Dr John Hewson at the Climate Institute's "Stop the Dinosaurs" protest. Photo: Graham Tidy
Former federal Liberal Party leader John Hewson has hit out at Joe Hockey for criticising wind farms, saying the Treasurer should drive past a coal-fired power station and have “a bit of a smell”.
“He may not personally like the look of them but it's bigger than him, this issue, it’s bigger than any generation of politicians today,” Dr Hewson said on Sunday.
“I can't imagine Joe hockey driving past a dirty old coal-fired power station and thinking that’s a good look, with the guts spewing out into the air and polluting the atmosphere and not recognising the broader damage they do.
Campaigning for a clean energy alternative
The Climate Institute's 'Stop the Dinosaurs' protest at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Graham Tidy
“I suggest he drives by a couple of those old ones and has a bit of a smell and a bit of a look and come back and say this is pretty good.”
Dr Hewson also took issue with NSW Coalition MPs in areas near the ACT who oppose the Gallagher government’s plan to give 20-year government-backed contracts to developers of wind farms whose projects have been stalled by uncertainty.
“I think where you have obvious locations as there are around here [Canberra] for wind farms to be located and they can make a significant contribution to the power load, I think we should have an objective assessment of what they are and what contribution they can make,” he said.
Dr Hewson was at Parliament House for a “stop the dinosaurs” campaign urging Parliament to save the carbon tax and renewable energy laws.
“But the laws are now under threat. If the dinosaurs of politics and business win, we all lose,” the campaign slogan says.
Two life-sized dinosaur puppets, appearing as props for the launch, managed to scare small children with their growls.
John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said the laws were working and the energy system was becoming cleaner.
“We are launching this stop the dinosaurs campaign as a last-ditch plea to parliamentarians,” he said.
‘‘There are dinosaurs in politics and business who want to hold back progress, who actually want to take us back to when big polluters could pollute for free.”
The Senate has already rejected the carbon tax repeal once. The government will re-introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax on Monday. It will pass the House of Representatives and will be ready for the new Senate on July 1.
Dr Hewson declined to include Prime Minister Tony Abbott as one of the dinosaurs.
He said the repeal was the most important issue ever to go before federal Parliament.
‘‘We can’t afford as a nation to get this wrong,’’ he said.
He called for a Senate inquiry into options to reduce carbon emissions.
“There hasn’t been a mature debate about the science,” he said.
In May Mr Hockey launched an unprompted attack on wind farms near Lake George, just outside the ACT, saying he found them “utterly offensive” and “a blight on the landscape”.
“I drive to Canberra to go to Parliament … and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive,” he said then.
Dr Hewson said he recently visited the Acciona wind farm near Gunning.
“The landowner said not only has it made a significant difference to the viability of his farm but it had made a difference to the broader community,” he said.
“I think that's the sort of sentiment that we've got to have [but] we have the old syndrome in this country, not by my backyard, NIMBY.
“There’s been a lot of money invested in wind over the last 10 years in this country since the renewable energy target was launched.
“I think they are quite ingenious really, and produce relatively cheap power and that's the trend of the future.
“I think the price of electricity generated by wind is now lower than it is from coal-fired power plants.
“[Mr Hockey] mightn’t like the way they look as he drives by them but the fact is they are making a significant contribution to saving the planet.”
Dr Hewson said the science surrounding climate change had become firmer.
“The risk is no longer just a two-degree warming, it’s more like four-degree warming or six-degree warming.
“There is a fair bit of work being done now saying we’re pretty much at the tipping point.”