Farmers, Politics and Climate Change

Recently National Party heavyweights, led by Deputy PM Michael McCormack, have come out fighting against the mildest of statements by our PM about a ‘possible’ 2050 zero emissions target.

Rachel Meyer in The Conversation noted: “On Sunday, McCormack told Sky News the Coalition government will not “whack regional Australia” just to meet a climate target. He went on: ‘There is no way we are going to […] hurt regional Australia, in any way shape or form just to get a target for climate in 2050. We are not going to hurt those wonderful people that put food on our table.’ But the Nationals’ push is deeply misguided. It dumps the burden of emissions reduction on other sectors, and puts Australian farmers and the broader economy at greater risk of climate change damage.”

By way of reply Anika Molesworth of the Farmers for Climate Action tweeted that McCormack’s “We are not going to hurt those wonderful people that put food on our table” was “Sweet sentiment mate, but that’s exactly what you are doing from inadequately addressing climate change. “

An ABC article by Anna Henderson and David Lipson noted: “NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the group’s clear position was to support reaching net zero by 2050, while ensuring ‘agriculture is not worse off’, [and that] ‘Agriculture is in a unique position — different to any other industry in that farmers can sequester carbon and reduce emissions. Agriculture is too important to leave out and too important to ignore…’ [and] ‘Farmers are in the box seat to seize the opportunities from a reduced emissions future — and many are already doing just that. Any policy that restricts opportunities available to farmers and rural and regional communities would clearly be a negative outcome.’” The farmers’ national organisation and their political representatives are clearly at loggerheads.

For my 50 years residence in Gippsland the National Party have had just three MHR representatives – Peter Nixon, Peter McGauran and Darren Chester. Darren, the current member, says he accepts the science of climate change, but, as far as I know, has made no public statements about this*. By contrast, The National Party is the home to the bulk of the climate deniers in our Federal Parliament including Joyce, Canavan and Christenson – clearly identified as part of the ‘fossil fuel lobby’. This group has the support of the party leadership including McCormack and Senator McKenzie. The Nationals no longer represent farmers and country interests but are beholden to Coal and Gas.

With the threat of carbon duties being applied to Australian exports by the European Union in the near future it is clear to see that the question of meaningful action on Climate change is coming to a head, signalling a crisis for our Federal politicians – in particular the Nationals. The choices are plain. One wonders which way Darren Chester is going to jump.

*Breaking News: the Guardian has just reported that “Victorian Nationals MP, Darren Chester, has warned his party to listen to its diverse heartland and be ‘part of the solution’ when it comes to practical environmentalism and emissions reductions rather than ‘sideline ourselves from big debates’. More on this in the next blog.