Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Simon Crean visited the Northern Rivers yesterday.
Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Simon Crean visited the Northern Rivers yesterday. Marc Stapelberg

Crean in town to sell carbon plan

FEDERAL Labor minister Simon Crean took up the job of selling the Gillard Government's proposed carbon tax package during a visit to the Northern Rivers yesterday.

In the region to address a forum in Lismore, the Minister for Regional Development likened the package to the economic reforms of the 1980s.

Mr Crean said those reforms, which included floating of the Australian dollar and deregulating the financial sector, were controversial at the time.

But no one today would consider reversing those reforms and they were fundamental to the economic prosperity of the years that followed, he said.

Addressing business, agricultural, community, local government and academic leaders, he spoke on the economic challenges facing regional Australia and detailed some "opportunities" for the Northern Rivers in the carbon tax package.

He said one challenge was the "patchwork economy", in which some sectors were doing well while others were struggling because of the high Australian dollar and fluctuating commodity prices.

"It is the regions that are the patches and each of the patches has a different set of challenges," Mr Crean said.

Of the opportunities, Mr Crean said the carbon tax package could present a "win-win" outcome for agriculturalists.

He said a component of the package would encourage farmers to "farm" carbon.

"That doesn't mean you get out of growing cattle and grains, but (you) develop land practices that sequester carbon more effectively," he said.

"(That increases) the yield and productivity of the soil base, but also, if you can measure the carbon that is sequestered, then you can trade the credits as well," he said.



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