Daniel Wild cross from Marnoo on the impact of net zero and transmission lines – 21 August 2023

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22 August 2023
Daniel Wild cross from Marnoo on the impact of net zero and transmission lines – 21 August 2023 - Featured image

As part of the Institute of Public Affairs’ research tour of Victoria’s Central Highlands and Wimmera, Deputy Executive Director Daniel Wild joined Amanda Stoker from Marnoo to highlight the impact proposed transmission lines will have on communities.

These transmission lines are required to connect intermittent renewable energy sources demanded by net zero adherence.

These projects will mean construction disruptions, environmental impacts, farming limitations, and the erosion of property rights and control of who can enter your land for locals, not to mention the billions of dollars in costs to taxpayers, and a less secure energy grid.

Australia relies on our regions to put food on our tables and keep the lights on, and yet they are always the first to be impacted by decisions focused on placating inner-city demands.

To find out more about the IPA’s research visit: https://ipa.org.au/netzero

Below is a transcript of the interview.

Amanda Stoker:

Welcome back. Well, it seems even the energy market operator is casting doubt over the government’s ambitious renewable goals. Perhaps it’s time they go back to the drawing board? But first, to an issue that’s jeopardizing Chris Bowen’s pie in the sky green pipe dreams. As we’ve been reporting on this show now for months, landowners and communities right across the country are banding together to protest against the Bowen plan to carve up prime agricultural land with transmission towers, they’re the size of the harbor bridges pylons and they’re needed to connect new, often foreign owned and Chinese made, wind and solar farms to the grid. Joining me to get the latest is Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, Daniel Wild. Daniel, welcome to the show.

Daniel Wild:

Thanks for having me.

Amanda Stoker:

Pleasure. Now you are in St Arnaud, a farming town to the northwest of Melbourne and it’s a central target for Chris Bowen, Daniel Andrews, and the Australian Energy Market operator for the erection of these massive transmission towers. How have locals reacted to the news that the government plans to commandeer their properties to install these huge transmission towers, and how are people’s emotions going here, are they running high?

Daniel Wild:

Oh, well, Amanda, there’s red-hot anger out here. We’re just outside of St Arnaud at Marnoo on a farm here, and we’ve been meeting with locals just over the last few hours and into the day. And there’s huge concerns here, firstly that there’s been completely inadequate consultation, that they’re being steamrolled by inner city politicians and elites as per usual. We’ve just seen what’s happened in Western Australia where there’s been a very similar situation, and I could tell you that this is ground zero for the next Western Australian cultural heritage laws.

As you know, over in WA, there was no consultation, big community pushback, and this is not just an issue for those in regional Victoria. This is an issue of monumental national significance. Firstly, this is where food is produced, puts food on our table, exported around the world, earning critical revenue that benefits everyone, including those in the inner cities. Secondly, these transmission lines and the solar panels and wind turbines are causing potentially massive destabilisation to the entire national energy grid. If Victoria goes down, it is going to bring the rest of the country down with it. And I could tell you right here in farming communities like where we are, this is absolutely ground zero for the steam rolling of those in regional Australia by the inner city elites and politicians.

Amanda Stoker:

Those national implications are absolutely spot on. Tell us about the easement zones around the Transmission Towers Alliance and what their management means for the ability of locals to deal with weeds and vermin and fire risks.

Daniel Wild:

Look, Amanda, you make a really important point. At a meeting earlier today, we met with the CFA official and the information that he provided us was shocking and concerning. It is clear, based on that information, that people will die as a result of this because they cannot adequately control and manage bushfire risk when you have these massive steel apparatus being set up across the countryside. They have been telling this and feeding this back into our political leaders and those making these decisions and they’re simply not listening and the community is absolutely beside themselves.

I was talking to a mother, has two young kids, before, she was in tears because they were having to uproot their family. They’ve been here for a multi-generation on the farm, on the land. They’re having to leave this place because they don’t have the resources to put up their fight and they’re moving to another area and she was beside herself and she was asking, “Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this to those in the regional parts of this country?” So there are massive costs. I mean, not just the economic and social cost, but the human cost is dramatic and it’s time for the political leaders to pay attention to what is going on out here.

Amanda Stoker:

And all for a few green votes in the inner city. It sounds like local consultation has been pretty lousy. What opportunities do you think will exist in the near future for these individuals and families to be able to have their concerns about their property rights and their future heard by the people who are making these decisions? Are the decisions done and dusted or can those concerns still be taken seriously and for there to be some sort of a U-turn that takes into account what people are concerned about?

Daniel Wild:

Well, I can tell you no one in Canberra or Spring Street seems to care, at least in terms of the government benches. So it’s going to be a community leadership that’s required. We’ve had some important political leadership by those such as Bev McArthur, here at the state level that is leading this in the political arena. She’s doing an absolutely tremendous job, just like Tony Seabrook did in Western Australia. So you need a political standard-bearer to take up the fight on Spring Street and in Canberra.

But I can tell you this is a grassroots movement. There is very much a revolt that’s taking place here in regional Victoria and the western districts, and I can tell you everyone is very united at the problems here, whether it’s the transmission lines, blanketing the countryside with wind and solar panels, which as you know is not only an issue here, but it’s a national security issue as well, because we’re getting rid of our own sovereign energy sources, getting rid of our base load power, and we’re surrendering that to overseas suppliers of these ingredients and these goods, and they can turn it off at the flick of a switch. This makes no sense in any way, shape or form, massive national ramifications. And as I say, this right here is ground zero and it’s where the pushback begins.

Amanda Stoker:

There’s a real question here too. I mean, security of critical infrastructure is vital. If this sort of technology isn’t encompassed by the legislative framework we have in place at present, well, there’s real questions to be asked about why not? I’ve got some figures around a slightly different issue here. In 2022, we’ve got some figures showing the Mount Emerald Wind Farm in far north Queensland, beautiful part of the world, produced literally no power for 63 days of the year. In fact, for almost six months of the year, the wind farm produced 17% of its nameplate capacity or less. Now, this is a wind farm in an elevated position, in a high wind area, but Daniel, with stats like these, how can we possibly build Australia’s energy security on unreliable sources like wind?

Daniel Wild:

Oh, Amanda, you’re spot on. You raise such an important issue. Look, wind and solar can play a role in topping up an energy system, but on a mass scale they are experimental and they are untested. This has not been done in a country like Australia, anywhere around the world, and you cannot simply power an advanced 21st century economy like Australia’s with any meaningful manufacturing or industrial base on intermittent, unreliable wind and solar energy. You’ve got to have your base load power supplies.

It makes no sense to be completely rewiring the nation an 80 or $90 billion cost and all this community hardship. Why can’t we just extend the life of coal stations, make sure we’re getting more gas into the grid, have a look at nuclear? The problem is not our energy system. The problem is shortsighted politicians pursuing these ineffective, enormously costly renewable energy goals without consulting the community, without any idea of how it’s going to be achieved. And without even explaining to the Australian people how we’re going to be able to maintain our lifestyle and to be the country that we are today, when, as you quote those figures, it just can’t happen and our political leaders need to front up to the Australian people about this reality.

Amanda Stoker:

Yeah, it’s just irresponsible and cowardly. Daniel Wild, thank you very much for your time tonight.

This transcript with Daniel Wild talking on Credlin – Sky News from 21 August 2023 has been edited for clarity.

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