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THE COUNTRYMAN

NEWS

 

Selwyn Johnston

INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVES'

ADVOCATE

(Cairns... Far North Queensland)

 

Thank you for visiting my on-line office. 

I appreciate your interest in the issues that effect not only Queenslanders, but all Australians. 

Please let me hear from you about your views on the issues that matter to your Family, your Community and your State.  

Sincerely,

Selwyn Johnston

 

One person, with the support of the community, can make a difference

 

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PRIMARY PRODUCER PROTESTS

Normally when we see a string of heavy agricultural tractors on a public road, police escorts and placards protesting some farming related matter we can be pretty sure we are watching some international TV News program. Almost as certain we are watching an event in France where French farmers are protesting about a threatened reduction in some rural subsidy.  

Not so any longer. A 2005 event of this nature occurred in Australia where Tasmanian potato growers protesting, not about the removal of some overgenerous subsidy but more importantly, the removal of their market altogether.  

They organised a protest rally driving from Tasmania to Canberra, which is probably a distance greater than across the whole of France in the hope of getting some support from a disinterested Australian government. 

All Australian primary producers are now well and truly on notice that assistance of any kind from Canberra is virtually nonexistent. For many years farmers could rely on the National Party to look after their interests, however coincidentally, but in recent years even that small glimmer of light has been snuffed out.  

The present leader of the National Party, Mark Vaile was the then Trade Minister in the Howard Government. He devoted his time to setting up “Trade Agreements” which excluded the right of Australian farmers to access the trade partners markets while at the same time seemingly advancing the interests of other foreign countries.  

As with so many of these agreements the other sides interests are not really agriculture. Their agricultural industries are already heavily subsidised and our imports there would cause local political disharmony. Their interests cover other things like pharmaceuticals and finance and they win these cases without a fight. 

The Minister for Agriculture, Warren Truss, while all of this was going on was aiding and abetting his then Trade Minister colleague by deconstructing the Australian Quarantine Service. This would ensure that primary produce could come in from diseased countries, not those party to the agreement but those with their corporate agricultural industries run by or financed by the “Treaty Party”.  

It is only recently that the Federal Court has had to come in on the side of our farmers. What a shame it is that a Federal Court Judge is left with the task of looking after Australia’s disease free status while the government swans around looking after the interests of anyone else in the world. 

And yes, I am referring to the American Free Trade Agreement. And yes I am referring to exotic diseases in pigs. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  

The then Minister for Agriculture, Warren Truss, has recently been removed from this baggage and promoted to the Minister for Transport.  

In this portfolio at least he will have the opportunity of learning that there is no form of transport in the world capable of removing him from the stench he has left at Emerald in Queensland. That whole district is now ruined as a consequence of his protracted inaction in dealing with the actual importation of the exotic disease of citrus trees, citrus canker, an importation of which he had more than adequate prior knowledge. 

Again in the citrus canker matter it was the Federal Court that found itself with the responsibility of looking after the interests of the citrus growers and the people of Emerald. But the Courts efforts were soon “overcome” by the government. 

So I expect the lesson from all of this is that primary producers of Australia are clearly without political representation and even if you don’t grow potatoes, sugar cane, bananas, mangoes and citrus fruits or raise pigs or perhaps a dairy farmer, then you can be confident that your turn is coming. 

As the Federal court judge basically said, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

Monday 16 January 2006

 

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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870