You can’t sit on a fence, a barbed wire fence at that, and have one ear to the ground

While reflecting on the days of Joh Bjelke-Peterson, those who had a life in Queensland then would be familiar with 3 particular characteristics that the Premier himself attributed: Running along a barbed wire fence with a foot on either side: ‘it doesn’t work and it’s not very comfortable’; you need to celebrate Queensland difference and treat outsiders with contempt; talking to the media he would ‘feed the chooks’ and watch them fight over the crumbs.

Then while lamenting another of his quotes ‘You can’t sit on a fence, a barbed wire fence at that, and have one ear to the ground’, a friend passed on a piece reported through Queensland Country Life (Story by Lenore Taylor 07 Aug, 2012) called Soil Carbon Sweetener:  The story is how the Coalition is planning to pay farmers to store carbon in their fields for, not 100 years under current plans, but 25 years. This is a measure still claimed to be capable of solving 60 per cent of Australia’s total efforts towards long-term greenhouse gas reduction.

Offered is a critic of the coalitions plan:


  1. Reducing the time you lock-up your land if you choose 25 Years (optional).
  2. If a better solution were found for greenhouse reduction the problem would have gone away (but carbon process might be rebadged as some other national imperative).
  3. Farmers can still take relatively easy steps to increase the quantity of carbon stored in soils by different agricultural practices, tilling methods and by deliberately introducing a charcoal-like substance called biochar.


  1. Very low carbon prices proposed in the ”Direct Action” plan.
  2. Reduced long-term liability would transfer to federal government the needs and rights to find replacement programs after each 25-year contract expires (Government could simply impose more stringent liabilities more regularly) so less certainty of the liability.
  3. Scientists are still working on how to measure the amount of carbon stored and understanding how it might be reversed by drought or fire.
  4. Uncertainty would continue and an example is that some forestry projects have been allowed to offer temporary 10-year credits as part of the international clean development mechanism, and these credits have a low demand and not allowed to be traded in the European Union trading scheme. Australia is heavily reliant on offshore credits for its schemes to work.

The promises:

1. The Coalition has budgeted in its $10.5 billion ”Direct Action” policy, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has said not a dollar more would be spent over the 10 years of the scheme. He is silent on the need for review periods, as was the practice of when he was a cabinet minister in a previous coalition government.

Claims of the views of farmers:

  1. Michael Kiely (Carbon Farmers of Australia), said “farmers were very pleased to be offered a ‘more realistic’ 25-year timeframe, but would still need to be paid a lot more than $10 a tonne to take the offer up…I’d rather get $100 a tonne because I understand what it means”.
  2. Norman Marshall (Australian Soil Management), said his company was ”finding it very difficult at the moment to convince farmers that changing their soil management was worth their while….If the Coalition introduced 25-year credits ”at around the $10 mark … that should do it”.

Other influences that could destabilize any scheme:

  1. Andrew Macintosh (ANU) said “the Coalition was ignoring more promising sources of land use greenhouse abatement from reforestation or reductions in land clearing for agricultural purposes”.
  2. Farmers need to be very careful of the ramifications of any future government using the review to impose at the stroke of a pen greater imposts or take all rights away from farmers in earlier timeframes. This will effect succession planning in particular.

CO2Land org first looks at all the approaches and notes that each political approach is a form of modified feudalism – you just take the number as 25 or 100 years. By this is meant, you are in effect indentured and your children and possibly their children are bonded to the will of the lord and taxes. The second look is a considered intrepid analysis of where we could say nature will make all things right. With this in mind you could be resolute in saying while carbon-reducing land use changes are to remain in place for 100 years under greenhouse gas reduction schemes, I will do nothing and the guiding hand will fix all. If it was that simple! No, it is not because regardless of what your view on anthropogenic climate change, the reality of the necessity of economics will drive the need to change. Not participating in a scheme will not be an option in either side of politics.