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Demo against 'reckless renewables' as parliament begins

Anti-renewables activists protesting outside federal parliament want to protect prime agricultural land but the energy industry says it is working with farmers.


Protesters listen to speeches during a rally against renewable energy at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. Image AAP

Anti-renewable energy activists are calling for a suspension of wind and solar farms and an inquiry into whether the rollout of clean energy is in the national interest.


The "rally against reckless renewables" in front of Parliament House on Tuesday came on the first day of the 2024 federal parliamentary year.


More than 500 protesters carrying signs such as "Who pays for the cleanup? You will", "Platypus Killers" and "No farmers no food" travelled to Canberra to have their say.


Co-ordinator Sandra Bourke from Hawks Nest in NSW told AAP she wants to stop "generations of damage" to agricultural land from the construction of wind and solar farms.


The main demand is an inquiry into the rollout of renewable energy and high-voltage transmission lines, and a check on uncapped spending, she said.


Nor should offshore wind farms be a foregone conclusion in waters off the Hunter and Illawarra regions in NSW, Ms Bourke said.


The groups involved in the protest say they are concerned about compulsory land acquisition and land clearance for transmission lines.


There should also be an end to the "archaic" ban on nuclear energy so it can be part of Australia's future energy mix, they say.


Others believe a failure to rapidly build sufficient renewable energy will leave Australia dependent on more expensive and less reliable gas and coal-fired electricity.


Clean Energy Council chief Kane Thornton said renewable energy projects in regional communities were helping drought-proof farming communities, provide revenue and income, and ensure jobs where they are needed most.


"The renewable energy industry is proud to partner with farmers, as well as the wider regional and rural communities across Australia," he said.


Forty per cent of the nation's energy is already provided by renewable sources and the vast majority of Australians want more, he said.


"It's essential they do - coal plants are reaching the end of their technical life, they're closing and renewables are needed to keep the lights on," he said. 


But Nationals Leader David Littleproud said Labor's "reckless" pursuit of 82 per cent renewables by 2030 was driving up costs.


"We need to know how much agricultural land is earmarked, where is it earmarked and when will the projects be forced onto local communities," he said.


"We also need to know how much these projects will cost taxpayers and what are the protection rights of property owners."


Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the federal government was working with regional communities and local landholders to ensure they benefit from cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy.


He said everyone has a right to protest but rejected the opposition's attempt to "whip up a scare campaign" on energy transition.


Ms Bourke said she was not a climate sceptic and not backed by a political party or bankrolled by oil or gas lobby groups.


"Yes, we need to phase out (fossil fuels) but we can do better than this," she said.


Coalition politicians speaking at the day-long demonstration include Barnaby Joyce, Keith Pitt, Matt Canavan, Jacinta Price, David Gillespie, nuclear energy fan Gerrard Rennick, Michelle Landry, Llew O'Brien, Ross Cadell and Colin Boyce.


Pauline Hanson's One Nation is represented by Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts and NSW upper house MP Tania Mihailuk.


National director of the United Australia Party and self-declared climate sceptic Craig Kelly is also in the line-up, along with Victorian UAP Senator Ralph Babet.


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