Senator Leyonhjelm and helpers

I was moved to write this page on reading a rant by Helen Dale, who was at the time Senior Advisor to Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW, David Leyonhjelm.

The reputable Australia Institute provides the facts on Wind Enegy, Climate and Health
Senator Leyonhjelm obviously has a grudge against wind power, but so far as I can see, has given no evidence in support of his disapproval. We need wind (and other renewable) power so that we can stop burning the fossil fuels that are the main cause of climate change, ocean acidification, ocean warming and the air pollution that kills millions of people world-wide each year. If wind turbines harmed people I would not have had perfectly good nights sleep on the many occasions I have camped right under them.

Wikipedia has an article on Senator Leyonhjelm. It has been suggested that Leyonhjelm's election in 2013 was accidental; his party, the Liberal Democrats, happened to be first on the voting ticket and people may have confused the Liberal Democrats with the Liberal Party.

Written 2015/06/16, last edited 2023/11/11
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©



Mike Seccombe wrote an interesting piece on Leyonhjelm and anti-wind power misinformation, published in The Saturday Paper 27 June 2015.


In an article published in the Advertiser 2015/06/10 Senator Leyonhjelm made a number of erroneous statements about wind farms.

He blamed turbines for causing illness, in so doing either being ignorant of, or ignoring the fact that over 20 reviews of the research literature have found that there is no evidence that wind turbines cause illness.

He went on:

What he did not say

Very high levels of infrasound cause adverse health effects, but modern wind turbines produce very low levels of infrasound, similar to those from many common sources in everyday life, such as from the wind and our own breathing and hearts. I believe that a car travelling at highway speed produces more sounds of all frequencies than does a wind turbine. The Senator seems to have no understanding of the importance of intensity.

Some early wind turbines had the blades on the downwind side of the tower. These produced a sort of 'thump, thump' sound as the blades passed by the wind shadow of the tower. Modern turbines have blades on the upwind side.

"Firstly, it is beyond dispute wind turbines emit infrasound and low frequency noise, much of which is inaudible to most people. It is also well established that inappropriate levels of infrasound, regardless of the source, cause adverse health impacts.

We have known this since 1987, when Neil Kelley identified a direct causal link between impulsive infrasound and low frequency noise, and adverse effects on people. Research by NASA two years later established wind turbines could generate surprisingly high levels of infrasound and low frequency noise."

Wind mills
Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, SA
In an article in The Australian newspaper Senator Leyonhjelm went on at some length about infrasound and wind turbines, but did not mention that the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produced a report titled "Infrasound levels near windfarms and in other environments" in January 2013. A couple of extracts from the Executive Summary are very relevant to the Senator's claims:
  • "Infrasound levels at houses adjacent to wind farms ... are no higher than those at houses located a considerable distance from wind farms."
  • "... there did not appear to be any noticeable contribution from the wind farm to the G-weighted infrasound level ..."
I have written more on noise and wind turbines elsewhere on this site.

In his article in The Australian Senator Leyonhjelm referred to a report by acoustician Steven Cooper. He said that "Cooper demonstrated some people can sense infrasound even though they cannot see or hear the turbines." What he might have mentioned about Cooper's report was that Cooper also wrote that about half the 'sensations' were reported when the wind turbines were not operating at all. (See more on wind turbines and health, and on Steven Cooper's claims elsewhere on this site.)

If Senator Leyonhjelm was interested in the truth...

What the Senator did not mention at all in his article in The Australian was the excellent research that has been done into the psychology of wind turbines and health by people like Doctor Fiona Chichton.

Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman together with Doctor Fiona Crichton have written a book titled Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Communicated Disease that the Senator would do well to consult if he had any interest in the facts.

The senator could also read what prominent clinical psychologist Sarah Edelman has written about symptoms erroneously ascribed to wind turbines.

The Australian Wind Farm Commissioner, running an office set up specifically to look into complaints about wind farms, has only received a total of about 163 complaints from the whole of Australia, on all matters, not just noise, in two and a half years (October 2015 to May 2018); further, some 145 of the complaints have been resolved.

Finally, I live in Mid-North South Australia and have asked at least six doctors at the Crystal Brook medical practice, the closest to the Clements Gap Wind Farm, about whether they have had anyone complain about being made ill by the wind turbines. They reported that no one had.

Emailed questions to Senator Leyonhjelm

Senator Leyonhjelm's opposition to wind power is widely known. In order to find out how he stood on related matters I sent him the following in an email on 2015/06/16:
"Senator Leyonhjelm;

You have made it clear that you are opposed to wind power. I have a few questions that I wonder if you would be kind enough to answer:

Where do you stand on climate change? Does ocean acidification concern you? Do you think we must take them seriously and reduce our CO2 emissions? Does the air pollution from the burning of coal – and the many thousands of deaths and illnesses caused by this pollution – concern you?

