Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has described renewable energy development as a “swindle” and wind turbines as “filth,” in an address to a rally against Australia’s shift to renewable energy in Canberra on Tuesday.
The Rally Against Reckless Renewables, reported to have been attended by between 300 and 500 people, had almost as many speakers as listeners, starting with a long list of LNP climate deniers, fossil boosters and nuclear pushers.
As the AAP reported, Coalition politicians speaking at the half-day demonstration – designed to coincide with the first sitting day of federal Parliament in 2024 — included Joyce, Keith Pitt, Matt Canavan, Jacinta Price, David Gillespie, Gerrard Rennick, Michelle Landry, Llew O’Brien, Ross Cadell and Colin Boyce.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was represented by Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts and NSW upper house MP Tania Mihailuk, while the national director of the United Australia Party and self-declared climate sceptic Craig Kelly, along with Victorian UAP Senator Ralph Babet.
According to the protest’s co-ordinator, Sandra Bourke from Hawks Nest, the main purpose of the event is to demand an inquiry into the rollout of renewable energy – including offshore wind – and high-voltage transmission lines. Bourke says its about representation of community concerns, with a bit of pro-nuclear campaigning on the side.
Bourke also told the AAP she was not a climate sceptic and was not backed by a political party or bankrolled by oil or gas lobby groups.
But the politicians at the event appear to have picked up where the Coalition opposition left off back in 2011, when the then leader of the opposition Tony Abbott spoke at an anti carbon tax rally in Canberra against a backdrop of placards calling prime minister Julia Gillard “Bob Brown’s bitch” and demanding “Ditch the witch.”
In the end there was little very talk about the concerns of community, and a whole lot of unhinged anti-wind and solar vitriol and wild conspiracy theories, betraying the desperation of conservative politicians who have already had to concede that King Coal is dead, and are clinging for dear life to hopes that nuclear will bring renewable energy undone.
“These are not farms they are factories, they are industrial dumps; environmental dumps,” shouted Joyce during his address.
“And guess who’s responsible for pulling them down? The farmers! The farmers.”
In another speech, Jacinta Price reportedly said “nothing angers me more than the sight of wind turbines.”
“It’s a swindle,” Joyce continued. “It’s a massive multi-national swindle underpinned by your tax-payer dollars.”
Ever the realist, however, Joyce also appeared to realise that the small crowd in front of him did not quite a movement make.
“You’re the army. This is the start, okay?” he told the crowd. “I want you to go home and get more. I want you to get fired up. I want you to talk to your local members ….and remind them that they might not have a job after the next election.”
Bringing the focus back to the concerns of regional communities, Clean Energy Council chief Kane Thornton says it is crucial for the renewables industry and network companies to work alongside farmers.
“It’s essential that they do – coal plants are reaching the end of their technical life, they’re closing, and renewables are needed to keep the lights on. Nothing else will do that in time,” Thornton said.
“The projects we partner on in regional communities are helping to drought-proof farming communities, provide revenue and income, and provide jobs where they are needed most.”
This has not been the experience for all regional communities, though. A major review led by Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer and commissioned by federal energy minister Chris Bowen last week found that repeated instances of poor community engagement had led to a “material distrust” of renewable energy project developers and, in particular, developers of major new grid transmission projects.
To help remedy this, Dyer and his team have made nine key recommendations, all of which have been accepted “in principle” by the Albanese government.
“Local landholders and regional communities are absolutely crucial to our renewable energy transformation,” said Bowen on Friday.
“Where these projects are done well, communities benefit from more jobs, cheaper energy, better connectivity and more business opportunities. And I am/we are determined to make the transformation a positive experience for communities.
“This report signals to regional and rural communities that we are determined to improve developer engagement to provide better information about an individual’s rights, involve communities earlier and more effectively, and properly handle complaints,” Bowen said.
Clean Energy Finance director Tim Buckley says extensive community consultation, including with landholders, communities and First Nations peoples must be central to planning for the rollout of renewables.
But “so should pivoting policy momentum and public capital to our massive, once in a century opportunity to establish Australia as a renewable energy and zero-emissions trade and investment superpower.
“All we are getting from the fossil fuel luddites in the Coalition and its political allies is a concerted campaign to foment Climate Wars 2.0 by peddling inflammatory disinformation,” Buckley said on Tuesday.
“These shills express zero concern about the rampant coal and gas extraction and burning that continues to destroy environments as it drives increasingly frequent and intense climate catastrophes… and the cost this is inflicting on our country,” Buckley said.
“They have nothing to say about the massive fossil fuel energy price hyperinflation that has smashed consumers buckling under cost of living pressures.
“What’s reckless is the Coalition’s call for a suspension of the renewables rollout and a multi-decade delay while we pivot to nuclear, another deeply cynical and inane demonstration of how utterly out of touch this ship of fools is.
“We can’t afford this nonsense after the devastating lost decade of climate and energy policy failure under the previous federal Coalition government.”