Standing Up In The Windfarm Debate

It was brought to my attention, from a member of the opposition, that apparently people in Hawthorn are not interested in effective action on climate and transitioning to renewable energy.

This has not been my experience. Since becoming the Member for Hawthorn, and well before that too, I have found the issue of climate and the environment to be very much front-of-mind in this electorate.

I also observe that people will act and vote accordingly, on what sort of leadership or lack of leadership is being demonstrated on this issue.

The Andrews Government’s investment of $1.6 billion to establish six Renewable Energy Zones, kickstart offshore wind, and deliver the Victorian Renewable Energy target is a strong indication of the type of leadership being shown by this government and one I am proud to represent.

I spoke in Parliament this past Tuesday, the 24th of November, to commend the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill, which is part of a package of reforms that will improve the regulation of wind farm noise in Victoria and create confidence for communities. The amendment also addresses a particular risk to investor confidence in constructing wind energy facilities in Victoria.

Since being elected in 2014, the Government has been committed to providing reliable, affordable and clean energy for Victorians. With the boom in renewable energy across Victoria and with the construction of new wind and solar farms, this bill is timely. The facts speak for themselves as to the Andrews government’s achievement in renewable energy, and most particularly in meeting the government’s energy target of 25 per cent renewables by 2020.

Given the lamentable disinterest of the previous government, this has been a monumental achievement as we now move to 40 per cent renewable by 2025, 50 per cent by 2030 and net greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

It has been necessary for local councils to expend significant sums in responding to turbine noise complaints. Most councils do not have the in-house skills required to perform the months-long, complex acoustic investigation of a complaint, including background noise testing and analysis of wind speed and direction. Clearly it is contrary to the public interest for the unnecessary duplication of wind turbine compliance claims to divert scarce local government funds from the core works of council—dare I say local roads, rubbish collection, the important public libraries and so on and so forth.

In addressing these issues, the Bill amends the existing legislation to exclude complaints regarding the emissions and noise from wind turbines at wind energy facilities from that legislation’s complaints and nuisance provisions. In the same way that industrial and commercial noise is considered and regulated within environmental protection policy, so too it is felt far more appropriate for the experienced regulators of the EPA to assume oversight of wind turbine noise. I really find it extraordinary that we are still trying to build the EPA as somehow the enemy of peace.

Given the high capital investment costs involved, it is only fair for the wind farm industry and Victoria’s councils to have the operational certainty and clarity which will result from the EPA developing a specialist regulatory framework—a key effect of the Bill. It is anticipated that the investment environment associated with or assisted by the certainty achieved by the bill will boost both investor confidence in the development of Victoria’s future wind energy construction and in the government achieving its renewable energy targets. 

View an excerpt on my contribution to this debate here.