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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1534

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon) (16:48): I just have to say to the member for Parkes, as much as I like him: really and truly. You said many of the people in your electorate are nervous about the future. But they would be a hell of a lot more nervous about the future if it had not been for this government and the previous government of ours, and the way we tackled the global financial crisis. You only have to look at Europe and the United States to see what could have happened. Relatively speaking, we are much better off than them. You will not recognise it, so your negativity needs to be spoken about. Before you leave the chamber: you raised issues about appropriation, and I would like to comment on them. For your information, and contrary to what you are saying, there are a record number of students enrolled in our universities today, and there are record numbers of students from rural and regional Australia—particularly from low-income families—in our universities. So I have to correct the way you were portraying the people of Parkes. Also, I will finish by saying that the NBN system—with some of the issues that you have raised, I acknowledge—is better, with the potential that exists for rural and regional Australia and particularly metropolitan Australia as well, compared to no policy at all from those opposite. So I cannot let the member for Parkes make those wild, exaggerated, generalised statements and just get away with it. I am sorry that he has walked out the door before at least he has had the opportunity to hear that.

Now, we are here to discuss appropriations, and—

Mr O'Dowd interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): The member for Flynn will sit in silence!

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: Indeed, and I hope the member for Flynn is speaking on this. I cannot see his name down there at the moment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: He is not on the list.

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: Anyway, I am more than happy to hear his comments. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012, amongst other things, are approvals for measures such as the government's plan for a clean energy future, a remarkable, reformative piece of legislation that is about to come into action. It is great to see how, in particular, the agricultural sector has taken up the challenge of the clean energy future—and I will to refer to that in a moment—particularly in this Australian Year of the Farmer. I am very happy to celebrate that with them.

Also, these bills are part and parcel of measures that fund the Tasmanian forest industry adjustment package. That, of course, is highly relevant to my state and particularly my region. The bills also provide Australia's contribution of overseas development assistance to the Horn of Africa drought and famine—very, very important. They also provide assistance to eligible businesses affected by the temporary suspension of the live cattle exports to Indonesia.

I mentioned the agricultural sector and the clean energy future. I will spend some time a little bit later talking about the clean energy future and its implications and benefits in my electorate, but I particularly want—in this, the Australian Year of the Farmer—to point out that Australia's agricultural sector is embracing a clean energy future, contrary to the suggestion of the member for Parkes, with more than 500 applications received from universities, land managers, the industry and government agencies for this government's funding to test and develop new ways for farmers to reduce carbon emissions. They are interested in it. They are practical people. They want practical results. And they are prepared to test those.

I noticed in today's Senate estimates that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has confirmed that we received at least 240 applications for the first round of the $99 million Action on the Ground program under the Carbon Farming Future Fund. That is 240 applications for the first round. A further 235 applications had been received for the first round of the $201 million Filling the Research Gap program, also part of the Carbon Farming Future Fund, which is a key component, as I mentioned before, of the clean energy future plan. The Action on the Ground and Filling the Research Gap programs provide funding for research into on-farm practices and new technologies—specifically those. The level of interest in these programs shows how keen the agricultural sector is to benefit from the opportunities in the land sector to cut carbon pollution.

The member for Parkes asked why we have a clean energy future and why we are going about this responsible program, because, he said, it does not do anything for the environment. Cutting 160 million tonnes of pollution from the atmosphere by 2020 I reckon is doing something for the environment. That is going to allow us to meet our international commitment to cut emissions by five per cent on year 2000 levels. That is the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road. That is a target that those opposite support. If we are attempting to meet those targets and reduce pollution by 160 million tonnes from the atmosphere through our system and they agree with those targets, how can they say that our program is not doing anything for the environment?

The member for Parkes really has got a logic problem in his argument.

