Senate inquiry to be launched into offshore wind consultation

Nationals Senator Ross Cadell addresses anti-offshore wind farm campaigners at an event at Birubi SLSC.

THE consultation process relating to the development of the offshore wind industry will be referred to the Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee.

The committee will launch an inquiry and report back to parliament by the last sitting day in February 2025.

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Senator Ross Cadell, the Hunter-based Nationals Whip in the Senate, moved the motion in parliament last Wednesday.

Mr Cadell’s original motion sought the committee to review the consultation process undertaken on behalf of the Australian Government into the offshore wind industry, with particular reference to the efficacy of community engagement and the impact on marine life and environments.

Senator Lydia Thorpe then moved an amended motion which included reference to the government and the offshore wind industry seeking consent from traditional Indigenous owners.

In response, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher stated, “The government is not supporting this motion and will also not be supporting the amendment of Senator Thorpe.

“The government recognises the importance of First Nations consultation.

“As part of this process we are progressing as part of the Dyer review.”

Andrew Dyer, Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner (AEIC), led the independent ‘Community Engagement Review’ commissioned by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy in July 2023 to advise on improving community engagement on renewable energy infrastructure developments.

“We are working to implement the recommendations of the Dyer review by strengthening the governance of the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner to enhance its independence and its ability to address misinformation, support First Nations people and improve complaint resolution,” she said.

Ms Gallagher said the Federal Government had run a “considered, staged process to declare offshore wind zones”, highlighting multiple opportunities for feedback and community consultation throughout.

“We’ve run this process consistent with consultation requirements outlined in the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021, as legislated by the coalition.

“Across the six zones, we’ve held face-to-face sessions with more than 3,800 people and reviewed more than 23,000 written submissions.”

The amended motion passed the senate 31 votes to 30.

“The fight is not over,” said Senator Cadell.

“The Labor and Greens who hold a majority in the committee both voted against it.

“This means we will have to fight to have local hearings and meetings and hear from real witnesses who are opposed to the process.”

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