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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

LNP using offshore wind concerns in political game

Barnaby Joyce has rallied Liberal National Party and One Nation supporters to join him at Saturday's anti offshore-wind protest at Port Stephens. Picture by Sitthixay Ditthavong

On Saturday, Barnaby Joyce is headlining a so-called anti-offshore wind rally in Port Stephens.

I say "so-called" because the rally isn't really about offshore wind. It's about Barnaby Joyce wanting to be the leader of the National Party again at the next federal election.

Barnaby Joyce has never hidden his political ambitions, and he won't be able to hide it from the people of Port Stephens.

Barnaby Joyce and his backers have assembled a conga line of Liberal National Party and One Nation supporters to join him at the rally, and he'll have the TV stations right there to make sure his fellow Nationals see him on the nightly news.

In the process, he and his supporters will elbow out locals who may have genuine concerns in order to further his political interests.

What Barnaby Joyce won't tell the people of Port Stephens is his alternative to offshore wind - a nuclear power plant in Port Stephens or Newcastle.

Barnaby Joyce is on the public record, saying "you have to look at all the suites of nuclear energy" and he has suggested a policy to promote nuclear would trigger a rush of proposals for "hills in the middle of towns that people want a reactor on".

Maybe they could put a nuclear reactor at Toboggan Hill Park or The Hill in Newcastle?

It really is shocking that Barnaby Joyce, Peter Dutton and their fellow Liberal and National MPs are using concerns about offshore wind as a political game - just the latest stunt in his long-standing war on renewable energy and action on climate change.

The economics of energy is changing. Renewables are getting cheaper and cheaper and will play an increasing role in our energy supply.

We all know we need an energy transition. We have to tackle climate change and we have to look after our communities.

We have to protect jobs today and create the jobs and industries of the future.

Renewable energy is central to that story. NSW can be a renewable energy superpower, with the Hunter region providing that super power.

The good news is that it is the regions that are powering Australia today that will power Australia in the future through renewable energy,

Onshore wind matters, solar matters, renewable hydrogen and ammonia will be critical and offshore wind will also be important.

We will need all of these things to get to 82 per cent renewables by 2030 and to reduce our emissions by at least 43 per cent by 2030.

Offshore wind will play a critical role in the economic future of Port Stephens, Newcastle and the surrounding community.

It will create jobs. Lots of jobs. Up to 3120 jobs in construction and 1560 ongoing jobs and it's an industry of the future, so it will create long-term direct and indirect jobs that will allow young people to stay in the area.

The renewables industry and offshore wind companies, in particular, and governments need to work hard to listen to community concerns. There needs to be really good community consultation.

We need to make sure we are addressing environmental concerns. We need to address concerns about what the offshore windfarms will look like from the coastline. We need to minimise impacts on people fishing in the area and we need to ensure we are supporting local workforces.

But these issues can be addressed. Any potential environmental impacts must be identified and addressed by project developers and assessed through the environmental approval process and through management plans.

The truth is there is no scientific evidence that noise from offshore wind could kill whales but we still need to do whatever we can to minimise any concerns.

There's no way the Smart Energy Council, as the peak national body for the renewables industry, would support a renewable energy project that would hurt whales.

We do support offshore wind. We do support good community consultation and engagement. And we do support good local jobs, lots of them.

So let's rally around clean, smart renewable energy and getting cracking with the energy transition.

John Grimes is chief executive of the Smart Energy Council

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