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National Party policies betray interests of supporters

By Mike Pope - posted Monday, 5 February 2018


The National Party of Australia holds itself out to be the champion of country folk, particularly those engaged in the production and processing of food and minerals. However this claim is sharply at odds with the somewhat schizophrenic polices and actions of Party leadership at both Federal and State levels.

On the one hand their policies express support for renewable energy and the need to combat climate change, yet on the other their leadership calls for expansion of coal production and its wider use, both in Australia and overseas. Nationals Senator Canavan, Minister for Natural Resources and Northern Australia, has consistently supported development of new coal mining in Queensland. In doing so he ignores the fact this inevitably results in higher greenhouse gas emissions and more rapid global warming.

Both Senator Canavan and Nationals Leader, Barnaby Joyce have called for refurbished and new coal fired power stations to provide base load power and back-up for renewable generators. Realising that such proposals would never attract private sector support, there have even been calls from the National Party for government to make public funds available for this purpose.

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In the face of diminishing use of coal, the Nationals, supported by right-wing Liberals have made it clear to the Prime Minister that measures aimed at curbing coal production and use could jeopardize the Coalition. These blandishments and calls for increased coal use have been made in the full knowledge that, if implemented, they would result in accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, more rapid global warming and an increasingly severe climate.

This puts the Prime Minister in an invidious position. He either accommodates the Nationals - and right-wing Member of his own Party – or his tenure might come under threat.

Both the Tourist and Farm Sectors, particularly in Queensland, should be concerned by this. Over the past 10,000 years farming has been developed and flourished in a relatively stable climate of predictable seasonal change. Thanks to Global Warming, climate is already becoming more severe and less predictable putting crops, livestock and a major tourist attraction – the Great Barrier Reef – at risk.

For over a century we have known that burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, emit carbon dioxide and methane. For over a century we have known that these gasses absorb and reflect infra-red energy back to the earths surface. This raises average surface temperature making climate more extreme and less predictable. Drought, deluge, heat and fire become more common, though less predictable. All affect the ability of farmers to make a living off the land and put upward pressure on the price of foodstuffs.

Rising surface temperature also increases sea surface temperature to the point where this causes coral bleaching and increasingly rapid destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. In the longer-term it also poses the risk of sea level rise and coastal erosion. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in higher absorption of this gas by ocean water, increasing ocean acidification and disrupting the food chain on which the fish and crustaceans in the human diet.

In addition, increased surface temperatures result in the spread of vector-born diseases which affect animals, humans and the crops they grow. Our biosecurity

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is under increasing pressure as pests, weeds and disease bearing vectors move from the tropical north to the temperate south of the country. Imported diseases can threaten entire crops (Panama Disease affected bananas), prove difficult and expensive to control (Fire Ants) or decimate aquaculture (White Spot disease).

These outcomes and other effects of a more severe climate threaten the income of all primary producers. It also threatens the income of businesses in provincial towns and cities, which add value, then market and transport farming and fishing products and the businesses and jobs of those who rely on tourism. Primary food producers and the tourist industry should ask themselves whether the dichotomy between National Party policy and the action that its Members of Parliament repeatedly call for, serve their best interests?

As a result of on-going greenhouse gas emissions global warming has, on average, reached 1°C above preindustrial temperature – and it continues to rise. 'On average' means that many parts of the world now experience temperatures far in excess of 1°C higher - as evidenced by longer, more frequent heat waves, such as those now affecting south-east Australia, California and many other parts of the world.

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About the Author

Mike Pope trained as an economist (Cambridge and UPNG) worked as a business planner (1966-2006), prepared and maintained business plan for the Olympic Coordinating Authority 1997-2000. He is now semi-retired with an interest in ways of ameliorating and dealing with climate change.

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