Carbon Trading Blocked until Farmers get Credits: Steve Truman

“It had been the previous [Australian] coalition governments intention and by default the Rudd governments plan to meet it’s commitments to limit the nation’s Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2008-2012 to the Kyoto Target of an 8% increase above the levels achieved in 1990, by using these accumulated credits [from bans on landclearing] without paying farmers for them.

“The Federal Court in Sydney in December last year agreed that farmers have an arguable case against the Commonwealth over ownership of the 80 million Tonnes of carbon created from land clearing bans…

“Now the court has given Mr Spencer the Green light to file a “notice of motion” which is an injunction to stop the Commonwealth from entering into any carbon trading scheme, until the case is decided.

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16 Responses to Carbon Trading Blocked until Farmers get Credits: Steve Truman

  1. Ian Mott February 25, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    It should be noted that the key, enabling letter, between the commonwealth and Queensland, that specifically called for a total clearing ban for greenhouse purposes, was written by the then Federal Minister for the Environment, Kemp.

    This man had or still has very strong links to the Institute of Public Affairs, an organisation that has done a great deal of posturing as champions of property rights, sound science and the maintenance of key principles of good governance.

    Yet, Kemp’s letter prompted the complete trashing of the regional vegetation planning process that had been underway for a number of years, and which, with the support of farmer and forest owner representatives, would have limited clearing to those regions where remnant vegetation was in excess of 50% or to circumstances where cleared remnant could be offset by new regrowth in other parts of the property, catchment or region. That is, they recognised that there were some circumstances where clearing posed no threat to ecological systems. But Kemp came over the top with a blunt instrument wielded by a myopic daytripper.

    Once again, a high talking urban “Free market, due process, libertarian” has demonstrated a total ignorance of the brief and a willingness to apply one high standard for his urban community and another, almost feudal, third world, standard for rural Australia. It is difficult to determine which parts of the statutory definition of “improper exercise of power” that this man did not offend.

    And rest assured, his proper place in history will be written by those of us with long memories.

  2. Jennifer February 25, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    You make some good points and yes, David Kemp’s father started the IPA and the family still have an association with the organisation.
    Of course you don’t get much of a stronger advocate for Property Rights in Australia than Alan Moran – at the IPA.

  3. Ian Mott February 25, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    I agree, Jen, Alan’s work, and those before him, should not be dismissed. But Kemp’s blundering has really set the whole cause back a long way and, like it or not, it does reflect, very poorly, on the IPA itself. It also highlights the way Ministers can be captured by their departments.

    Some of the IPA ghosts must be rolling in their graves.

  4. Steve February 25, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    Kemp seemed to achieve exactly what he had probably been told to achieve. That is, to garner as much good vibe about Australia and its response to climate change as possible without doing anything to annoy JWH or the govt’s buddies. The govt of the day’s buddies just happened to be more along the lines of big resource companies, and less about QLD farmers, who would be more likely to stoush with the State Govt on this issue anyway.

    Maybe the whole ‘we are meeting kyoto anyway’ argument helped the coalition keep criticism of its climate policies at manageable levels for a couple extra years.

  5. Steve February 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    I guess what I am saying Ian is that i don’t think kemp was ‘blundering’ and captured by his department. I think this action was more deliberate and considerd than that. I think extracting good international and domestic kudos for ‘reducing’ emissions without annoying the energy industries was part of the howard govt’s strategy, not simply the influence of activist public servants as you infer.

  6. Luke February 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    The Australia clause (land use) was inserted during Kyoto negotiations simply for the reason that it would used/claimed. It was Australia who asked for it. Not Europe.

    To blame all of suburbia for land clearing legislation is far too simplistic. The actions were undertaken by a handful of people in reality. People in a position to do so. Most of suburbia wouldn’t know – they’re busy watching the footie on TV.

    So a co-operative vegetation management process was scuttled overnight and legislation substituted.

    The value of the carbon annexed is indeed substantial and the farmers affected have a valid point (IMO).

    What has also been lost is the relationship with natural resource scientists, policy makers and the rural community which has probably set cooperation on ground back a generation.

    The opportunity to use the carbon resources on farm could have also been a very useful supplement to improving terms of trade and improving sustainable land use overall.

    So this was carried out by governments of both colours. Indeed state actions helping out the Howard government no end, and now Rudd as well.

    But rural leadership didn’t squeal too much at the time either. Or not enough (again IMO).

    Unfortunately, once bitten, twice shy, so I think any dialogue with the property rights guys is now nigh on impossible. They’re now beyond the working groups and discussions.

  7. Ian Mott February 25, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    That may well have been part of the equation Steve. But I can recall sending an email to a discussion list some time ago that the ground had been prepared for the government to take the easy way out and shaft the farmers. And almost exactly six months later Prof. Ian Noble led a delegation of key people involved with the AGO in a meeting with Howard and told him exactly that. Words to the effect that the cheapest way to meet our obligations was to ban all clearing.

    I was right on top of it Steve. I knew the participants and exactly what they were up to. Blind freddy could see it comming and there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that it was driven by the department and their research minions.

    The garnering of international kudos was a button that was always there to be tickled. It is always there to be tickled.

  8. Ian Mott February 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    Back more than a generation, Luke Inc. For once I agree with your last two paras. The Rural ‘Leadership’ got the rights they were willing to spill blood for, ie zippo. They should lower their heads in shame each time they walk past a country cenotaph for giving away rights that were bought at such a high price.

    working groups and discussions? There are only two places to deal with criminals, the courts and the dark alleys.

