Wind farm commissioner: Senator John Madigan defends proposal for fresh scrutiny on wind turbines; professor says ‘no evidence’ of health risks
Crossbench senator John Madigan has accused green groups of “shrill denials” over the issue of wind farms, after the Federal Government offered to appoint a special commissioner to look into complaints about the renewable energy turbines.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt wrote to Senator Madigan and other crossbench senators on Thursday, offering to create a national wind farm commissioner in return for their backing for the Government’s changes to the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
Mr Hunt’s letter said the wind farm commissioner would report to the Government on “the impact on the environment and human health of audible noise … and infrasound from wind turbines”.
The move came after Prime Minister Tony Abbott launched multiple attacks on wind farms last week, describing them as “ugly” and “noisy” and saying the Government’s controversial RET review was designed to cut their numbers.
But it has been slammed by the Greens and Labor, with Greens leader Richard Di Natale accusing Mr Hunt of caving in to the “tinfoil hat brigade”.
Senator Madigan, a member of the Democratic Labour Party until he became independent last year, defended Mr Hunt’s move.
“Am I obsessed with this issue? Some accuse me of this but I would deny that. My interest began and continues for one simple reason and that is people,” he said.
“I have seen an ongoing campaign of blame the victim with those who make claims about adverse health impacts being vilified and smeared – this issue is not going away.
“Despite the shrill denials of wind and environmental groups Australians are suffering in their homes.”
As well as Senator Madigan, Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm, Family First senator Bob Day and independent senator Jacqui Lambie have all expressed concern about the growth of wind energy in Australia.
Labor senator decries ‘political stitch-up’
Senator Madigan, who chairs the wind turbine committee, handed down an interim report yesterday with a recommendation almost identical to the proposal from Mr Hunt.
“We would like to see the establishment of a national wind farm ombudsman to handle wind farm complaints,” he said.
Labor Senator Anne Urquhart attacked the timing.
“There is absolutely no need for this report. The scheduled reporting date of August 3 allowed ample time for the committee to properly scrutinise the evidence,” she said.
“This report isn’t an attempt to share the results of a legitimate inquiry, it’s a political stitch-up designed to bring the wind industry to its knees.”
WA Liberal Chris Back is on the Senate committee taking evidence about the impact of the turbines.
“I ask the question of people: If they are suffering nothing, if there is only some psychosomatic event, why do they want to walk away from their lifestyle?
‘No evidence’ to back creation of new commission
Deputy Greens Leader Larissa Waters said the proposed commissioner would add a new layer of red tape and was not necessary.
“If you are really worried about the health impacts of energy generation, where is the coal mining commissioner?” she asked.
“Why do we have a wind farm commissioner rather than a coal mining commissioner to look at the health impacts of what is genuinely a damaging fossil fuel?
“Damaging not only to human health but also to the environment. Unfortunately this is more of what can be expected from the Government’s tin foil hat brigade.”
Professor of public health at Sydney University Simon Chapman said there was no evidence to back the creation of a new position.
“This is a bone which has been thrown to the independent senators, some of whom are frankly just obsessed by this issue,” he said.
“They have had 25 reviews which have said there is no direct affect of wind farms on health.
“Their heads are spinning with that [and] they just want one more, and Abbott’s given them one more.”
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