Senator Joyce writes for The Australian:
CRAIG Emerson obviously has a very informative focus group telling him that Australians have a vision for their nation beyond a new telephone company and a school hall.
You want bipartisan politics, well here it is. Craig wrote in The Australian this week that he believes we should grow more food through the construction of major water infrastructure. Well the Coalition agrees and has for quite some time.
There is a slight hitch, however, and that is that Craig’s party, The Australian Labor Party, does not appear to be living his dream, starting with state Labor’s stealing of vegetation rights above farmer’s land and the further intrusion into property rights through the sale of coal seam gas rights underneath their land.
At a federal level, the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig, has hardly been the Archangel Gabriel for our northern cattle producers. Overnight we, and 240 million Indonesians, found out that he was taking riding instructions from Four Corners and closed down the live cattle trade. Joe has also cut spending for agricultural research and development by shutting down Land and Water Australia.
More water is required in drier times for the Murray-Darling and there are two ways to do this. The simple way is to buyback water, reducing our ability to grow food. The smarter approach is to invest in infrastructure to make our irrigation networks more efficient, thus saving water.
The Minister for Water, Tony Burke, has spent less than 5 per cent of the almost $6 billion the Coalition left for infrastructure, while he has spent more than half the money put aside for water buybacks. For every one litre of water Labor has saved through infrastructure, they have bought back 11 litres. Rather than help people get smarter they have just shut things down in the area which produces 40 per cent of our food.
Now Greg Combet, the Climate Change Minister, is in on the act announcing the carbon tax is going to pay for a “wildlife corridors” plan. The government can’t manage its current national parks. This plan will take further farming land out of production to create a corridor for parthenium weed, wild pigs and pyromaniacs.
Craig’s solution is that since we have run out of your money we are going to grow more food by selling the farm to someone else overseas. Is all foreign investment bad? No of course not, in fact it is essential. But if you lose control of your national interest, especially to an arm of another nation’s government, then redressing the problem may require more than the wisdom of Solomon, and the bank balance of Fort Knox.
Let’s look before we leap into this.
Australia’s production capacity in the global food task is overwhelmingly the legacy of centuries of hard work and endurance of Australians. If Australians have risen to the task in the past I believe they can rise to the task in the future.
Yes, we need to take advantage of the progression of the South-east Asian middle class, and the change in diet that comes with the change in wealth; but we won’t do this if Labor keeps shutting farming areas down, or selling the farm altogether.
Barnaby Joyce is opposition spokesman for Regional Development, Local Government and Water.