Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud has called on the Labor Government to step in and protect farmers from Westpac’s move to establish ‘deforestation’ targets on agricultural commercial lending.
Mr Littleproud said Australia already had some of the world’s strictest native vegetation protection laws set through state governments that have been internationally recognised and credited for meeting our Kyoto commitment and moralistic moves by the banking sector to go further should be rebuffed by the Federal Government.
“The states already impose strict vegetation regulative frameworks on farmers through punitive vegetation protection laws. These senseless new rules proposed by Westpac are an extreme overreach driven by European standards that simply don’t relate to Australian conditions,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The Federal Government must urgently send a clear signal to the banking sector that private capital should not be used to regulate Australian farmers and food production and if Australian banks want to try and do that then we should change the conditions of their banking licences.
“Governments set the laws – not the boards of big banks. If the banking sector will not back down on this senseless overreach then Labor should threaten to use their banking licences to pull them back into line.
“This move by Westpac is ill-advised, particularly when the only advice they sought was from environmental groups, and shows they’re not really a serious agricultural lender, so farmers who bank with them now should look elsewhere.”
Mr Littleproud said Westpac’s overreach had come in the same week as the Labor Government released its Agricultural, Land and Emissions Discussion Paper, which foreshadowed policy directions that could further recklessly impact farming practices and create unfair and unworkable regulations.
“The Albanese Labor Government’s anti-farming agenda is out of control. Labor has already recklessly signed Australian farmers up to a 30 per cent global methane reduction target by 2030. They have started a free-for-all on locking up productive farmland through their so-called safeguard mechanism, which will see multi-national companies buying up massive tracts of Australia’s productive farmland to lock up as carbon offsets.
“At the same time, Labor’s reckless race to reach 82 per cent renewables by 2030 threatens vast areas of productive farming land, without proper consideration, consultation and safeguards.
“It means 28,000 thousand kilometres of transmission lines, at a cost of $80 billion, will destroy native vegetation and highly productive agricultural land.
“Labor has the wrong priorities for our nation. If you over burden farmers and reduce productive farmland, then you directly increase the price of fresh food at the checkout for families. It’s the simple economics of supply and demand.”
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) campaign launch, Keep Farmers Farming, highlighted the risk to Australia’s highly productive farmland and practices through a deteriorating domestic policy environment.
“The NFF is facing an avalanche of bad ideas and the wrong priorities from this Labor Government, which could force farmers to walk away and undermine our regional communities.
“Now we have an emboldened banking sector following suit, while an incompetent Labor weakly watches on.”