Shorten makes farming offer on carbon

Zach Relph, Sarah Martin and Cally DupeCountryman
WAFarmers boss Trevor Whittington says Labor’s carbon policy signals that Australian farmers could pick up “a large part of the tab”.
Camera IconWAFarmers boss Trevor Whittington says Labor’s carbon policy signals that Australian farmers could pick up “a large part of the tab”. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper

Bill Shorten has vowed to exempt farmers from ambitious climate change targets, with Federal Labor flagging the agriculture industry as Australia’s greatest opportunity to cut carbon pollution.

But WA’s biggest industries — including agriculture — called on Labor to release more details of its climate change policy this week, after its release on Monday.

The policy has vowed to exclude farmers from proposed “safeguard mechanism” used to cap carbon emissions, and forms part of Labor’s bid to slash the country’s emissions by 45 per cent of levels recorded in 2005 by 2030.

WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said the policy signalled that “Australian farmers will be picking up a large part of the tab”.

“You don’t get to force the public to double the number of electric vehicles without loading up the taxes on four-wheel-drive utes,” he said.

“You can’t bury all the the carbon footprint from livestock into the soil without turning the paddock back into bush.

“We have yet to seen the hidden formulas but all indications are that the agricultural sector with our tractors and stock will be paying a carbon tax by the end of the decade.”

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar welcomed the decision to exclude the agriculture sector from carbon output caps.

However, Mr Mahar echoed industry concern about Labor’s intention to regulate “broad-scale land clearing across the nation” and end the existing Kyoto carbon credit scheme.

“This is especially worrying given the news that excess Kyoto credits will not be counted towards the Paris commitment,” he said.

“The majority of the Kyoto credits were gained from prevention of land clearing through a legal framework which offered no compensation for a removed property right.”

Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon championed Labor’s plan to “reinvigorate the land” to reduce pollution.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the land sector had potential to supply low-cost offsets for rural businesses.

“No one knows our land better than our farmers — they’ve been leading the way in responding to climate change,” he said.

“That’s why Labor will help the land sector to reduce pollution while giving farmers and the forestry industry new opportunities to earn income.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud rubbished the land clearing proposal and said it would punish farmers.

“Labor needs to come clean on what carbon gain it has modelled from banning vegetation management nation-wide,” he said.

The carbon plan also outlined Labor’s target for 50 per cent of new car sales to be new electric vehicles by 2030.

It also proposes new vehicle emissions standards to save motorists hundreds of dollars annually in fuel and reduce pollution.

WA’s biggest industries called on Labor to release more details of the policy this week, with the Coalition attacking the pollution plan as a “Trojan Horse for a carbon tax”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison lashed the climate plan as a revival of Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails