Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

A history of dishonesty – Waubra Foundation, Landscape Guardians, and the Baillieu government.

The question we, the voters, need to ask is:  ‘how did such a sorry lot with such a transparent and dishonest agenda succeed in bringing the wind industry to its knees thus depriving the public of a chance to reduce our carbon emissions?’

The answer is that no government could have been so easily duped unless it was complicit.

It is clear that the scuttling of the wind industry in Victoria was a deliberate political ploy to appease the coal industry, with the Guardians’ scare campaign simply serving as window dressing to dupe the public into thinking it was all in our interest.

This is the third part of Independent Australia environment editor Sandi Keane’s trilogy on the role of deception in the public debate on global warming. The first part, Deception is our Product, looked at the role of clever PR practitioners hired by the mining oligarchs to trick the unsuspecting into sacrificing their interests for those of their clients. The second part was the handy guide: The Practical Guide to Trickery & Fakery in the Digital Age. This thirdinstalment is the actual case study of Sandi’s investigation of the Landscape Guardians and the Waubra Foundation.

CASE STUDY: The Landscape Guardians and the Waubra Foundation, Independent Australia, 6 March 12,  It began early last year, when a mate who likes to argue the toss with me on enviro-issues tipped me off about the anti-wind group, the Landscape Guardians.

The first hint that these people were not the self-appointed protectors of the landscape they claimed to be was the name. No dinky di greenie group would knowingly jump into bed with the notorious UK Country Guardians, with its links to both climate skeptics and the nuclear industry. The pressure group was set up by Sir Bernard Ingham, who was a former press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, consultant to the nuclear industry and an acknowledged “black belt” in the art of spin.

The Guardians’ chief climate skeptic is the discredited, former environmentalist, David Bellamy, who many will remember helped temporarily scuttle the Bald Hills Wind Farm in 2004.

Sir Bernard and his Supporters of Nuclear Energy claimed in 2004 to have killed off 80 per cent of applications, thanks to Ingham’s political influence. But the group’s credibility took a hit later that year when its scare-tactics about the Whinash Wind Farm were ruled by the Advertising Standards Authority as exaggerated…..

 

It’s no secret the wind industry in Australia has powerful political and corporate enemies. That was evidenced in September 2004 when the leaked memo from the Lower Emissions Technology Advisory Group’s (LETAG) – comprising Prime Minister Howard’s handpicked group of 12 high level fossil fuel users and generators – signalled the Howard government’s intention to follow LETAG’s advice and kill off the wind industry.

Like Ingham, Peter Mitchell – who set up the antipodean version of the Guardians – had vested interests, as well as a lifelong career in the mining industry. Fellow Guardian, Paul Miskelly, worked for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) for 32 years. The chief climate skeptic down under was Randall Bell, President of the Victorian Landscape Guardians, well known for his claim that man-made climate change was headed for the “Y2K dustbin”.

I mentally ticked several boxes.

Mitchell popped up as spokesperson for multiple branches of the Guardians and was founder of theGuardian’s front group, the Waubra Foundation — all with a central mailing address…….

 

just who were the beneficiaries of the Guardians’ campaign? Nuclear? Not likely in Australia, as our own history shows. OK for Australian uranium to fuel the Fukushimas of the world but not in our backyard. Coal and coal seam gas? The evidence appeared overwhelmingly in its favour with the then new Baillieu government’s plans to turn Victoria dirty brown and the frenzied issuing of coal seam gas licences in NSW.

Exploring the Guardians’ history, their MO was to spring up spontaneously wherever a wind farm was planned. This is not unusual in itself, but in in all my years working with community environment groups, we never achieved that degree of organization and financial support in such record time. I counted 26Landscape Guardians groups in March 2011 – which rapidly grew to 70 within a couple of months – each named after the town nearest to the planned wind farm to simulate “local” roots. It didn’t take long to discover that there were more Guardian groups, each bearing its own geographical moniker such as theSpa Country Guardians of Hepburn or the Waubra Landscape Guardians than there appeared to be members….

What I found was that some members were spokespersons of multiple Guardian groups. “Phantom” or “multiple groups” is a classic device by astrotrufers to gain disproportionate media coverage. It was also blatantly obvious that the Waubra Foundation was set up, chaired and run predominantly by Landscape Guardians,….

 

I looked into the benefits of the Waubra Wind Farm. The construction provided a one-off boost of $58.4 million to the local economy just through the economic activity associated with the 160 jobs that were sourced locally. Ongoing employment at Waubra adds a further $7.79 million to the local economy each year just from the jobs. Was the financial benefit getting out to those regions slated for future wind farms?

The answer was “no”. The aggressive campaign by the Guardians helped by those sections of the media who whipped up a frenzy of negative sentiment made it all but impossible to cut through with the positives. The Australian public deserved better…..

The question we, the voters, need to ask is:  ‘how did such a sorry lot with such a transparent and dishonest agenda succeed in bringing the wind industry to its knees thus depriving the public of a chance to reduce our carbon emissions?’

The answer is that no government could have been so easily duped unless it was complicit.

It is clear that the scuttling of the wind industry in Victoria was a deliberate political ploy to appease the coal industry, with the Guardians’ scare campaign simply serving as window dressing to dupe the public into thinking it was all in our interest.

Australia’s hopes for a better deal for renewables now lie with the Federal Labor Government which, thanks to my story, recently turned the political spotlight on the Landscape Guardians. We hope now to see proper scrutiny of its claims and an investigation into its web of vested interests so that future debates on wind are conducted in an open, honest forum, free of vested interests and their spin.  http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/environment/the-landscape-guardians-and-the-waubra-foundation/

March 6, 2012 - Posted by | secrets and lies, Victoria, wind | ,

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