Agriculture missing from election preamble

29 Jul, 2010 12:01 AM
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AGRICULTURE has not rated a mention so far in this year's election campaign.

As the August 21 election rapidly approaches, farmers are still waiting to hear the major political parties discuss their agricultural policies.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said despite efforts to communicate with the different parties in Canberra, a tight lid was being kept on important issues such as food security, biosecurity, landcare, climate change and the environment.

"There are a whole lot of things that they should be talking about which is getting absolutely nothing," Mr Norton said.

"There's a whole raft of issues out there that are just dead in the water.

"One would have thought that food security would have been a very high priority on all the various parties' political agendas, but really it doesn't seem to rate very highly unfortunately."

Mr Norton said the four main issues in the election platform were population, the economy, the environment and property rights, but none of them were being considered from an agricultural point of view.

He said regional Australia was being forgotten and only benefited indirectly through other sectors like the mining industry.

"The previous government put $2 billion into the Perth to Mandurah railway line and nothing into the grain line," Mr Norton said.

"It's the same with roads – agriculture may indirectly benefit from the mines when they have to put in new roads or amenities due to the other priorities."

Mr Norton said the election was about short term political gain and because agriculture didn't have the population to make an electoral difference it was getting very little help or recognition from any of the major parties.

"All we seem to do is limp from one election to another depending on what the politicians of the day want to do," he said.

"I think what really needs to happen is recognition by all the major parties that they want an agricultural industry in Australia, and if they do then they need to sit down with the farming organisations and put in place a world-class road map that takes agriculture into the latter part of this century.

"We've produced cheap food in this country for many years and the politicians just seem to think that's going to keep on going forever.

"If you don't look after the people that operate the family farms, then the younger generation will certainly look at doing other things."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Rob Gillam said the biggest issue that would have the greatest potential impact on agriculture will be the outcome of the climate change proposal.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, I think that most agricultural people will be swayed strongly to the party that comes out and says they won't implement an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)," Mr Gillam said.

"If agriculture was not excluded from an ETS, it will eat away at the viability of agriculture and make it very difficult for farmers to continue.

"It will depend on the severity of the regulations that are put in place, but it will only be downhill as far as farmers are concerned.

"The emissions that come from agriculture, with perhaps the one exclusion on exhaust fumes, are all natural occurrences."

Mr Gillam said the other big issue for WA was the support for live export.

"But I think both sides of Parliament will continue to support live export," he said.

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