Government Neglects Regional Australia and Primary Producers!

Andrew Phillips

9th April 2006

Our nation’s primary producers could be forgiven for occasionally considering turning their back on the land and throwing in the towel.

Regardless of which direction they look, they are faced with the double standards of bureaucracy, governmental indifference, incompetence and outright hostile behaviour by our elected “representatives”.

Repeatedly, the valuable contributions made by our regional communities to our nation’s economy and national identity are treated with scorn and contempt by politicians and candidates alike — many of whom offer little more than lip service to regional concerns during election campaigns, but once the pork barreling is over the situation returns to normal and the regional assault continues.

Editorials on this site have made reference in the past to the threats posed by a lowering of quarantine regulations allowing the possible introduction in future of Post Weaning Systemic Wasting Syndrome in our pork industry, Black Sigatoka in our depleted banana industry, fire blight from NZ in our apples. There is no need to re-hash the threats of which we are all aware and continue to be down played by vested interests, the “free trade” loving major parties and those organisations whose purpose is supposedly to safe guard our nation’s natural heritage and primary producers such as “Bio-(in)Security Australia”.

Nevertheless, a watchful eye must be maintained on those who would coerce our nation’s food producers into leaving their lands, cheat them out of their rightful rewards (as the Howard Government has done with our wheat producers and the millions owed to them after wiping out debt owed by Iraq) and cause them great loss in their pursuit of globalistion or through sheer incompetence.

Local farmers are once again under the hammer of the Rann government, with “Yellow Cake Mike” pushing the policy that any farmers who are perpetual lease landholders with waterfront properties will lose large tracts of their land if they wish to convert their title to freehold.

At the minimum, our farmers can expect to lose at least 50 metres from the high water mark with some expecting to forfeit up to 1km of their landholding in from the water.

To add insult to injury, our cash-strapped farmers are also expected to foot the bill for surveying and fencing of the new boundaries. Considering Rann’s bureaucracy does not have the capability to adequately manage the reserves already under the jurisdiction of his “government” surely the farmers are best suited to maintaining the care of the waterfront land? It would cost them very little, free up government resources and most farmers would be more than willing to allow public access to a section of the waterfront should that be what the government had intended.

I sincerely wish all the best to the Perpetual Lease Action Group in their campaign to bring about a just resolution for our state’s farmers following Rann’s urban-centric land grab policy announcement.

Still on the issue of our waterfront producers, most South Aussies would be aware of the on-going plight of our citrus growers. Barely a week goes by when we don’t see footage of tonnes of oranges being dumped on the ground, sold for a pittance as fodder or the orchards being ploughed under as our producers are forced off the land in the wake of poor prices and foreign imports.

Surely, this scenario is disastrous enough. Unfortunately our producers must now be expected to wear the cost of poor advice from AQIS which has led to export oranges worth $1million being dumped in Japan.

Confusion about the acceptability of mealy bug in shipments led AQIS to advise our packers to fumigate with Methyl bromide which resulted in 27 containers of oranges reaching Japan in a less than satisfactory state. Mistakes happen, but our producers must not be expected to wear the cost of incompetence or bad advice, especially in today’s economic climate.

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran’s claim that Japan had informed AQIS and the government that short-tailed mealy bug infestations were unacceptable have no bearing on the issue of compensation for our producers, considering AQIS allegedly advised local packers and producers to fumigate in June and Japan advised our bureaucrats of the unacceptability of mealy bugs in JULY.

Both State and Federal governments claim to be interested in developing regional communities and encouraging primary industries (to close down and leave their land?), but their actions speak much louder than their insipid speeches.

Articles by Andrew Phillips