Former prime minister Tony Abbott has labelled wind farms “the dark Satanic Mills of the modern era” while dismissing a tongue-in-cheek campaign to install the turbines in his old Sydney electorate of Warringah.
A satirical online petition has called on independent MP Zali Steggall, who ousted Mr Abbott at the May election, to install wind farms along the foreshore of the northern beaches seat.
On Friday, 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones asked Mr Abbott: “How are they going with the wind turbines in your former electorate? Is Zali Steggall sticking them up there?”
“I think there’s been a lot of wind but not too much action – and thank God, because the last thing we want is what I regard as the dark Satanic Mills of the modern era spoiling our landscape,” Mr Abbott said.
This was an apparent reference to a line in the poem “And did those feet in ancient time”, commonly known as “Jerusalem”, by the Romantic English poet William Blake.
The line in the poem is generally thought to refer to either the mills of the industrial revolution, England’s orthodox churches or the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Mr Abbott went on to praise Energy and Emissions Reductions Minister Angus Taylor, saying: “Angus wants to try to keep our existing coal-fired power stations like Liddell open, because we’ve got more and more wind and solar flooding into the system, and that’s great when the wind’s blowing and the sun’s shining, but it doesn’t always blow and it doesn’t always shine.”
The change.org petition calls on Ms Steggall, who campaigned strongly on a platform of climate change, to “take advantage of the sea breezes” offered by Sydney’s northern beaches. It has received 25,000 signatures online.
Ms Steggall has not proposed wind farms in Warringah but said: “The concept behind it, which is let’s be sustainable and use renewables as much as possible – whichever form is appropriate for where you’re living – is fine.
“They think they’re being funny but I don’t have a problem with it. I certainly support the concept of [making] Warringah like California, as sustainable as possible,” Ms Steggall said.
Former Greens leader Bob Brown caused a stir this week by opposing a major wind farm development in Tasmania on the basis it would undermine the island’s natural beauty and endanger wildlife without an economic dividend.
In office, Mr Abbott created a “wind farm commissioner” to investigate complaints about the turbines. And his treasurer Joe Hockey, now Australia’s ambassador to the United States, described such farms as “utterly offensive” and “quite appalling”.
The former prime minister was swept out of office in May after his primary vote collapsed by nearly 13 per cent.
During the campaign, he backflipped on his call for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change (which he had signed up to as prime minister), saying that circumstances changed after Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull in the top job and Mr Taylor became energy minister.
Mr Abbott is currently cycling in Queensland as part of the 1000 kilometre “Pollie Pedal” charity bike ride he initiated in the 1990s. Fellow riders include Kevin Andrews, David Gillespie, Ben Morton and Mr Taylor, who will soon take over responsibility for the event.
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