Decision to release an interim report
The scheduled reporting date of August 3 allows ample time for the
committee to properly scrutinise the evidence and make considered
It is clear that in releasing this interim report, the majority
committee members have determined to use committee processes to influence
political outcomes with the broader goal of undermining and destabilising
Australia’s wind energy industry.
Clearly, this is an unashamed attempt to manipulate Renewable Energy
Target outcomes with the explicit goal of targeting the wind industry.
Labor Senators will respond to the specific recommendations contained
within the majority report at the scheduled reporting time after all hearings
have completed and there has been enough time to thoroughly scrutinise the
Broadly, however, we note that the management of development
applications rests with state and territory governments under
jurisdictional legislation and/or subordinate codes and guidelines.
Labor does not support overriding these jurisdictional
frameworks by the Commonwealth to override to impose new or
additional codes or guidelines.
Labor supports rigorous assessment and approval processes for all major
developments, but we cannot support singling out the wind energy industry for
additional, onerous requirements that are in no way based on the majority of
expert advice and evidence about the impact of wind developments.
Inadequate terms of reference
Labor Senators would like to note that significant factors have been excluded
from the committee's Terms of Reference, in favour of a number of claims about
the negative impacts of wind energy that are unsubstantiated by the evidence.
This is to the detriment of a full and proper consideration of important and
There is no mention of the environmental benefits of wind energy,
despite the fact that wind power reduces carbon dioxide emissions by millions
of tonnes each year in Australia.
No allowance is given for consideration of the significant
benefits of wind energy to regional economies, where an individual wind farm
can generate hundreds of jobs in construction and inject hundreds of millions
of dollars into the local economy.
No mention is made of the need to consider the comparative
health, planning and environmental impacts of existing fossil-fuel powered
energy sources. Labor believes that any serious consideration of wind energy
must consider the role it might play in Australia’s broader energy mix now and
into the future. This is especially important in light of AGL's recent statement
that 75% of Australia’s existing thermal plant is already beyond its useful
No credible evidence of wind farm health impacts
Labor Senators note that most of the recommendations in the majority
report are predicated on the implicit assumption that wind turbines cause
health impacts. This is deeply concerning given the significant weight of
evidence provided to the committee that there is no credible scientific
evidence to support this proposition.
While the majority report recognises 'the importance of research that
has a rigorous methodology, a level of independence and outcomes of which are
it is perturbing that the same report ignores this very research in favour of
the subjective testimony of individuals.
Labor recognises the importance of relying on high-quality research and
the findings of peak medical and scientific bodies. Labor Senators note the
committee has not been provided with evidence of any national acoustics body,
national medical or scientific organisation or national health regulator in the
world that holds the position that infrasound from wind farms is dangerous to
25 reviews of the potential health impacts of wind farms have been
completed globally in the past decade.
Not one of these reviews found credible evidence of a causal link between wind
turbines and human health.
Health Canada, in conjunction with Statistics Canada, has undertaken a $2.1
million epidemiological study into the potential health impacts of sound from
wind turbines. This comprehensive, large-scale study included over 1200
residences, a peer-reviewed methodology, medical and acoustics expertise,
self-reporting and objective health data including hair cortisol, blood
pressure and heart rates and more than 4000 hours of acoustic data.
This study found no connection between wind farms and self-reported sleep
problems, illnesses, perceived stress or quality of life. It did, however
recognise a link with annoyance at increasing noise levels.
However, it should be noted that some of the residences in the study were
located much closer to wind turbines than would be permitted in Australia.
While the majority report claims that 'people who live in close
proximity to wind turbines [are] complaining of similar physiological and
Labor Senators note that there is actually enormous variance in recorded
claims. Research has found 244 symptoms that individuals have attributed to
These include asthma, arthritis, autism, bee extinction, brain tumours,
bronchitis, cataracts, diabetes, dolphin beaching, epilepsy, haemorrhoids,
leukaemia, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis and parasitic skin infections.
Labor is persuaded by the advice of key academic, medical and scientific
bodies that the quality of research supporting the proposition that wind farms
have health impacts is extremely low and often suffers from a number of issues
including poor research design, small sample size, lack of a control group and
the absence of formal peer-review.
Wind farm complaint distribution
Labor Senators recognise the compelling evidence that there is an uneven
geographic and temporal distribution of complaints about wind farms, both in
Australian and across the world.
Professor Simon Chapman undertook a study
of all wind farm complaints in Australia. This study found that only 131
individuals had complained about Australian wind farms; and that the majority
(64.7 per cent) of wind farms in Australia generated no complaints.
Witnesses have testified to the committee that health impacts of wind
farms are rarely raised in a number of countries. While there are a number of
other countries where concerns have been raised about the potential health
impacts of wind farms, one analysis suggests that these concerns seem, by and
large, to come from English-speaking countries.
