Monday, 18 July 2011 07:42

Editorial: Lack of vision hurts Australian farmers

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 IT’S UNLIKELY former Prime Minister Ben Chifley would have held the nation’s highest office if he was a politician today.

Apparently he had trouble stringing sentences together, which would most probably stop him gaining pre-selection for his party in today’s polls-focused, media-driven, adviser-dependent political world.

This would mean that the man behind the Snowy River Scheme and Holden’s manufacturing base, who threw his weight behind the post-war immigration scheme from Britain and Europe, would be lost to a country desperate for leadership.

Chifley had a vision for achieving a golden age, which depended on expanding world trade and opening up new markets for Australian goods.

It’s a vision that is lacking in the current Federal political scene – from both parties – and we’re all the poorer for it.

There has been no greater example of a kneejerk response to the voracious media cycle than the Federal Government’s decision to ban live exports to Indonesia on the basis of the videos supplied to the ABC by Animals Australia.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig – who by title should champion the interests of the multi-billion dollar agriculture sector – supported the Prime Minister’s demand to shut down the industry. No questions asked, no consequences thought of.

It’s well documented how the ramifications for the beef live export industry have been huge and there are still consequences to come.

Landmark has said it will start sourcing dairy export heifers for China from New Zealand; as it can’t be sure of the Government’s plans. The welfare of beef cattle on northern properties, and the small producers in particular, are also in trouble. 

This lack of leadership continued when Ludwig said Australian cattle exporters would lose their “social licence” for the trade unless animal welfare was safeguarded.

Social licence? Which well-paid PR flak in the Government’s hour of need came up with that ill-conceived term?

When the agriculture minister fails to tell the city media that isolated examples reflect poorly on an industry that takes pride in welfare of its animals, the industry is right to demand stronger leadership.

Ludwig needs to get out on farms and see the work primary producers do to ensure they have healthy livestock. He needs to tell the media and the Labour Party this is all done to meet some of the toughest standards in the world – for no extra payment. He needs to stand up for all those represented by his Department.

I have no doubt men of the calibre of Chifley would. It’s a shame that a potential inability to react quickly to the whims of a 24-hour news cycle would prevent the former PM from showing the leadership we desperately need today.

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