Green/Labor…selling the farm


Craig Emerson spins a good line but it’s a different one from his party. 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 Southeast 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.

Senator Joyce

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley) Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Incorporated Kimberley Environmental Horticulture (KEH) is a small group of committed individuals who promote the use of indigenous plants for the landscaping of parks and gardens. Rehabilitation of Kimberley coast, bushland and pastoral regions are also high on our agenda. This includes planting seedlings, weed control, damage from erosion or any other environmental matter that comes to our attention. We come from all walks of life, from Professionals and Trades oriented occupations, Pensioners and Students, Public Servants and the Unemployed. We have a community plant nursery where we trial many old and new species, with a view to incorporating these into our landscaping trials. Our labour force are mainly volunteers, but with considerable help from the 'work for the dole' program, Indigenous Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) groups and the Ministry of Justice, with their community work orders; in this way we manage to train many people in the horticultural skills needed for indigenous plant growing. We constantly undertake field trips that cover seed and plant collection in the Kimberley. Networking around the Kimberley region and the east Pilbara is a necessary part of promoting our activities. We consult on a range of Environmental and Landscaping matters that deal with our region. Our activities involve improving Broome's residential streetscapes by including 'waterwise' priciples in planting out nature strips. Sustainable environmental horticulture is practised by members of our group. We use existing vegetation as the backbone of any plantings, using these species to advantage when planning to develop tree forms or orchards. The Broome region is sensitive to development. Subsequently many weed species have become dominant in and around developed areas. The use and movement of heavy machinery is the biggest single cause of environmental degradation. We dont live in a 'Tropical Paradise' but on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The plants that survive best here, grow in well-drained pindan sand, and are found from the Dampier Peninsular southward to where average rainfall is below 600mm. When we use rainforest species, detail is important when planting, water catchment, sunlight and understorey species are all considered. The use of recycled 'grey' water is an advantage here as well as treated waste-water, although many local species do not fare well with nutrients from this source. We use waterwise planting methods which include harvesting asmuch rainwater as possible, with swales designed to hold up to 200 litres, to help recharge the local groundwater aquifer. There has been a serious decline in this aquifer over the last few years. With the fast expansion of the Broome peninsular, more and more land is being covered by concrete, iron and bitumen so that much less water is available to replenish the aquifer, allowing the salt content to become significantly higher. The small Broome Peninsular is on the south-western corner of the Dampier Peninsular (bound by Broome, Derby and Cape Leveque at the northern tip). Compaction by vehicles also inhibits water retention due to the content of our local pindan sand, hard as concrete in the dry, going to soft and sloppy mud after rain. None of us are botanists, inevitably we have got some names wrong, names changed, or have not gone to sub-species level. If you note a photo or description may be wrong, please e-mail to
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