Treasurer Joe Hockey thinks they’re “utterly offensive”, the PM’s principal business advisor, Maurice Newman, calls them “a crime against the people” and now Tony Abbott has come out swinging against wind farms, labelling them “visually awful” and noisy, adding that he’d like to see the number of new wind farms reduced.
Speaking to Alan Jones on radio station 2GB, the prime minister said cuts to the renewable energy target would slow the growth of the sector.
“What we did recently in the Senate was reduce, Alan, reduce, capital R-E-D-U-C-E the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” Abbott said.
“Now I would frankly have liked to have reduced the number a lot more.”
The prime minister said he was thwarted by the senate curbing the sector further and blamed the Howard government’s clean energy policy for the rise in wind farms, saying knowing what we know now, I don’t think we would have gone down this path in this way.
“But we got the best deal we could out of the senate and if we hadn’t had a deal Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things,” he said.
The prime minister’s comments are in stark contrast to his “open for business” mantra, with the industry saying it had around $18 billion worth of direct investment on the drawing board, with the potential to create more than 10,400 direct jobs, but wind energy investment, which already tops $4 billion, has been uncertain as the future of the renewable energy target is debated. The industry was planning for a sixfold increase in the number of homes it could power, from just over 1 million now to six million by the end of the decade.
But an Australian Bureau of Statistics report released in April showed the renewable energy sector has lost 2,300 jobs since the industry peaked in 2012, shedding 15% of its workforce between 2013 and 2014.
Abbott also passed judgement on the visual aesthetics of wind farms, saying “there’s no doubt, not only are they visually awful, they make a lot of noise”.
He also raised “the potential health impact of these things”.
In January 2013 the government ordered a review by the National Health and Medical Research Council into the health effects of wind farms and “wind turbine syndrome”. The review looked at 30 years of studies, including two earlier NHMRC reviews and was released in February, concluding that “there is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health”.
But it called for further research and up to $500,000 has been allocated to study low-frequency noise.
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