Greens say decision by regulator to remove Waubra Foundation’s tax-deductible status is ‘a victory for science and a victory for public health’
The decision to deregister a controversial anti-wind farming group as a charity proves the organisation has been “pulling the wool over people’s eyes”, renewable energy groups say.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) advised the Waubra Foundation that its status as a health promotion charity had been revoked earlier this month. The status gave the organisation, which campaigns on the health effects of wind farms, the ability to receive tax deductible donations.
The foundation will continue to be classified as a charity in two other areas – advancing health and advancing public debate – that do not allow it to receive tax-deductible donations.
The ACNC legislation prevented the commission from discussing the details that led to the decision, it said.
The foundation said it would challenge the ACNC’s decision, and plans to air its grievances in a Senate inquiry into wind turbines.
The Greens lodged a complaint over the foundation’s charity status last year.
“The Waubra foundation should never have been granted status as health promotion charity, and the fact that it has now lost that status is a victory for science and a victory for public health,” Greens senator Richard di Natale said.
“I’m glad that we will no longer be lending legitimacy to an organisation that may be harming people in an effort to undermine an important source of clean and renewable energy.”
The national coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance (AWA), Andrew Bray, also welcomed the ACNC’s decision, saying it proved the Waubra foundation had “done nothing to improve people’s health”.
“The foundation has deliberately sought to make people fearful of wind farms with scare campaigns and disinformation,” Bray said, adding that the foundation “should now admit that they’ve been pulling the wool over people’s eyes for too long”.
“It’s time for the foundation to admit their mistakes and shut up shop,” Bray said.
Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, said the foundation had “made it their business” to spread fear and mistrust of wind turbines.
“The Waubra foundation is a bunch of mostly landed gentry people whose houses have been threatened by turbines,” Chapman said. “They’re spreading alarming information that upsets people.”
He said the group saw wind farms as “reviled totems of green values which they despise”.
Chapman said numerous reviews, including one released in February by the National Health and Medical Research Council, showed no correlation between wind farms and health impacts.
He said the hysteria around wind turbines was similar to the unfounded concerns expressed in the early 1990s about mobile towers, or the worries about the health effects of televisions in the 1950s.
The Waubra foundation is named after the Victorian town of Waubra, which has become a hub for wind-powered energy, with 128 turbines in the area.
Many of the town’s inhabitants have distanced themselves from the group, and called on it to remove the town’s name from its title.
The group said the decision to strip it of its charity status was ill-informed.
“In making his decision we note that ACNC assistant commissioner David Locke has ignored the condition environmental sleep disorder resulting from excessive night time noise, and the many diseases which are well known to be directly caused or exacerbated by sleep disturbance and deprivation,” it said in a statement.
The ACNC was brought in by the former Labor government in 2012 to regulate the charities sector, but the Coalition had pledged to abolish it before the last federal election.
However, legislation to scrap the body failed to pass the Senate earlier this year.