This is supported by the evidence of representatives from the world's
largest turbine designer and manufacturer Vestas, who agreed that in their
personal experience the preponderance of complaints and community concern is
found in English-speaking countries.
Vestas representatives also testified that in their workforce of 5500
staff globally who work directly on wind turbines, there have been no health
If there is a legitimate causal link between wind farms and health
issues, it is difficult to see how this wouldn't be reflected in the
distribution of complaints and concerns in Australia and across the globe.
Labor Senators note with concern that recent research at the University
found a correlation between exposure to anti-wind messages and an individual's
perception of the impact of infrasound from wind turbines on their health. In
this study, healthy volunteers, when given information about the expected
physiological effect of infrasound, reported symptoms that aligned with that
information, during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound.
This research supports the findings of Professor Simon Chapman
that 72 per cent of complaints about wind farms in Australia related to just
six wind farms which have been heavily targeted by wind opponent groups.
Despite wind farms being in operation in Australia since the late 1980s,
Professor Chapman also found the vast majority of health complaints occurred
after 2009 when wind opponent groups began to add health concerns to their
On the basis of this research, Labor recognises that misinformation
about health impacts of wind farms could see individuals self-diagnosing wind
turbines as being the cause of legitimate health concerns, and foregoing
necessary medical treatment on this mistaken assumption.
Labor Senators are deeply concerned that by ignoring expert scientific
advice and the findings of decades of scientific research, the majority report
will only serve to unjustifiably increase the anxiety of those living near wind
farms and unnecessarily inflame tensions in regional communities.
Labor is concerned the majority committee members have privileged the
subjective testimony of individuals over the advice of the peak acoustics body
and the findings of decades of research.
It is extremely worrying that the scientific consensus is being
disregarded by individual committee members, many of whom who have publically
voiced their personal opposition to wind farms.
In its Position Statement on Wind Farms, peak industry body, the
Australian Association of Acoustical Consultants (AAAC) states that:
Investigations have found that infrasound levels around wind
farms are no higher than levels measured at other locations where people live,
work and sleep.
Those investigations conclude that infrasound levels adjacent
to wind farms are below the threshold of perception and below currently
accepted limits set for infrasound.
This is echoed in the findings of a South Australian Environmental
Protection Authority study which looked at infrasound at houses in rural and
urban areas, both adjacent to a wind farm and away from turbines, when the wind
farms were operating and also switched off.
The study concluded that
the level of infrasound at houses near the wind turbines
assessed is no greater than that experienced in other urban and rural
environments, and that the contribution of wind turbines to the measured
infrasound levels is insignificant in comparison with the background level of
infrasound in the environment.
The report also noted that the lowest levels of infrasound were recorded
at one of the houses closes to a wind farm, and some of the highest levels of
infrasound were found in the EPAs own urban office building.
On this basis, Labor finds it would be a significant waste of government
resources to establish further bureaucratic infrastructure given that
infrasound from wind turbines has been found to be of less impact than that
generated when walking.
Steven Cooper's Cape Bridgewater study
Labor is surprised that the majority report calls on the work of
acoustician Steven Cooper to support changes to planning arrangements for wind
This suggestion stands in direct contradiction to the advice of Mr
Cooper himself when he said in a joint statement
with wind farm operator Pacific Hydro that:
The study was not a scientific study.
This was not a health study and did not seek or request any
particulars as to health impacts.
The report does not recommend or justify a change in regulations.
It must also be noted that the peak acoustics body, the AAAC, has
submitted that 63 per cent of the data gathered by Mr Cooper did not support
his hypothesis, and noted that participants registered sensations on many
occasions when the turbines were turned off. 
AAAC representatives also agreed with the statement that Mr Cooper
start[ed] with the underlying assumption that wind farms are
the cause of residents' health concerns and work[ed] backwards from there,
ignoring contradictory evidence.
Mr Cooper's work has been heavily criticised for:
small sample size, and lack of a control group and medical
lacking any basis in statistical analysis
lacking a basis for assertions regarding the level of infrasound
noise and the impact of infrasound
systematically failing to take into account findings that were
adverse to the intent of the study
In this light, Labor Senators are persuaded by the AAAC’s assertion that
Mr Cooper’s study 'provides no new credible scientific evidence, and further,
no scientific evidence to support the media reporting positively of [Mr
and we find this work to be a very poor basis on which to consider changes to
Australian wind industry regulation.
Labor Senators will respond in full in August to the Committee’s final
In the meantime, we urge the government not to make rash commitments
or legislative changes based on the poorly informed and unsubstantiated
recommendations of this committee.
Senator Anne Urquhart Senator
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