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The Australian: terrible environmental reporting

One of the Wind Power Ethics pages*

The Murdoch press is notoriously right wing, so it is not surprising to see an article that shows a wind farm, a source of environmentally-friendly sustainable electricity, in a poor light. What is perhaps more surprising is the abysmal quality of the reporting and perhaps the depth of the bias.

Written 2012/04/23, modified 2016/02/29 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
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More Graham Lloyd; Media Watch on Lloyd

The Australian does it again

On 2013/01/15 The Australian front page clamed that sea level rise was not linked to [greenhouse] warming. Two days later, in a small paragraph on the side of the second page, they printed a correction. See Climate Spectator for more.
Wind energy opposition

Mary Morris research

In June 2015 The Australian printed an article on 19th June 2015 written by Rosie Lewis. It included the statement:
"Mary Morris, who conducted the only Australian study into wind turbine health impacts accepted by the National Health and Medical Research Council..."
Actually, what the NHMRC published about Mary Morris' study was:
"The study was quasi-scientific and of poor quality. The study design, poor execution and analysis prevent any firm conclusions from being drawn. The study has limited capacity to inform the assessment of wind turbine noise as a cause of adverse health effects."
Ketan Joshi gave more detail of the NHMRC's assessment of Ms Morris' study.

Mary Morris is a vocal opponent of wind power. She is particularly concerned with the Waterloo Wind Farm in SA.

I emailed a complaint on this to The Australian (editor@theaustralian.com.au) and passed the matter on to Media Watch on 2015/06/22.

Response to my complaint from The Australian

"Dear Mr Clarke,

What The Australian published was entirely accurate. Mary Morris's study was the only Australian study accepted by the NHMRC.

As the NHMRC said in its March 24 media release: "Over 4000 papers were identified in the reviews and, of these papers, only 13 studies were found that considered possible relationships between wind farm emissions and health outcomes. Only one of these studies was conducted in Australia."

It is not in dispute that the sole Australian study was Morris's.

I note your comments about the NHMRC's views on the quality of the study. But as the story was published, The Australian has nothing to correct.

Kind regards,

Clive [Mathieson]"
A Facebook friend of mine reworded the response from The Australian:
"We deliberately mislead with weasel words ("accepted" doesn't mean the NHMRC accepted the validity or accuracy of the study, only that they included it in their lit review) and we don't want to have to do anything about it. If people were mislead by our blatant attempts to mislead them with words that we were using in an unusual manner, then that is not our problem.

(Up) Yours,

The Oz"
I have forewarded the response from The Australian to Media Watch and intend to submit a complaint to the Australian Press Council.





Denying Climate Science

Most of this page deals with an inacurate article that Graham Lloyd wrote about a wind farm. Opposition to wind power is often linked to denial of climate science; after all, limiting climate change is probably the strongest reason to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

The Australian's so called Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, writes articles that cast as much doubt on the reality of anthropogenic climate change (ACC, climate change caused by Man) as he can manage. He totally ignores the fact that there is a massive consensus among climate scientists on the subject; hardly any scientific papers are written that cast any doubt on ACC. The ABC's Media Watch did a segment on this on 2013/06/24. The on-line page has many links showing how ill-informed Lloyd's stance is.

How can the Environment Editor of a major national daily newspaper be so corrupt? His writing must have the approval of his employers. What does it say about the aims of the Murdoch News empire? What sort of culture must exist among the reporters and editors on The Australian?






Lloyd: Where eagles dare not fly

Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor, wrote a piece about the Waterloo Wind Farm on 2012/04/21.

The story was titled 'Where eagles dare not fly: Waterloo looms as wind farms power town revolt'.

 

My comments on errors (and worse) are in these boxes

First error: of course the wind farm is not in Waterloo; at the closest point it is 3.5km from Waterloo; wind turbines are rarely audible from such a distance.
The article starts with a photo showing man squatting near a dead eagle with a wind turbine in the background. The caption reads: "Black Springs farmer Kym Dixon next to a dead wedge-tailed eagle, which was found 180m from wind turbines in the South Australian town of Waterloo."
The story continues:

 
Author Graham Lloyd gets right into sensation, irrelevance and inaccuracy in the first paragraph. There is no evidence that the 'eggs without yolks' have anything to do with wind turbines, and there are equally big wind turbines at several other wind farms in Australia.
Professor Mike Brooks, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Adelaide distanced the university from Mr Zhenhua (Frank) Wang's work, saying that Mr Wang did the work in his own time and not for the University. So Mr Lloyd was wrong to say that "Adelaide University has been drawn into a controversy ...".
Wind turbines do kill a few birds, but far more birds are killed by other man-made structures, two ferral cats will kill more birds than a whole wind farm and if we do nothing about climate change it will be far worse for all species.
Did Ian Falkenberg really say that three wedge-tailed eagle nesting areas that were active, are no longer active? If so, what evidence does he have?

