Waubra Wednesday #5 – The Stupefaction Gambit: “Community Acceptance Will Fuel Community Division”

Published by Etwas Luft. View original article. By Ketan Joshi, Research and Communications Officer at Infigen Energy. These views are his own.

Picture this: A man sits nervously in the witness stand, his hands bound by cuffs, his every move watched closely by a jury. A lawyer slowly steps up to him, and says:

“Sir, the evidence is irrefutable. You murdered Mr Wales, in cold blood”.

The accused smiles at the corner of his mouth.

“Hear this, my good man: you are wrong. It is Mr Wales who murdered me, and I shall avenge his crimes, mark my words!”

I call it the Stupefaction Gambit. If you stand accused of some wrongdoing, steel yourself, swallow your self-awareness, point at your accuser and accuse them of that same folly. In the ensuing chaos, the irrationality of your claim sneaks quietly past the other parties.

Recently, Neil Barrett, a film-maker from Victoria with an interest in renewable energy and a small share in the Hepburn community wind farm (also in Victoria) released a set of videos (condensed version below) interviewing residents near the Waubra Wind Farm.  

Waubra was used by an anti-wind group, then known as the Pyrenees Shire Landscape Guardians, as the name for a new foundation and a new disease – the “Waubra Disease Foundation“, later to be known simply as the ‘Waubra Foundation’. At the time, the media focused solely on the complainants, and Barrett’s new film aims to un-skew this precarious misrepresentation. The clips received some coverage in the Midland Express, a rural news outlet near Kyneton. Barrett says in the article:

“It is important that people outside the community understand that there’s much more to Waubra than the claims of the foundation’s board members who live on average of 350 kilometres from Waubra.

The football team had a great year, the community fund has given $70,000 to local groups (including the school which has been able to hire a new music teacher) and farmers are more sustainable and profitable now the wind farm is in operation.”

The article attracted a response from the Waubra Foundation, yet to be published on the Midland Express website but available in the print edition (I’ve saved a copy of the text here). One sentence caught my eye:

“Longstanding wind energy advocate, Neil Barrett, has just helped fuel the tensions in a divided community at Waubra “

The sheer irrationality of suggesting the testimony of people who live peacefully with wind turbines will somehow fuel division and disharmony is forgotten as we stand blinded by confusion, struck with stupefaction.

Barrett’s videos are likely to show to the public that the veneer of disaster and disease, spread over Waubra by anti-wind groups and the media, is most certainly not representative of those who live there. This is something that we can logically expect the Waubra Foundation to object to.

The steel towers for Waubra Wind Farm were manufactured at the Keppel Prince manufacturing facility, near Portland, Victoria

As Sandi Keane wrote in New Matilda, Waubra is a community, not a disease – the town is thriving and the divisions touted passionately by anti-wind groups and partly by the media seem hard to resolve amongst the testimony of locals who like the turbines, or barely notice them. This isn’t a unique phenomenon. The CSIRO published research in January 2012, which found that:

“There is strong community support for the development of wind farms, including support from rural residents who do not seek media attention or political engagement to express their views.

This finding contrasts with the level of opposition that may be assumed from the typically ‘conflict-oriented’ portrayal of wind farm proposals in the popular media. This media coverage frequently gives significant attention to legal challenges, political protests, and vocal opponents including ‘Landscape Guardian’ and high profile individuals, but fails to balance this with coverage of middle ground views, or with equivalent attention to the potential benefits of with wind farms.”

A local farmer from Waubra recently featured on ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ – these chaps don’t seem bothered by the wind farm in the background.

Waubra is a community that was used to christen a seemingly non-existent disease, and being made to hear the voices of that community must surely be unsettling for the Waubra Foundation. The fact that their namesake, the Waubra community, bears no ill-will towards the wind farm, means the Foundation is left only with the Stupefaction Gambit

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