14 August, 2019-The Australian
Bob Brown and his fellow travellers are learning that ‘grief still treads upon the heels of
pleasure’. Picture: Matthew Newton
While it took almost two weeks for the ABC to finally acknowledge it, former Greens leader Bob Brown is campaigning against the proposed Robbins Island mega-wind farm to be built in northwestern Tasmania. He says it will spoil views and kill birds.
Brown believes the plan is visually a step too far. He says: “Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50km out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from greater distances on land.”
He argues the public has not been properly informed of the private deals, or public impacts, or cost-benefit analyses of what would be one of the world’s biggest wind farm projects. Nothing new here. This is the world that for decades Brown and his global-warming acolytes have mercilessly inflicted on others.
Time will tell whether his campaign to defeat the Robbins Island development is successful. If he fails, those “mariners” and “elevated landlubbers” will face the same desecrated land and seascapes that thousands of rural Australians live with every day.
Those residents mainly live in more densely populated areas than Robbins Island. They too opposed wind farms, only to receive for their troubles lectures from ideologically driven bureaucrats. They were told to accept the developments “for the greater good” and “if we have enough wind, we won’t need coal”. Environmental desecration was simply “collateral damage”.
When some suffered sleep deprivation from audible and inaudible turbine noise, ministers and public servants told them their symptoms were “imagined”. When they turned to the medical profession for help, both the Australian Medical Association and the National Health and Medical Research Council claimed they had found no “consistent evidence” of a connection. Victims argued the research was shoddy and biased.
As a consequence many affected residents remain trapped in unsaleable homes and seek
temporary palliative refuge. Some have abandoned their farms. Still others have taken their lives.
As CD Hanning and Alun Evans wrote in the British Medical Journal in 2012: “The onus of proving safety falls on those introducing new forms of environmental pollution, including noise pollution, not on those exposed to the pollutant. A major principle of public health medicine is prevention.” In Australia, that principle doesn’t apply. Even the World Health Organisation now includes wind turbine noise as a source of potential health impacts.
The Australian’s environment editor, Graham Lloyd, has revealed multiple examples of the wind industry’s environmental double standards. He reports how wind industry consultants have told farmers to illegally drain wetlands “so brolgas would not return to nest”, how the impact on birdlife has been greatly understated and how conniving Greens “are condoning the destruction of wetlands, native vegetation and, native species, just so wind farms can be built”. Compared with their never-ending campaign to save the black-throated finch from the proposed Adani coalmine, this is surely the last word in hypocrisy.
Clive Hambler, a respected British ecologist, sees big wind’s behaviour as a global issue. He says the wind industry is “devastating populations of rare birds and bats across the world, driving some to the point of extinction”. He claims “the public is not more aware of this carnage because the wind industry (with the shameful complicity of some ornithological organisations) has gone to great trouble to cover it up — to the extent of burying the corpses of victims”.
Hambler should have added complicit governments to his list. As Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan told parliament in 2013: “The large-scale wind energy industry is being allowed to do what it likes, where it likes, in Australia. Wind energy should be a tale of positive action and change. Instead, the real story is one of regulatory failure, harm to local residents, environmental damage, wrongly issued renewable energy certificates and a discredited RET system.”
It’s true. Big wind has become the ultimate haven for the world’s rent seekers. It has forged close relationships with global warming activists. Its government connections have allowed flawed and conflicted environmental impact statements to pass without challenge. It promises employment and delivers little. For years, non-compliant wind farm operators have pocketed consumer and taxpayer subsidies.
It took the blackout of 850,000 South Australian homes and businesses for the authorities to finally bring proceedings against a number of wind energy producers for allegedly failing to ensure their power plants complied with basic performance requirements.
Universally, the government-wind coalition has a dubious reputation. It has been rocked by scandals, such as the €110 million paid in commissions to Spanish government officials. Similar corruption has been found in France and the US. It has covered up life-threatening turbine accidents, environmental damage and erased damaging health data. Yet, despite its best efforts, this coalition seems to be losing control of the agenda. Last year, growth in worldwide wind capacity stalled.
Prominent among the reasons is the legal action of wildlife and forest conservationists who, like Brown, are fighting new wind farms. They can no longer ignore the impact on
endangered bird species, bats and even insects. Their intervention has coincided with a
growing political backlash as the economic cost, poor reliability and emerging health issues associated with wind are gaining the attention of voters.
Suddenly, previously taboo questions are being heard. For example, are the emissions
released in the building and installation of turbines ever really offset? Given their major
impact on bird mortality and possible links to childhood leukaemia, should the spread of overhead powerlines be limited? And with an estimated 43 million tonnes by 2050 of
unrecyclable blade waste, who will pay the cost of decommissioning?
Brown and his fellow travellers are beginning to learn that “grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure”.