|A story of how a group of interested
executives created a plan to make instant millions
courtesy of Australian taxpayers, and how governments are complicit
in supporting a social engineering scheme that threatens our food
supplies, our rural communities and shatter regional tourism income
while exposing our economy to severe threat.
IN the 90s, a group of concerned businesses including multinationals
like Poyry, wanted to find ways to deal with the threats presented
to them by community responses to climate change, which many of
their businesses were helping to create. Their conclusion, reached
over time, was to convert a problem into an opportunity and use
climate change as a means to increase, or at least carry on, business
as usual while consolidating their position.
One idea was to create a carbon trading scheme, in which carbon
is kept locked up (sequestered) on a large scale to
act as an offset for the emissions from their businesses
(coal, oil etc). The carbon sink would then form the underpinning
for a carbon trading scheme, in the same way that gold was used
to underpin money. The bigger the sink, the more money it would
be worth both to them and any other polluting industries.
For this to work, the polluters needed to be able to control the
scheme so that they didnt have to pay too much in exchange
for purchasing the carbon credits that would be available.
With the support of government, any carbon penalties could be
met by increasing power prices, thus passing the costs back to
the taxpayer. In addition the scheme needed to be financed so
that the carbon sink could be brought into existence without the
polluting industries having to pay the costs. Big energy interests
would be proponents of the trading scheme and could use their
influence with the federal government to help get the whole thing
From a conventional standpoint, the most visible contender for
a carbon sink was, and still is, trees. So a plan was devised
for a massive area of trees to be planted and converted into a
carbon sink (3.3 million hectares under Federal 2020 Vision).
Once of sufficient size, the carbon estate could then be used
to underpin the market for carbon credits via trading arrangements
similar to the futures market. The operators of the carbon estate
would become instantly wealthy as the carbon estate
that they controlled would be used to underpin carbon credits
worth billions. With the promise of a huge carbon sink available,
competition from solar and wind power was unnecessary,
because conventional energy generation by coal etc
The plantation estate method had the additional advantage of providing
a means to mute criticism by environmental groups like the Greens
and Wilderness Society. In fact it proved easy to get their support
by first threatening native forests then negotiating
a trade off to gain their support for a replacement
activity in plantations. This enables plantation interests to
market to environment friendly investors, regardless
of the intention to permit the energy lobby to continue to pollute.
To support financial requirements, a tax incentive scheme was
conceived where the establishment and growth of plantation trees
was funded by the taxpayer (MIS). This scheme was developed and
rolled out through the ATO and open public debate was thus avoided.
The amount paid per hectare needed to be above the actual cost
so that the tree growers could make enough profit to buy land
land ownership being thought essential for the long-term
stability of the plantation estate, and thought essential by plantation
interests who would end up as major land holders without using
their own money.
The only industry that could create a really huge tree based carbon
sink was the forestry industry and it was thought that they needed
incentives during the extended plantation development process.
The forestry industry could benefit if the plantations could be
planted at high densities and the thinnings used as pulp feedstock
or if trees could be cut down and used.
Forestrys preference was to cut down the plantations every
20 years and claim the paper products as sequestered carbon, a
claim that seems to have the sympathy of John Howards government.
The forestry industry wanted government support to help them to
value add to woodchips by producing pulp and paper,
thereby increasing their profitability - justified on the basis
of balance of trade being achieved.
The usual tedious approval impediments to establishing pulp/paper
operations needed to be softened or removed entirely
so that the forest industry could profit easily from the arrangements.
Agreements were reached for governments to facilitate plantation
and pulp/paper mill approvals, including taxpayer subsidies for
infrastructure and other higher cost elements. This was further
locked in by including plantation activities as a
component of public service superannuation investment funds.
The plan suited the forestry industry, offering them a means to
grow quickly without requiring significant investments on their
part, as well as helping to neuter their old enemies in the environment
movement. Various financial arrangements were agreed with the
major political parties to assure their ongoing commitment to
the program. In this way, individual politicians could be controlled
and pressured to support the program, regardless of voter objections.
Of course, there would be collateral damage, but it
was up to governments to control or limit any such damage. The
main group to be disadvantaged would be food farmers and their
support industries, as the plantations would need to be established
on land with deep soils and sufficient rain, most of which is
currently owned as smallholding food production farms. Lesser
land could be used but likely growth rates would produce little
in the way of income to satisfy the needs of the forestry groups.
|Concerns about losses
of farm land were addressed in various ways:
|Overseas trade agreements
were established that allow Australia to buy food from countries
with suitable crops in season
|Tax and other arrangements
would apply to farmers who grew trees
|In addition, a range
of spin phrases and justifications were agreed:
|The scheme could be
represented as good for mom & pop investors
|The purchase of farmlands
reframed as investing in the bush and helping
farmers get the best price for their land.
farmers would sell
after all, why would a profitable
Additional arguments were created to support the policy e.g. that
other impediments to the establishment of the carbon
estate were removed. Laws were changed to encourage farmers to
leave the land (e.g. Tasmanias PAL Act, restrictions on
Murray Darling irrigators and federal schemes that make it harder
for pensioners to hold onto their land). At every turn, the goal
was to ease the way for the forestry industry while helping rural
landowners to reach the decision to sell, thereby increasing the
availability of suitable land to grow trees. Using these techniques,
the resulting population shifts could be characterised as due
to market forces, an explanation that is believed
by many despite the massive subsidies paid to the pulpwood industry
(the aggregate of the subsidies exceeds the profits of the logging
concerns in Tasmania).
The ability to conceal the whole plan during its implementation
was a huge benefit due to the large number of people in rural
Australia likely to be adversely impacted. Loggers only needed
to know that their business was secure and that they were safer
from environmental action. Public servants only needed to know
that it was bipartisan policy and in the interests of their retirement
savings. Councils only needed to know that they were expected
to facilitate plantations and that state monies depended on it.
The public didnt need to know anything at all, it was business
Economic effects were positive because the costs to other industries
were simply ignored, easy to do when ABARE is the main forecaster.
Tourism losses could be offset by establishing large tourism centres
while considerable food farming might be moved over time to where
the rain is in the Northern Territory.
Of course, there would be losers, but the losses would be offset
by the value of the carbon credits and the ability of Australian
energy interests to continue to use the natural advantages
of Australia (coal and gas) without needing to reduce emissions.
Of course, the entire scheme meant that Australia would need to
remain independent of Kyoto so that the programme could be kept
under Australias control. If other nations could be drawn
into the same scheme, then Australia would add that asset (the
carbon estate) to its international trading ability.
The massive shifts in rural population incomes and population
have never been publicly debated or discussed. There have been
no studies published, nor any programs to help disadvantaged rural
communities. The huge losses to food producers have all been hidden
either by ignoring them, or by pretending that they wouldnt
occur. The recent drought has acted in the interests of these
programs by facilitating more land becoming available and by enabling
MIS interests to buy up invaluable rural water supplies, effectively
denying them to food producers.
Today, in Tasmania, the effects of these programs are there for
all to see. The rapid losses of food producing land to trees,
the determination of the state government to completely ignore
the impacts of world scale forestry operations on
its farms, its water supplies, its industries or its populations.
The growing clamour of rural concern as a whole range of government
laws and programs, from federal MIS to State PAL, threatens to
depopulate rural areas
and of course the inexplicable haste
to approve a world scale pulp mill in what many believe
to be a totally inappropriate location
and to deliver that
approval without studying the impacts on farmers, our water supplies,
our tourism industry, our rural communities or our fishing industry.
Welcome to a new vision of democracy in Australia courtesy of
John Howard and Paul Lennon.