There might be a place where “raving inner city lunatics” are the only people who are concerned about climate change but it is certainly not Michael McCormack’s electorate of Riverina.
Here in south-western New South Wales, the effects of climate change could not be more keenly felt, as we continue to manage for an extended fire season, as we continue to sell down stock and towns actively deal with water shortages and quality issues for drinking and irrigation.
They are just the headlines to our lives.
Monday’s extraordinary interview is just more evidence of the tin ear on the national political party most often associated with country Australia. And more’s the pity.
Those of us who live in the country need metropolitan Australians to understand our lives more than ever. Yet this sort of rubbish about ‘woke inner city greenies’ is exactly the sort of crap that divides the nation and takes the place of the more difficult policy work to address some of our challenges.
It is cheap talk that kills farmers’ social licence at a time when we need cities to understand how important the job of food growing is for their own bellies and how important food production is to the economy of regional communities.
As the dairy industry bleeds under crippling water prices, we need to have a serious conversation about the diversity of our food sector and its building blocks – soil, water and energy – and how they are impacted by climate change.
We need the city to understand how important the growing renewables sector is to providing new jobs to our communities, while ensuring we take our own coal workers by the hand into new opportunities.
In short, this is a story that swirls around McCormack’s head like winds fanning our latest tragic bushfires. It is a national story in a country he purports to help lead and it is a local story his own backyard. Yet he averts his gaze.
While the federal Nationals cannot utter the term climate change, their West Australian counterparts can and do.
This is Mia Davies, the smart young leader of the WA Nationals when the state party passed a motion acknowledging climate change is resulting in more extreme and variable weather.
“I talk to younger people and I say ‘would you engage with a political party that was perceived not to believe in climate change?’,” she said.
“Their answer is universally ‘no’ and so from my perspective this is about saying we are a party that wants to be part of the conversation and work on things that, yes, are difficult, but our communities expect us to be a part of that.”
It brought plaudits from WA farmers, such as the influential agribusiness woman Sue Middleton, who explicitly stated on Monday via Twitter that the bushfire events could be a “Port Arthur moment” for the National party, evoking past leadership of Tim Fischer during the gun debate.
Importantly, the WA Nats’ acknowledgement has meant West Australian farmers have had the political cover to organise and aim for zero net emissions by 2030 so they are part of the solution.
Those goals provide an important part of the answer for any metropolitan citizens who question the role of agriculture in climate change.
These conversations are being held across the country. The industry’s thinktank, the Australian Farm Institute, earlier this year addressed the issue of global warming on the already risky business of farming.
The AFI followed up, launching a report commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action at Parliament House, which was used to call for a national climate strategy.
So scary were the political implications that the National party didn’t turn up to that launch by their own ministerial colleague, the environment minister, Sussan Ley. Once again they poked their own constituency in the eye in favour of inexplicable political priorities.
Yet the agricultural industry must build trust with city voters if they are to convince them on their capacity to manage environmental services and improve soil carbon, both important future income streams that are already happening, paid for by corporations and governments.
That’s just a few of the national issues McCormack ignores. At the same time, the main streets of the little towns and regional centres in his own electorate are hunkering down for a long drought.
McCormack must have missed the protest of 1,000 people in his own electorate during the global strike for climate. Were they raving inner city lunatics?
He must have missed the protests outside his office by concerned Riverina citizens Wagga Wagga Fridays for Future, some of whom are GPs and mental health clinicians in a group numbering 500. He must have missed his very own Wagga City council declaring a climate emergency, before the local politics of it got too much and it was rescinded.
In the past few months I have attended agronomy meetings, working out the tricky juggling acts of making use of moisture stressed crops and feedlotting sheep. I have attended field days where land managers are looking for new ways to ensure that the land can recover after drought in a drier climate – including government-funded courses in the rising movement for regenerative farming.
Hell, this week I will attend a renewables in agriculture conference in McCormack’s hometown to hear about the transformation of energy use and income streams on farms.
But then I know McCormack understands the opportunities because he handed over $1m to the small town of Lockhart in the Riverina, which is one of a number of rural towns racing to be totally renewable in the very near future.
As he told The Land, the project would be “transformational”.
“This will re-energise, literally, Lockhart and this is a project almost the entire town, if not the entire community has gotten behind,” he said.
People are already acknowledging and adapting. So by all means, throw red meat to what you think is your base. But don’t pretend your own voters aren’t concerned about climate change because they are already thinking about local solutions.
Former political correspondent Gabrielle Chan is a writer for Guardian Australia and is the author of Rusted Off – why country Australia is fed up
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For us farmers climate change is the headline to our lives, but McCormack's Nationals avert their gaze have 1315 words, post on www.theguardian.com at November 11, 2019. This is cached page on Konitono.News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.