Outspoken Liberal MPs plan to defy publicly the official party line by attending a Tea Party-style anti-wind-farm rally at Parliament House, widening the rift in Coalition ranks over renewable energy targets.
The Canberra rally on June 18 is being promoted through a clandestine group using a website called stopthesethings.com, which conceals the identity of many of its supporters.
Broadcaster Alan Jones is named on the site as master of ceremonies for the event, which is being touted as the ”Wind Power Fraud” rally.
NSW Liberal MPs Craig Kelly and Alby Schultz are among the line-up of speakers, as is West Australian Liberal senator Chris Bach. The Coalition’s star candidate to replace the retiring Mr Schultz in the seat of Hume Angus Taylor has also been recruited.
The boldness of the Liberal wind-farm opponents is raising suggestions the Coalition is about to backflip on the renewable energy target, a bipartisan commitment to source a fifth of Australia’s power from renewables by 2020.
The shadow environment minister Greg Hunt recently confirmed the party’s commitment to the target and chose not to chastise the MPs who had begun speaking out against it.
”The Coalition is aware of the community concerns regarding wind farms,” Mr Hunt said. ”We have committed to a full medical research into the potential impact if elected. It is important that MPs listen to their communities … there is no change to our support for the 20 per cent target.”
During a post-budget interview with Mr Jones, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey would not be drawn on the issue, saying only that he would have to consult with his colleagues.
The rally’s organisers are goading Mr Hockey to ”come clean” over renewable energy.
Victorian senator John Madigan (Democratic Labor) and independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon will also speak. The pair has co-sponsored of an excessive noise bill in relation to wind farms.
Senator Xenophon said he was invited through Senator Madigan’s office and didn’t really know who was behind the rally.
”I don’t look at all my invitations that closely,” he said. ”But I am happy to talk at the event and I will say that, while I do believe something should be done about climate change, the economics of wind farms don’t stack up and neither do the environmental benefits.”
Senator Madigan’s office confirmed he was scheduled to address the gathering.
Environmental groups did not wish to comment, but it’s understood plans are being considered to stage a Canberra event in support of renewable energy on the same day.