Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2011 – 2012. This Budget is truly a reflection of the Gillard Government and its’ performance to date – bitterly disappointing.
It is bitterly disappointing because again, we have a tired and terminal Labor Government again plunging this country into net government debt and deficit. The Gillard Government has set a new record for net government debt, which this year will be an astonishing $107 billion in 2011/12 and is forecast to remain above $100 billion across the forward estimates. This amounts to more than $4700 for every Australian.
Sadly Mr Speaker, due to a handful of Independent members of parliament representing conservative electorates, the Australian people are again subjected to the staggering economic incompetence illustrated in this typical tax-and-spend Labor Budget.
Mr Speaker, by omitting any reference to the already announced Carbon Tax and Carbon Credits in this Budget, Australians can rightly ask how the Government and Treasury are laying the foundations for a Carbon-taxed economy next year.
Will the roll-out of the Carbon-taxed economy be another rush-job? Small businesses, individuals and families across Australia have borne the brunt of the Rudd/Gillard government’s stuff-ups from pink-batts rorts to the school halls fiasco.
Mr Speaker, Labor’s form for project implementation over the past three years, hardly inspires confidence that they can handle major structural reform of the economy.
The Government needed to come clean with its’ Carbon-tax and credits proposal in this Budget.
Mr Speaker, despite the lack of detail common to nearly all Labor announcements such as the Carbon tax, villages and landholders in my electorate of Hume are already suffering from shift to the ‘green economy’.
Crucial to this new ‘green economy’ crusade is the transition away from cheap and efficient coal-powered technology to inefficient and expensive alternative energy sources such as Wind turbines; all advertised as a means to reduce Australia’s comparatively small CO2 emissions.
Mr Speaker I have two major issues with the push towards greater Wind Turbine development, particularly in the electorate of Hume. Firstly, claims that wind turbines are efficient and reliable, and; secondly the impact inadequately regulated wind turbine construction in New South Wales is having on the property rights of landholders as well as the predatory and clandestine practices of Wind turbine developers.
Firstly, claims that Wind turbines are a viable and reliable alternative energy source to replace fossil fuels is farcical.
Mr Speaker, Wind turbine technology has proven to be neither cheap nor efficient when compared with our base-load coal technology.
According to the Auditor-General in Victoria this year, the cost per megawatt hour for Wind turbine technology was between 80c to $1.20, compared with brown coal which cost 35c – nearly 3 times more expensive! Make no mistake: there is direct link between the construction of expensive-to-run Wind turbines and the increases you’re seeing in your electricity bills every month.
There appears to be a hidden agenda on the part of Wind turbine developers centred around the Federal Government’s Carbon Tax. Wind turbine developers are saying they are going to supply electricity including “enough clean energy to power up to 180,000 homes a year – preventing up to one million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution entering the environment” (Rugby Wind Farm Press Release 17.05.11).
What the developers and operators can’t and won’t tell you is how they going to produce that kind of energy when it has been proven that Wind turbines operate only 30% of the year.
Nor will they admit that the wind turbines’ inherent inefficiency is why permission is being sought in several shires in my electorate for Gas Fired ‘peaking stations’, such as the one proposed in Dalton, to be built to top-up the short-fall created by Wind generators.
A concerned constituent wrote to me recently and put it another way: “If I went to the Minister of Transport and offered to sell him a fleet of busses or trains, only to inform him that they would work only 30% of the time and that he couldn’t use them in peak periods because we didn’t know when they would work and also he may find that they worked when he didn’t want them to (late at night or early in the morning) – what do you think the Minister for Transport would say?”
However Mr Speaker, the transition to inefficient, unreliable and expensive Wind turbine energy production is occurring throughout the shires of the Hume electorate at an alarming rate; a rate that is preventing landholders and communities from taking-stock of the full implications these industrial wind turbine developments will have on their families, their neighbours and their communities.
Due to inadequate regulation under the former NSW Labor Government, Wind turbine developers have been able to override the property-rights of individual landholders and communities.
I have had many pro-wind turbines lobbyist inform me of there being allegedly ‘extraordinarily high’ support for Wind turbine construction in the NSW/ACT border region.
This is NOT the message I am getting!
Through extensive research I have uncovered the analysis of data from the ERM Survey which the NSW Office of the Environment and Wind turbine developers rely upon to show community support for wind turbines.
The survey they rely upon was conducted over just 7 days from 27th July to 2nd August in 2007 – four years ago and well before local landowners and communities were aware of the full implications of Wind turbine construction.
