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John Madigan August 20, 2015 AustraliaAustralia

Senator John Madigan's speech to the Australian Senate about the Senate wind turbine inquiry report

It staggers me how afraid some people are of the facts. It staggers me how afraid some people are of real debate and discussion and investigation. As George Orwell said, in a time of near universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

Senator John Madigan's speech
Senator John Madigan's speech to the Australian Senate

The Senate wind farm inquiry report

Mr President, I rise to speak as the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on wind turbines.

It is nearly 30 years since Australia’s first wind farm was built – that was in Esperance in Western Australia.

Currently there are 82 wind farms accredited under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.

They consist of 2,077 wind turbines with total installed capacity of 4,180 MW.

Among renewables, wind is a major player in Australia.

It has benefitted significantly from the financial incentives of the RET.

The committee report represents a substantial body of evidence.

Undoubtedly it is the most complete inquiry into wind farms in Australian history, receiving nearly 500 submissions, 39 pieces of additional information, 82 responses to questions taken on notice, 46 tabled documents and significant additional correspondence from all over the world.

Additionally, the committee held hearings in Canberra on three occasions as well as sitting in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Cairns and Portland.

We heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses.

As a Ballarat-based Senator for Victoria I have long been aware that many people residing near western Victorian wind farms have reported noise nuisance, ill-effects and sleep deprivation due to their proximity to wind farms.

In fact, in June 2010, up to twenty residents from the Waubra and Cape Bridgewater areas alone sent the former Health Minister and current Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews statutory declarations reporting that their health and wellbeing were being seriously compromised by the operation of wind turbines.

This small group hoped the Victorian government would not turn its back on them.

They didn’t have much luck.

They gave their stat decs to the same Premier who has told the wind industry that Victoria is open for business. They then halved the setback distance from 2 km to 1 km to prove the point.

In my view, Mr President, clean energy can be a dirty business.

The unimaginable injustice of what I have seen - decent rural people done over by big business in the name of saving the planet - is what inspires me to keep asking one question.

Why is the wind industry exempt from appropriate regulatory practices that apply to any other industries?

In my home state of Victoria, for example, the EPA plays no role in the assessment of wind farm noise.

These matters are left to paid consultants – guns for hire really – who write the report the wind farm operator needs to appear compliant.

The wind industry is in fact regulating itself in Victoria and elsewhere, riding roughshod over country people.

This, Mr President, is what drives me to keep shining light in dark corners.

So it staggers and it disappoints me that those who profess to stand-up for people, for the rights of communities and the wellbeing of this country waged throughout the committee’s hearings a campaign of denigration, misinformation and lies.

Senator Urqhart from the ALP was extended every courtesy during the committee’s operation. We bent over backwards to accommodate her requests. She sat through the same testimony as we all did.

Yet her speech on this matter – and the ALP’s dissenting report – bears all the marks of Orwellian propaganda and group think.

I have to ask myself were they referring to the same inquiry that I had chaired?

Likewise, various green lobby groups attended committee hearings and using digital media and press releases misrepresented and lied about hearings and evidence.

And of course the Greens political group refused to be part of the committee. Instead they took cheap potshots from the sidelines, blaming victims, vilifying witnesses and sneering.

It staggers me how afraid some people are of the facts.

It staggers me how afraid some people are of real debate and discussion and investigation.

As George Orwell said, in a time of near universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

So Mr President I am particularly proud of the work of the Senate committee in wind farms.

Our 15 recommendations provide a roadmap for the way forward. As everyone agrees, Australia has a clean energy future. I support that.

But the clean energy imperative – with its idealogues and carpetbaggers – must be tempered by respect for people and their lives.

Again, I thank Senator Leyonhjelm in calling for this inquiry. I thank Senator Day for is excellent support as deputy chair.

I thank my other fellow committee members Senators Back and Canavan for the positive input.

I thank Senator Xenophon for his valuable input as a participating member as well as Senator Marshall.

The committee secretariat did an extraordinary and unenviable job – Jeanette Radcliffe, Richard Grant, Carol Stewart and Cate Gauthier.

The committee tabled its final report on 3 August, 2015.

Already, the body of evidence developed through the Inquiry has been heralded internationally as the most significant ever accumulated on wind turbine impacts.

I would encourage everyone to take the time to read the Wind Turbine Inquiry report and its recommendations.

I strongly encourage reading the submissions and transcripts of evidence that were obtained at the hearings.

These are the stories of the people who are dealing with wind turbines at ground zero, not from an ivory tower in the middle of Sydney.

You will read testimony of sleep disturbances, compromised health and reduced amenity.

This is all-too-often the reality for rural Australians who reside beside industrial wind energy facilities, whether they host turbines or not.

John Madigan

Senate Hansard fragment