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Jun 14, 2013

Liberal links to anti-wind farm fight multiply

Jeanette Newman, the wife of Tony Abbott's business tsar, is involved in organising a rally against wind farms in NSW.


wind farm

A leaked email has revealed the deep involvement of the wife of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s business tsar, Maurice Newman, and a blue-chip corporate consulting firm in a “Convoy of No Confidence”-aping anti-wind farm rally set down for Parliament House on Tuesday.

The email, obtained by Crikey, was sent by Jeanette Newman last month to Linda Pahl, the wife of Sydney-based Bluegrass Consulting’s Rodd Pahl. The email was headed “THE NIGHTMARE COMES TRUE”, and in it Jeanette Newman, who likens her struggle to that of US whistleblower Erin Brockovich, issued a rousing call to arms:

“It is imperative that as many people as possible attend. A poor attendance will be taken by politicians and the wind industry that we are conceding defeat. Whilst not true, that will be the perception and it will be shamelessly used against us to undermine our credibility.”

Both the Pahls and the Newmans own property in the vicinity of proposed wind farms near the rural NSW squattocracy centres of Crookwell and Collector.

A separate email chain, also obtained by Crikey, shows the Pahls’ involvement in a “Friends of Collector” group set up to fight wind developments near their estate.

Bluegrass Consulting “lobbies governments through targeted, high level contact and grassroots campaigns“. Rodd Pahl was previously managing director of public affairs for the local arm of global firm Burson-Marsteller. That outfit’s storied history includes crisis management for Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster.

Yesterday, The Guardian Australia reported that Maurice Newman, who will head the Coalition’s Business Advisory Council in the event of a Coalition victory on September 14, vowed he would agitate to scrap the bipartisan Renewable Energy Target (RET), which mandates 20% of renewable energy by 2020. Newman is a former chairman of the ABC and the Australian Securities Exchange. He is a climate change sceptic and is a long-time supporter of anti-wind farm campaigns. In April, Newman hosted a meeting of anti-wind farm group the Crookwell District Landscape Guardians, where he warned the Coalition might not bend to his demands.

An anonymous website, Stop These Things.com, registered to a Texan web domain rental operation, has recently cropped up to plug the rally, which will likely be attended by anti-abortion Senator John Madigan, climate change sceptic and soon-to-be-former Senator Ron Boswell, soon-to-be-former Liberal MP Alby Schultz, Liberal Senator Chris Back and Hughes MP Craig Kelly, who told federal Parliament in 2011 that drinking chardonnay was one answer to global warming. Shock jock Alan Jones will serve as master of ceremonies.

The involvement of well-heeled upper crusters in the wind farm debate is widespread. Well-placed sources have confirmed the family of BRW Rich Lister and Flight Centre co-founder Bill James has been involved in a fight over a proposed wind farm on the Bass Strait cheese hub of King Island.

James, alongside fellow founders Graham Turner and Geoff Harris, reaped $620 million from their stake in the listed quasi-monopolist after its stock price soared to over $30 in the eight months to February. According to BRW, James is worth $405 million.

Last month, Crikey revealed that blue-chip Sydney PR firm Wells Haslem — whose directors had previously assisted the Exclusive Brethren, James Hardie, Scientology and Lord Christopher Monckton — had been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the No Tas Wind Farm Group. Last Friday, the ABC reported James, who is not commenting publicly on the issue, had helped fund the expensive advice.


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18 thoughts on “Liberal links to anti-wind farm fight multiply

  1. drmick

    Alan Quixote & the Convoy of Flatulence. Bring it on. Can’t wait to see the “Trouble at Mill” signs.

  2. Microseris

    “… will be shamelessly used against us to undermine our credibility.” Jeanette Newman is doing a pretty good job of that herself.

    How is it the landscape guardians revile wind where there is no evidence of harm, but have no problem with coal where the negative health effects are well documented or the farmers based lock the gate movement against coal seam gas?

    Because they are an astroturf organisation with close links to the IPA (funded by fossil fuel) & Liberal party.

  3. heavylambs

    Uber-NIMBYS graze in Range-Rovers all over the Crookwell region….now they are stampeding.

  4. Damien McBain

    “He is a climate change sceptic…”. Burn the heretic at the stake with all the others who don’t have the faith!

  5. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Tell them all to come and live in Victoria. Our Govt has made sure that no wind farms are built down here. We just love our coal burning power stations so much that we remove any alternative for clean renewable energy. Welcome Luddites!

  6. Margaret Ludowyk

    Greedy self interest at work again for the Libs

  7. z craig

    The ability to ‘shine a light’ on the background workings and affiliations of groups which attack reasonably evidence based views, that the earth is going through risky (somewhat dangerous) global warming, is one of the key tools in addressing risky responses from people with vested interests in stopping climate change mitigation. Repeatedly exposing people who just wish to stop their investments from eroding when their polluting assets become stranded assets (or are penalised) is smart, allows views to be tested, and stops what looks like a typical ‘tobacco industry’ type response to climate change.

