In the first week of the sitting of the new Federal parliament, the member for New England in NSW rose and gave his maiden speech to the House of Representatives. Barnaby Joyce is not only the new member for New England but also has been appointed Agriculture minister in the Abbott government. Barnaby has been a player in federal politics for some time and is one of the few who has moved from the Senate to the House of Representatives and in a smaller again club of those who have achieved being an elected Senator in one state, Queensland, to another state lower house seat.
Barnaby in his speech talked of family connections in the seat of New England and the importance of agriculture for Australia in the past but what was most refreshing was his support of the family farm and determination for a future of a strong, vibrant agricultural sector.
Photo Barnaby Joyce sourced from The Land
“My social belief, like most individuals' social belief, was immensely affected by that same life experience. It was premised on the notion that people who work hard and live decent lives, producing a good that has real worth, should be fairly paid and fairly dealt with. A nation that does not defend these people has lost its more noble instincts. In China this week the ruling Communist Party announced greater property rights for farmers. So this belief is ubiquitous and current. The farming community has always had to live with the belief that we make sacrifices because things will get better, but the better never seems to happen.
Now our debt between government and private sectors is massive. Many major businesses in mining and agriculture are now foreign owned and gone. The family farm of the 1970s is generally unviable, and the deft hand of an external conscience has crystallised so that farm management practices have to conform to a view whose religion is a quasi-alternative environmentalism—of forms, of paperwork and of trees having attained an anthropomorphic character. We have evolved to the ridiculous extent where animal rights are interchangeable with human rights.
My initial introduction to the agriculture portfolio handed over by the previous Labor government replicated the industry. It has been usurped to a point where, in many instances, it is the mere ambassador for agriculture. Water and vegetation are with state and federal environment departments. Sale of many agricultural products and land is with Trade and Treasury. Even determination of the use of agricultural products is held by independent authorities within the agricultural portfolio, with no say by the minister. I commend the Prime Minister for his decision to put forward a white paper to investigate the ways our nation can better deliver an agricultural outcome. If we are solely reliant on mines, we will live in a boom-bust cycle. If our future is only in services then we must contend with lower wages—one click away on the internet—as anything that can be done on the computer can be done somewhere else by someone else at a cheaper rate. We need a strong, vibrant agricultural sector for the future of this nation”.
The speech makes mention of a white paper into agriculture, indications are that is not going to be a token endeavour but a policy area of priority for this government. To hear that the minister, Barnaby Joyce wishes the paper to deliver policy that will rebuild resilience back into agriculture is for farmers like the listening to that first storm sound on a tin roof after prolonged drought. The elation is countered by those thoughts in the back of the mind of needing meaningful follow up to ensure a better future.
Barnaby stepped down from his Senate seat midterm to successfully contest New England. His replacement as the constitution requires is appointed by the Premier of the state of someone from the same party as the retiring member. Barry O’Sullivan was selected by the LNP party and should be the current Qld Senator replacing Barnaby but finds himself in a strange dimension of purgatory as you can read about in this Courier Mail article. Of interest is O’Sullivan’s role in the development of the white paper.
"I think it's important that Queensland is represented as soon as possible because issues are on foot that need to be dealt with," Mr Joyce told The Courier-Mail.
"The LNP has selected Barry O'Sullivan and it is now for the parliament to send him down."
Mr Joyce is already planning an informal role for Mr O'Sullivan that will put him in an influential position in the development of the Abbott government's Agricultural White Paper.
"If he's sitting in his room at home, he's no use to anyone," he said.
"You have a resource at your disposal for the development of policy and currently that resource is not deployed."
Mr O'Sullivan welcomed the role and said he wanted to travel around Queensland to speak to farmers and other industries and "feed in as much information as I can to the minister for him to consider for his White Paper in 2014."
This white paper is too important for farmers to be affected by a political side show. Agriculture is clearly at crisis point as Ben Rees highlighted in his paper, Agriculture in Crisis - Rationalise or Reconstruct, presented at Merredin, Western Australia on April 15th 2013.
“Today, rural Australia is at a cross-road: more of the same or, a new direction. For thirty years, the farm sector has been reconstructed and adjusted by successive political administrations and their advisors. The rural sector has been also bullied by community group spokespeople from the, environment, animal welfare, consumer groups and media.
Hopefully, this paper can contribute to understanding the failure of policy and encourage exploration of policies to rebuild a prosperous rural Australia. In this process farmers must recognise their role is to reject rationalisation; and, fight for a new direction.”
There are many farmers who would like to discuss positively solutions to the current crisis facing agriculture with any politician who wishes to come to them for information in the development of the white paper to build a resilient, strong and vibrant agricultural sector.
Sourced from Ben Rees paper - Agriculture in Crisis - Rationalise or Reconstruct