The developer of the Mt Emerald wind farm has caused outrage by tabling a cartoon that ridiculed opponents of wind turbines at a Senate hearing in Cairns – and then asked Senators to colour it in with pencils.
About 60 people – a majority residents from the Tableland – packed the public hearing yesterday morning to hear Ratch Australia questioned by the Select Committee on Wind Turbines about the regulatory governance and economic impact of the $380 million project.
The wind farm, to be built near Walkamin early next year, was granted State approval last month.
The joint venture with local property developer Port Bajool has faced stiff local opposition for about four years from residents concerned about potential adverse health and environmental effects from the turbines.
During the inquiry, Ratch Australia project development manager Joseph Hallenstein presented a First Dog on the Moon cartoon from news website Crikey that portrays the anti-wind turbine lobby as conspiracy theorists that fear wind farms could cause them to fall off horses.
“I printed out black and white copies and I thought that maybe you could get some coloured pencils from reception and colour them in later on,’’ Mr Hallenstein told the hearing.
Committee chairman, Victorian independent Senator John Madigan, said it was disappointing the developer had attacked people’s legitimate concerns about wind farms.
“It reflects quite poorly upon the company when one of their representatives engages in this sort of behaviour,’’ he told the Cairns Post.
Queensland LNP Senator Matthew Canavan also told the Post the tabling of the cartoon, which also ridiculed University of Sydney acoustics expert Professor Simon Chapman, was “contemptuous.”
“If you are going to contemptuously dismiss the work of a respected acoustician by tabling a cartoon, I question whether you are a serious business,’’ he said.
“Any serious business, when there are questions about the product they are providing is causing harm, would seek to establish whether that is the case, and take reasonable precautions against it occurring.
“We have received compelling evidence, as a Committee, that there actually might be an issue with infrasound.”
Ratch Australia business development manager Anil Nangia later told reporters the company did indeed take the Senate inquiry seriously.
“The cartoon was meant to bring a bit of humour to the debate,’’ he said.
“It was not meant to show any disrespect to the Senators and it was just meant to show that this topic can be dealt in a mature way, with a bit of humour as well.
“It doesn’t need to be taken so seriously.”
The company was also questioned by the committee on whether any government subsidies it would receive from the development over its 25-year lifespan – estimated to be more than $500 million – was a good deal for taxpayers.
Mr Nangia told the hearing the funding would be spread throughout Ratch’s other properties across Australia.
Mr Canavan said the money should be spent on further studies to determine whether there were health impacts associated with wind farms.
“A few million would help fill the scientific gap,’’ he said.
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