16th October 2018
Questions without notice.
The Hon. Niall Blair MLC on climate change and meat production.
“If eating meat is wrong, I don’t want to be right”
The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:56): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that reducing meat production is an important strategy in addressing anthropogenic climate change. Despite this, the most recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data notes that emissions from animal agriculture have increased by 2.1 per cent, driven in part by methane production from increasing beef cattle production. Can the Minister explain what his department is doing to assist farmers to reduce their reliance on animal agriculture in order to prevent catastrophic global warming?
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:57): If eating meat is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I want to support our farmers and so does the Department of Primary Industries. The member continually wants us to try to prosecute a case that livestock production is something that we should be moving away from, but that is one of our strengths in this State. There is plenty of research going on around the world looking at, for example, how to reduce the production of methane by our livestock, particularly our cattle. Some people are looking at a whole range of things such as kale and other types of feed products that will reduce the emissions coming out of our cattle. That is the type of research that we would be interested in, not the research that is trying to transition our farmers—the best farmers in the world, right here in New South Wales—away from areas that they do well and that they do in accordance with consumer expectations and any government regulations. We want to support those industries.
We want to make sure that our farmers continue to have some of the competitive advantages that they have now, particularly as we go through the trying times of drought. The Government is ensuring that we stand by our farmers, particularly our cattle producers, our sheep meat producers and any other producers who are in the business of ensuring that we continue to provide high-quality protein not only to our domestic customers but also to customers around the world. I am not aware of any specific research within the Department of Primary Industries to try to steer farmers in this State away from beef production as the member suggested; I know that we have a lot of research happening across the State into how we can do more with less when it comes to our impact on natural resources, emissions and the environment more broadly.
That is what we should be doing. We should be saying, “We can do this better as we go forward.” We can do more with less but we are going to continue doing it. We are going to continue producing beef and sheep meat. We are going to continue to ensure that while our customers, domestically and internationally, want to consume these products, we will be there to supply them. The view that the member is prosecuting is a minority view. While we have customers who want the meat and farmers who are willing to farm it, we will continue to support them and ensure that they can do so.
The Hon. DON HARWIN: The time for questions has expired. If members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.