I discussed Mr Falkenberg's involvement in this article with him (telephone, 2012/04/24). He was not willing to make any statements 'on the record'.

I saw a pair of eagles at Waterloo Wind Farm on one of the only two evenings that I have been there in the last several months (February, before this incident).

Michael Head, TRUenergy, Waterloo Wind Farm, informed me "that he saw the regular pair of eagles at Waterloo yesterday" (2012/04/23).

A DEAD wedge-tailed eagle, chicken eggs without yolks and a dysfunctional village with residents bursting to flee. This is the clean-energy revolution Waterloo-style, where the nation's biggest wind turbines have whipped up a storm of dissent.

Adelaide University has been drawn into a controversy that threatens to spin out of control after one of its masters students asked residents of Waterloo, 120km north of Adelaide, what they really thought about living near windmills and was knocked over in an avalanche of complaint.

Yesterday, a South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage officer collected the remains of a juvenile wedge-tailed eagle from the base of one of the Waterloo wind farm turbine towers. He said it would be X-rayed and examined to establish the cause of death.

It may help to explain why, according to one local ranger, three wedge-tailed eagle nesting areas identified before the turbines began to operate 18 months ago are no longer active.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources district manager Ian Falkenberg said initial observations of the eagle remains showed a punctured skull and major fractures of the right wing, including a significant break about three inches from the shoulder.

GPS readings showed the remains were located 180m from the base of the tower.

Mr Falkenberg said eagles in the mid-north of South Australia were in lower numbers than in other parts of the state and considered "vulnerable" at a regional assessment level.

He said prior to the wind turbines at Waterloo, there were three eagle territories but was not aware of any of those territories now being active.

According to wind farm operator TRUenergy, there are still active wedge-tailed eagle populations in the hills.

TRUenergy spokeswoman Sarah Stent said: "Eagle monitoring on site of resident population today shows no decrease in bird numbers."

 

Comments on adjacent text

There is no scientifically acceptable evidence that wind turbines cause any sickness beyond that caused by the fear and anxiety that rumour-mongers and irresponsible reporting such as this effort by The Australian create. In fact wind turbines save lives and many serious illnesses by reducing the atmospheric pollution from coal-fired power stations.
I have slept right under turbines at Waterloo and at other wind farms and suffered no ill effects. I have visited many wind farms and have never heard turbines from a distance greater than 2.5km (correction, on 2013/07/07 I managed to just hear some turbines 3.0km away), and then only in ideal conditions.
Some Eggs without yolks, a claimed 'spike in sheep deformities' and 'reports of erratic behaviour by farm dogs'. Eggs without yolks are not uncommon in the first few eggs from young chooks, the other claims would require more than one or two 'reports' before accepting that they were caused by wind turbines or even real. How could wind turbines cause these problems? It is nothing but more sensationalism and irresponsible rumour-mongering from Graham Lloyd.
TRUenergy commissioned a Mid North Community Survey by Qdos Research and released the results in March 2012. It involved 358 people living near the existing Waterloo, and proposed Stony Gap and Robertstown wind farms. The survey indicated that 66% of respondents were concerned about climate change, 77% supported wind farms, 69% supported nearby wind farms, and a majority sor wind farms as positives for: appearance, tourism, local business, short term jobs, local economy and landholder income. Mr Lloyd either was not aware of this survey or chose to ignore it because it didn't suit the line he wanted to take.

Other surveys similarly show favourable views on wind farms among the general public.


Adelaide University Vice-Chancellor is Professor James McWha, not Michael Head! The only Michael Head I know works for TRUenergy at Waterloo Wind Farm. Graham Lloyd's statements about what the 'Vice-Chancellor said' is meaningless because we don't know who, if anyone, really said it.
It is curious that Mr Wang, who was "concerned that a summary of his results was leaked before it could be peer-reviewed" (see above) and "was not willing to release his research publicly until after academic peer reviews" gave another summary of his results to Graham Lloyd before peer-review.

