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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10190

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (11:18): This debate is not about sensible, sound evidence based policy. This debate is not about noise from wind farms. This debate is about an organised campaign by the fossil fuel sector using astroturf organisations running around being anti wind farms and anti renewables. They have added solar to it now, you will be pleased to know, so next year we will probably have the blinding impacts of solar farms out here talked about as a major impact. This debate is about a group of fossil fuel interests around the world organising an anti-renewables campaign and focusing in particular on being anti wind farms.

Just this week, for example, the fake grassroots campaign against wind has been exposed in the United States. It has been funded of course by the Koch brothers, as you would expect, because they always do provide funds for the oil industry, for the coal industry, for the gas industry. The whole tactic has been exposed of what you do to get stuck into renewable energy because the fossil fuel sector knows that renewables are coming on at scale and are challenging the base of the fossil fuel sector. That is what this debate is about. It has got nothing to do with noise from wind farms.

Let me tell you some of the activities that have been revealed with this leaked strategy from the fake grassroots campaign. It is associated of course with the Heartland Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council—and our very own Senator Bernardi is the Australian representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council—whose job it is to bring up template legislation to put into state legislatures around the world to do away with anything that the fossil fuel industry does not want. They are bringing in template legislation around the United States to do away with renewable energy. So no doubt Senator Bernardi will be right across this fake grassroots campaign against wind because the organisation for which he is the Australian representative and spokesperson will be providing him with all that information. Previously, we had here Family First, Senator Fielding, who went off to the Heartland Foundation. They are one of the leading think-tanks of global climate sceptics. This is organised by people who want to delay and not address climate change, and it is the most bogus and disgraceful campaign running around the world.

But they are having extraordinary success. The Baillieu government's decision in Victoria to do in wind in Victoria is completely and utterly a result of this bogus campaign being run by the fossil fuel sector. I am terrified when I hear Senator Birmingham giving the Waubra Foundation equal status with the scientists. Can you believe it—in this place the coalition actually standing there saying that a balanced debate with the Waubra Foundation on one hand and others on the other! It is not a balanced debate.

Senator Birmingham: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. In that regard, if Senator Milne looks back to the comments, she will see that I mentioned the Waubra Foundation and the Clean Energy Council in the same sentence. I never suggested equal billing for either organisation with the scientists who should undertake the research.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Senator Birmingham, as you know, there is no point of order.

Senator MILNE: Let me tell you about the Waubra Foundation. Back in 2009 Waubra hit the news when powerful forces linked to mining interests and Australia's climate sceptic factory, the Institute of Public Affairs, which is in turn linked to the Liberal Party, used what was then the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere as an easy target for their antiwind scare campaign and they established the Waubra Foundation. That Waubra Foundation was set up by Mr Mitchell. He is part of the Landscape Guardians. He also has the investment company Lowell Resources Funds Management Ltd, which lists coal in various forms as the standout investment performer and shares the same PO box in South Melbourne with the Waubra Foundation. It is obvious. If you go to astroturfing and look at the connections, you can see where they come together. You get exactly what you have here—and that is a campaign to do in renewable energy, in particular wind.

Let us get to some of the so-called health impacts. Let us go to the spokespeople for wind turbine syndrome. The qualifications of the spokespeople were exaggerated and were forced to be corrected because there is no serious background research science behind Dr Laurie, the spokesperson for the Waubra Foundation, in terms of acoustics and so on. There are all these allegations about wind turbine sickness and syndrome. There are meant to be 222 separate health diseases and symptoms as a result of wind farms. I will tell you what some of them are. These are the diseases and symptoms experienced by people and animals as a result of wind farms: dental infections, feet sores that would not heal until they moved out of the house, kidney damage, leukaemia, skin and lung cancer, nausea, children losing interest in school and refusing to go to school, spontaneous abortions by horses, chickens laying yokeless eggs, Peacock-mating problems, earthworms abandoning the properties and the sudden death of 400 goats. Now come on!

