JOHN MENADUE- The National Party is dudding farmers.

The National Party remains highly sceptical of climate change and its effect on farmers. Yet the science is clear that global warming has contributed to the current drought. Some farmers are pointing to the failure of the National Party to address climate change. 

In this blog on 13 August 2018, I reposted an article by Mark Hudson from The Conversation (The Nationals have changed their leader but kept the same climate story) that highlighted that the demise of Barnaby Joyce and his replacement by Michael McCormack as Leader of the Parliamentary National Party has not resulted in any change in the highly sceptical stance of the National Party to climate change.

In ‘Cognitive Dissonance in the Big Dry’ in this blog on 8 August 2018 Lesley Hughes who is the Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University and a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, said

Climate change is worsening the drought now affecting huge swathes of the continent, bringing gut-wrenching misery for farmers and the communities they support. … But the science is clear – warming has contributed to a southward shift in weather fronts from the Southern Ocean, which typically bring rain to Southern Australian during winter and spring. As these weather fronts have shifted, rainfall in Southern Australia has declined, increasing the risk of drought conditions, including in agricultural heartlands such as the Murray-Darling Basin and the Western Australian wheat belt.

On 15 August, Essential Media reported on public understanding of climate change and its relation to drought. The sample of Australians was asked ‘Do you think that the current drought across Eastern Australia is likely to be linked to climate change?’ 54% of Australians said that they believed that climate change and the current drought are linked. 25% said that there was unlikely to be a link and 21% said they did not know. Even 47% of Liberal and National Party supporters said that they believed that there was a link between climate change and the drought. Only 33% believed there was unlikely to be a link. Clearly, the National Party is out of touch with both the views of Australians generally but also with Liberal and National Party supporters.

Last week, the Minister for Agriculture who is a member of the National Party, David Littleproud, claimed on Q & A that such a link (between climate change and the drought) was a ‘big call’ and that he does no ‘give a rats if it’s man-made or not’.

It is also becoming obvious that many farmers are very sceptical of the attitude of the National Party towards climate change. Ben Potter, in the Australian Financial Review on 13 August 2018, spoke to a long-established farmer, Peter Mailler, about the failure of the Nationals and particularly Barnaby Joyce to address the issue of climate change. See below extracts from the interview between Ben Potter and Peter Mailler.

You can’t help farmers if you won’t tackle climate change, farmer tells government.

Peter Mailler, a third-generation grain and cattle grower from northern NSW who sent pregnant cows for slaughter this week because he can’t feed them all, has a message from drought-stricken northern NSW to the Turnbull government….

First, don’t pretend to champion drought-struck farmers if you’re not prepared to tackle climate change – because the increasing frequency of extremely hot, dry weather is compounding the effects of drought by impairing crops’ ability to use what rain they do get.

Second, don’t talk about giving coal-fired power “a free kick” in the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) when a full accounting of its environmental costs will tell you not that we can’t afford to close coal plants but that “we can’t afford to run one tomorrow”….

Third, don’t lean on high-risk, struggling industries like agriculture for deeper carbon emissions cuts when the stable, regulated electricity industry can obviously bear a larger share of the burden.

Last, the impacts of climate change on farming families threaten the survival of the Nationals’ support base in rural and regional Australia, so it is time for the Coalition to dispense with “undermining science” and have an honest debate about climate change…. .

“I actually don’t see a pathway for my kids to come back – and some of them want to.” His parents built a five-megawatt solar farm on their property when they retired and he thinks this could be a better bet.

Mr Mailler says the conversation needs to be more robust. “If Turnbull and his cohort are nor prepared to diligently install some truth in the debate then what’s the point?” he says.

“You cannot fix the energy problem if you are going to ignore climate … because you are working on the wrong set of assumptions”, says Mr Mailler, who trained as an agricultural scientist before returning to his parents’ farm and then striking out on his own.

“I have no doubt that in my lifetime weather patterns have shifted significantly. I don’t know many farmers who would dispute that the climate has changed,” he says.

“And it’s obviously going to get worse.”

The evidence is becoming apparent that the National Party remains sceptical of climate change and is careless about the interests of farmers that it claims to represent. The National Party leadership is more concerned about picking up ministerial crumbs from the Liberal Party cabinet table than representing their farming constituency.

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Rob Aberfeldy

I agree with Iris Little’s contention that the National Party seems to have divorced its traditional rural base in favour of large corporate interests. Most NP held electorates are based around big regional cities where the majority of people are urban, and their interests are more in common with metropolitan areas. At election time, country voters just to get thrown the ‘jobs and prosperity’ line rather than detailed policy propositions. From what I see in my part of eastern Victoria, the NP solely campaigns on rural matters rather than addressing issues like transport infrastructure and communications. I believe that the… Read more »

John Boyd

I have long thought that the National Farmers’ Federation is a political rather than industry body. Doing a search on the NFF web site for ‘global warming’ returned the following: ‘No matches were found for ‘(global or globals or globally) and (warming or warm or warmed or warmth or warmness or warmer or warms or warmest or warmly or warmers)’

Jane Hilton

Thanks for shining the light here, John. The lack of climate leadership from so-callled farmer representatives in Parliament bewilders and frustrates me. It is good to see a growing number of farmers calling for action on climate now.

Bob Mills

John Menadue (as always) and Iris Little make good points, but there’s another aspect altogether in the National’s sell-out to the Liberal party and the big end of town. Between them, they have thrown rural co-operatives to the private equity wolves. The bush used to rely, at least in part, on self-help through mutual organisations. Co-ops covered everything from wool, dairy, timber and beef to food processing, insurance, consumer groups, retailing and significant sectors of manufacturing. They were among Australia’s largest repositories of the wealth of the land and sustainable, because they planned for the long term, until both Liberal… Read more »

Iris Little

How true Bob. Look at all the towns now dying without services and transport infrastructure removed. No hospitals, no trains, just overtaxed and broken roads. Convoys of B-doubles carting everything which used to be moved efficiently by rail. Nothing like convoys of heavily laden, inefficient diesels to add to carbon emissions and climate change. John’s point on health services well made. Take a once busy hub like Cowra with its hospital gone, my old friends fought cancer, were left to travel by bus to Mt Victoria, sit on the freezing platform at 3am for the first train to take them… Read more »

Iris Little

I’ve never been able to understand the commitment of rural communities to the National Party. Rural Australia is a lot more traditional, rusted on to old ways. Having grown up in the Clare electorate of Central West NSW, I know what consternation & suspicion one could create by simply going out of town to vote absentee at various booths north west of Canowindra. When the count came in, enquiries would start trying to identify the traitor who’d cast that one vote for Labor. The National Party of the Doug Anthony era & since are different animals to the old guard… Read more »