Callum Davidson and deputy editor Sandi Keane report from Melbourne and Canberra on a tale of two cities and three rallies — or rather two and a sorry fizzer.
THE GLOVES CAME OFF today in Melbourne in the phony war waged against wind farms whilst in Canberra, the pro-renewables rally stole the show from the shadowy anti-wind pressure group, Stop These Things.
Morten Albaek, Senior Vice-President, Vestas Wind Systems, chose Australia, the hotbed of anti-wind activity, to launch its fight against the campaign by vested interests and climate skeptics:
“The wind industry is being attacked by media-savvy and politically influential adversaries who often display a brazen disregard for factual information. The “Act on Facts” campaign is our way of fighting back.”
Speaking at the University of Melbourne today, Albaek said the industry has been too conservative:
“Today it's gloves off. We’re stepping up our game to fight back but with one big difference — it will be fact-based."
An impressive line-up of speakers including the master debunker of the mythical “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, Professor Simon Chapman, attracted a large crowd of enthusiastic renewables supporters. Chapman’s reading of the public mood that the community is no longer buying the fear campaign was certainly played out in Canberra, as Callum Davidson's photos show.
In the capital, a lackluster turnout of barely one hundred protesters emerged from the heavy morning fog and filed onto the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. They came from Crookwell, Mudgee, Yass and a few stalwarts from Western Australia and far North Queensland. Their slogans carried the same gripe: no more windfarms.
Headlining this event was the staunchly anti-windfarm and vocal climate change skeptic, Alan Jones. The popular shockjock announced his unwavering support for their cause:
"I say the same thing to everyone, if you want windfarms why not put them on Macquarie Street, or on ANZAC Parade! That's where the people live and use electricity."
Enormous cheers from the crowd.
Other speakers at the event included a few rogue MPs – Liberal Senator Chris Back and retiring National Senator, Ron Boswell, DLP Senator John Madigan – as well as local Indigeneous elder, Shane Mortimer, and Alan Moran of Australia’s climate skeptic factory, the Institute of Public Affairs. The much-touted Nick Xenophon was nowhere to be seen having made his non-appearance decision quite clear yesterday on his Facebook. Seems Independent Australia was one of the few in the media who bothered to check. Organisers of the antis, Stop These Things, didn't and still trumpeted his attendance on its website. That's the problem when you're so secretive. No-one knows how to contact you. Senator Xenophon's media adviser, Sharon Smith, certainly didn't know who Stop These Things were, who funded them or where they were based when she spoke to Independent Australia earlier in the week.
Opposition to wind turbines ranged from concerns for birdlife to the health side effects (now debunked by 19 reviews) and economics. Interestingly, none of the attendees would go on the record, deferring to their official spokesperson for comment.
Just across Lake Burley Griffin a very different rally was taking place.
A counter rally organized by GetUp and Friends of the Earth calling for more renewables attracted some 500 people packed into Garema Place.
The atmosphere was palpably different. Live music, a sausage sizzle, a carnival.
Charlie Prell, a pro-windfarm farmer from Crookwell who attended both rallies, was open about his opposition to his counterparts outside Parliament.
"I think most of them would be climate change skeptics …. and the fear campaign has frightened a lot of them."
Not much frightens Charlie who was threatened by the proposed chair of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council. According to the Guardian, former ABC Chair and prominent climate skeptic, Maurice Newman, has threatened to sue his neighbour for "substantial damages" if his health and property is harmed by any wind turbines built on Prell’s property. Stockyard Hill Community Guardians, who helped organized the antis’ rally, have sent similar threatening letters (see last para in extract below):
Speakers Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, Independent MP Tony Windsor and Labor MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Yvette D'Ath, stressed the importance of the renewable energy target and the role of windfarms in making that happen.
The crowd was animated and vocal.
Tony Windsor received the largest cheer of the rally when he said:
"The best thing about being here is that Alan Jones isn't."
Yesterday, the Climate Commission, released its latest The Critical Decade report advising that most of the world’s coal reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to meet the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees. In an interview with AAP, one of the authors, Professor Will Steffen, said the risks of maintaining a business-as-usual approach are just too high.
"If we choose to take the risk we may be condemning our children and grandchildren to a world they can't live in."
Editor's note: (20/6/13) Perhaps predictably, anti-wind protestors complained about this article. Read their complaint and Sandi Keane's erudite reply here as a PDF.
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