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Agriculture Leaders’ ElectionDebate at the National Press Club – Question from Michael Keating

December 15, 2019

[David Speers:] Let’s go to our next, it is a next
question for Michael Keating. [Michael Keating:] Michael Keating from Keating Media. My questions
to both gentlemen. Professor Mark Diesendorf of the University of New
South Wales has said that radical cuts to emissions will be needed if we were
to try and meet the two-degree reduction target of the Paris agreement. Even if we
had a hundred per cent renewable energy. What will this mean for the agricultural
sector if we try and meet that target. [David Speers:] Minister, to you first. [Minister David Littleproud:] Well look agriculture
accounts for about 13 per cent of emissions and what Labor is saying is
they want to cut emissions by 45 per cent across the board.
They’re trying to tell us that we’re exempt well nationalise vegetation
management laws do not mean that because it means that you are taking carbon
abatement out of farmers who have to lock up their land the productivity of
their land and what it means is they don’t make as much money but the money
they’re going to make being put in their pocket.
They’re not going to give you the carbon abatement. You’ve got to go into one of
their schemes this is an opt-in scheme they’re nationalised vegetation
management laws. This is an arbitrary law that’s going to impose their will on you
without paying for it. That’s the reality and the fact that haven’t even modelled
it to know how much carbon they’ll abate from this. How much money they’re going
to take out of farmers pocket put in theirs
shows they’re not ready for government. They haven’t done the sums they might
need another three years to go and do them in opposition. This is the dangerous
thing about climate policy. You’ve got to make sure you’re prepared to do the sums,
you’ve got to be honest with the Australian people about the costs. We’ve
made a commitment to meet our international targets. We’re not running
away from that but you’ve got to do that in a calm and sensible way so that
farmers can turn their pumps on and you know what people can turn their air
conditioners on. That’s a responsible thing to do for government. It’s great to
have an ideological view we all do we all want a cleaner environment we all
need to do our bit, but let me tell you you’ve got to come up with the numbers.
Do you want to be the alternative government if you want to say to the
Australian people trust us you’ve got to be able to prove it. Prove it with fact
if you can’t prove it with fact you’re not ready to govern.
[David Speers:] Joel Fitzgibbon. [Joel Fitzgibbon:] You know that was a lot of rubbish David, he obviously doesn’t
understand the policy or he just can’t help it fall back into political spin.
Imagine a farmer struggling in drought who accepts an invitation from an
investor to plant pines on his land. They’ll make an environmental
contribution to his land by the way but it will give him a revenue source. It’s a
good resilience to drought, it’s sort of like enough farm income. He might be able
to improve the carbon content in his or her soil will give the baselines for
that will give the methodology so they can improve the health of their soil,
improving the carbon content and they’re improving the soil moisture if we can
baseline where he or she started from he or she can earn income from the carbon
market. That’s what we’re about giving them revenue opportunities. Now people
want us to take serious action on climate change and our forty five
percent target is a more than reasonable in fact it’s below the international
benchmark. Now people in this room the NFF, meat and livestock Australia
together have a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. That’s more ambitious
than our policy and we’re about to giver if we were like to emulate two million
dollars to help them further progress the research they need to get there
because of course the biggest part of the emissions come from the red meat
sector and if we can approve the outcome of the red mmeat sector we’ll it’ll be
even it’ll be the easiest path to reaching our ambition. So people want us
to take action, taking action will be a good thing for farmers both on the
mitigation and adaptation side. It will improve their productivity on farm and
potentially if they’re interested they can secure new revenues now but he has a
policy. Richard Colbeck supports me by the way his junior minister. He has a
policy that only allows farmers to plant trees where there’s not enough rain to
grow them not enough rain to grow them we’re going to remove that so called
water rule so that they can earn income Richard Colbeck supports me. David
Littleproud. [David Littleproud:] David is there it’s so important as Joels just quite clearly articulate
so passionate about give us the number keep us doesn’t work let me ask this
what have you been doing you’re talking about what we’ve done for six years what
have you been doing my god let me ask your self it’s given cancer ecology
[David Speers:] Carbon Farming how much emissions reduction or abatement do you want to
achieve through carbon farming. [Joel Fitzgibbon:] Well how long is a piece of string? As much as
possible.l The MLA and the National Farmers Federation haven’t
been asked to cost their aspiration. We it’s impossible to measure. But the
farmers are in the safeguard mechanism they are carved out of the system. The only
thing they face are opportunities to earn revenue in the carbon economy.
[David Speers: I could ask you the same question because
under the government’s climate solutions fund you’re using taxpayers money for
the same thing through how much emissions abatement do you want to
achieve through carbon. [David Littleproud:] We’d costed it David. We’ve said we’re going to put
an extra two odd billion dollars into this. [David Speers;] How much a carbon cost. [Joel Fitzgibbon;] You’ve costed what
you’re putting in of taxpayers money. [David Littleproud:] Exactly, that’s why and that’s why it’s a
blunt instrument. Carbon Farming at the moment is a blunt instrument. In fact it
has unintended consequences David even in my own electorate. What’s happening is
is that investors are coming in some of them foreign, simply come in buying large
tracts of land that have low capital value making it as a passive income
stream and effectively taking families out of these communities and not
managing it. That’s why it’s a blunt simple system. I want to make it
sophisticated. I want to trust Australian farmers to do the stewardship adequate I
want to reward them. [David Speers:] The question was you are using, you’re using taxpayers money for the same
carbon farming.[David Littleproud:] I want to use both. [David Speers:] You know you don’t not understanding, I’m just asking how much emissions abatement,
you know about this is the point you’ve demanded an answer from how much
emissions abatement do you want to achieve. [David Littleproud:] So we’ve said that we want to
get the 26 to 28 per cent. [David Speers:] That’s through carbon farming it’s the point you’re
making is Joel Fitzgibbon. [David Littleproud:] So that’s why we’re saying that we want to have a far more
sophisticated instrument than carbon farming. [David Speers;] You don’t have a number? [David Littleproud:] Because I’m
doing the methodology on that now to have a far more streamline thing, not just goes
for carbon but biodiversity. Think about the improvement of the environment David
that is what we want to reward our farmers. Not just a simple instrument of car of
carbon abatement but to pay a premium for the improvement of the biodiversity,
of shelterbelts, riverways, gullies. We have more
biodiversity. [Joel Fitzgibbon:] You will come back to us after the election with
that number? [David Littleproud:] We’ve started 34 million dollars and a certification scheme that
will prove to the prime minister, environment that we need to see that the
climate solutions funder that two billion dollars we’ve costed ours. These
guys haven’t given the cost, they haven’t said how much they’ll save. They
haven’t done anything. They said they’re ready and this is the most important
issue but they can’t tell us what it’s going to cost.

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