Op-ed: No further loss of rural property rights for inner-city emissions

John McKillop, Chair, Red Meat Advisory Council, 07/10/2021

Property rights are intrinsic to our Australian democracy. Whether it is against trespass, theft or damage, Australia rightly has strong laws to protect our ownership and use of property.

It’s not just real estate that property rights apply to. It’s the caravan in the shed, the boat on the trailer and the car in the carport. As Australians, we take immense pride in our ownership of property and we have a strong desire to ensure it is protected.

For most families, there’s never a time where more research is done than right before they’re about to buy property. Everything from scouring reviews about a car make and model, to building and pest inspections for a new home – no stone is left unturned when considering a potential purchase.

We buy property with our eyes wide open. We work hard to build the resources to buy property and we try our best to ensure these decisions are sound through exhaustive research.

RMAC chair John McKillop

Imagine then a situation where you buy a fully roadworthy new car, only to be told a month later by the government that the car model is now illegal to drive. Or you buy a new home with a pool for your kids to then be told by the government the pool must be filled in because of a new regulation.

That is exactly what happened to thousands of farming families who bought agricultural land for grazing and were then told by the government that it couldn’t be touched and had to be locked up.

Irrespective of all the research these farming families did on their prospective purchases, there was no indication that their property rights were about to be taken from them without compensation by vegetation management laws.

These families paid a heavy price as they saw their property values and business capacity cut overnight.

From one day to the next, hard-working graziers across regional Australia lost their property rights by government decree to offset the greenhouse gas emissions created by urban centres.

Australian graziers have done more than any other industry in the nation to reduce carbon emissions. As a supply chain, the red meat industry has lost property rights and productive capacity so that emissions from other industries could keep growing.

Unlike the billions of dollars in government subsidies paid to decarbonise the electricity sector, little to no compensation was paid to the Australian graziers responsible for offsetting the nation’s emissions.

The only reason Australia was able to meet its Kyoto targets and why we will meet our Paris commitments is because farming families from Cloncurry to Cobram lost their right to farm.

As the government considers strategies to reduce emissions further, on behalf of Australia’s 445,000 red meat and livestock workers, we ask that any further loss of our industry’s property rights, or productive capacity is ruled out.

Our industry has done the heavy lifting, and we have a plan through technology and investment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 without any further reduction in productive capacity.

To ensure food security and the protection of jobs in our nation’s regional towns there must be no further loss of grazier property rights to offset emissions in other industries.

John McKillop – Chair, Red Meat Advisory Council


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  1. Bill Burrows, 12/10/2021

    Australia has adopted the position that “for the Paris Agreement all net (CO2-e or carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions from ALL lands (in Australia) will be accounted for – without restriction – using the independent monitoring systems of the national inventory. (So) through the national inventory there is complete coverage of the land sector in the Government’s target acquittal”. The only practical way of sampling the whole continent (769 M ha) is via spectral sensors positioned on satellite based platforms (e.g. GOSAT, OCO-2 and TanSat).

    I have collated published data for four different studies which together cover sampling ‘years’ from 2011 to 2017-18. The natural (managed land) CO2 flux (withdrawal from the atmosphere above the Australian land mass over all retrieval platforms and sampling years, n=6) averaged about 700 Mt CO2-e per year. This average land sink is approximately 140% of total 2020 human sourced emissions released into the atmosphere.

    Note that as the sinks are determined via information retrieved from satellites the landholder does not know his/her contribution to the total land sink is being captured. The satellite information is validated/calibrated against ground station records. And there is increasing confidence in the methodology and results obtained.

    For the Kyoto Protocol “fiddle” only about 1% of the Australian continent was actually sampled. This new methodology covering the whole continent will give a much truer and honest result. It will hopefully also force governments to finally acknowledge that rural landholders are not the demons they are often claimed to be.

  2. ADMA sargood, 11/10/2021

    As a farmer I am not interested in” compensation.” There is no way any Government would be able to compensate us for what we have lost and what future farming generation will continue to lose. “There be no further loss of property rights, but there must be a total restoration of rights. What are they thinking I wonder?Payment for carbon credits?????? Will be watching this space.

  3. Joanne Rea, 08/10/2021

    RMAC is the strongest voice on this issue at the moment. NFF is diffident and offering too little too late. It is vital that all agricultural organisations get out there and help the Deputy Prime Minister make the case that we have already done the heavy lifting without compensation, unlike the renewables sector. We don’t all want to be paid to lock up more fire hazards, we want restoration of rights. The country has a net increase in woody vegetation and any fair accounting would already show us as Carbon neutral.

  4. Michelle Finger, 07/10/2021

    John Makillop & RMAC are really having a go at standing up for red meat producers.
    Thanks also to Beef Central for always being across important beef issues!
    Great work!

  5. Tim, 07/10/2021

    Any chance you could include a reference? What legislation removed grazing rights – I genuinely want to understand the issue but this article is pretty light on

  6. Val Dyer, 07/10/2021

    Very well written and totally agree with the analogy, however this is an NFF issue and creates duplication in agri politics. Another question mark about the role and necessity of RMAC.

  7. Mark Bryant, 07/10/2021

    Great article John. Farmers property rights and productivity were not actually lost(we didn’t misplace them). Our rights were STOLEN from us by governments that cherry picked the available and sometimes incomplete science to shore up their political power and satisfy the latte set.
    Not only should there be no further loss of property rights, but there must be a total restoration of rights.
    This unfair and biased legislation is overseen by misguided compliance officers.who say they are “only doing our job”

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