It is curious that Mr Wang's research was leaked at all. I first found it on 'WindWatch', an anti-wind farm Net site. It was discussed at the 2012/02/02 meeting of the Mid North Wind Farm Liaison Group (of which I am a member); again, it was in the hands of an anti-wind campaigner. I sent an email to Mr Wang on 2012/03/01 asking for more information; I didn't receive a reply. Is Mr Wang only willing to correspond with anti-wind power people?

Mr Lloyd's ethical standards have to be questioned when he published Mr Wang's material knowing that "Mr Wang said he was not willing to release his research publicly until after academic peer reviews".

TRUenergy acquired the Waterloo wind farm last year and has announced a $40 million expansion. It is also planning a wind farm development at Stony Gap. The company insists it has broad community support and certainly the strong backing of the SA government.

Waterloo has become a hotbed of concern among locals, many of whom claim to be suffering ill-effects from the wind turbine development.

They want independent noise measuring and for Senate inquiry recommendations for research into the impact of low frequency noise to be adopted. Some want to be relocated and many want the wind turbines to be turned off at night.

Village resident Neil Daws is concerned his chickens have been laying eggs with no yolks.

Ironically called wind eggs, the yolkless eggs can be explained without wind turbines.

But together with a spike in sheep deformities, also not necessarily connected to wind, reports of erratic behaviour by farm dogs and an exodus of residents complaining of ill health, Waterloo is a case study of the emotional conflict being wrought by the rollout of industrial wind power.

When Adelaide University masters student Frank Wang surveyed residents within a 5km radius of the Waterloo wind turbines he found 70 per cent of respondents claimed they had been negatively affected by the wind development and the noise, with more than 50 per cent having been very or moderately negatively affected.

Mr Wang is concerned that a summary of his results was leaked before it could be peer-reviewed.

Adelaide University vice-chancellor Michael Head has written to TRUenergy in response to company concerns about publication of the summary. "I have looked into this matter and found that the study in question was undertaken by a student as part of a minor thesis for his masters by coursework," Professor Head said. "This was entirely the student's own project and not undertaken for or on behalf of the university."

A university spokesperson said the survey was overseen by a senior lecturer and approved by the University's Human Research Ethics Committee.

"There is clearly a need for further research that considers all aspects of wind farms and their impact on the community," the spokesperson said.

Mr Wang told The Weekend Australian the university had been supportive of his research.

"Yes, definitely," he said. "My supervisor helped me to choose this topic."

Mr Wang said he was not willing to release his research publicly until after academic peer reviews.

Ms Stent said TRUenergy was not able to judge if Mr Wang's results were a fair representation of community sentiment in Waterloo.

"It is not our view that the majority of the population is opposed to the wind farm nor dissatisfied with our approach to community engagement," she said.

This is a piece of reporting of the lowest possible quality and Graham Lloyd (Environmental Editor!), should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. It certainly doesn't do anything for the (already low) reputation of The Australian.

I have submitted a formal complaint to the Press Council in regard to this article.

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Altered 2012/05/17

The plot thickens

The Australian article starts with a photo of "Black Springs farmer Kym Dixon next to a dead wedge-tailed eagle". My inquiries have indicated that the eagle was not on Mr Dixon's land; Mr Dixon was on a neighbour's land without asking permission of the owner. How did Mr Dixon know there was a dead eagle on his neighbour's land?

A casual reader would have got the impression that the writing of the article was triggered by the finding of the dead eagle, but I have been informed that Mr Lloyd was in the area working on an article about the wind farm the day before. We are to believe that finding the dead eagle while Mr Lloyd was in the area was purely a coincidence.

The article states that the eagle was found about 180m from the turbine. It is possible that, if the eagle was hit by an ascending turbine blade, it could have been thrown this far; however, research by Dr Cindy Hull in Tasmania has indicated that wedge-tailed eagles are most often hit by descending turbine blades and that they rarely, if ever, fall as far as 180m from a turbine tower (it is possible that the eagle could have been dragged by a large scavenger).

And was it a coincidence that the eagle was discovered when the person who has responsibility for environmental matters at the wind farm, Michael Head, was at TRUenergy's Community Liaison Group's meeting? The date and time of the meeting would have been well known to any anti-wind power people who might be interested in skulduggery.
 
