PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS Renewable Energy
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (20:28): It is important for Australia to establish a sustainable, healthy and safe energy future, but we must ensure we do it without putting environmental measures before people and livelihoods. Support for wind power generation has been driven by a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a diversification of energy sources.
A study by University of Edinburgh economics professor Gordon Hughes for the Global Warming Policy Foundation warns that using wind turbines to cut emissions costs 10 times the price of a gas fired power station. Professor Hughes concluded that wind power is an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of reducing carbon emissions compared with the option of investing in efficient and flexible combined cycle gas plants.
Reg Brownell, of Australian Landscape Guardians in Victoria, a body committed to achieving better outcomes for natural and cultural landscape through the planning process, has stated that electricity from wind is four times as expensive as coal. He says that the cost of carbon saved is $500 a tonne compared with $15 a tonne by switching from coal to gas. Why then are those who portray themselves as being for the environment so eager to push the wind energy agenda?
Is it because these massive structures look like something is being done? Is it because they will not be erected in their own electorates? The green voters of Melbourne will not be seeing a wind turbine erected in the central city anytime soon, but they are more than happy to tell those in the country that wind turbines should be placed on their properties. I say, 'Shame on them.'
The placement of wind turbines on properties has an impact not only on a specific property, but also on surrounding properties and those people who live on them. It drives those properties' values down and if those living on them wish to move it is almost impossible to sell because no-one wishes to live on a property next to a wind farm. I am sure the member for La Trobe would not want that.
There are also serious concerns from people about the adverse health effects of wind turbine operation and these cases are starting to attract attention from medical professionals. A peer-reviewed study from Danish University researchers into wind turbine noise has found that newer, larger turbines are emitting lower frequency noise than older turbines. It is this low-frequency noise which has been the basis of many claims of adverse health effects for rural residents. Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation, Max Rheece, said this study has confirmed his anecdotal accounts of the effects of hundreds of 150-metre-tall wind turbines on rural communities and the health of residents. A number of Australian medical professionals including Ballarat's sleep physician, Dr Wayne Spring, and Dr Andja Mitric-Andjic, a rural general practitioner practising in Daylesford, have publicly highlighted their concerns about the health problems experienced by patients who live in the vicinity of wind turbine developments. They join Dr David Iser, the first Australian clinician to voice his concerns about wind turbines in 2004 based on a small study he conducted on patients living near the Toora wind development in South Gippsland, Victoria.
There have also been concerns raised about the increased fire risk wind turbines present through an inability to extinguish wind turbine fires. This is an unwelcome burden to many rural communities whose firefighters are nearly always solely volunteers.
It is important that strict planning restrictions are put in place regarding wind farms to ensure that they have a very minimal impact on people who will have to live near them, especially as studies prove that wind power is not the miracle answer to greenhouse gas emissions which it has been touted to be. I just wonder whether this government, because it is so beholden to the Greens, is pushing this agenda because it has been cobbled together by the Greens and that is what keeps them in power. The member for Hughes has highlighted how hopelessly inefficient and expensive wind turbines are and, as he said, when the wind does not blow the power does not flow.
There is a better way. The National Party room heard only tonight from the Buckwaroon Catchment Landcare Group which has got a wonderful Cobar regeneration model involving property vegetation plans. They get the litter from the ground and put it into a heat furnace and convert it into energy, and that is providing better grassland and energy prospects for the mining operations that they have near Cobar. There is a better way and it is certainly not wind turbines. (Time expired)