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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8355

Carbon Farming Initiative


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (15:09): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister outline the reasons for the government's decision to contribute to the purchase of Henbury Station as well as the implications for carbon farming? What is the government's response to other opinions that have been put forward in relation to carbon farming?


Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (15:09): I thank the member for Lyons for the question and note his strong interest in the Carbon Farming Initiative and the extra lines of income it can provide for land use. During the break the government, through the National Reserve System, was responsible for the largest parcel of land ever purchased through the National Reserve System. Together with RM Williams, we contributed $9.1 million to a $13 million purchase price to convert Henbury Station to what will be the world's largest carbon farm.

On Henbury station, what RM Williams are wanting to do is effectively provide a template, a canvas, where they can, through trial and error, work through the best way to drive business models for carbon farming. What this will provide is an extra line of income and effectively a massive demonstration project that other large pastoralists and other farmers will be able to look at. It is using some of the best accountancy advice available.

It was interesting to listen to the earlier exchanges when people were talking about which way investment goes through international linking. Just before question time I received a text message from David Pearse, who has been responsible for the project for RM Williams, who let me know that they have already been approached about international linking by major European insurance companies wanting to invest in carbon in Australia because of the Carbon Farming Initiative—wanting to pay international permits and use them in Australia through the Carbon Farming Initiative.

You would have thought that the concept of the Carbon Farming Initiative was something that may have provided some level of bipartisanship across the chamber, but no. Senator Nash, when this was announced, opposed the Henbury purchase. She opposed there on the Finke River Australia being involved in the world's largest carbon farm on the basis of the principles that had already been put by the Leader of the Opposition. He said we should not go to prime agricultural land and Senator Nash then described Henbury Station as an example of prime agricultural land.

Can I make clear Henbury Station is in Central Australia. Henbury Station is in the red earth area, surrounded by desert, in Central Australia. The coalition are looking for where they are going to plant their trees. They are looking for an area five times the size of Tasmania, they are looking for an area roughly the size of Germany but they have ruled out the Darling Downs, they have ruled out New England, they have now ruled out all of the desert and they have now ruled out all of Central Australia. Where will their trees go? Where is the concept of carbon farming? There is a limit to how many trees the Leader of the Opposition can plant at Manly Beach. There is a limit to how well trees will grow if they decide to plant them in the oceans. Once you start describing the entire continent as 'prime agricultural land' you are effectively saying that anything that goes to carbon sequestration is off the agenda. You can also add inside that black hole where sits $70 billion their entire direct action policy.