We have just heard Senator Birmingham telling us that we should be taking this seriously and we should equally weigh up the claims of the Waubra Foundation and so on. The science community is out there saying that this is ridiculous. The scientists concerned have said that wind farm syndrome is actually a psychogenic condition. People are told they are going to be sick and if they do not have a financial interest in the wind farm then suddenly they get sick. Isn't it interesting that where people have a financial interest in the wind farm, whether it is a lease arrangement or a joint venture, those people do not get sick? I find that extraordinary. If you have a financial interest, you do not get sick. If you just do not like looking at it and you have not got any money in it and you might have in the fossil fuel industry then it is a different thing.

We hear Senator Birmingham say he is terribly worried about setbacks for wind farms, but what about coal seam gas? I am going to come to that because he was suggesting that there is some equivalence between wind farms and coal seam gas. Let me tell Senator Birmingham that coal seam gas actually requires a physical intervention which results in gas coming up and fugitive emissions that are going into the atmosphere. Those are methane emissions that are driving climate change. Those are scientific facts; those are evidence based facts. There is no equivalence whatsoever. You cannot look at these two things as if they are somehow equivalent. That is a load of nonsense.

There are thousands of wind turbines in Germany, Denmark and Spain but those people have not got wind turbine syndrome. How is it possible that the Germans, the Danes and the Spaniards do not get sick, but people in North America and Australia get sick? How is that possible? There is a lot to suggest that actually these illnesses are psychosomatic, because a whole lot of the bogus literature that is not peer reviewed is overwhelmingly written in English. It is not until you read about it in English apparently that you get sick, so the Spanish, the Germans and the Danes do not get sick at all.

Where is the concern for the coal dust and particulate matter from coalmines that is causing illnesses? That is evidence based and documented. It seems nobody in the coalition is the least bit concerned about the real health impacts that are already occurring as a result of expanded coalmining, coal seam gas and the like. So what we have here is a carefully constructed and orchestrated campaign by astroturf organisations and brought to Australia via the Institute of Public Affairs and the Waubra Foundation. It is obvious to me that this is now a strategy put together by the Landscape Guardians and the IPA. It is all about trying to do over renewable energy.

As I said before, Peter Mitchell has 25 years of history in the fossil fuel industry. He was the founding Chairman of the Moonie Oil Company and a chairman or a director of related companies, including Clyde Petroleum, Avalon Energy, North Flinders Mines, Paringa Mining and Exploration, and so on. So there you go. You have absolute evidence that the person running the campaign against wind is totally associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Like the Landscape Guardians, the Waubra Foundation is highly secretive. There is no information about its funding or its sponsorship. The audited financial statements of the Landscape Guardians contain no expenditure but money seems to be no object to them. They have full-time campaigners, an advertising budget, travelling expenses and a media monitoring service and yet they have no expenditure in terms of their audited financial statements. How is it so? Professor Simon Chapman notes:

Most wind farms around the world and in Australia have no history of complaints, and most of those which do, have seen the local area targeted by external anti-wind farm activists who spread panic and tell frightened locals to report anything they might experience to their doctor. The activist groups even provide symptom menus to assist residents—

in case they had not actually identified the symptoms for themselves. This is an absolutely appalling situation and at the Senate inquiry we had Mr Holmes a Court, who is chairman of the Hepburn wind farm and submitted a leaked running sheet from the Australian Environment Foundation. It was addressed to the guardians detailing the strategy for a protest at Leonards Hill, including the signage to be held up by the crowd of predominantly outsiders. We also know that the Australian Environment Foundation is an astroturf organisation. Again, it is funded by vested interests. It is designed to look like, of course, the Australian Conservation Foundation and that has been a long-term subject of concern. The Environment Foundation's Executive Director, Max Rheese, is the executive director of another anti-renewables group, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, one of over 100 climate sceptic astroturfers. Who funds them? There is some evidence to suggest it could be Exxon. I would be very interested to know if in fact they come clean about whether it is Exxon.

As to the actual particulars of the legislation, one of the most ridiculous parts of this legislation is—and listen to this—the bill would empower the Clean Energy Regulator to suspend accreditation of a power station if they believe the power station is being operated in contravention of 'a law written or unwritten'. The Australian Energy Regulator shutting down a power station on the basis of an 'unwritten' law—what does that mean? The law of whom or of what? This is a silly idea and it is a nonsense.

