National Farmers’ Federation President, Fiona Simson has welcomed the release of Labor’s Powering Australia plan, saying the policy and associated modelling provide a commendable level of transparency heading into the election.
“With so much at stake for our regions in the transition to net zero, we commend the Opposition for putting forward a considered and detailed policy, supported by transparent modelling.
“Whatever the model agriculture must be able to continue to grow towards $100 billion by 2030. There can be no outcome that reduces herd numbers or hectares cropped,” Ms Simson said.
“The Labor policy acknowledges the heavy lifting our farmers have already done towards meeting Australia’s climate goals. It also looks to ensure farmers’ future contributions are rewarded – rather than coerced through heavy-handed taxes or green tape.
“Family farmers unjustly carried the burden of the meeting of Australia’s Kyoto targets. And, far from licking our wounds, farmers have continued to bat above our average in emissions reduction and carbon sequestration.”
The Labor focus on delivery through a refocussed safeguard mechanism is a sensible lever and well targeted. Care must be taken to ensure that it does not perversely turbo charge offsets to the detriment of prime agricultural land or have deleterious impacts on socio economic vibrancy in regional communities.
“The NFF understands this will be included in a review of the fit-for-purpose nature of the Emissions Reduction Fund, which we welcome and will also seek to ensure that the pathway to create ACCUs is as efficient and user friendly as possible to allow farmers quality access to create their own offset mechanisms,” Ms Simson said.
“We welcome Labor’s commitment to the development and commercialisation of livestock feed supplements such as asparagopsis and to improving carbon farming opportunities.
“The NFF is a strong supporter of markets which reward farmers’ positive contribution, and we acknowledge Labor’s policies to deepen private sector investment in those markets,” Ms Simson said.
Ms Simson said a positive vision for regional Australia and a plan to back it up were non-negotiables for any incoming Government.
“We acknowledge Labor’s commitment to new industries and new jobs in the regions. We wholly expect these commitments to be followed up by real action.
The NFF notes the important role the already-announced National Reconstruction Fund will play, not only in developing new low-emissions industries and technologies, but in supporting job creation more broadly. The NFF is calling on Labor to earmark at least 50% of these funds for rural, regional and remote Australia, noting the disproportionate impact these communities will carry as a result of this transition.
Ms Simson said a plan to establish 400 community-based batteries was ambitious and she expected the greatest proportion of those to be delivered in the regions given their likely scale.
“The transition to net-zero also means a transition to renewables. To this end, we would seek that Labor prioritise the Australian Local Power Agency proposal that will ensure that renewables and electricity infrastructure are developed in a way that is of benefit to regional and rural communities, not create negative impacts and conflict.
“The importance of Labor’s ‘Rewiring the Nation’ initiative can’t be overstated. Reducing the cost of energy production and transmission will allow agriculture and the bush to take advantage of low-cost power, unlocking opportunities for value-adding and manufacturing in our regions. There must be caution to ensure that this program does not have a negative effect on land access or erode farmers rights.”
Ms Simson said Australian agriculture was in the box seat to realise the opportunities of the new paradigm, but warned this must be done in partnership.
“Our sector is well advanced in the transition to new farming practices and the adoption of new technologies to continue reducing emissions and to realise the opportunities of carbon abatement.
“Labor’s Powering Australia plan includes a range of measures that will help deepen farmers’ contribution to Australia’s climate goals.
“It is critical that Labor work closely with farmers and rural industries to ensure these policies deliver the growth in regional areas that they promise,” Ms Simson said.