Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches

Disclaimer

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

ABC Albany, Irene Montefiore (presenter)

Wind Farms


Presenter
Wind farm…is one that has caused a lot of angst, a lot of people have thought that it's a good idea, a lot of people have thought it absolutely isn't - partly to do with the proposed location at Wilson Head. Maybe we can look to the future on this as the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has suggested that a national agreement would allow a bit more discussion among local communities. Senator Campbell joins me now, good morning.

Senator Campbell:
Good morning.

Presenter
Tell me what the idea is, what is your suggestion as far as a national code is concerned?

Senator Campbell:
I've found conflict in this area and I think you've identified what's occurring in Denmark. You've got an interesting case along the coast, comparatively. In Albany where there was very good local community consultation, the Council was involved, they went through a process where really there was very little, I think there might have been only one opponent. But it's been built, it's become a tourist attraction, it's providing very good renewable energy for the Albany portion of the grid. So it's a win-win. What we've got in Denmark is the opposite. You have had a consultation process that the Federal Government supported financially, and as was demonstrated at the meeting that Wilson Tuckey and myself attended late last year in Denmark, there is really strong community opposition to it. And as you said correctly, it's due to its location. Now it strikes me as Federal Environment Minister, I spend a lot of my life dedicated to try and stop climate change, trying to stop greenhouse gas emissions, and it seems very obvious that renewable fuels are going to be an incredibly important part of a low emissions future, trying to replace fossil fuels. So wind power is one of the proven technologies, it can be very cost-effective in positions away from the grid in particular, particularly where it's replacing diesel - so that's one environmental imperative. The other one is to make sure that we don't trample over our local property rights, if people see a lovely area of their coast having the aesthetics destroyed or the social or economic impacts which could occur, then we need to strike that balance. And we have this sort of conflict occurring not just in Denmark but in South Australia, in Victoria and now at Lake George near Canberra. There are really angry disputes occurring. And I think rather than in some cases where local Councils do have control, in South Australia the locals have a say through their local Council, in New South Wales the State Government has taken away that power from the local community as have the Victorian State Labor Government, and this has apparently occurred in Western Australia. So I just think it's incredibly important to get wind power right for the future but also important that local communities know they've got a voice and a say, I think ideally through their local Councils or some other appropriate consultative mechanism.

Presenter
How do you think it would actually assist though if communities are having their say but I think in some cases, and Denmark is certainly one example of that, there's a feeling that at any level the community's concerns or whatever can be over-ridden and discounted effectively?

Senator Campbell:
Well I think that's the problem. I've created a bit of a cliché, I say that these sort of disputes give wind a bad name. You really want communities to embrace renewable energy provision, you want them to embrace wind and solar and all of the sort of technologies we're going to have to move rapidly towards if we're going to solve climate change and stop greenhouse gas emissions. I think it's a location issue. I don't know Denmark well enough, I mean sadly that day I was sort of in between two international climate change meetings and I came back to WA for a few days; but I took the opportunity at Wilson Tuckey's invitation to go down there and meet with the locals. I would have liked to have spent more time going around and looking at the location, it's a stunning part of the country, a stunning part of the world. But it can't be beyond the wit and the wisdom of the community to find a site that won't cause the sort of social and economic impact that this site at Wilson's Head would create.

Presenter
It's interesting isn't it when we discuss wind power because it does seem to be something that very rapidly divides communities, that it seems to fall into the category of the people who think it looks okay - the wind turbines - and the people who really dislike it. How is consultation going to iron out those disagreements?

Senator Campbell:
Well it's more a matter of finding a site. You've got to strike two balances when you're siting a wind farm; one is you've got to find the area where you've got the best and most reliable wind, and you also want to make it where it's got the lowest impact on the nearby residents. So it's like siting phone towers, it's a very similar circumstance really, I mean everyone likes reliable mobile phone coverage, we all hate having phone calls drop out in the middle of a phone conversation, yet no-one wants a phone tower near their house. Very similar to wind energy. I don't think anyone in Denmark is opposed to renewable energy, I listened for quite some time when I chatted to people afterwards, I think there are very few people in this world who don't believe that climate change is a very serious risk to Australia and the world, that we have to do something about it and wind is part of the answer. The really is that in a place like Albany, you've got one of Australia's biggest wind farms operating very successfully with community support. We've put around $3 billion worth of wind farms into Australia with Commonwealth support over the past eight or nine years, we've rapidly increased the amount of wind energy in Australia and generally speaking that's done with the support of local communities. We see a few examples where that support is not there and I think we have to work through it in a sensible way. My plea to the states is let's look at a national code. It doesn't have to be Canberra telling you how to do it; it's really just some principles that guide the process and really try to make wind the friendly solution for the future, not one that divides communities, one that sees them unite behind the need for a cleaner, greener future.

Presenter
(Time check, call sign and reintroduce Minister)

Minister, what sort of response has there been so far to your proposal that some sort of national code or national agreement is drawn up?

Senator Campbell:
To be polite, it's probably been a bit mixed. Our local Minister here basically said she didn't need my help, I think, to be polite. I might say that in South Australia, John Hill, the State Environment Minister there has said that they do have local Council control and he's supportive of a national approach that embraces that; so in South Australia you've got really what I think is the most sensible way. In New South Wales, Frank Sartor, the Minister over there, has really directly supported my sort of view; he's got a very big division in a community just near Canberra and he's really talking the same language that I am, which is we've got to try and find a balance between the renewable energy future we all know we need and community consultation. So I've asked that Frank and I help work together on this. It's a mixed response; I think everyone's trying to find the right balance and I think a national code could be of assistance because if the States want to go it alone well that's their right. I have deeply strong respect for States' rights, I have planning controls, and I have a lot of other controls, I just think sometimes for the benefit of the wind industry and a clean renewable future, having a sensible set of principles right across Australia can sometimes be a good thing.

Presenter
Minister, one of the things that I think happens with something like this debate about the proposed wind farm is that different people will point to different things to support their argument. So we talk about location being all important and of course the people who are keen to get on with the job and put the wind farm up and get it through then we'll say 'yes' but if you put it somewhere else you are not going to get the impact, you are not going to get the maximum benefit from it. Others will say, who don't like the idea of the wind farm on a local beauty spot, will say 'no, no just move it somewhere a little less obtrusive'. Why is there not uniform and consistent information available to allow people to allow people to make well-based judgements?

Senator Campbell:
That's the question that we asked ourselves 18 months ago and it's an incredibly good question. So we've just, in fact I signed off last night, I was sitting on a plane coming home from Canberra and I signed off a contract for the national electricity market organisation. I think we are giving them close to $20 million to do a national wind forecasting programme which will really guide industry as to where the best places are for placing wind farms. Not just the strength of the wind and the reliability of the wind but also where they best interact with the grid. There is not a lot of use pouring more energy into a grid that doesn't need it, if you get what I am saying. We're actually seeking to solve that problem; the problem occurs all around the world and we've looked around the world and there is no real answer to the question so we're spending close to $20 million with very high level people to try and solve that very question: what is the best and most efficient place to locate wind turbines around Australia.

Presenter
Where compromise options can be suggested, that perhaps will be less productive but more acceptable to the community, where is the line that the Federal Government draws in terms of supporting that sort of thing? At what point are you going to say there are better places, it's not really viable, we're not going to go with that one. How much support are you prepared to give to those second best options, or those compromise options?

Senator Campbell:
We try not to get in the job of picking where a particular turbine is going to be best located. We do pretty much leave it to the market; the wind companies that build these things look at all those sort of factors. What I am saying is let's have a code to guide the social-economic impact side of it, the community consultation side of it, which by and large is very good. I've got to say the wind and energy industry in Australia as I've said has expanded by about $3 billion in the last three years with the support of the Australian Government, multi hundred of millions of dollars support. By and large we get it right. What I am saying is well at let's take those examples where we have got it right and try and apply it to other places on a national existence basis.

Presenter
Now in a situation such as Western Australia where you say the State Minister has politely declined your offer of assistance, where to from here? What can you do? Is it a case of trying to win this government over?

Senator Campbell:
Look I mean, we do cooperate very close with the WA government. We've put around $100 million into wind turbines, mostly in remote areas to a think called the Remote Renewable Power Generation programme where we cooperate very closely with power and we do have turbines right around the coast which have been jointly sponsored. Again, you generally only hear about the friction between the two governments; ninety-eight per cent of the time we have worked very closely and successfully on this. What I will do in this case, because the Federal Government is intending on paying for most of it, is that I will be talking to Warren Truss, who's the Minister who is responsible for the Regional Partnership programmes that's funding this to the tune of some hundreds of thousands of dollars, and say look before we put anymore Commonwealth money in Denmark let's make sure get community agreement. I think it is reasonable and I am confident that will be. I am confident we will find a compromise down there.

Presenter
Well, I am sure everyone is hoping so. Thanks very much for talking to us this morning, Senator Ian Campbell.

Senator Campbell:
My pleasure entirely.

Presenter
Senator Ian Campbell is the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Federal Government.

© Commonwealth of Australia