Election 07: Feds were involved with clearing bans

9th November 2007Prime Minister, John Howard, has admitted the Federal Government did play a role in banning land clearing, but won’t comment on whether farmers should be compensated for this or be recognised for their contribution to Australia meeting its Kyoto targets.

In a special interview with Rural Press last week, Mr Howard exploded the long-held belief that State Governments were solely responsible for bans on land clearing by saying the bans came about by a “combination” of State and Federal action.

Earlier this year, Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, implied on the 7.30 report that the only reason Australia was meeting its Kyoto targets was because of a ban put on land clearing by the Federal Government – a statement he later “clarified”, insisting the States went it alone and banned land clearing.

In the June interview on the ABC, Mr Costello said “stopping land clearing was a good thing” and went further to say “this was all designed to stop land clearing, and we stopped land clearing, and it’s helped us meet our Kyoto targets”.

While not wanting to comment on Mr Costello’s previous comments on the issue, Mr Howard said “there were actions by both the Federal and State Governments” to stop land clearing.

“There is Federal legislation and there were a lot of negotiations between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government,” Mr Howard said.

“Most of the land clearing occurred in Queensland, and that did make a big contribution (to reducing emissions), but there was a combination of action by both Governments.

“…there were financial payments made in relation to some of those things by the Federal Government but there was also legislative action taken by the Queensland Government.”

Mr Howard said it was clear land clearing had made a contribution to Australia reducing its greenhouse emissions, and meeting Kyoto targets, but “it’s not the only thing that’s made a contribution”, he added.

“Our greenhouse challenge program, we’ve enlisted a lot of companies, and the greenhouse gas abatement measures introduced by the Government itself… there’s quite a lot of things that we have done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that may have made a contribution,” Mr Howard said.

“As for recognition for farmers, we are proposing in the lead up to the introduction to the emissions trading system we’ll be consulting the farm sector about its relationship.

“Bearing in mind that we’re not proposing to include emissions from the rural sector in that trading system initially which is seen by the rural sector as a sensible and beneficial thing to have done.

“We’ll be having discussions about the relationship of the farm sector to the emissions trading system, but it’s too early for me to say yes or no to that (compensation).”

SOURCE: Extract from special report in this week’s Rural Press agricultural publications.