Government regulators have stripped a prominent anti-wind farm lobby of its health promotion charity status.
The status allowed the Waubra Foundation to receive tax deductible donations, concessions the Greens described as “enormous public subsidies”.
A year ago the ABC revealed the Greens made a complaint to the Taxation Office and Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC), claiming there was no credible evidence to suggest a direct link between wind turbines and health problems.
University of Sydney Professor of Public Health Simon Chapman supports that view.
“There’s very, very poor evidence of any direct effect – in fact there have been 22 published reviews since 2003 which have all reached that conclusion,” Professor Chapman said.
“So in other words there’s nothing intrinsic that’s emitted from wind farms – sound etcetera – which in itself can cause human health problems.”
Four months after the Greens made the complaint, the Commission sent a show cause notice to the Foundation.
“It is not possible for me to find that the Foundation’s principal activity promotes the prevention or control of disease in human beings,” Assistant Commissioner David Locke said in February.
“My current view is there is that there is insufficient evidence that ‘wind turbine syndrome’ or ‘vibroacoustic disease’ caused by proximity to wind turbines are recognised as human diseases or that the health problems that have been perceived by the complainants as being associated with living or working close to wind turbines are a disease.”
In April, the Waubra Foundation’s chief executive Sarah Laurie responded: “… the Waubra Foundation was established to promote the prevention or control of the many diseases already known and established by medical acoustic research to be directly caused by exposure to sound energy.”
“There were other diseases less well understood which required further research, and greater awareness of their important findings.
“Two of those diseases are what has become known as ‘wind turbine syndrome’ (WTS) but is more accurately described as ‘infrasound and low frequency noise syndrome’ (ILFNS) and ‘vibroacoustic disease’ (VAD).”
Waubra to raise loss of charity status with Senate
On December 11 the ACNC revoked the Foundation’s status as a health promotion charity, ultimately removing its ability to receive tax deductible donations.
The Waubra Foundation’s website no longer accepts donations.
The Commission would not explain why it had revoked the Foundation’s status.
“The ACNC legislation prevents us from discussing the details which lead to this decision,” it said in a statement.
Ms Laurie declined an interview but in a statement said the board was planning to appeal the ACNC’s decision.
“We will also make sure the ACNC’s decision in this matter is brought up in the Federal Senate inquiry in 2015,” she said.
“We note that Assistant Commissioner Locke has ignored the many diseases which are well known to be directly caused or exacerbated by sleep disturbance and deprivation.
“We note that the ACNC have accepted our ongoing registration as a charity which ‘advances health’ by preventing sickness, and ‘advancing public debate’.”
In October last year, Ms Laurie told the ABC the organisation had received donations of just under $200,000 since 2010.
“I welcome a thorough investigation of our organisation … we have absolutely nothing to hide,” she said.
Ms Laurie would not provide a list of donors but maintained no industry group had donated money.
“Most of the donations have come predominantly from donations less than $500 each from rural residents concerned about the lack of research,” she said.
In November, the Senate established an inquiry to report on the application of regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines.
It is due to report by the middle of next year.
[See Waubra Foundation press release: ACNC reaffirms Waubra Foundation’s charity status, but ignores diseases caused by sleep deprivation]
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