More than 300 Labor branches back draft motions

More than 300 Labor branches back draft motions calling for end to logging and land clearing

Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
7:55PM AUGUST 1, 2023

Anthony Albanese faces a showdown at Labor’s national conference after more than half of the party’s branches backed draft ­motions urging the government to end forest logging and land ­clearing, and halve agricultural emissions.

It comes as Labor’s environmental lobby launched a fresh ­attack, warning farmers could be locked out of the lucrative EU market under the stalled free-trade agreement unless Australia stops land clearing and bolsters its definition of deforestation.

Labor’s Environment Action Network – the largest and most powerful internal party grouping – is planning to reference the EU FTA to prosecute its case on the floor of national conference ­despite the government and farmers saying deforestation was not a sticking point for the trade talks. “FTA or not, Europe will not cop products that rely on deforestation. Market access for our beef industry is under threat from our globally significant land-clearing rates,” LEAN co-convener Felicity Wade told The Australian.

“In May, the EU adopted a new regulation to exclude commodities reliant on deforestation. The industry is claiming Australia does not clear, when government figures in Queensland alone show over one million hectares were lost in the last two reporting years. The EU won’t cop beef grown on the back of lost koala habitat. Clean and green is a joke when bushland is being bulldozed and burnt.”

LEAN activists are determined to move a motion at the conference calling for a move away from logging native forests to managing them for carbon and biodiversity; creating government-owned sustainable timber plantations that would produce globally competitive building materials; and ­halving methane emissions from agriculture by 2030. More than 300 Labor branches have adopted draft motions being prepared for conference that call on the government to ensure the forthcoming land sector plan focuses on job creation when developing a regional land carbon industry, managing and restoring native forests, and farm methane reductions.

“It’s clear the membership thinks the time for stripping the landscape of trees for timber and pasture is over,” Ms Wade said. “And the outcomes can be a win-win if we build alternatives for communities in managing and protecting carbon. This is no side issue for the conference – it cuts to the heart of Labor’s mission and purpose.”

Trade Minister Don Farrell’s spokeswoman said deforestation in Australia was not a sticking point in FTA negotiations. “The trade agreement and the EU deforestation laws are separate instruments.”

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said LEAN’s claims were “ill-informed nonsense” and Australia’s environmental laws and record on land clearing would pass the EU’s scrutiny.

“The suggestion that Australian farmers, who are world-class producers, be excluded from a market on this basis is plainly ­ridiculous,” Ms Simson said.

“Our regulatory framework is among the toughest in the world, and we’re seeing clearing rates continue to drop further each year. The latest numbers from Queensland have shown a 50 per cent drop in clearing year-on-year. Of the clearing still being recorded in Queensland, 80 per cent is simply repeat management of woody regrowth necessary to maintain a healthy biodiversity balance.”

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen last month announced the development of a land sector plan to reduce carbon emissions in agriculture alongside emissions generated in the ­electricity, industry and transport sector.

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