No sustainability without food security
Since becoming Prime Minister, Gillard has been work-shopping the phrase ‘Sustainable Australia’. Like Kevin 07’s, ‘working families’ no-one really has a clue what it means, but the faces behind the PM on the six o’clock news all nod diligently whenever she mentions it. It is almost like they are too embarrassed to admit they have no idea what she is talking about.
I bet that every one of those ALP candidates who nod eagerly whenever the word ‘sustainable Australia’ is mentioned would love it if the Prime Minister could explain what the difference is between a ‘sustainable’ Australia and a ‘big’ Australia if you don’t cut the current immigration rate, or increase the death rate or decrease the birth rate.
It is telling the only actual policy Ms Gillard has delivered in her first four weeks as Prime Minister was to change the Minister for Population’s title to the Minister for ‘Sustainable’ Population. Every other policy she has announced will be delivered sometime in the never never or - never, ever.
Surely it goes without saying that any future population would be sustainable. And just as surely the ability to feed Australia’s future generations would have to be one of the greatest considerations in any population policy.
Food producers are becoming increasingly angry that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for ‘Sustainable’ Population is ignoring the importance of food security in the population debate.
It has now reached the farcical point where the Minister is pulling out of all his engagements with state farming organisations. He was a no show at the Victoria Farmers Federation, pulling out the night before he was due to open the conference and now he has pulled out of the NSW Farmers Association Annual Conference as the key note speaker. He simply doesn’t care for agriculture, and his colleague the Minister for Water, Penny Wong has similarly snubbed communities reliant on water in the Murray Darling Basin by pulling out of commitments in places like Mildura at the last minute.
It is pointless having a “Sustainable” Population Minister who doesn’t even bother acknowledging the importance of food producers in the debate. Farmers need a seat at the table because no population is sustainable without a guaranteed food supply.
Australia’s food producers love producing food. Our food producers can, even during the worst drought in our lifetime, feed the nation and then some. I take my hat off to the rice producers in the Riverina. They have earned the title ‘Masterproducers’, smashing world records and feeding millions.
The Australian reports that this year’s Riverina rice crop of 11 tonnes per hectare; ‘is a world record by a country mile, and it beats the previous world record which our own growers held of 10.2 tonnes a hectare in the 2003 harvest.’
‘According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average world rice yield last year was 3.8 tonnes a hectare, up from 1.7 tonnes a hectare in 1960.’
It is our farmers who hold the key to feeding the world and guaranteeing the true terror of famine is not visited upon our children and future generations.
Not only do our farmers feed and clothe millions of people every day, they are major global innovators right along the food production and distribution chain. Australians have the cleanest, greenest safest food in the world right at their doorsteps.
Our food producers set the benchmark for quality clean, green and disease free food and fibre, but this food quality comes at a price. And often they are getting priced out of business by imported food and fibre which is not produced under the same standards the Australian product is.
Many of our food and fibre producers are fatigued by both the drought and continued interference in their businesses by often well meaning, but ultimately useless, government meddling.
I believe we need a strong agriculture sector in this country. We are the best in the world at what we do and the world needs Australian agriculture.
Regional Australia can accommodate more people but it will take more than a slogan to see it come to fruition.
Towns such as Bourke have lost a third of their population in the last decade as a direct result of the drought and the Gillard Government’s water policies which have resulted in food producing power-houses like Toorale Station being turned into National Parks which has directly led to over 100 full-time and casual jobs being lost in the Bourke Shire alone.
Bourke already has the infrastructure to accommodate more people. The problem is we have a Labor Government in Sydney and another one in Canberra who think that NSW stands for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong and have completely ignored Regional Australia.
The greatest threat to food production is not climate change or population growth, but the policies governments put in place to deal with it. For example - there can be no food security without secure property rights.
No-one knows the nation’s carrying capacity and issues surrounding food production and sustainability better than our farmers and by ignoring them any ‘population’ plan proposed by the Gillard Government will be half baked at best.
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