Back to the agricultural sector embracing a clean energy future: I knew they would because they are practical people. They live on the land. They survive on the land. They know the land. They know what the land can do. We are there to support them in those endeavours. Agricultural emissions will be excluded under the carbon price mechanism, as I hope all those in this House are making clear. But farmers also have the opportunity to earn extra income by sequestering carbon or reducing emissions, such as nitrous oxide and methane. Part of our $1.7 billion investment in the land sector is for new research and on-farm demonstrations. Again, farmers are practical and take a great deal of note of extension programs and particularly on-farm demonstrations. That is a very practical way of developing and appreciating innovation. These activities will help the agricultural sector unlock the economic and productivity benefits of reducing emissions and at the same time protect the environment.

The $99 million Action on the Ground program, which I mentioned earlier, helps the industry and farming groups test and apply research outcomes in real farming situations. Again, these are on-the-ground demonstrations and on-the-ground practical situations. Applications, for example, include proposals to demonstrate practices in the livestock, dairy, viticulture, cropping and poultry industries and to undertake on-farm projects.

The $201 million Filling the Research Gap program funds research into new technologies and practices for land managers to reduce emissions and store soil carbon. Applications cover reducing methane emissions, reducing nitrous oxide emissions, increasing soil carbon and improving modelling capabilities. Further applications, I believe, have been received for biochar research, which is part of the Carbon Farming Initiative. The $2 million Biochar Capacity Building Program, which supports research into how biochar and integrated biochar systems can be used in Australia to mitigate emissions, has received something like 29 applications. These research proposals, I understand, are undergoing assessments and will be ranked by merit.

So here is the agricultural sector embracing the clean energy future. Here are funds available to encourage them, to support them and to nurture their ideas and innovations in order to reduce our emissions and to increase their productivity. I congratulate Minister Ludwig, Parliamentary Secretary Mark Dreyfus and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Hon. Greg Combet, for their work in this area.

I mentioned at the outset that a clean energy future will support and benefit my local region. I have spoken about that before in the House and pointed out how people in my electorate will benefit. One of the other benefits of this appropriation legislation is that it allows for funding to support the Tasmanian intergovernmental agreement on forestry. Forestry in Tasmania, as we all know in this place, has been and continues to be a massive challenge and a political football for some. The industry has been changing for some time now and it continues to change. Indeed, the same thing is happening in Western Australia, as it is in Victoria and New South Wales. We know this. There are a lot of factors at work, be it the Australian dollar, the changed market conditions, demands of customers for the product or the change in domestic demands and expectations of the industry. The reality is that in Tasmania that transition—those challenges—has been going on for some time. The intergovernmental agreement seeks to respond to a group of stakeholders who came together under their own volition to try to iron out what effectively have been generations of combat and conflict. They came together with a set of principles to try to transition the industry into the future, dealing with it realistically and, at the same time, conserving those areas of our forests worthy of conservation while being able to guarantee contractual resource arrangements that currently exist. This process is underway. Unfortunately it has been seriously undermined by the disgraceful actions of activists in environmental groups who—we will share this with other colleagues in other states; this is not going to be confined to Tasmania—now use techniques to attack markets and to attack customers of producers, retailers and processors until they have economically blackmailed them out of taking product.

The products of Tasmania, like in other parts of Australia, are certified as product sustainably managed. That is being attacked by these activist groups as being the opposite. It is disgraceful behaviour. It has seriously affected a major employer in Tasmania, Ta Ann, who source their supplies legally and sustainably and have now put off workers because their customers in Japan, in particular, have been frightened off by activist groups who peddle disinformation, deceit and lies. Being a retailer, you do not want to be involved in people having demonstrations outside your store, people scaring your customers. So they are forced out. These tactics will be used from here on, not just in forestry. You can bet it is going to happen in dairy and in our marine industries such as fisheries, and so on it will go. It is disgraceful behaviour and they need to be reined in, particularly by the Greens. The Libs need to get off their pat and stop the criticism and try to get a constructive solution to Tassie's forestry issues so that we have a future.

This government has appropriated funds to support Tasmania in this transition. In my electorate of Braddon we have just announced nearly $6 million for an agritrade centre to help with the development of dairying skills, and also an upgrade of Harcus River Road and the development of energy supplies so that we can go from low-value beef into high-volume dairying by developing 27 more dairy farms.