NATIONALS leader Barnaby Joyce has warned the Opposition’s climate change policy would introduce a “federal policeman” onto farming properties that would only duplicate existing State laws and usurp landowners’ property rights.
Mr Joyce spoke to media today after Labor released its extensive climate change action policy document, leading into the July 2 election.
The policy document outlines a range of measures to reach Labor’s emissions reduction target of 45 per cent - on 2005 levels - by 2030.
It said the Coalition’s proposed target of 26 to 28pc by 2030 - on 2005 levels - would see Australia fall well short of the commitments made by the US, UK, Germany, Canada and other European nations.
However, a 45pc target ensured, “the burden of keeping the rise in temperature well below two degrees Celsius does not fall on the next generation of Australians and that Australia still has room in its carbon budget beyond 2030”.
But Mr Joyce pounced on the policy’s proposal to introduce a “climate trigger” in federal legislation to allow the commonwealth government to regulate broad-scale land clearing.
Labor’s document said that new move would “prevent a repeat of the fiasco under the last LNP government in Queensland”.
“Labor in government will also explore other ways of ensuring that State land clearing laws are consistent with Australia’s international obligations and commitments; including by re-invigorating COAG’s National Vegetation Management Framework,” the policy says.
“We will work with State and Territory governments to update the Framework to set clear targets for tree clearing reductions.
“In part, that will require the adoption of consistent reporting of land and tree clearing across States and the Commonwealth, in line with best practice in this area – which has traditionally been the Queensland SLATS Scheme verified by field reporting.”
But Mr Joyce said the ALP policy proposal would put a “federal policemen” on the land of mum and dad farmers who were trying to feed and clothe people.
“What they are saying is that they will override the laws of State parliaments,” the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister said of Labor’s policy proposal.
“What that will mean is if you have a tree on your place you will not only have to worry about the State legislation and a State offence but also a federal offence.
“What that will mean is that if you have vegetation you are trying to manage on your place, because you have to - whether it’s invasive or it’s interfering with your agricultural production - you will have to pay the rates on where that vegetation is.
“You will have to pay the public liability insurance of where that vegetation is; you will have to manage the property of where that vegetation is - but if you touch that vegetation you will get yourself both a State criminal offence and a federal criminal offence.”
Mr Joyce said that approach was “inherently unfair” and attacked the rights of private property ownership which was fundamental to the core policy view of both the Nationals and the Liberal Party.
“One of the greatest (land) managers, and have been forever, is the farmer because it is their future that they are handing on to their children; it is how they survive,” he said.
“But when you get a philosophical view that is generated by (federal parliament), that then goes and usurps the free right of ownership of mum and dads on the farm that is an anathema to so many people on the land.
“This is an uncertain day for so many people on the land and will resonate in so many areas.”
In contrast, Mr Joyce said the Coalition government would “leave well enough alone” given land clearing laws were a “realm” for the States and not for the federal government to be going into.
“This is one of the greatest things that absolutely infuriates people because they say ‘that’s my private asset (but) you’re coming onto my private asset and saying that although I paid for it, and although I owe the bank money for it, you’re not going to compensate me for it, you’re not going to buy it off me. You say it’s for the community benefit but you’re not prepared for the community to pay for it. You’re just going to impose your caveats over me so that this asset, which I still have to pay the rates for and still have to pay the public liability insurance for and still have to pay the bank back for the loan I’ve got, but it’s no longer mine’,” he said.
“Now if we did that in anybody else’s life there would be a riot.”
Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler said Labor would legislate on land clearing “to restore the restrictions that were in place before Campbell Newman’s vandalism” in Queensland.
“These were extraordinarily important reforms that Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh put in place, I must say with the support of John Howard because he understood the importance of those reforms in achieving the Kyoto protocol commitments,” he said.
“So we will restore the position using Commonwealth powers.
“We know the Palaszczuk Government has been trying to do that in the Queensland parliament, we will use the Commonwealth’s powers to do that and also to prevent Mike Baird from unpicking Bob Carr’s reforms which we understand he is now doing under the pressure from the NSW National Party.”
National Farmers’ Federation President Brent Finlay said the agriculture sector was “highly concerned” by Labor’s proposed land management measures which failed to recognise the role responsible and sustainable agriculture had played in contributing to the nation’s productivity and environmental outcomes.
“Regulating land management is asking farmers who wish to develop land to almost single-handedly bear the cost of Australia’s biodiversity, and now climate goals, without access to a market or payments to deliver this service,” he said.
“This policy is unfair and fails to recognise the genuine opportunities that exist for farmers to make a meaningful contribution to meeting such ambitious carbon targets through measures including improving energy efficiency, reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions and sequestration in soil.
“Innovation and facilitating farmers’ participation in carbon markets, not land use regulation, should be the core of Australia’s climate policy.
“It’s disappointing the ALP has failed to recognise the clear opportunities that exist.”