A dangerous fallacy has been encouraged by recent discussion of an Opposition discussion paper on revitalising the north of Australia. The fallacy is that for northern prosperity, just add water.
It is based on a romantic and attractive notion that by reversing a few rivers and building a few dams the factors prohibiting northern development will be washed away.
But that won’t happen unless the crops are suitable for the conditions, and that would involve agricultural bio-technology.
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The Coalition’s pledge to shrink the size of government and the reach of government regulation has hit a furrow in the wheat fields of Australia where deregulation is sometimes seen as a fad.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this week is determined to steer his troops away from accepting the full deregulation of the wheat market and probably will succeed with most of them.
In fact, it might not hurt Mr Abbott were a couple of his MPs to abstain or otherwise protest against the legislation. It would reinforce the “we’re not Stalanists” line he has been using on the freedom of Coalition backbenchers.
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The decision to allow the super trawler Margiris to fish in Australian waters has aroused a wave of opposition.
A coalition of environment groups has taken out a full page ad in The Australian. A flotilla of over 200 boats sailed up the Derwent River in protest. A 35,000 signature petition opposing the trawler has been presented to Parliament, and in a recent reader poll in the Adelaide Advertiser, 92 per cent of respondents were opposed to the ship being allowed to fish in Australian waters. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has referred to issue to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The opposition is not surprising. It’s hard to believe the huge nets of the factory ship won’t trap large quantities of by-catch, unwanted species which usually die before they are released. The trawler could locally deplete the fish population, reducing the food available to southern bluefin tuna, dophins and seals in certain locations.
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I was so happy to read that The Punch’s David Penberthy had decided to try to make a 100 per cent Australian-grown bolognese sauce. So sorry to hear that it wasn’t possible.
Distraught to read that he couldn’t understand all the fuss about foreign imported foods.
Writing as a vegetable farmer’s wife, let me tell you what the fuss is. Every day people like my husband wake up and go to work on the farm. Farm life is a life like no other. There’s no 9 to 5 on the farm.
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Something’s a little rotten in the world of eggs. You might think things are all sunny side-up when you purchase your carton of free range eggs, but the meaning of the term “free range” is more than a little scrambled.
The Australian Egg Corporation is pushing to expand eggsponentially the number of chooks allowed on free range farms from 1,500 to 20,000. This has attracted eggsclamations of anger from environmentalists and animal proteggtionists.
So is the logic of our chief egg body really as cracked up as everyone is saying? Well, yes and no. Or as they say in the egg business, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Let me eggsplain.
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“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” So goes a rather weary old dog of a proverb attributed to Paul McCartney.
Admittedly, his sentiment makes me as misty-eyed as the next idealist softie. But in light of the latest abattoir cruelty scandal, I need to have a quiet word with Paul.
“Glass walls” don’t come much clearer than the hidden footage uncovered by the ABC and subsequently splattered across our news last week. You don’t exactly need Windex to see inside the pure barbarism of NSW’s Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors.
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After a wetter than average year in the Murray-Darling Basin many people seem to think the problems of Australia’s most important river system are solved. They’re not.
Rain and floods have returned life to many parts of the river system, but if they are to provide more than a temporary boost before the next drought hits, our federal Parliament will need to sign off on a strong Murray-Darling Basin Plan this year.
When I say a strong plan, I mean a plan that results in a river not poisoned by salt, that flows, that is alive. Anything less threatens the future of the river and regional communities, not to mention Adelaide’s drinking water. For too long we’ve been taking too much water out of the river – much of it for irrigated agriculture – for the system to remain healthy.
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Here’s a new way to think about what you’re eating every day.
Next time you’re standing in front of the fridge, pull out the most processed item you own and make a call to the manufacturing company that produce it. Ask them if you can come around and take a look at the factory, and see how they do things.
If they agree, prepare to be horrified, says Jonathan Safran Foer.
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When Prime Minister Gillard defended the resumption of live exports to Indonesia, she was questioned by Greens MP Adam Bandt in Parliament about the use of stunning.
Bandt preceded his question with a claim: “In Australia, animals cannot be slaughtered unless they are stunned first because it is the humane thing to do.”
Gillard replied that [stunning] is widely used by not compulsory.
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Are you reading this piece using wi-fi? You wouldn’t be if Australian scientists had not invented technology that wirelessly connects computers, TV sets and phones across the planet.