As to the suggestion in terms of the decibel standards, actually the Australian states already regulate wind farms to a tougher standard than is being proposed by Senator Madigan in this bill. Whether Senator Madigan and Senator Xenophon are aware of the extent of astroturfing, the links of all these organisations to the fossil fuel sector and the broader campaign against renewables that is being run and is showing up as an anti-wind farm campaign, I have no idea of the extent to which they know that, understand that or whatever. But there is absolutely no science base to the allegations that are being made. As Professor Simon Chapman has noted, what we have now is a psychogenic condition—and if a condition needs to be treated it is that. I have said to the wind farm operators that if they want to end wind farm syndrome in Australia all they have to do is develop a business model that enables communities to financially benefit from wind farms. Then they will find that even these astroturfers cannot stir up a level of concern because people have actually got a financial interest in the wind farms and will look at them in a far more balanced way.

We have got a serious crisis here. We have the world meeting in Doha right now with the globe on track for three to four degrees of warming. Today in Victoria we have a heatwave expected and in Western Australia storms are expected. Look all around the world. The World Meteorological Organization released overnight the latest impacts of global warming—and make no mistake: the people running the anti-wind farm campaign and anti-renewables renewables campaign do not want the world to act on climate change and they want to derail renewable energy. This leaked memo out of the United States shows that this is a fake campaign being run by those vested interests. The tactics they are suggesting are to partner with think tanks across the political spectrum such as the Brookings Institute, the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute and, as I said, no doubt the IPA are up to their necks in it as well; to encourage critical thinking for members and the public about renewables; to recruit volunteers without establishing a formal national organisation and using them as people to lobby lawmakers; to get out strong public relations; and to collaborate with like-minded groups such as Tea Party activists and the like—and, of course, that is exactly what is happening here in Australia.

So I think the Senate needs to recognise (a) this bill has no merit—and I would be interested to know whether the coalition thinks the Energy Regulator should be able to shut down a power generator on the basis of laws 'written or unwritten'—and (b) we have a bill which the committee found comprehensively ought not to be passed. Obviously, the committee rejected the voodoo science that has been put forward in many of these cases, with 222 separate health diseases and symptoms, supposedly experienced by people as a result of wind farms, for which there is no substance. But the bigger issue here is this. If we are to actually try to constrain global warming to less than two degrees, we have to get to 100 per cent renewables as quickly as possible. We need appropriate planning laws, and there is no doubt about that, and what we do not need is astroturf organisations which are driving fear into communities and actually bringing in people from outside in order to frighten communities as they try to knock over wind farms because they interfere with the vested interests of the fossil fuel sector. That is what we are getting into here and I am not surprised. When you have got the IPA linked to Heartland and other organisations in the US, Senator Bernardi as spokesperson for the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Liberal Party's connections to the Institute of Public Affairs, no wonder we have got all of this happening in Australia.

It is part of climate scepticism, climate denial or reality of climate change and a deliberate strategy to do over renewable energy. I do not think the Senate should have any part of it. Before the Waubra Foundation expects anyone to take them seriously, they should come out with their financial statements and make it plain as to where they get their funding. Until we get an idea of where they get their funding, I am going to stand by the claim that I am making that they are an astroturf organisation for the fossil fuel sector who are meddling in public debate in Australia.

I do credit them with success with the Baillieu government in Victoria. The sooner that the Baillieu government gets over it and recognises that they are doing in the prospect of wind energy in Victoria, which is being picked up elsewhere in the country—I think that Senator Xenophon and Senator Madigan are part of a campaign against wind energy and renewables in Australia. That is a very bad thing in terms of responding to the climate crisis and responding to the very real health impacts. If you want to get to health impacts, let us deal with the health impacts of particulate matter and coals, for example, and of methane from coal seam gas emissions rather than these astroturf organisations' claims, which I believe are voodoo science.

Senator Ian Macdonald: That's 55 times you've mentioned astroturf.