Where do you stand on solar PV? Solar thermal?
As of 2016/06/16 I had not received any answers to these questions.


Senate inquiry into wind farms

Waterloo Wind Farm
Evening, Mid North SA
Senator Leyonhjelm put a question to Mr Ken McAlpine of Vestas Australian Wind Technology. I quote from Hansard, 2015/06/09:
"You have changed your turbine design since 2004 when Mr Sloth made those statements, have you?"
Senator Leyonhjelm is attacking the wind industry yet he is unaware of how greatly turbine technology has changed in the past eleven years! This is amazing.

The importance of intensity

In the same issue of Hansard Senator Leyonhjelm questioned Mr McAlpine of Vestas about infrasound. Senator Leyonhjelm seems to have no concept of intensity in regard to infrasound; he seems to believe that because high levels of infrasound are harmful any infrasound must be harmful. Well known acoustician Dr Geoff Leventhall, whose work Sarah Laurie likes to refer to, has said "I am appalled that Laurie asserts that experimental exposure to high levels of infrasound, around 125dB or higher, is relevant to the low levels of infrasound from wind turbines" (about a million times lower).

Very intense sound is harmful, but low levels of sound are harmless; the same applies to infrasound, and as mentioned above in regard to the SA EPA report, wind turbines produce levels of infrasound that are very common in the natural environment.

A lack of compassion

Senator Leyonhjelm accused me on Twitter of lacking compassion.

I ask the Senator:

  • Where is the compassion in spreading a false belief that if you live anywhere near a wind turbine you are likely to become ill? (As mentioned above, the science tells us that wind turbines do not cause illness, but research such as that done by Fiona Crichton and published in Health Psychology shows that expectations can produce symptoms.) People like the Senator actually spread the problem.
  • Where is the compassion in slowing the introduction of renewable energy and delaying the closing of coal-fired power stations that are well proven to cause a great many illnesses?
  • Where is the compassion in condemning future generations to a world that has been greatly damaged by climate change and ocean acidification?
I do feel compassion for those people who have to put up with very real symptoms; not symptoms that are caused by wind turbines, but symptoms caused by an expectation of illness spread by people like Senator Leyonhjelm and Sarah Laurie. This is one of the several reasons that I write pages such as this.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that sound of any frequency from wind turbines is sufficient to cause illnesses, this being so, how could wind turbines cause illness?

I have decided to devote the remainder of my life to trying to get serious action on climate change; does that indicate a lack of compassion?

Helen Dale, Senator Leyonhjelm's senior advisor

Helen Dale's rant, from her Facebook page, 2015/06/14:
"Okay, this is a message for those skeptics friends of mine in Australia who are into Public Health.


Who is this Simon Chapman who Ms Dale calls 'barely numerate'?

The Sydney University Net page about Professor Chapman will tell you that he is Professor of Public Health at Sydney Medical School and has published over 498 articles in peer reviewed journals and 19 books and major reports. His work has been cited over 9,500 times.

Who is Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko?

Helen Dale has also used the names Helen Demidenko and Helen Darville. Mike Seccombe wrote about Helen Dale's rant in a piece published in The Saturday Paper 27 June 2015. It also shows several reasons why Senator Leyonhjelm might not like Simon Chapman.

Wikipedia has an article on Ms Dale/Darville/Demidenko.

You need to pull the likes of Simon Chapman and Nathan Lee into line. First, you need to teach both of them to stop with the ad hominem. Then you need to teach the former statistics and how to read them. Then you need to teach both of them how to argue and clarify their thoughts.

David and I can turn both of them into mince on Twitter – yes Twitter – without much effort. This should not happen. I'm a lawyer with a finance major and David's a vet with an MBA.

Now while it's very nice to win arguments all the time, that's not the same as being right. And I'd rather be right than feel smug about my own argumentative aptitude.

My suspicion is – like many people on the left – they live in a bubble and get neither their arguments nor their evidence tested severely or regularly (the very opposite of this Facebook page, for starters).

I'm relying on you to fix this. And if it isn't fixed, I will take great pleasure in ensuring the individuals in question aren't just minced on Twitter.

Getting minced by a Senate Committee is a lot less fun, I assure you."
And Ms Dale wrote a comment on the same posting a short time later:
"Chapman won some skeptics award a couple of years ago. The man's barely numerate. This bloke has been setting tobacco harm reduction policy and he'd struggle to count his own fingers and toes.

People with pretensions to being Platonic Guardians annoy me. Dumb people with pretensions to being Platonic Guardians annoy me even more."


Senator Leyonhjelm's stance on tobacco: The Drum