Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Page: 3480

Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (18:53): This year I have spoken on numerous occasions in this chamber about how the coalition is increasingly relying on the tactics perfected by the Tea Party movement in the United States. The Tea Party movement, I would remind you, is an example of astroturfing—a fake grassroots movement established by powerful interests supposedly generated by mass public support yet largely designed to serve their own ends.

Numerous astroturf movements have been explicitly vocal about environmental issues. Perhaps the most glaring example is the Australian Environment Foundation, which was spun out of the conservative Institute of Public Affairs think tank several years ago. It has quite a history. It has just the sort of history you would expect from a body that had its genesis in the IPA. This is an organisation that has delivered speeches to university students challenging the view that the activities of mankind need to be reined in to avoid the effects of climate change. I bet even those students recovering from festivities the night before could see through those biased claims. This group has also issued media releases with headlines such as 'Dump emissions trading scheme now' and 'Carbon tax hoax begins'. It even went as far as branding the price on carbon:

The most expensive and useless public policy since Federation …

The Australian Environment Foundation is about instigating fear and distrust.

Now I can advise that we potentially have another group employing similar tactics upon us. This is a group called—and, unfortunately, I am not making this up—Stop These Things. Yesterday it held a rally outside Parliament House to protest against renewable energy. Stop These Things has enlisted the support of numerous coalition politicians. In fact, a handful of coalition members spoke at the rally yesterday, including Senator Ron Boswell, Senator Chris Back, the member for Hume, Albie Schultz, and the member for Wannon, Dan Tehan. Senator Boswell told the crowd:

There is a lot of pressure in the Coalition party room … there are many others who share our view …

It is probably no surprise that the ever-present Alan Jones acted as the master of ceremonies. I am told that he relayed an incredible story about how the Soviets used to send people to the gulags but now we send the gulags to the people. I am sure it made as little sense at the time as it does now.

As one economist in the Courier Mail pointed out recently, Stop These Things makes some extraordinary claims. Its website actually states that one of its operatives has intercepted communications from the United States Pentagon stating that 'giant wind turbines are being deployed as weapons of mass destruction'. The site features an experts section that only contains the biography details of one expert—an acoustic engineer called Stephen Cooper. It also has a variety of interesting comments from members of the public in its 'rumour file'. Many of them are probably listening to me right now wearing their tinfoil hats.

I am afraid the truth is a lot less interesting than this group would have us believe. In 2011 the Senate Community Affairs References Committee investigated concerns around noise and vibrations from wind farms. The committee examined all the relevant evidence and found that there was no identified link between wind farm noise and adverse human health effects. This is a view also shared by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the South Australian Environment Protection Agency and the Victorian Department of Health.

This issue also raises questions about the coalition's stance on wind farms and, indeed, renewable energy generally. It has been suggested in numerous media reports that the coalition is about to backflip on the Renewable Energy Target, a bipartisan commitment to source a fifth of Australia's power from renewable energy by 2020. We have also had the members for Tangney, Hume and Riverina claim during a debate on a motion in the other place that renewable energy does not reduce emissions. This is just incredible.

The Gillard government, on the other hand, has a strong commitment to delivering on renewable energy targets. Since Labor came to power, wind capacity in Australia has risen from just over 1,100 megawatts to over 3,000 megawatts. In fact, last year wind farms in this country produced enough electricity to power over one million homes—an incredible achievement that looked impossible not that long ago. This government believes in dynamic climate change policies that drive investment in renewable energy and reduce pollution. It is about long-term vision. It is about planning for the future. It is about caring what sort of planet we leave for future generations. The combination of the carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is delivering results.

We hear a lot from the opposition about the price on carbon. Their simplistic misrepresentation of this issue is heartbreaking. If you want the facts, renewable energy generation increased by almost a third within one year of the carbon price. In that same period, emissions in the National Electricity Market were down 7.4 per cent. This has led to a surge in investment in the renewable energy industry and new jobs have been created. Already the Renewable Energy Target has attracted $18.5 billion in new investment to Australia. In addition to this, the scheme as a whole stands to create 30,000 jobs, many of them in regional and rural areas, where clean energy resources are located.

What this government has achieved is groundbreaking. We are positioning ourselves at the forefront of new technologies in renewable energy that will attract investment and ensure our long-term economic security. We are creating highly skilled jobs for people in regional areas and playing a crucial role in combating climate change. In contrast, the coalition would like to halt or scrap altogether the Renewable Energy Target, repeal the carbon price and abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They have also indicated that they want to duplicate state and territory planning requirements over wind farm noise. What they are really doing is creating sovereign risk for renewable energy investment in Australia. My home state of Tasmania is benefiting—

Senator Colbeck interjecting

Senator POLLEY: Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I would have thought that my colleague from Tasmania would be interested in this. Actually, he could be educated about what is happening in Tasmania. It will be interesting to see where he stands when the people of King Island vote on whether or not they are going to support the wind farm investment on that island.

In my home state of Tasmania we are benefiting handsomely from the developments in renewable energy technologies, particularly wind technology. The state has been the recipient of several grants under the Clean Technology Investment Program and the Clean Technology Innovation Program, which have reaped real dividends. These programs have allowed one company, Naturale, to upgrade equipment at its Ringarooma stockfeed supplement manufacturing plant. That project will reduce the company’s site-wide carbon emissions intensity by 46 per cent and will enable the product to be manufactured at a lower overall cost. I would have thought that my Tasmanian colleagues from all sides would welcome that, particularly in the north-east of Tasmania.

These things are happening in renewable energy in Tasmania, and it is a great thing for our state. As I mentioned earlier, the residents of King Island are voting on the development of what will be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest wind farm. Residents and landowners will vote yes or no to the proposal to build a 200-turbine wind farm, which will obviously play a significant role in helping Australia meet its Renewable Energy Target. According to Hydro Tasmania, the development will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the local community as well as infrastructure upgrades and at least 60 jobs. I think it is great that the company elected to send out surveys on this to gauge the level of community support before it goes ahead with a feasibility study. It says it wants 60 per cent approval by the local community. A final decision is expected next week. I am in favour of wind turbines, subject to appropriate planning and environmental control, and I think renewable energy should be embraced in Australia.

This government has worked extraordinarily hard to boost investment in the area of renewable energies, and it has worked. If left unchanged, it will continue to drive investment to transform our energy sector over the next decade and beyond. It is certainly something that this country can be proud of.