  9. chrisgo February 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    The Rudd Government, by ratifying Kyoto, would have unintentionally assisted the landowners’ case for just financial compensation, would it not?

  10. Ian Mott February 25, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    See the March 2007 Landholders Institute Submission on Carbon Trading at The initial commentary on the need for any system to be consistent with fundamental legal principles is highly relevant to the current legal challenge.

  11. Pandanus67 February 25, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    The reality is that the previous Federal Government cannot be wholly blamed for the Qld land clearing legislation. Whilst the Feds were pushing for regrowth only, and a consistent objective method of identifying it,the Beattie Govt became frustrated at not achieving the outcome it wanted in the time frame it wanted and pushed through its own legislation, losing any hope of Federal Govt compensation for farmers that was on offer.

    I clearly remember the the toing and froing that went on for months as draft and redraft went on at the desk next to me. Beattie basically put one over the Feds for State reasons.

  12. Pandanus67 February 25, 2008 at 8:40 pm #

    On another note, it should not be forgotten that the Kyoto emissions target is a Government ‘debt’ and not strictly an individuals. The State Labor Governments in Victoria, NSW and Qld especially pursued land clearing legislation that had proved to be a windfall for the Howard Government, in terms of meeting its Kyoto target (even though Howard never ratified and the target had no legal standing).

    Whether or not the Rudd Government has an obligation to compensate farmers for meeting Australia’s Kyoto target is interesting as the States introduced the legislation mostly for other environmental reasons. As the Commonealth does not have the right to legislate in regard to land use practices (States rights) a decision by the High court may go against States rights or result in providing greater powers for the Commonwealth on land use issues due to obigations undertaken through the signing of international treaties such as Kyoto.

    We shall have to wait and see what the outcome is, but I feel that it may prove to be a realignment in State and Commonwealth powers over such things as land use.

  13. Luke February 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm #

    How does that work – Feds were pushing for regrowth only? Huh?

  14. Pandanus67 February 26, 2008 at 8:19 am #


    No, they wanted to clearly identify the differences between what could be considered regrowth and has been subject to clearing on past occasions, to that of mature or ‘old growth’ vegetation; the removal of which would count negatively towards Australia’s Kyoto target if it was ratified.

    The farm lobby wanted a transparent system that they could have confidence with and wouldn’t negatively penalise them for their management systems, the green lobby wanted all land clearing stopped regardless of whether it was regrowth or not. In many of the areas under question many properties are manaed on quite long term rotations such as 10-15 years or more. The paddock is cleared and depending on location and quality of the season either cropped for a year or two, then put to improved pasture for a few years then left to rough graze for another few years until the paddock regenerates and then basically not much is done until the qualitiy of the season is such that it starts over again.

    p around places like the Pilliga and throught o Qld such rotations used to be quite common until the new land clearing laws came into force. Now th e rotation length is shorter due to the definition of regrowth. Essentially it used to be quite a sustainable method of farming, extensive in nature rather than intensive with a long term focus on not over manageing it. Due to the new defintitions of regrowth in conjunction with revised land clearing laws, such as the NSW Native Vegetation Act, farmers are being pushed into reducing rotation length and adopting a more intensive management of their properties inorder to survive, where the quality of the season permits of course.

  15. Luke February 26, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    Hang on this is a very southern centric view of life ? cropping ? improved pastures? WTF. Most of Queensland is just extensive rough grazing – no we’ll say pastoralism! Maybe throw in some buffel.

    And everything is old growth if you want to look for old stumps and ring-barked trees. You can really only do a height definition i.e. it has regrown to an extent that it looks close enough to remnant vegetation again.

    The “ecologists” wanted regional ecosystems not to be cleared below certain levels or minimum areas in the case of small areas of remnant.

    The vegetation working groups would agree to minimum levels of remaining of regional ecosystems, sensible clearing near creeks and rivers, avoiding high slopes and saline prone systems, and made good attempts to develop corridors of interlinked woody vegetation.

    All swept aside by the tree clearing laws. The salinity argument ended up to be substantially bogus.

    What I want to know is why was the 25 Mt the magic number needed by the Feds – no more no less.

    None of this adds up of course.

    And we’re now left with an emerging problem of thickening and how they are going to allow thinning operations. Round and round and round we go.

    Should have stuck with the regional processes and made them work. Could have had a win win. And landholders should have been able to realise their carbon resources either directly or by regional investment from the Commonwealth.

    Would have delivered production, biodiversity and greenhouse outcomes. And improved terms of trade in the bush.

    Now you’ve just got a bunch of very pissed off disenfranchised individuals.

    But that’s just my two bobs.

  16. Nelson Mandella February 27, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    The real problems will start if the high court goes against the landowners and validates the taking without compensation as some perverse interpretation of the States power to govern for the “peace, order and good governance” of the people.

    For at that point, there is no longer the barest semblance of a social contract and any obligations to the community that this, by far our most community minded minority, may have felt in the past are void.

    We will have been taken so far down the road to ecological “Bosnia” that the only option left is for them to demonstrate that the consequences of state sponsored fraud is neither “peace”, “order”, nor “good governance”.

    The deparmental spivs simply calculated that they can abuse a majority mandate with impunity. But they have not even begun to contemplate what sort of costs would be involved in defending vital ecological assets from a home grown terrorist network with a solid community base.

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