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.


John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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6 Responses to JOHN MENADUE- The National Party is dudding farmers.

  1. Avatar Rob Aberfeldy says:

    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 ALP is much more focused on winning marginal suburban electorates rather than seriously having a go at what were once contestable seats.

    Meanwhile, country people do have contend with highways overflowing with heavy truck movements wearing out highways and local roads, and the rail freight networks are pared back to the bone. Unemployment and social disadvantage is conveniently hidden in regional areas, which might as well be in another galaxy to city based decision makers.

  2. Avatar John Boyd says:

    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)’

  3. Avatar Jane Hilton says:

    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.

  4. Avatar Bob Mills says:

    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 and Labor parties became sorry acolytes of neo-corporatism and engineered a quite cynical program of destruction.

    Through it all, the National Party has uttered barely a peep of protest, let alone organised any effective resistance. It has acquiesced at every turn as the “financial sector” has progressively consumed productive enterprise.

    The mutual spirit still runs strong in rural towns and regional organisations and could well resume the constructive role it once played, if it were not constantly smashed on the alter of phoney competition, engineered to protect the interests of the must successful rent-seekers – aka Australian Business, as represented by the Liberal Party.

    • Avatar Iris Little says:

      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 to Westmead. So many country towns built hospitals as Soldiers Memorial Hospitals in the wake of WW1. Most are now gone or geriatric facilities. Not much comfort for rural workers or any traveler hurt in accidents.

      Government decisions and lack of infrastructure is killing rural NSW. Greiner closed the rail lines, ripped up the tracks & sold off the rights of way. Then Bob Carr closed what services were left west of the Nepean; some would say anywhere west of Norton Street Leichardt! Now we have people wanting to build new inland rail lines.

      So many rural people now end up moving to the city, either for children’s education, to be closer to essential health services or work. If only Rudd’s NBN had been built to deliver fast remote services able to bridge the disadvantage of distance and reduce the need for people to travel great distances.

      If only our politicians had a vision for the future. We so desperately need major investment in infrastructure to make decentralization of population, jobs and services viable. Methinks the finance sector would rail against such ideas, potentially threatening the artificial valuation of property in the ghettos which our cities have become. Just think about the financial and environmental cost saving to be achieve by reducing mortgages and alleviating traffic congestion and long commutes.

      If one looks more broadly at our society, our economy, Australia is such an inefficient entity. The cost to the environment and individuals is enormous because of the lack of leadership and nation building vision of our politicians since the end of WW2. Bob Menzies had no vision beyond watch wool grow on sheep and grass on cricket fields. Unfortunately he remains the model for Liberal leadership.

      Tonight I hear Lord Malcolm intends dropping any commitment to the Paris target, as he panders to his worst enemies within. The Neville Chamberlain approach to the merest threat to his incumbency. In the process he is again signalling his lack of leadership. He is turning his back on the creation of thousands of extra high tech employment opportunities and investment which would flow, if the government through its weight behind renewable energy & recycling.

      The influence of what I think is a fundamentally corrupt National Party and a Coalition depending on its support to sit in the treasury seats is at the heart of why our country lacks leadership. Blind Freddy can see the rapidly increasing effects of climate change. Our agricultural sector is paying the price now, yet the party they generally vote for is farmings biggest enemy. The National Party’s denial of Climate Change, and support for coal and CSG industries, are totally reprehensible in my view.

  5. Avatar Iris Little says:

    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 typified by Black Jack McEwen’s quite unashamed used the bargaining power with Conservative governments to push policies advantaging farmers, be they on trade, water use & infrastructure & road & rail transport subsidies.

    The National Party of today remind me of Animal Farm in the way leaders have increasingly used their influence & position for self enrichment or to advantage mates of mates. To me the party long ago sold its sole to the coal & CSG industries, & to powerful interests among irrigators, particularly in the cotton industry. What I wouldn’t give to see a genuinely independent & well resourced Federal ICAC investigate the decisions of publicly funded political appointees & ministers.

    The National Party continues to hold seats down the length of the Darling, despite the fact virtually all the water is taken by a few vested interests at the top of the system. Why are electorates south of Bourke still voting National Party; same nationals who gave the nod nod wink wink to up river water theft & hording which has reduced the river to a series of puddles?

    The same goes for electorates across the plains, where the National Party has never stood up for farmers faced with unwanted exploration & fracking by CSG companies or the desecration of prime farm land by coal companies granted permits, often by National Party ministers! How is it, in the middle of this serious drought, a company like Adani can be granted free access to waters from aquifers, at the detriment of farmers often asked to pay for such a right?

    I’ve often thought there should be a shared interest between farmers & environmental parties . It won’t happen of course, while corporate farming see profit first & the extreme left of the Greens decry anything but virgin forest. Somewhere in the moderate middle there must be shared interest in better practices & land preservation.

    In the meantime, the Nats will keep getting votes by default, until rural communities see credible alternatives with moderate rural focus & the guts to stand up to capitalist interests which make it worth spraying WD40 on their traditional ties to the National Party. Local independents & increasingly common hung parliaments seem likely.

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