05 August 2015
by Nicole Hasham
Investigation into wind farm leak evaporates into thin air, along with Senate committee
Senators Bob Day, Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjelm and John Madigan.
The Prime Minister has slammed wind farms and said if the Howard government had its time again it would never have introduced the clean energy policy.
The Senate committee that examined the health effects of wind farms has dissolved without a trace – and so too has an investigation into who leaked its draft findings.
The Clean Energy Council said the leak showed the inquiry was "a biased political stitch-up by a small group of senators opposed to the cheapest forms of renewable energy".
The committee's secretary said last week the source of the leak was being investigated.
Asked about the progress of the investigation on Tuesday, she said "deliberations are private and I am not able to provide any comment".
"With the tabling of its final report, the Select Committee on Wind Turbines has ceased to exist," she said.
A wind farm near Canberra.
The report by the now non-existent committee called on the Abbott government to draw up national rules restricting how wind farms are built and operated, and penalise states that do not accept them.
The Clean Energy Council says the proposed measures, if adopted, would destroy the future of renewable energy in Australia.
The council's senior policy advisor Alicia Webb said on Tuesday the committee's response to the leak was "disappointing".
"This just reinforces a perception that this exercise has been an abuse of power and privilege, and an insult to the Australian Parliament," she said.
"This whole process has ignored science in favour of anecdote, and championed conspiracy theories over credible witnesses and analysis."
On Monday the council officially registered its concern over the leak by writing to Senator Madigan, the committee's chair.
It said the leak interfered with the committee's proceedings and "the publication of the article in The Australian seems clearly designed to place undue pressure on senior government ministers to adopt the recommendations of the report".
It is unclear if the committee looked into the breach. Senate committees do not generally publish their minutes, and it is understood the wind turbine committee did not authorise any public statements on the investigation.
In a statement, Senator Madigan said the deliberations of the committee were confidential, but "in addressing this matter the committee were guided by the standing orders". A spokesman on Friday said the senator was not the source of the leak.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described wind farms as "noisy" and "visually awful" and says they may be harmful to health.
The National Health and Medical Research Council last year concluded there was no reliable or consistent evidence wind farms caused health problems.
The Senate committee report proposed that an independent scientific panel be established with power to block new projects being registered by the government if it believed human health was at risk.
The panel would also help draw up "national wind farm guidelines", which the federal government would introduce and ask state governments to adopt.
If a state government did not accept a new national measure for infrasound and low-frequency noise, the committee recommended that wind projects built in those states should not get renewable energy certificates under the national target, which are used to help subsidise new wind farms.
The committee also wants changes made to the renewable energy target to cut back subsidies for projects.
The recommendations follow the government's moves to prevent the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation from backing wind energy and household solar projects.