Abbott says RET policies designed to reduce ‘visually awful’ wind farms

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has launched an extraordinary attack on wind farms in Australia, accusing them of having health impacts and describing them as “visually awful” – echoing similar comments by his Treasurer a year ago.

In an interview with Radio 2GB’s Alan Jones, himself a vocal critic of wind farms, Abbott also directly contradicted the Coalition party line on the amendment to the renewable energy target – namely that the new 33,000GWh number was not a reduction on the original 20 per cent by 2020 target, but an increase.

Rather, Abbott declared the RET amendment for what it is – a “capital R” Reduction, aimed specifically at limiting the growth rate of the wind energy sector “as much as the current Senate would allow.”


The startlingly frank comments were made on Thursday morning in an interview with Jones – the diviner of many a startlingly frank comment from Coalition Party members, including federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s May 2014 statement that the sight of wind turbines was “utterly offensive.”

In the interview on Thursday, Abbott seemed to side with his treasurer on that point, too, describing wind turbines as “visually awful” and even suggesting that they could have potential health impacts.

“I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things,” Abbott told Jones, “…when I’ve been up close to these windfarms not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise.

“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future … I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more but we got the best deal we 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 …

“What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.”

But federal environment minister Greg Hunt, and resources minister Ian Macfarlane – who brokered the deal on the RET with Labor – have said exactly the opposite, that the RET amendment’s primary aim was not to reduce the amount of renewable energy built, or to reduce the number of wind farms, but to prevent the industry from failing to reach the original target, which would then trigger a penalty price that would force power prices up.

Australian representatives at international climate negotiations in Bonn have also sought to present the change to the renewable energy target as an increase rather than a cut, when pressed on the policy by the US, China. the EU, Brazil and others last week.

Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler – who agreed to the 33,000GWh number and has himself toed the Coalition’s line that it will not result in a reduction on the 2020 target, but an increase – said Abbott’s comments on 2GB Radio had effectively confirmed his goal was to put an end to the renewable energy industry.

“It’s gobsmacking that Australia’s Prime Minister can be so short-sighted, and so out of touch,” Butler said in a statement on Thursday.

“It’s as if Tony Abbott enjoys making Australia the laughing stock of the world – he so frequently expresses his Jurassic views when it comes to climate change and Australia’s future industries.

“Labor fought hard against Tony Abbott’s attempts to destroy the renewable energy industry last year and we’re pleased to have come to an arrangement where 25 per cent of Australia’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020,” he said.

These comments were “an embarrassment,” Butler added, that “would not help Australia’s participation in the negotiations at the upcoming Paris Conference.”

As we reported here last week, the PM is already looking increasingly isolated on the international stage over his government’s climate policies and their collective failure to pull Australia’s weight.

As well as questioning cuts to the RET, representatives from Australia’s major trading partners used the recent UN conference in Bonn to question Australia’s 2020 emissions target, which is currently as a modest 5 per cent reduction, and its accounting for land use measurements, which has effectively allowed Australia to turn a 31 per cent increase in industrial emissions to a country-wide fall of 2 per cent since 1990.

Erwin Jackson, the deputy head of The Climate Institute, said that the Australian government’s response to these questions had only served to raise more questions.

“The government’s response to other countries questions on the effectiveness of its domestic pollution reductions policy lack transparency and try to avoid accountability,” Jackson said in a statement.

“The government appears to be inflating the impact of its actions to 2020 without providing any estimate of the pollution reductions it will deliver,” he said.

And that is more or less the same conclusion drawn by carbon market analysts RepuTex this week who, in a new report released on Thursday, found that the official greenhouse gas emissions projections used by the Coalition in its submission to the UN ahead of Paris could be overstated by more than 200 million tonnes – more than the annual emissions from the entire Australian electricity sector.

According to RepuTex, the “systematic overstatement” of emissions due to erroneously high projections for electricity, land-use, waste and resource export sector emissions, means it will be easier for Australia to meet its 2020 – and post-2020 target – as emissions continue to be far lower than projected.