Badly injured wedge-tailed eagle
Eagle
I found this eagle west of Clare

This might all be perfectly innocent and explicable, but seems curious.

Concerning a dead eagle I happened across

I placed several photos of the badly injured eagle at the right on Flickr. While its wing and leg injuries cannot be seen in this image, they were so bad that I had to kill the bird. A person calling himself/herself 'no turbines' commented on all three of the photos. He implied that the eagle had been injured by a wind turbine. I found the eagle about 40km from the nearest wind turbine so this is obviously false. One of 'no turbines' comments mentioned Waterloo.

This indicates that there is at least one person in the Waterloo area who wants to blame dead eagles on wind turbines. I have received abusive emails from a Waterloo resident who has called me an "evil nazi" and accused me of lying. There is a lot of ill feeling in at least this one person.

Is it possible that the eagle found at the Waterloo Wind Farm was placed there by someone who wanted to produce bad publicity for wind power?

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Delingpole

On 2012/05/03 James Delingpole wrote in The Australian: "It took great courage for Lloyd to write up his expose of the tremendous damage being caused by a wind farm to a small community in Waterloo, north of Adelaide." Apart from Graham Lloyd's terrible article, discussed above, where is the evidence that Waterloo Wind Farm is causing "tremendous damage" to Waterloo?

I am a member of TRUenergy's Community Liaison Group regarding Waterloo and the nearby proposed Stony Gap wind farms; the impression I have from what I hear through the group is that there are only about six people in the Waterloo area who are strongly opposed to the wind farm.

I could do a statement by statement analysis of Delingpole's article, but it is often a mistake to take such gross ignorance and bias too seriously. Instead, I will provide a copy of a letter by David Osmond submitted to The Australian in reply to Delingpole's article:

"James Delingpole's article against wind farms (Wind farm scam a huge cover up) contained so many errors one barely knows where to begin.

He asserts wind turbines generate very little power, they need full back-up from "black" generators and they get more than 3 times the money from subsidies as they do from electricity sales. The evidence from South Australia contradicts all these assertions. In the 5 years to June 2011, South Australia has gone from getting 6% to 20% of its electricity needs from wind power. It now gets 26%. During that time, no significant increase in the proportion of back-up power has been required. Indeed electricity from peaking gas turbines have actually reduced, as have imports from Victoria. It has reduced its C02 emission intensity by over 20%. Wholesale electricity prices have reduced, and even when you include the subsidies from REC sales, prices have remained constant in inflation adjusted terms.

Likewise, his long list of ills allegedly due to the high infra-sound levels of turbines loses credibility once you know that infra sound levels near a wind turbine are no greater than those near a beach, in a city or near a gas power station."
Delingpole was going on the do a radio session with radio shock-jock Alan Jones. That would be a conversation not to be missed by the anti-environment establishment, but an exercise in ignorance for anyone else!
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Updated 2013/03/07

Lloyd continues

Graham Lloyd continued with his very low standard of reporting on the front page of The Australian 2012/05/29.

He wrote that "a growing body of evidence that wind farm noise could have health effects has prompted Queensland Health to call for caution when approving wind farm developments."

Climate Spectator called the Queensland Department of Health to verify this report and was told: "The Australian report is not correct."

Apparently Lloyd's claim was based on a letter from Queensland Health, of which he had received a copy.

Tristan Edis of Climate Spectator elaborated in a personal communication on 2013/03/07: "I have a copy of this letter. The letter Graham Lloyd used was written by a junior staff member in the Cairns branch office going off the reservation. I was told in no uncertain terms by Qld Health head office staff that the letter was not representative of Qld Health's position on the matter."

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Pro-Liberal bias in The Australian

The Vine did a Net page about the front page of The Australian following the Federal Budget of May 2012. This single page is a good example of the anti-Labor, pro-Liberal bias in The Australian.

It seems that the Australian has joined forces with the Liberals in supporting big business, the mining industry and the fossil fuel industry against renewable energy.






Links

Simon Chapman's response to Graham Lloyd's front page article in The Australian on German research on infrasound, July 2015.





Index

Delingpole
Denying Climate Science
Links
Lloyd continues
Lloyd: Where eagles dare not fly
Mary Morris research
Pro-Liberal bias
The plot thickens
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