Australian science has led to the development of Relenza – the first drug successful in treating the flu - meaning that fewer Australians suffer or die from it every year. In a typical Australian winter, around 1,500 deaths are attributed to the influenza virus.
Australian science has given us climate-ready crops. Crops that will make sure families can continue to place basic food items on the table despite changing weather patterns. Crops that give us wheat to export when other nations fall short, and that keep our balance-of-trade figures looking vaguely respectable.
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Justice may be blind, but many Australian farmers find the scales are tipped against them as they struggle to come to terms with a growing minefield of environmental regulations on top of other natural enemies.
They are not fighting the concept of land management, but the way in which their properties can be ‘locked up’ or confiscated without proper compensation. They can be prosecuted for something suddenly illegal under frequent amendments to vegetation laws which can be applied retrospectively. The farmer is virtually presumed guilty until innocence can be proven, often at great expense.
Those who live in cities and urban areas might find this difficult to comprehend. The following events are more suited to a communist dictatorship but they happened in our “free country” …
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What started as a ripple is now growing into a powerful protest wave sweeping across our great nation.
In the space of a week, it has been fed by a series of fiery meetings in outback Queensland and southern States, a symbolic funeral service in Perth and gatherings in Brisbane and Melbourne.
At first glance these might seem unrelated, but beneath the surface they are connected by a strong under current of people pushed to the limits. The Perth “funeral” on the steps of Parliament House involved the “death” of property rights, complete with wreath laying, a piper in full regalia and a cortege to Cottesloe Beach for symbolic burial.
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It’s a scary thought, knowing that you have no idea where your food has come from. It may look and taste like you would expect, but it may not have been created the conventional way.
Genetically modified foods are weaselling their way into the diets of unsuspecting Australians. That is, any food product that includes genetically modified organisms.
While there are some labelling laws in place to help consumers identify genetically modified (GM) food products, there are still many instances where the public remain oblivious.
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“I held her underwater until I knew she was dead” said a woman. The rest of us nod, squirreling away this method as a future possibility.
I am among mothers congregating at the school gate, waiting for the bell. We look like the type of congregating mothers who give congregating mothers a bad name. The gutter stretching behind us is littered with abandoned 4WDs - doors resting open - some pregnant with healthy prams. A toddler, resigned to boring talk at this time of day, is spinning inconveniently on the footpath.
Another woman presses for more detail - keen to know if there was a struggle before drowning. No, she was weak from disease. Our voices jockey to make the next disclosure of killing.
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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.
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Food security is one of the major challenges facing the world. In the coming decade with the population expected to increase to around 10 billion, access to food particularly food that is safe and free from disease will increasingly challenge many nations.
Australians are rightly proud of the high quality food that we produce. But as the world grows flatter and we increasingly import food, the high standards that we expect in Australia come into question.
An example of this is the Australian honeybee industry, which for all intensive purposes has its back against the wall.
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Nothing hits a family’s weekly budget harder than increases in the costs of daily essentials like food. Price hikes at the supermarket make consumers angry and politicians nervous.
And all shoppers know that the price of many staples have increased over recent years.
This was highlighted by the latest OECD figures showing the cost of feeding an average family has risen about 40 per cent in Australia over the past decade. So who is to blame – major supermarkets, manufacturers, the government?
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Roll up, roll up. The Show is coming to town.
Last weekend it was the good citizens of Castlemaine who had the opportunity to witness the quality of the field in the bacon carcass competition. While next weekend Murwullimbah will have its chance to put on display the very finest in poultry that its region has to offer.
Late spring is the height of Show season and a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Royal Geelong Show. I was there both as a local politician and the parent of three eager kids capable of sniffing out show bags, prizes and sugary treats with the efficiency of feeding piranhas.
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As a farmer it is my duty to let backyard chook fanciers in on a secret. No chook ever died in credit. That’s why the only chooks that have ever been on our farm have been dead, plucked and ready to cook.
Chooks as pets are the flavour of the month. They are small, they eat leftovers and the eggs they lay are delicious, making them ideal pets for inner-city backyards.
But if you look at the economics, each egg will cost many times more than the amount you pay for a barn-laid dozen and food producers don’t provide homes for poultry or livestock that doesn’t earn its keep.
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