The Senate results from the last election sees nine Greens joining the 26 ALP senators which matches the coalitions 35 seats, leaving the cross benches with two One Nation, two Centre Alliance, one Australian Conservative Cory Bernardi and one Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.
With memories of the influence that the Greens had over the Gillard government and the ongoing need of the ALP to cultivate their members in the senate it’s time to take a closer look at their policies and how they could impact agriculture as the horse trading in the senate begins. Unlike the ALP the Greens did not suffer a shock loss at the election so they have no incentive to change their policy direction, particularly on carbon reduction targets.
A reading of their values and policies paints a picture of a party that views the modern industrial world through the lens of a dark wasteland. While they project an image of a green nirvana that awaits us all should they gain the reins of power. In fact the Greens seem to be heavily influenced by Tolkien’s classics The Hobbit in which villages of happy hobbits reside in a rural community called The Shire surrounded by lush organic gardens that seem to grow by themselves.
To get us to this idealistic world the Greens have moved on from simply wanting to save Australia’s rivers and forests to claiming the world be ruined, unless we adopt their economic and climate change policies. According to their political manifesto their approach to these complex issues is simply to drag the Australian economy back to the horse and cart age by drastically cutting carbon emissions.
The Greens emissions reduction target outlined during the election campaign was four times higher than the Liberals and twice that of the ALP, with the added unreal burden of aiming to achieve this in just ten short years. In fact the Greens went even further as they aim to turn Australia into Hobbit land within 20 years with their goal of zero carbon net emissions. Which means Australia by 2030 really would look like Middle Earth with its horses and carts and endless wild forests with not a tractor or sprayer in the country.
When it comes to the detail on how this long dangerous journey into the unknown would be achieved with no casualties, just like the labor party, the Greens were light on detail, particularly when it came to their policy’s impact of agriculture. We know from modelling of the ALP policy, that to drive the change to achieve their target of a 45% reduction would have required a carbon tax on the big emitters (over 25,000 tn) of around $60 a tonne, so logic tells us the Greens policy would require a carbon tax of well over $100 a tonne. This is economy stopping stuff when you compare the current global price for EU carbon credits has recently jumped to near an all time high of $40 tn. Worse as global demand for carbon credits cranks up the price of these offsets for the fuel and fertiliser that farmers need will grow, in time the $100 is likely to become $200. No doubt pleasing the Greens greatly as our economy shrinks into a depression.
To put this in perspective 1.0 lt of diesel equates to 2.68 kg of carbon dioxide (its all in the chemistry) so if you burn 100,000 lt your bill from the Greens for your 268 tns of Co2 at $100 tn will be $26,800 and that’s just the invoice for the fuel you use. CBH and CSBP will also be getting bills from the Greens so their costs will be passed on. The Australian Agricultural Institute predicted that a carbon tax of $23 would cost the average grain farmer $16,000 in 2011, so with inflation and increased farm sizes that rapidly escalates up to around $100,000 per average farm business.
Then when you add their bans on coal, oil and gas, there goes up in smoke the one Australian urea manufacturer and the rivers of royalties that have flowed from the miners into helping keep company tax rates low and support regional communities. No royalty income, then someone else has to pay for the hobbits to smoke their pipes and idle their days away.
The Greens ultimate target of 100 per cent renewable energy and zero net emissions within twenty years would require a wholesale redesign of the Australian economy and what drives it. Talking about driving don’t forget their promise to top the ALPs plan of 50% of all cars sold by 2030 being electric with their policy of an outright ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Only an inner-city living person would come up with such a ludicrous policy in a country of Australia’s size. Not surprising there was no mention of any exemptions for farm utes, obviously they have romantic visions of farmers on horses rounding up sheep and cattle.
Then there is the removal of the on farm fuel rebate which the greens repeatedly claim is a subsidy to primary industry. Farm labour costs would also rocket as they moved the economy to their long stated goal of a four-day work week without loss of pay – the hobbits would be pleased. Access to new agricultural chemicals would be restricted as the Greens move to apply their version of the precautionary principle to their registration – no chemicals in hobbit land. Meaning Australia would quickly enter a time warp as access to new herbicides to combat weed resistance dries up. Middle Earth is obviously organic which is why everything grows so well.
Here’s another one, increasing incentives for meat and dairy farmers to implement methane reduction methods plus incentives to assist farmers to minimise or eliminate the use of all harmful pesticides and fertilisers sounds fine at first glance. But when read in context with the likely reality of a bankrupt economy it should be read as putting in place disincentives, not incentives. Because as the economy goes into free fall with the new carbon taxes, mine closures and four day weeks, there won’t be any government funds available to offer any incentives.
The Greens offered no realistic costings for any of their policies but regardless, it was given rave reviews by the Australian Conservation Foundation which showed its true colours. Obviously they have not looked at a map of the world and worked out that only rich countries can afford to properly conserve endangered species and protect the environment.
Looking at the total cost of these policies ,modelling undertaken by Agricultural Economist Dr Brian Fisher on the ALP climate change policy showed that their policy would have cost the economy $246 billion (about 20% of GDP) and 340,000 jobs which equates to four times the size of the whole Australian agricultural sector and every single one of its jobs. The Greens policy would have been far far worse being double or triple that impact, equivalent to taking Australia back to a standard of living of New Zealand at the height of its protectionist era in the early 1980s. Not good. Mind you the Greens probably see this as perfect Lord of the Rings imagery.
On the basis of the policies announced by both the Greens and the ALP during the election there is no way either of them could have met their carbon emissions targets without going after agriculture and imposing a heavy carbon tax on livestock and farm production inputs. In short the policies put up by the Greens would have been be an absolute disaster for Australian Agriculture. It would apply crippling carbon taxes, drive up the cost of inputs, hit farmers with higher wage costs and restrict access to ag chemicals and fertilisers.
And here’s the ultimate fantasy land stuff, they claim none of this would hurt the Australian economy. It’s the old political adage if you are going to tell a lie then make it a big one. This really was Lord of the Rings stuff completely unreal except for those who live their lives wishing they were living in a movie. Not surprisingly most Greens supporters are inner city upper middle class, living about as far as possible from the reality of agricultural as you could get. We can only hope that they stay as fairies at the end of the garden and don’t end up siding with the cross benches and the ALP on key legislation, because then the Hobbits really will take us on a fateful journey towards their precious fantasy land.