The National Farmers’ Federation is not answerable to the Parliament. The NFF is responsible only to its members. The NFF is not called upon to adjudicate competing demands or priorities facing government and political parties. What it must do is send an unequivocal signal of its position on policy crucial to its members.
There is always a danger with lobby groups headquartered in Canberra that they try to play the political power game instead of directly representing their members. Power games and professional lobbyists are the masters of trade-off and compromise. But sometimes there is no compromise good enough to be a real solution. When the rural economy is threatened with a major cost impost and restructure, as it is under the ETS, that is a time where a compromise is the same as surrender.
The Nationals will support amendments that improve the ETS but we won’t vote for anything that looks like this ETS. We have gone out on a limb to stand up for our regional constituency. I’m fairly sure that farmers want the NFF there with us.
Unfortunately, the NFF’s David Crombie has not taken up my invitation to a face to face meeting with farmers to hear their views on the ETS. Nevertheless, the meeting shall go ahead and there will be a chair there for the NFF.
Mr Crombie argues that Coalition policy at the last election was to support an ETS so the NFF just had to make the best of it. The past election is past. The Rudd legislation is nothing like the Coalition’s past commitments. The NFF should recognise that the only real win for their members is to fight the ETS all the way. The Coalition’s policy since July has been to not vote on an ETS till after Copenhagen. That is still the current policy.
Then the NFF made front page news in The Australian by calling for the Coalition parties to support an amended ETS. Straight away, the only organised political defenders of regional Australia, The Nationals, have been left without a key ally. It’s hard to save the ship when your cobbers are going for the lifeboats instead of the pumps. The only relevant test the NFF should have considered when deciding its policy was whether the resulting ETS would inflict considerable harm to farmers. The answer is an unqualified ‘Yes’. Therefore, the NFF’s way was clear – to oppose the ETS and to call on all political parties to do likewise. Appeasement is not a policy – it’s surrender.
The Coalition is developing amendments that improve the CPRS but do not solve all its problems. The Minerals Council commissioned BAEconomics to compare support provided by the CPRS, the CPRS with Coalition amendments and the assistance that would be provided if Australia adopted EU rules.
If Australia adopted EU criteria, Australian exports worth around $145 billion would be shielded from the full CPRS tax. That represents approximately seventy percent of the value of Australia’s top 25 exports.
Under the Rudd government’s unamended CPRS, Australian exports worth just $30 billion, or 15% of our top 25 exports, would receive partial shielding from the full impact of the CPRS.
Under the CPRS with the Coalition amendments, exports worth $100 billion would receive shielding from the full impact which represents some fifty percent of Australia’s top 25 exports. We would still be well short of the EU level of shielding of seventy per cent.
The fight is not over until the vote is taken. Pressure from politicians and peak groups working together can expose the flaws and, in this case, the unparalleled economic lunacy of proposed legislation.
There’s a quote from Einstein on my Canberra office wall. It says if you know the truth and have the courage to act on it, you need not despair. The truth is, if this ETS is passed, there is going to be a lot of despair in rural and farming communities. Now more than at any other time in past debates, our constituents need The Nationals and the NFF speaking as one calling for the ETS to be opposed by all of sound mind and conscience.
Farmers are used to tough fights. It comes down to fighting for what you believe in, not giving way for a compromise that simply won’t work. Nothing is inevitable until the vote is taken.
I urge all country people concerned about an ETS to speak up bravely and say ‘No’.