Saturday, October 24, 2009

How much influence has Barnaby Joyce got in the ETS negotiations?

None at the moment. The Nationals are as relevant to the process as some of Barnaby's humourous one liners. You can wrap manure in cellophane, but it is still manure. What is his party's policy on soil carbon credits? Essentially it is: we don't want a bar of anything to do with carbon emissions or credits, etc. because we'll only get screwed by Government taxes on emissions and screwed by merchant bankers on carbon credits. In a debate with John Hewson in June 09 on ABC Radio, Barnaby claimed to be 'on the front foot' with this issue. But his contribution to the debate revealed a startling ignorance of fundamentals. Barnaby confuses soil carbon sequestration with bochar then, realising he is out of rope, changes the subject and then confuses biosecurity with biodiversity, switches to methane and cattle and rambles through a global conspiracy scenario and winds up with a oneliner. He's a monty - he's Jo Bejlke Petersen returned from the grave.
But what has this got to do with the reason the Nationals are boycotting the ETS negotiations? If Barnaby is the Leader in the Senate and he hasn't done his homework on a key issue, who has? Barnaby confirms below that he's as dumb as on this topic. He hasn't made the effort. SO it's either boycott the negotiations or be found out...
(Someone told me that they went to school with Barnaby and would I like an introduction? I said "Yes, of course. I like a good laugh.")


Barnaby Joyce: Well it's so marvellous, why hadn't we thought of that? Well the reason is, we have, and everybody's aware of the terra preta soils of Amazonia and it's a fact that greater carbon sequestration for soil improves productivity. There is a whole range of areas in Australia where it would be impossible to provide that, because just the structure of the soil wouldn't allow the sequestration of the carbon. You'd more likely have charcoal sitting on the top, which would be interesting in a bushfire.

Geraldine Doogue: How do you mean?

Barnaby Joyce: Ah well, you've got to obviously sequestrate the carbon inside the soil. If you can't get inside the soil, and there's a lot of places where that's just not possible, Geraldine, then your carbon, which would probably be in the form of charcoal, would be sequestrated on top of the soil, and unless you want to do it via – you see some of the issues in this argument by John – for instance, it is a fact that there is more carbon sequestrated in summer grasses in summer-growing pastures than there is in a dry sclerophyll forest. So if we were to follow this path, you would have to come forward with a policy. If you were going to be fair dinkum and upfront about it, that would pull over dry sclerophyll forest and plant Buffalo grass, Mitchell grass, summer pastures, possibly lucerne, and this doesn't work into the other side of the agenda of this debate, which is also – once you say that, they say 'There's also the biosecurity argument'. No-one ever talks about that, however, but we seem to ignore that fact.

What I don't believe, however, is that people are prepared, or the economics behind this, is about farmers getting an income stream. I think the economics behind this is that ultimately this program is going to make money, it is a tax, and Dr Hewson more than anybody else would understand what happens to people who introduce new taxes. And the idea that the farmers are going to somehow in Australia rise up, change the whole concept of the Kyoto Protocol which disaffirms soil carbon sequestration, is peculiar. But what I do see is an article such as Ben Macintyre yesterday in The Australian, where they talk about the evils of cattle, and how cattle now are next thing on the agenda that have to be removed. And what I can see our nation moving towards is a program of economic oblivion. I think we're being romantic in the extreme if we believe that at the end of this debate Australia is the one making money. No, at the end of this debate, Australia will be the one losing money, and when poverty walks in the door, your affection for a carbon trading system will fly out the window.


(Sound of laughter stage left.)

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