  8. Liamj

    How fitting that we mutely follow the Tory twits to our doom. Gallipoli was no accident, its our destiny.

  9. deano hall

    ApocLibs Now : ” We love the smell of oil-coal in the morning!” Would love to see Tony in a triathalon around a powerstation.He would have to buy a BLACK swim-cap & wear an AS2014 standards face mask!

  10. robert biggs

    As a long long term active “greenie” I am seriously fucked as to how ANYBODY can think that industrialising the landscape equates to the values of being an environmentalist. New ceramics, non corrosive, off the coast where the wind blows unimpeded – please

  11. Warren Joffe

    I’ve signed an anti-wind farm petition which friends were organising because my friends, and other friends of theirs, were seeking to protect a historic property and landscape of great beauty from greedy neighbours who had decided to top up the funds they would use to retire to Port Douglas by selling out to a windfarm business which was entirely dependent on direct and indirect government (i.e taxpayer and fellow citizens’) subsidies for commercial viability.

    It helped me to decide that, as Craig Emerson honestly said on Q & A a couple of years back, wind energy in Australia is a very expensive and inefficient way of helping to keep down CO2 emissions – and likely to produce no net benefit of any kind for Australia in terms of climate impact.

    I have nonetheless wasted quite a sizable investment in a company which was guaranteeing to use only “clean energy” for the considerable part of its business which did involve using electricity. It went broke.

  12. Interrobanging On


    You have confused the visual impact with the efficacy.

    Yes, some people don’t like the look of them over their Range Rover grazing lands (priceless!).

    But perhaps another coal mine would be better on the Liverpool Plains? Dorothea Mackeller would be happy, I am sure, for the heritage impact to be shifted there away from your friends.

    To unthinkingly accept the orchestrated campaign of misinformation about wind farms because of the NIMBY visual issue (and the confected infrasound issue) is not justified. Are the Danes so stupid?

    It has been shown that wind displaces coal emissions, although it can be complex; wind doesn’t need the anything like the gas backup that is pretended; ‘expensive’ wind can serve to reduce the price of electricity in the market when the turbines are working well etc.

    You won’t find this in the Murdoch Press, the anti-green, anti-science or anti-wind groups and “think” tanks, or in the LNP after September when it will “Anti-environment is go”. Just as the states are, eg the attacks on National Parks and the NSW gutting of the whole planning system.

    Nothing is perfect, including wind power. But neither is the 19 century technology of coal fired generation, with its direct and hidden subsidies too.

    Particularly if the emission cost is included – and remember both sides price carbon emissions, including the Coalition. At least until after September, when there is the good chance of another Great Big Carbon Lie from Abbott when he ditches their “Direct Action” plan.

  13. Liamj

    Its great that the COALition can use its under-utilised squatocrat fossils to serve paying foriegn clients (International Power plc. etc).

    @ W.Joffe – endless sniffing of market dogma will usually get you run over by karma.

  14. Warren Joffe

    @Interrobanging On

    Thanks: can you add some links where the detail of the calcuations are shown?

    I can see that California with its windy mountains and much greater population density might make a go of it, especially if the grid extended well beyond CA but can’t see Oz achieving the same network effects. Mind you I would be interested in what can be achieved by simple mechanical form of storage like pumping water upwards. But it is solar where, I understand, the real cost improvements have been made. Still, we shouldn’ underestimate the capacity of scientists to improve any given technology enormously. I admit to being instinctively sceptical about wind farm economics but I am even more so about CCS. Still that isn’t anything like the last word on what might be done with coal, with luck including most of all the vast deposits of brown coal without which Victoria’s economy in a two speed national economy is going to look pretty sick, depending on importing people who need housing and then more people to build the houses ad inf. which doesn’t quite work even with a lower dollar allowing more foreign students to affor what we pretend is an education for some of them (and of course is where we get some of the really bright students).

    I don’t know if anyone has done an economic calculation which tries to bring in the environmental costs of windfarms where they unarguably lower property values in the neighbourhood. Unless we treat ourselves as in disaster mode (and even in WW2 art works were moved and saved on a huge scale) it is prima facie a bad thing to erect structures of any kind which diminish the value of others. (OK I see that, literally, that includes building a new state of the art factory which puts a competing company out of business but that too requires, for completeness, allowing for any loss of value, and maybe social disruption, if one is working out the net value to the economy of the new factory. “Creative destruction” does involve, often, some real destruction of value, however necessary it is to allow for progress).

  15. Liamj

    @ W.Joffe – evidence on property value impacts of windfarms is unclear, its peer-reviewed studies vs. the Torygraph

    I notice that nobody bothers doing same analysis for coal mines & power plants, possibly because only poor people, without secretly funded & highly connected PR agencies, live near them.

