Senator Nick Xenophon yesterday offered free legal support for a South East man, who will face living in a home surrounded by 16 wind turbines.
“Their issue reminds me a bit of the film The Castle,” Senator Xenophon said about the retired Millicent farmers, John Clarke and his wife Sue, unaware it was Mr Clarke’s 79th birthday.
Standing in front of the Clarke’s home, Senator Xenophon admired the view with Victorian Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan where eight turbines will soon tower within 1km, and another eight will be within 1.5 to two kilometres.
By their side, the two senators met more than 20 other people, all with a story to tell about how Infigen Energy’s proposed 153-turbine wind farm was going to impact on them.
Together the senators are seeking changes to federal laws so that windfarm developers cannot get renewable energy certificates unless they comply with a range of specific guidelines, overriding current state laws.
They held a public meeting in Mount Gambier last night as part of their visit.
Senator Xenophon slammed the State Government for “changing the rules”, enabling the Clarke’s to be in hemmed in by turbines.
“I think it is disgusting the way the State Government changed the rules and shifted the goal posts – someone said it was a bit like being a kid and your mum telling you that you can’t do something so you go off to dad and get permission,” he said.
“They shifted the goal posts to side swipe communities and it marginalises them.”
Senator Xenophon also spoke about concerns investment in windfarms would be at the expense of other renewable energy options.
“Once you put all your eggs in the windfarm basket, you actually choke off investment in all sorts of other renewables – you have tidal power, solar thermal and geothermal, but if you put billions of dollars into wind power, you are not going to have those other renewables,” he said.
“The other thing, I’m working with Senator John Madigan to actually change the laws so you can’t actually get a renewable energy certificate unless you comply with minimum benchmark guidelines.”
He said failings in state laws could be bypassed by having best practice standards in terms of community consultation and development, environmental and health guidelines.
“The potential impact on human health can be quite significant,” he said.
“I worry windfarms will turn into one of the 21st Century’s big white elephants that will cost all of us dearly – we already have 54pc of the windfarms in the country here in South Australia and enough is enough.”
He said the likes of Mr and Mrs Clarke deserved to be treated with respect, “not the contempt this State Government’s current planning guidelines allow”.
“That is why I will be doing my bit to get a legal team to give him some assistance,” Mr Xenophon said.
“If it can happen to John, it can happen to anybody.”
Senator Madigan said he had friends with windfarms on their properties, friends who wanted windfarms on their properties, and friends who were totally opposed to windfarms.
“In my own area at home in Victoria we have windfarms and since they have been in operation, I now have some serious concerns,” Senator Madigan said.
“It is has become a very divisive in country communities in the states they are in, but I don’t believe people are acceptable collateral damage and I don’t believe there has been a proper analysis done under Australian conditions.”
Senator Madigan said there should be a moratorium until independent Australian research is completed into the impact of windfarms.
“If it only affects four people in 100 here, I don’t care, I don’t believe four people should be screwed,” he said.
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