Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described wind farms as “visually awful” and boasted slashing the Renewable Energy Target will restrict growth in the industry.
Mr Abbott also said the Howard government would never have introduced the clean energy policy if it had its time over again.
In a wide-ranging interview on Sydney radio station 2GB, Mr Abbott said he was prevented by the Senate in his desire to further cut the growth of new wind farms.
Mr Abbott made the remarks after the conservative broadcaster Alan Jones asked why the government had agreed to subsidise wind farms when residents living near them claim to suffer health problems.
“Prime Minister, these people are refugees in their own homes, you’ve done a deal on renewable energy which includes wind power when there’s a Senate inquiry highlighting the deleterious effects these things are having on public health,” Jones said.
“When will someone in government listen to these poor people and the problems they face?”
“I mean if it didn’t affect health, put them on Parliament House, put them in Macquarie Street, put them on Parramatta Road.”
Mr Abbott replied the location of wind farms was primarily a state government issue but said he agreed they could cause health problems.
“Well Alan look, I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things,” Mr Abbott said.
“When I’ve been up close to these wind farms, there’s no doubt, not only are they visually awful, they make a lot of noise.
“What we did recently in the Senate was reduce, Alan, reduce, capital R-E-D-U-C-E the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” he said.
“Now I would frankly have liked to have reduced the number a lot more.”
“Good, well you’re the boss!” Jones interrupted.
“But we got the best deal with could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things,” Mr Abbott continued.
“This particular policy was a policy that was put in place in the late days of the Howard government, knowing what we know now, I don’t think we would have gone down this path in this way.
“But at the time we though it was the right way forward. Sometimes you’ve got to deal with the situation that you’ve got rather than the ideal. What we’ve managed to do through this, admittedly imperfect … is reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.”
A study conducted by the government’s own National Health and Medical Research Council recently found that there is no “consistent evidence” that wind farms damage human health but called for further research.
Jones observed that the government did not subsidise the “little businesses” of his listeners who he said were up at 5am “baking bread” for $900 per week.
Mr Abbott’s description of wind turbines as “visually awful” echoes a similar attack launched by Treasurer Joe Hockey during an interview with Jones in 2014.
“”Can I be a little indulgent? I drive to Canberra to go to Parliament … and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive,” Mr Hockey said at the time. “I think they’re a blight on the landscape.”
Labor and the Coalition agreed in May to reduce the amount of renewable energy required by law by 2020 to 33,000 gigawatt hours.
The government has been trying to slash the target after a review by climate change sceptic Dick Warburton recommended cutting the existing legislated goal of 41,000 gigawatt-hours of all power coming from renewables by 2020.
Andrew Bray, the Australian Wind Alliance national co-ordinator, said wind farms kept farm land viable in regional Australia.
“Wind farms present once in a lifetime economic opportunities for windy parts of regional Australia,” he said.
“Continual government interference in renewable energy comes at a cost. It deprives regional communities of economic opportunities they should be enjoying now and holds Australia back from becoming the renewable energy powerhouse we should be.”
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