A national wind farm commissioner has been proposed by the Government to address complaints about the operation of wind farms.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has written to key Senate crossbenchers proposing a commissioner to hear complaints and refer them to relevant state authorities.
The crossbenchers are currently considering Government amendments to a bipartisan deal to reduce the amount of renewable energy generated in Australia from 41,000 gigawatt hours to 33,000.
While the reduced target has bipartisan support, a Coalition plan to include the burning of native wood waste among eligible energy sources is opposed by Labor.
To pass that measure, the Coalition is relying on the support of six of the eight crossbenchers.
Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm, Family First senator Bob Day and independent senators John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie have all expressed concern about the growth of wind energy in Australia.
In order to secure their support, in a draft version of the letter seen by the ABC, Mr Hunt said the Government would mandate stricter monitoring of wind farms and appoint a commissioner to deal with complaints about their operation.
He made the offer “subject to passage” of the Government’s amendments.
In his letter, Mr Hunt also offered to appoint a scientific committee which would report to Government on “the impact on the environment and human health of audible noise … and infrasound from wind turbines”.
The measures promised had been recommended in an interim report into wind farms by a Senate committee.
The inquiry was chaired by Senator Madigan, who this afternoon told the Upper House the industry “needs more transparency”.
“If, as the wind industry keeps telling us, it has nothing to hide, then it has nothing to fear,” he said.
Di Natale criticises Coalition’s ‘tinfoil hat brigade’
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the proposals would make “a terrible deal [on the renewable energy target] even worse”.
“Not only are we killing jobs and reducing renewable energy investment that’s good for our economy and good for the environment … we’re now introducing this pseudo-science that seems to be a feature of this Government,” he said.
“We’ve got the tinfoil hat brigade inside the Coalition concerned about the health impacts of wind farms, when no credible medical body anywhere in the world has expressed concerns about this.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott launched multiple attacks on wind farms last week, describing turbines as “visually awful”.
“Up close they’re ugly, they’re noisy and they may have all sorts of other impacts,” Mr Abbott said.
“It’s right and proper that we’re having an inquiry into the health impacts of these things,” he added, referring to a current parliamentary inquiry initiated by crossbench senators.
Renewable energy lobby groups, Labor and the Greens have condemned the Prime Minister’s “backwards”, “stunning” comments.
However, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce backed them.
“I hate to say it, but I agree,” he said last Friday.
“Wind farms are one of those things that everybody likes as long as it’s not in their backyard.”
The comments echo those of Treasurer Joe Hockey, who last year described wind turbines as “utterly offensive”.
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