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Senate Wind Turbine report 2015: A small step back toward the dark ages

A committee stacked by the Abbott Government with wind power opponents has released a majority report that has ignored science and repeated the unsubstantiated claims of wind farm opponents.

The only credible part of the committee's final report is the minority report from the sole Labor Party committee member. (There were no Greens Senators on the committee.)

Written 2015/07/04, modified 2016/08/05
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David Clarke) – ©
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Also relevant: Opposing renewable energy is a crime against humanity

The majority report was greatly opposed to wind power, as intended by the fiercely pro-coal, anti-renewables, anti-climate-change-action Abbott Government. This was not at all surprising, since the committee was stacked with four Senators who had already established themselves as strongly opposed to wind power and being uninterested in the facts: A fifth member, Matthew Canavan (Nationals, Qld), while not perhaps being so outspokenly opposed to wind power as the four above mentioned, was certainly very pro-coal and 'skeptical' of taking serious action against greenhouse emissions.

Only one of the six Committee members (Anne Urquhart, ALP Tasmania) was balanced in her views, and she produced a dissenting report. Presumably Ms Urquhart was included in the committee to give a minimal impression of balance!

There will be other commentaries, written by better writers than me (see links), on this Senate report so there is no point in me going into much detail here. I will confine myself to a few simple observations that give a taste of the quality of the report.
Rottnest Island wind turbine
Rottnest turbine
The turbine that PM Abbott blames for his antipathy

  1. The majority report uncritically accepted evidence from Ms Sarah Laurie. The quality of Ms Laurie's 'evidence' has been shown to be very low on a number of occasions including in a 2014 court case on the proposed Stony Gap Wind Farm. In her judgement the judge stated:
    "Dr Laurie rejects all of the studies, including the EPA studies, which are not consistent with her theories. She admits that evidence showing a causal connection between contemporary wind farms and health effects does not exist ..."
    The senators who wrote the majority report must have known that Ms Laurie had stopped using the 'Dr' honorific (she agreed in early 2014 with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency to stop calling herself doctor). We can only suppose that these senators used 'Dr' in an attempt to give the evidence provided by Ms Laurie more credence.

  2. The majority report seems to use the statement below (page 20, point 2.27) as an excuse to not give proper recognition to peer-reviewed papers in respected journals:
    "... Professor Chapman claims that there has been no case series or even single case studies of so-called wind turbine syndrome published in any reputable medical journal. But Professor Chapman does not define 'reputable medical journal' nor does he explain why the category of journals is limited to medical (as distinct, for example, from scientific or acoustic). The committee cannot therefore challenge this assertion [my emphasis]. However, the committee does note that a decision to publish–or not to publish–an article in a journal is ultimately a business decision of the publisher: it does not necessarily reflect the quality of the article being submitted..."
    I have no doubt that many, or even all, editors of respected science journals would be deeply insulted by the claim that the decision to publish an article "does not necessarily reflect the quality of the article being submitted".

    Professor Chapman was quite right, there have been no papers linking wind turbines directly with adverse health impacts in reputable science journals. The Senators could have easily discovered what constituted a 'reputable' journal, but they apparently chose not to.

  3. On page 22, point 2.30; were the anti-wind senators really unable to understand the importance of the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' effects?
    "Professor Chapman claims that there is not a single example of an accredited acoustics, medical or environmental association which has given any credence to direct harmful effects of wind turbines. The committee notes that the semantic distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' effects is not helpful. [My emphasis] Dr Leventhall and the NHMRC describe stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation as 'indirect' effects, but these ailments nonetheless affect residents' health."
    If wind turbine noise actually made people sick, as breathing polluted air from the burning of coal makes people sick, that would be a 'direct' effect. When people who live near wind turbines become anxious because of foolish and irresponsible people spreading a baseless belief that wind turbines cause illness – and then that anxiety goes on to cause physical illness – that is an 'indirect' effect.

  4. The majority report does not even mention the valuable work done by psychologist Fiona Crichton. Ms Crichton's research showed that people who are under the impression that they will become ill due to infrasound, and are then told that they are being subjected to infrasound, are likely to experience adverse symptoms. (See WindHealth and APA PsycNET)

    The minority report does discuss Ms Crichton's work (page 213 onward).

  5. On page 169, the writers of the majority report were content to repeat a false statement by Professor Ian Plimer:
    "No wind farm could operate without generous taxpayer subsidies and increased electricity charges to consumers and employers. These subsidies are given irrespective of whether the wind farm produces any consumable energy or not and are paid even when a wind farm is shut down due to strong winds."
    Wind farms get paid a bonus for the electricity they generate. If they do not generate any electricity, they get no payments.

    Of course the majority report did not discuss the huge subsidies that go to the competing fossil fuel industry.
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This section edited 2016/08/05


Following the election of July 2nd 2016 Senators Back and Day were re-elected, Leyonhjelm and Madigan were not.

Senator Anne Urquhart, who headed the minority report for the Senate Wind Farm inquiry, was re-elected.

These data from Australian Electoral Commission, 2016/08/05.


The more recent additions are at the top...

Professor Simon Chapman Responds to Salem Wind Hunt, 2015/08/05.

Sydney Morning Herald article by Nicole Hasham, 2015/08/04.

"... a biased political stitch-up by a small group of senators opposed to the cheapest forms of renewable energy."

AMA's (Australian Medical Association's) response to the Senate report, by Adrian Rollins, 2015/08/04;

Junkee; A Public Health Professor Had Great Fun Calling Bullshit On The Senate's Idiotic Wind Farm Inquiry, by Alex McKinnon, 2015/08/04

news.com.au; Professor Simon Chapman delivers withering smack-down to wind farm opponents, by Malcolm Farr, 2015/08/04

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