FORMER New England MP Tony Windsor is one of more than 2000 farmers and graziers who have signed an open letter, alleging rural politicians are “attacking” renewable energies.
COUNTRYMINDED founder Peter Mailler who describes himself as a “Fat one-legged farmer from Boggabilla” in NSW, has also added his name to the letter which cites Mr Windsor of Werris Creek, NSW.
The protest letter was started by a farmer in the New England electorate now held by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce - Jim McDonald - in response to the Nationals’ vote in favour of eliminating renewable energy subsidies, at the rural based party’s recent federal conference in Canberra.
Farmers for Climate Action - which joined the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) last year - has promoted the open communication that’s aiming to apply political pressure on rural members.
“Politicians purporting to represent farmers and graziers, the people hit hardest by damage to our climate and rising energy costs, have been attacking homegrown renewable energy,” it says.
“Farmers have had enough and are standing up across the country to add their voice to the call for renewable energy in regional Australia.
“As farmers and graziers across rural and regional Australia, we are deeply concerned by the anti-renewables policies and rhetoric we’re hearing from some of members of parliament.”
Mr McDonald said it was difficult to understand how his elected reps, including his own, Mr Joyce, could claim to support farmers and major renewable energy projects like Sapphire Wind Farm in his electorate and at the same time preside over a party that appeared “obsessed” with supporting the coal and gas industries.
He said the government was happy to spend billions of dollars each year on fossil fuel subsidies and handouts, and things like manufacturing in Australia, but is “making a special case against renewables”.
But a spokesperson for Mr Joyce said the Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t anti-renewable and the industry was booming in his electorate and they “love his support of it there”.
“He‘s anti those who are anti-coal and who say renewables and nothing else - not even sensible people in the renewable industry support that,” the spokesperson said.
Farmers for Climate Action CEO Verity Morgan-Schmidt said like the rest of the country, farmers were looking to their MPs for a constructive, bipartisan approach to climate and energy policy.
“Those failing to deliver this will be held responsible,” she said.
David Quince, a livestock farmer in New England, NSW, said if politicians were genuine about protecting agriculture then they must address climate change which was worsening droughts, bushfires and heatwaves around the country.
“Anyone who is really passionate about protecting their country and land would be pushing for more renewable energy not less to be built around the country,” he said.
NFF Vice President Les Gordon said his group was a broad church and Farmers for Climate Action were NFF members and “bring a valuable perspective to the table that increases everyone’s understanding of these issues”.
“They’re running their campaign at the moment – but we do have an energy policy, and the bottom line is about having a market based mechanism and letting the market sort it out,” he said.
“It also talks about having a market based mechanism that promotes investment.
“I understand the National Party’s response on renewables at the federal conference but they are a broad church too.
“Ultimately, the people will judge the decision-makers at the end of the day on ‘how much is my energy costing me and will my air-conditioner stay on, when I want it to?’
“It’s a ‘real pub’ test issue.”
Speaking to media yesterday, Mr Joyce said people say they don’t like coal, and so you then say they you have to use gas but those critics also don’t like gas.
“So we’ve got a problem because 88 per cent of your power requirements come from coal, gas and hydro,” he said while referring to high electricity and energy costs.
“Where is your power going to come from - I don’t know the fairies – it will just descend from heaven.”
Mr Windsor could face Mr Joyce in a by-election for New England if the Nationals leader is ruled ineligible for parliament by the High Court, due to his dual NZ citizenship issues.