This was likely to lead to more major downgrades in Australia’s emissions projections over the next five years, said the report – regardless of the effectiveness of government policy, it said.

But it seems Abbott is more concerned about the “potential” – but as yet unsupported, scientifically – health impacts of wind turbines than the scientifically backed, and potentially devastating, impacts of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions.

He has done nothing to hose down the anti-wind campaigning from government cross-benches, including key Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, who is leading the current Senate Inquiry into wind farms – the 10th such inquiry in five years – and who recently called for the Abbott government to set up a new regulator to monitor noise levels near wind turbines.

In an op-ed published in The Australian on Wednesday, Leyonhjelm wrote that, with around 1800 more wind turbines set to be built over the next five years as a result of the bipartisan RET agreement, “it is absolutely certain that tens of thousands of people who live within a few kilometres of these new turbines will become sick.”

But that is not what scientists and health experts say.

On Wednesday, members of the Association of Australian Acoustic Consultants told the fifth public hearing of the wind senate inquiry that several studies had found no perceivable physical reaction to so-called infrasound from windfarms, as claimed by some residents living close to them.

“We can measure the level of infrasound in a windfarm, and we know what that level is, and we can measure it inside rooms, and that has been done on a number of occasions,” the chair of the AAAC windfarm subcommittee, Chris Turnbull, said.

“If we replicate that level at the same character, and the same frequencies, that person is essentially exposed to the same level of infrasound in terms of character and level [as a windfarm],” he said. “To date, all of the studies have suggested that there is no reaction to that level of infrasound.”

And as Friends of the Earth renewables spokesman, Leigh Ewbank, has pointed out, there are many more reviews that have come to the same conclusion.

“Abbott’s statement on the alleged health impacts of wind farms are out-of-step with the the view of public health experts,” said Ewbank in a statement on Thursday.

“There are now 24 reviews by credible bodies, such as the Australian Medical Association, that show wind energy is clean and safe.”  

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  • Keith

    Advice to the PM. Stop talking, especially on 2GB…

  • barrie harrop

    On the Jones parrot show is not good for one’s health .

    • Petra Liverani

      Reading this article sent my blood pressure soaring.

  • lin

    Abbott proudly proclaims that it is the aim of this government is to reduce development of renewables.
    This is no surprise to anyone looking at their actions, but sometimes they get caught out and actually telling the truth in words, rather than their usual lies, misdirection and outright bullshit.
    Worst government ever.

  • Rob

    Breathtaking, destructive idiocy by Abbott and Co. Letting the COALition determine our energy future is like appointing ISIS to look after our cultural heritage. Blind, brainless stupidity.

  • ozmq

    We didn’t really need any more evidence about PM Abbott’s attitude, but it’s good of
    him to provide it.

  • proud kiwi

    I personally find Wind farms quite attractive to look at but I find Coal mines ugly .

    As for Wind farms harming our health sorry wrong I know Abbott has brain farts but that’s not evidence as the evidence shows they don’t harm health unlike coal fired stations which do.

    • Barri Mundee

      I agree and I live close to three open cut Brian coal mines-one of which caught fire last year and impaired the health of the people if Morwell.

      On hot and windy days the coal has to be sprayed with water as the surface dries out and is a fire hazard. Also, the dry coal tends to get into the air in windy days end can make the local area very unpleasant.

      The coal mines are ugly and dirty blots on the landscape. The mines and the coal fired power stations dominate the visual field. I will be happy when this form of power production is finally phased out.

      • Barri Mundee

        Brian should be Brown!

  • Jo

    I am not so much worried about Abbot but about all the Australians who voted him in.

  • Bungarra

    So the market is the adjudicator of all things? Sounds like only for the economically strong. Ie those who have paid (at what point do we call it bribes or cronyism?) to have dominance in effective lobbying access, approve. On a score of 0 to 10 this report is at least -15 when the future of our grand children is considered.

