13 October 2015
DEMOCRATIC DICE ARE LOADED
WHEN CRONY CAPITALISTS RUN THE GOVERNMENT
A de facto coup d’état rocked Australia last month. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was ousted by a rival within the same political party. Abbott had led the Liberals to victory in the 2013 elections, promising to cut down on the costly and otherwise harmful green agenda of the previous government.
Rent-seeking businesses in renewable energy, who live on subsidies and other handouts from governments, felt threatened. They vowed to fight, and they did. Lobbying is their strength, facilitated by deep pockets filled with taxpayers’ money. Ordinary people, wind farm victims in particular, can’t compete with that. This led to the victory of the crony capitalists. A new, pro-windfarm majority appeared within the Liberal party. Abbott no longer had the support he needed: he had to go.
Australia, with its peculiar “spill” system allowing challenges to party leadership during a legislature, is particularly vulnerable to lobbies. Some of these have grown to become extremely powerful. The Wind Lobby, for instance, has become a major political force worldwide. Huge subsidies for renewable energy create a perfect storm of corruption when a portion of the handout is used to reward those who voted for it in Parliament, financing their electoral campaigns. The book “Throw Them All Out” (1) documents this revolving door scheme as it works in the United States, but it is a worldwide practice, one which explains the huge development of intermittent, ineffective “green” energies in so many countries.
There is no reason to think that the global scheme does not apply to Australia. As a matter of fact, the demise of Tony Abbott is a strong indication that it does apply: with so much ‘legal bribe money’ available to his enemies, how could he possibly stay in power to carry out his mandate? This coup d’état raises a disturbing question about the reality of democracy in Australia. Here we have a Prime Minister voted in by Australians, but thrown out before his program could bite by a few backbenchers changing their tunes. Hmm!
Enter Malcolm Turnbull, the new Prime Minister, and the ship promptly changes tack. For instance we learn, in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of October 3rd (2), that Dr Bruce Rapley, a renowned Acoustics & Environmental Health Consultant from New Zealand (3), won’t be appointed to the new scientific committee addressing the impact of wind turbines on human health. It doesn’t matter that he was recommended for the job by crossbench Senators eager to put some balance in that committee. Balanced it won’t be. As Dr Rapley puts it, commenting to us on the SMH article: “Looks like I am out of the race before it even began”. He adds, wryly: “What kind of a watch-dog committee is this, if the dice are loaded by stacking it with people whom you know will support the industry’s point of view? This makes a mockery of science, not to mention democracy and ethics.”
This is not the first time science is being manipulated to accommodate private interests. The tobacco industry led the way decades ago. Today, lobbies are venturing far ahead of their predecessors, using public funds to corrupt science wherever it will serve their purpose. Scientific committees, conservation NGOs, public health organizations, even national medical associations sing to their tunes. The system has become so corrupt, redemption seems near-impossible to achieve.
The World Council for Nature wish to honor those health professionals, acousticians and scientists who, like Dr Bruce Rapley, have the courage to uphold science against those who want to manipulate it towards political ends. We had had hopes with the Abbott government that, at least in Australia, the voice of the people, and in particular that of health victims of wind turbines, were at long last going to be heard. The Senate’s enquiry, spearheaded by conscionable Senators John Madigan, David Leyonhjelm and Chris Back, among others, concluded that wind turbines were having dangerous health effects, with infrasound and low-frequency noise as the most probable cause (4). But the Turnbull government is now busy backtracking on this long-awaited recognition, turning its back not only on public health, but also on the massacre of endangered birds and bats, as well as the destruction of jobs and heretofore competitive industries.
Score: wind lobby, one; zero for science, ethics and democracy.
Mark Duchamp +34 693 643 736
Chairman, World Council for Nature