The Treasurer has approved the sale of Cubbie Station to a quasi-state owned enterprise.
The largest irrigated pastoral station in Australia. Labor ‘selling the farm’, against National Party and Green Party policies.
Please find below an opinion piece written by Senator Joyce published in The Weekly Times 5 September 2012
Don’t sell the farm
A great epiphany came to me recently when I spoke at the Australian Grains Industry Conference in Melbourne. There, I heard a speaker say that Australian farmers had a great future, as service providers on large corporate farms.
That’s right; you too can be swinging on the end of a spanner rather than owning the farm. It’s such a relief. I looked at this person and saw that he didn’t understand what makes so many blokes tick.
They want a nation which provides them with the opportunity to have some of the most fundamental connections to what we are, the soil. This feeling probably doesn’t fit into any economic theorems but it is vastly more real than any of them.
It is the essence of what is the national interest, giving the citizens of the nation the greatest expression of attachment to the wealth of the nation, through ownership.
Now, at 5.14 pm on Friday evening an email lobbed into my blackberry from the Treasurer, Wayne Swan. While people were refining their footy tips for the last round of the season, Wayne thought it was the best chance to explain to the Australian people why he had agreed to the overseas sale of the nation’s largest farm in value, largest irrigation farm in Australia by area, largest water licence in volume, largest producer of cotton in our nation and with enough water to fill Sydney Harbour.
It would be nice if the Treasurer was available to answer some of the questions that many have bombarded me with since. But he has not held one press conference on his decision, nor done one media interview. Instead, he has sent a few tweets.
Here are just a few questions to get Wayne started.
If it is in the national interest to sell our biggest farm to overseas interests, what exactly would not be in the national interest? Why was it not OK to sell the Australian Stock Exchange to the Singaporese, the Treasurer blocked that sale last year, but it is OK to sell our biggest farm by value? After all, as important as the ASX is, we can always build another stock exchange, but God isn’t making any more black soil, nor is the government issuing any more water licences.
Why is it very difficult for foreigners to buy residential homes but it is perfectly OK to buy the nation’s biggest farm? Indeed, the FIRB has never said no to the foreign purchase of an Australian farm, their analysis is hardly quantum physics.
Who owns the Chinese company that is buying Cubbie, Shandong Ruyi? The Parliamentary Library cannot find who its shareholders are but the Australian people deserve to know.
Why has the Treasurer designed conditions so weak that they are barely worth writing down? The Treasurer said that Shandong must comply with local laws. Was an alternative up for negotiation?
There are so many commentators out there that support the sale as if they are across the details when they are not. There is a reason for that; the Treasurer hasn’t released the details so how could they be across it.
The sale of Cubbie is not in our national interest because it compromises our sovereignty, limits our flexibility and makes a mockery of our democracy.
Cubbie is the biggest private water licence holder in the country. That means that when we want to enforce water use limits and when we develop a plan for the Murray-Darling, we don’t just have to consider complex commercial, social and environmental problems, we add diplomatic ones into the mix as well.
It’s hard enough negotiating a Basin Plan between four Australian states, we don’t need to add another nation’s government as well.
What disgusts me the most in all of this is the cowardice on display by the Treasurer in not explaining why he has made his decision.
In the last month Wayne Swan has told us all about his love for Bruce Springsteen, but he has spent more time explaining that adolescent crush than he has explaining the serious decision to sell our nation’s biggest farm.
This is an insult to our democracy; this plays us all as fools.
It’s the people of Australia though who are the ultimate masters of our elected politicians. It is not too late to stop this sale. If you are as worked up as me on this issue, call your local member and call the Treasurer, and take a stand to say that it is not OK for a decision of this magnitude to be hidden from public view and debate.
Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals’ Senate leader and the opposition spokesman on regional development, local government and water.