When Glenn Lazarus, the former rugby league forward known as the “Brick with Eyes,” was voted into Australia’s Senate on the Clive Palmer ticket in 2013, no one really knew what to expect. Palmer certainly thought he had an obedient spear carrier to do his work in the Senate.
Turns out he was wrong. Lazarus – now an independent – has since emerged as one of the most eloquent advocates of critical policies in the Senate. This is especially the case in the energy and climate change spheres.
In the past few weeks, many of his fellow independent cross-benchers have been hyperventilating about wind turbines and accusing anyone who supported them – and believed in climate change – of being deluded, among other things.
“You are worse than deluded. You are dangerously deluded … and you should be locked up, for helping enemies destroy our nation – if you think that wind energy will solve problems,” Senator Jacqui Lambie said to the applause of the Coalition government Senators.
A similar line has come from the likes of Bob Day, John Madigan and David Leyonhjelm, and Tony Abbott has pandered to them all by promising new measures, controls and restrictions on wind farms. Abbott would have gone further, and killed the target altogether, but for the resistance of a few Senators like Lazarus, who are providing a rare voice of reason.
In a speech to the Senate on Tuesday night, just before the cut to the renewable energy target – from 41,000GWh to to 33,000GWh – became law, Lazarus railed against the move to wind back renewables as the world surged in the opposite direction, and the move to query wind energy’s health impacts while no action was taken on the obvious impacts of coal seam gas and coal.
“I do not think any of us need to be Einstein to work out the absolute stupidity in all of this. I am an old forward from way back, and even I get it,” he told the Senate.
The speech contains the sort of advocacy and well-balanced reasoning that we should expect of our major parties – but we don’t.
“The people of Australia want our country to move towards cleaner, greener energy. Everyone knows that dirty coal is bad. Everyone knows renewable energy is not only good for the planet but also good business sense – full stop,” Lazarus said.
“I would also like to put on record that I am not party to the other dirty deal done between the Abbott government and the cross-bench which reduces support for the wind industry, puts in place additional layers of compliance and installs a national wind farm commissioner.”
He earlier said:
“I make no apologies for being one of the few senators in this place to stand up for the future of this country. The rest of the world is moving towards renewable energy and so should we.”
“Our target of 41,000 gigawatts is not a stretched target. It is actually a very feasible target which our country could have easily reached had our government rolled up its sleeves and put in place support and the necessary mechanisms to reach it.
“Anything is possible in this world if you put your mind to it. But, as we all know, the Abbott government decided to ignore the realities of climate change and instead opted to demonise the renewable energy sector. This, combined with the Abbott government’s decision not to publicly support the RET, resulted in a sharp decline in investment in the renewable energy sector. So here we are today facing the likelihood of our country becoming the first country in the world to reduce a renewable energy target.”
And later, he noted:
“Why, when wind is considered the most efficient source of renewable energy, would the Abbott government want to stall this important source of renewable energy? It is simple: because wind is cutting into the energy sector, currently dominated by coal. I think we all understand this. In short, political donations are impacting on decision making and policy development in this country.
“I urge all Australians not to tolerate it. Why would the Abbott government want to put in place a wind commissioner when Australia desperately needs a commissioner for CSG mining and a resources ombudsman to provide people currently affected by the resources sector with an advocate and source of independent government support, guidance and advice?
“If we turn to Europe, much of Europe is powered by the wind. If Europe were to take the same approach as Australia, Europe would just close down. In Europe, the hills are alive with the sound of music, but not turbine noise because there is none. Our Prime Minister is prepared to kill off the wind industry in Australia because of apparent audible noise and set up a national wind farm commissioner.
“Yet, across Australia, people living in rural and regional areas are screaming out for help because their lives are being destroyed by CSG mining, and the government is doing nothing. CSG mining depletes the earth of underground water. Farmers and land holders across Australia are losing their water. What water is left is being contaminated. Their land is being poisoned by the highly toxic chemicals being used in the intrusive coal seam gas extraction process. Their animals are dying. Their land is being devalued by the hour. Their farming businesses are being annihilated.”
The full speech can be found here.