The National Party have agreed to support the government’s Net Zero by 2050 policy in exchange for an extra seat in Cabinet.
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce submitted the ultimatum in writing to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who accepted the terms ahead of the Glasgow COP26 conference. It is believed that the extra Cabinet seat was a non-negotiable condition imposed by the Nationals.
Support for the government’s climate change and Net Zero policies is split within the National Party. Many of the details could threaten the future of Australian agriculture, which in turn would cost the rural-based Nationals Party at election.
Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt will take up the new seat, leaving the Nationals holding five of the available twenty-four Cabinet positions.
“Minister Pitt is a powerful voice for the resources sector and ensuring that we build upon Australia's strength in traditional exports, while harnessing opportunities in the new energy economy and critical minerals,” said the Prime Minister.
In addition to the Cabinet seat, other conditions including increased funding for rural projects are expected to follow.
There is grave concern that Net Zero policies that seek to reduce emissions from agriculture could either lead to heavy taxation or a forced reduction in food production which would push family farms out of business. Previous 'green' policies eroded private property rights for farmers, causing distress in regional areas.
“Australia has 90 million hectares of productive agricultural land which is a very significant carbon sink and can be a more significant carbon sink,” said Energy and Emission Reduction Minister Angus Taylor.
Foreign trade partners have already threatened to impose taxes on Australian produce if the government and its respective industries do not adopt Net Zero policies – although it has been argued that these taxes exist to protect Europe, whose climate change policies have made production more expensive and non-competitive on a global scale.
‘Carbon border taxes’ are being considered by both the European Union and United States for nations that refuse to put a price on carbon.
While Australia remains under international pressure to attend COP26 with Net Zero policies, the world’s largest emitter – China – will not be present.