ahead of time, and I have agreed to receive any submissions they make to me. That is, if Mr Hulls wants to play politics with it, well, you'd expect that, but you'd think he should understand the law a little bit better. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Senator Campbell says he's not embarrassed by the Federal Court orders. 


IAN CAMPBELL: Well, I actually helped negotiate them and agreed to them. I'm very happy with them. I think it's a good outcome for taxpayers, and a good outcome for the environment. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Andrew Newbold, the director of the wind farm's proponent, Windpower, welcomed the settlement of the court case but wouldn't speculate on Senator's Campbell' s reasoning. 


ANDREW NEWBOLD: I don't think my reaction was one of surprise. We've sought to be very apolitical on this matter the whole way through, and we've stuck to the scientific facts, and we'll continue to do that. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Do you think it's a cause for embarrassment for the Minister? 


ANDREW NEWBOLD: Look, again, I'll leave it to others to make that conclusion. 


SAMANTHA DONOVAN: And Andrew Newbold says he's optimistic that the Bald Hills wind farm will now get the go-ahead. 


ANDREW NEWBOLD: Look, again, don't wish to pre-empt the Minister's decision, other than to say that we believe in the project, we believe in renewable energy for this state, we believe in doing something about climate change, and we're very hopeful that the project will proceed. 


MARK COLVIN: Andrew Newbold, director of Windpower, ending that report from Samantha Donovan.