It is also interesting to note that ERM document also in Annexure B6 refers to 11 studies in the UK between 1990 and 1996 which contain similar figures to the 90% support for Wind energy quoted by the Australian ERM survey. It would appear the figures are a direct lift from the UK study.
Furthermore there is no evidence as to the survey methodology in the survey/study for example ie. was it undertaken by post? Was it by push-polling over the phone? Or was it by direct visitation to local residents? Did all of the respondents to the alleged survey live in NSW or within the local government areas where there Wind turbines are to be located, or indeed within the boundaries of the Hume electorate where hundreds of Wind turbines are programmed to be constructed? How many individual respondents and/or businesses were surveyed and where precisely were these respondents domiciled?
Considering the volume of concerns from affected landholders flooding my office and the well-attended public meetings held throughout the electorate of Hume, I would be very interested to see if a similar survey would yield a similar ‘9 out of 10’ approval for Wind turbines today.
My judgement is it would not!
I would, however suggest conducting the survey a little better by directly surveying respondents who are affected landholders and would be living next to these monuments to a misguided green-left ideology, rather than so-called distant semi-urban communities in Goulburn, Yass and Canberra, whatever that means.
Mr Speaker, no survey can give us a true indication of the trauma, despair and hopelessness local landholders affected by wind turbine development are feeling, such as one elderly couple whose daughter wrote to me earlier this month who said this:
“I contact you now with a heart filled with anxiety, worry, disbelief and concern for my parents future, as they have received a ‘letter of acquisition’ over their home for the purpose of the Gullen Range Wind Farm development”
She goes on “The proposed turbines of particular concern would be placed at distances of just 500m, 600m and 800m from our family home. Mum and Dad have worked the whole of their lives to save for ‘their joint dream… a home on a bit of land outside of town in the peace and quiet to enjoy their retirement… Now they are being forced to have to make an unbearable decision of having to sell their home or stay on and suffer the effects of the turbines appearing around them. Dad is 8- yrs and Mum 72. It is heartbreaking to see them reduced to tears with the very notion of what it is that is being proposed.”
There is also the case of the young couple near Crookwell who, after years of planning, saving and finally finishing building their dream home have just been served with a letter of acquisition.
What has happened to the property rights of my constituents? When did we allow their property rights to be usurped by carbon-credit hungry wind turbine developers? Or a government hell-bent on steamrolling an ideological environmental agenda over the democratic rights of landholders in order to desperately cling to power?
These landholders, young and old have also been subjected to the no-so-well-known clandestine and predatory practices of Wind turbine developers. Discussions between landholders and developers are followed with the signing of confidentiality agreements, preventing neighbours discussing with one another developments going on in their own backyards!
Alarmingly, I am advised that when landholders threaten to take action against wind farm developers, they have told the neighbours they will provide legal assistance.
Yet those, who despite hearing of all the health, noise and flicker worries choose to host wind turbines on their property absolutely have that right – especially after a desperate decade of drought – but it should not be at the expense of their neighbours. The same common sense would apply if they were planning to build a 165m building immediately adjacent to their neighbour’s residence.
One aspect of this issue that I find most disturbing is the response my constituents have received from those who constantly harp that they are the only ones who represent rural and regional Australia. I’m disappointed local state members, who gave people the impression they were going to do something for them at the last election, appear to have compromised those undertakings in exchange for the keys to the chauffer driven white cars. I was distressed to hear from a farmer who will be affected by wind turbines development, that he approached the Nationals Leader in NSW regarding the seriousness of the problems I have been outlining, only to told that he couldn’t possibly get a meeting for 3 moths. This contemptuous treatment of the democratic rights of my constituents may be politically expedient for a new government, but will not be tolerated by me.
Given the apparent contamination of the approval processes and the role played by the NSW Planning Department and other NSW Government agencies, on behalf of my constituents I have written to the NSW Minister for Planning, the Minister for the Environment, phoned the Minister for Energy and Resources, and most recently forwarded a letter off to Premier O’Farrell, requesting an immediate moratorium on any further Wind turbine development in NSW, pending a possible public inquiry or indeed – following on from preliminary investigation – a possible Royal Commission into the industry as a whole.
Perhaps now it’s time with the abuse of rights reaching a tipping-point, to get the bush telegraph going; for farmers and affected landholders to take “real action” to stop the abuse of their property rights. If the government does not have the courage of it’s convictions to place an immediate moratorium on wind turbine development, then it’s time for hardworking landholders to get out there with tractors or trucks and physically stop the construction of the monuments to a misguided green-left ideology in their tracks.
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