Tony Abbott brags about halting the spread of 'visually awful' wind farms

The Prime Minister of Australia proclaimed coal to be 'good for humanity'

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The Independent Online

With a 22,300-mile coastline, offshore winds and almost perpetual sunshine, Australia could be leading the world in replacing carbon-spewing fossil fuels with renewable-energy sources.

That is unlikely to happen, though, under Tony Abbott, who has proclaimed coal to be “good for humanity” – and who revealed that he detests wind farms, calling them noisy and “visually awful”.

To the dismay of the multi-billion-dollar clean-energy sector, and to the mortification of many Australians, Mr Abbott bragged that he had halted the spread of wind farms by slashing the amount of energy to be generated by renewable sources by 2020.

Explaining a compromise which he reached with opposition parties in the Senate last month to cut the target by 20 per cent, he told a right-wing radio host, Alan Jones: “What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce… the number of these things [wind farms] we are going to get in the future.”

He added: “I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more. But we got the best deal we could, and if we hadn’t had a deal, we would have been stuck with even more of these things… I’ve been up close to these wind farms, there’s no doubt that not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise.”

Tony Abbott told a right-wing radio host that he would like to slash green energy even further

The comments were described as “gobsmacking” by the Labor Party, which said they did not augur well for Australia’s participation in the key climate change conference in Paris later this year.

Mr Abbott – who abolished a carbon-pricing scheme on coming to power and has dismissed “the climate change argument” as “absolute crap” – is already out of step with other developed nations, such as France and the US, who want more ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions.

While he now claims to accept the science behind man-made climate change, his government is considered one of the most environmentally hostile in living memory.

It has sanctioned a cull of endangered great white sharks in Western Australia, permitted dredging spoil to be dumped on the Great Barrier Reef and attempted to have ancient Tasmanian forests removed from the World Heritage List.

One of Mr Abbott’s first actions, on being elected in 2013, was to order a businessman and leading climate change sceptic, Dick Warburton, to review a renewable energy target set by a previous government. Mr Warburton recommended the target be radically cut. Amid a public backlash, the government was forced to negotiate a more moderate but still substantial reduction with Labor and crossbenchers.

The once thriving renewable energy sector, meanwhile, has been paralysed. According to the Australian Financial Review, hundreds of jobs – and billions of dollars in investment – have been lost because of the uncertainty.

During the radio interview, Mr Abbott also appeared to give credence to concerns about the health impacts of wind turbines – although the government’s own National Health and Medical Research Council reported in February that there was “no consistent evidence” of adverse effects. “I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things,” he told Jones, an outspoken opponent of wind farms.

The Australian Wind Alliance, a pro-wind energy group, called his comments “extraordinary”. Mr Abbott had “admitted to setting out deliberately to destroy a viable industry in Australia, one that could provide jobs to many Australians, investment to regional communities and new income to farmers”, it said.

Mark Butler, Labor’s environment spokesman, said it was astonishing that the Prime Minister could be “so short-sighted and so out of touch”.