    Its time to have a requirement which includes the that to be elected to public office of both competency in the understanding of Science, and a pledge to put the welfare of Australian citizens and of the environment of Australia first. Non of this pandering to non elected, and in many cases non Australian based companies and wannabe oligarchies.

    I also find it is interesting in the debates about citizenship, the resolution of a particular issue of dual nationality has not been clarified. That could change things some what.

  • Andy Colin Hook

    Has Tony really been close to a wind turbine? When? I have, at Mt Mercer, recently opened by Powershop/Meridien Energy. They are actually pretty quiet, and I think beautiful. The farmers who still farm the land they are on seem happy with the rent, and not bothered by these big whirling sculptures. Their animals are thriving, enjoying the shade of these new big white trees. Contrast this with the undoubted health damage we are all subjected to by coal burning… it is a no brainer to most people, Tony.

    • Roger Brown

      Wow , and your still alive . Did you have to wade through all those thousands of dead birds ? They should just build a small Nuclear plant on the North shore of Sydney. Close to water and customers who wouldn’t put solar panels on their roofs and think it was all witch craft .

  • John McKeon

    Characters like Abbott & Leyonhjelm & Hockey & Jones seem to be a heap of sandwiches short of a picnic – have some quaint holes inside their heads – with neuronal activity strangely, weirdly misfiring.

    OK, so beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, maybe, but COME ON guys, you can’t compare dirty black holes in the ground with these beautiful moving sculptures that happen to be really, really practical and useful!

    Oh, but they believe the COAL inspired campaign to discredit our vision of the energy future.

    [As much as I have been appalled by Jones however, I do have to concede that he supports farmers against the marauding gas industry when it comes to the Lock the Gate campaign. I suppose we always have to keep in mind how complex we can be.]

  • disqus_3PLIicDhUu

    Tony opens his mouth and puts his clown foot right in it again.
    Only this fool can make this stuff up, worst PM ever.

    • Roger Brown

      Repeat offender , as soon as the mic comes out of the ear of Abbort. Off the lead , sends LNP into cover-up mode and hit the poor Terror button AGAIN !

  • Stan Hlegeris

    Just when you think it can’t get any weirder, the head of the allegedly pro-business side of politics brags about doing everything he can to suppress a technology which delivers electricity at a few cents per kWh.

    Is business happy about the Coalition’s effort to keep electricity prices five times as high as they need to be?

  • Rob G

    I can only hope that Abbott continues on his merry way with the renewable bashing. Judging by the verbal bashing he got on SMH – even strong Liberal supporters are seeing him as the idiot he is. The guardian did a survey on what was more unsightly coal mines or wind farms. As expected coal got 98% of the vote. Should Abbott stay leader, then the LNP loss at the next election may be so devastating that “green” policies will pass easily through parliament. If LNP want a future they might want to think about getting on board with renewables.

  • Pedro

    Just read the posts on this report. We all broardly share the same views on RE, but preaching to the converted does not seem to get the message across to the LNP. I for one am going to write a few letters off to various LNP politician telling them how misguided and out of touch their RE policy is. Perhaps Malcolm Turball will be brave enough to contest the leadership and bring the LNP to its senses.

  • Chris Fraser

    After I heard about this episode on the Jones entertainment show I had the distinct thought that Abbott’s policy direction for the last 18 months was about how beautiful, or not, wind turbines were. So it strikes me as strange this was not included as terms of reference to the Warburton Review. We could have saved a lot of time with a competition on how to make them more attractive, if that is even possible.

  • Leigh Phillips

    Tony has now confirmed that he lied to the electorate before the last election, has he also now confirmed that he lied to parliment?

  • Roger Brown

    Someone should ring into the Alan Jones rant show about wind farms making them sick , I have a wind farm (Fan) in each room , should get them removed ?

    • Chris Fraser

      Nah, just switch the active and neutral wires and the fans blow away from you. Mind you, the neighbour’s chickens may stop laying.

  • howardpatr

    “Mad Monk Abbott” morphed into Australia’s PM. What a disaster for the nation.