Fiona Simson on climate change in Australia: ‘Farmers have come quite a long way in their attitude.’ Photo: PR

By Katharine Murphy
29 June 2018

(The Guardian) – Out in the bush, far from the ritualised political jousting in Canberra, attitudes are changing. Regional Australia has turned the corner when it comes to acknowledging the reality of climate change, says the woman now charged with safeguarding the interests of farmers in Canberra.

Fiona Simson, a mixed farmer and grazier from the Liverpool plains in northern New South Wales, and the president of the National Farmers’ Federation, says people on the land can’t and won’t ignore what is right before their eyes. “We have been experiencing some wild climate variability,” Simson tells Guardian Australia’s politics podcast. “It’s in people’s face”.

“While we are a land of droughts and flooding rains, absolutely at the moment people are seeing enormous swings in what would be considered usually normal. They are getting all their rainfall at once, even though they end up with an annual rainfall that’s the same, it’s all at once, or it’s in so many tiny insignificant falls that it doesn’t make any difference to them.

“And the heat. We’ve had some record hot summers and some weird swings in seasons”.

Simson acknowledges there are “always going to be some outliers who are going to have some wild ideas” in farming or in any other sector of the Australian economy but she says “overwhelmingly, I think it’s got to the point where the science is very acceptable”.

The shift under way in the bush has filtered through to lobbyists lane in Canberra. Only a few years ago, when the then Labor government put a price on carbon, legislating a market mechanism to drive emissions reduction at least cost, the NFF rose in full battle cry against the heresy. But now, the NFF stands at the front of a phalanx of business groups trying to support the Turnbull government through the deeply fraught business of landing the national energy guarantee.

Simson isn’t trying to pretend black is white. She acknowledges the Neg looks a whole lot like the emissions trading scheme that her group shouted down only a couple of years ago. “I think the Neg for us is some sort of ETS potentially. It certainly talks about carbon and putting a value on that. There will be a price on that and there we go.”

She says it’s time to see the climate change-driven transition under way in the energy market as opportunity, rather than something to resist. “I think farm representation and farmers generally have come quite a long way in their attitude to climate, and climate change and climate variability and dealing with all of these things, and accepting some of the facts behind the science.”

“We have turned quite a corner ourselves, and our approach now to this is quite different than it was in those days [when Labor pursued emissions trading], when the [previous NFF] leaders chose that path.” [more]

'We've turned a corner': farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy



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