Recognise CSG potential: Anderson
FORMER deputy prime minister John Anderson has warned farmers against joining the Greens in fighting the expansion of the coal seam gas industry.
Mr Anderson said far from railing against the CSG industry, farmers needed to recognise its potential as an alternative energy source.
The sixth-generation farmer was speaking last week after being appointed chairman of National Party think tank, the Page Research Centre.
While the PRC will not deal specifically with the issue of CSG, it does plan to delve into the broader issue of Australia's food, water and energy security and the challenges confronting farmers.
The issue of CSG exploration has had a galvanising effect in many regional areas, bringing together the unlikely bed-fellows of conservationists and farmers.
Mr Anderson said it was important for farmers to "stop and think about getting too close to the Greens".
He pointed to native vegetation laws, animal liberation and the Murray Darling Basin as instances where farmers had been burnt in the past.
"They (the Greens) will damage agriculture the minute it suits them," Mr Anderson said.
Mr Anderson has always maintained the CSG industry could co-exist with agriculture in some, but not all areas as long as it was under-pinned by sound scientific analysis and a "civil debate ... informed by the facts".
Up until November he was was chairman of Eastern Star Gas.
He said much of the CSG debate had been hijacked by people making wild, unfounded claims about the dangers it posed to land and water.
Those same people were unable to show how renewable energy sources could sustain agriculture, he said.
"First and foremost ... I am a farmer. I always have been, it's likely I always will be, but I regard feeding people as being of paramount importance and Australia can play a big role," he said.
"And energy is a huge problem. Cheap oil has gone. There will be no more cheap oil.
"We can't produce food, we can't distribute it, we can't make the fertilisers, we can't make chemicals, we can't make the plastics that are critical to feeding people without hydro-carbons.
"And the only alternative hydro-carbon that can fill nearly every niche that oil does, is gas."
Mr Anderson said urban encroachment, and not CSG, posed a far greater challenge to the future of agriculture.
On the issue of foreign investment, Mr Anderson said the PRC would have "good, hard look at what the Asian century might look like for Australia and how we can best prepare for it".
He said it was vital Australia did all it could not to "stifle free enterprise and entrepreneurship" as it forged closer economic ties with Asia, and, in particular, Indonesia.
The "permanent weakening" of Europe had only added to Asia's importance to Australia, he said.
"(But) We also need to make certain that we ... support our various diplomatic efforts in Asia," he said.
"For example, the live cattle dispute, and the way that groups like Greenpeace interrupt trade with Indonesia, are a running sore because of the way they have been handled.
"We need to do better . Indonesia is incredibly important to us. They've been through an economic crisis. They're the fourth biggest potential market in the world because they're the fourth biggest country, and they're closer to us than New Zealand."
"In the future, Indonesia in my view will be hugely important - not just foe trade, but for everything we do and we need to forge the best possible relationships with them."