  16. Warren Joffe

    Interesting links Liamj. But you misrepresent the contrast with your tendentious reference to the “Torygraph”. The second link shows that expert evidence [one presumes much like the evidence on a valuation appeal in Oz] showed a very substantial impact on the value of a particular property. I suppose you might argue that the other largescale statistical study just might point to their being no overall impact on real estate values (in some parts of the US)and therefore no net loss of economic welfare. But that would require, at least, much more evidence including a detailed description of the kind of real estate being studied. You may well be right that it is different for the poor and the “projects” studied may have all been low end housing developments where the view was of no consequence – indeed it might have even been a relief to see something vertical on the Great Plains.

    So we can fairly conclude that there will be significant adverse impacts on value in some cases – as common sense suggests. Picture a historic, heritage listed, homestead with views down the lawns to a lake with mature trees ringing it and a view of the mountains beyond. Then picture a 25 wind farm structures looming up behind the lake and in an arc of almost 90 degrees around it. Or just consider a charming little cottage with views of the mountins unimpeded until the wind farm structures are erected. Compared with another aimilar one with protected views it would clearly be worth less.

    So the trade association spokesman quoted in the first link clearly overstates the findings of the study favouring the windfarm industry when he says “Now we can also say that wind energy has no impact on property values.”

    I don’t think your comparison with coal mines and power plants is valid. Just consider some of the evidence in the Obeid inquiry and the objections being mounted to coal seam gas projects. Clearly it is only those who have a sizable stake who are likely to gat up a case against something likely to harm their property values. That too is just common sense.

  17. Liamj

    Sorry Warren, i don’t consider your confected example significant to anyone except owners thereof, who i consider sufficiently privelidged already that they might bear the cost, or in extreme cases be partially compensated.

    Energy supply decisions do not occur in a vacuum, less wind = more coal & very real health impacts now and for generations to come. Changing a few views is a relatively trivial cost.

  18. Warren Joffe


    Allow me to break a Crikey blog rule and treat your perfectly intelligible and logical response [beginning “Sorry Warren”] with respect.

    I particularly liked your reference to compensation, even if you said “in extreme cases” and “partially”. It has long been an occasionally actively pursued contention of mine that the provision of the Australian constitution which requires “just terms” when private property is acquired under compulsion should be extended to the states and that economically equivalent action should be compensated for, e.g. when limiting what could have previously been done with the land under planning schemes, or by “injurious affection” not just caused by partial acquisition but also by e.g. building a freeway right on the boundary. “Just terms” obviously can lead to complex reasoning and the difficulty that governments seem to have in giving just terms is, with pseudo-logic but not surprisingly, based in part on the feeling that the “windfalls” as well as the “wipeouts” should be taken into account. The trouble is they are rarely experienced by the same people at the same time. Come to think of it, don’t developers who hold land for many years and contribute, albeit “lobbying”, constructively to the planning process of expanding cities which leads to their land being rezoned for a much more profitable use deserve their “windfall” or a substantial part of it? As long as they pay tax on the gain might be one answer, and possibly sufficient since the introduction of capital gains tax. (Until 1985 a speculator could buy land as a capital asset, arguably not for resale at a profit or as part of a profit making scheme and often get away with paying no tax on the rezoning gain. “I just bought it as a weekend hobby farm”).

    As a matter of interest, just because there is a bit of myth about the subject, the most important legal reason for the defeat of the Chifley government’s bank nationalisation legislation was that it failed to provide just terms of acquisition but gave the last word on compensation to a special body appointed by government.

    The US seems to have only recently got over the hump of compulsory acquisition (“eminent domain”) powers being used for the purpose of handing over some acquired property to private enterprise to develop in some way. But there has never been a problem about that in Australia. So, acquisition of the prime windfarm sites to be sold on to windfarm enterprises on condition that they provide compensation for “injurious affection”, including that to neighbours not acquired, seems fair enough.

    You could argue that the long established precedent of common law nuisance doesn’t extend to the effect of building a grossly ugly tall building next to your beautiful garden (heritage listed or not) but the negative inference from that has to be qualified by reference to the noise from windfarms, contestable as to its effects but real, and by the modification that town and country planning has implicitly introduced to old common law principles. Thus one could hardly complain about windfarms being built on land zoned industrial when one bought one’s property but rezoning from a rural zoning (where even the smelly piggery would have to avoid common law nuisance) would be another thing.

    I don’t suppose you would have liked to see Australia’s banks handed over at the 1949 election to the management of bureaucrats under Artie Fadden then Harold Holt as Treasurers. Their 5 Year Plans mightn’t have been a great improvement on Soviet ones. But what do you think of Neville Wran’s government taking, without compensation, all the mineral rights (most notably coal) from NSW landowners whose freehold titles actually included the mineral rights? I point out that, just as it is hard to argue that Aborigines should receive more than a small percentage of the value of minerals on their land, given that they never valued them or even knew they were there until governments and entrepreneurs employed geologists to locate them, those landowners couldn’t, for the most part, have claimed compensation beyond the value they could have got then and there by auctioning off the exploration and potential mining rights. So I am not asking whether all those farmers (instead of the Obeid family:) !) should have been made rich.


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