Green paper whitewashes policymakers

23 Oct, 2014 08:02 AM
Barnaby Joyce.
The green paper policy process is slowly but surely being corrupted by the political process
Barnaby Joyce.

A GREEN paper has historically been a discussion paper developed by the public service for community consultation before a final policy paper, a white paper, is issued by the government.

Unfortunately, the green paper policy process is slowly but surely being corrupted by the political process in Australia – as stakeholder input is sought at the start of the process and used to justify predetermined political prejudices.

The latest example of the current green paper process in Australia is the so-called green paper on Agricultural Competitiveness.

An issues paper was released in February 2014 inviting submissions from interested groups. Over 700 submissions were received by April 2014 and it took another six months before the green paper was issued.

If 700 submissions were not enough, further submissions are now invited.

This extended stakeholder engagement process is effectively outsourcing the policy development process historically driven by impartial public service policy advisers. This process of stakeholder engagement would normally be a sensible process if it were based on rigorous analysis.

However, neither the February 2014 issues paper nor the green paper on Agricultural Competitiveness involved rigorous analysis or empirical evidence of the need for policy or legislative change.

The February 2014 issues paper was only 33 pages and contained seven selected charts and tables that provided a thin veneer of analysis of the nine issues discussed in the paper.

The green paper contains more data, with 25 figures and six tables. However, there is zero analysis of the competitive landscape, just one chart on dairy manufacturing costs and one paragraph dealing with the production costs of beef.

Neither example lends any weight towards the stakeholder recommendations contained in the green paper, including forced divestment of assets, an effects test, or options to increase price transparency.

Global, domestic link ignored

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the February issues paper and the green paper is the almost complete disregard for the link between global and domestic markets in Australian agriculture.

The brief opening analysis in the February issues paper notes that 60 per cent of Australian agricultural production is exported but that Australia comprises less than 5pc of global agricultural production in our biggest broadacre farming sectors of beef, wheat, cotton and dairy.

Unfortunately, it completely fails to draw the obvious conclusion that Australia does not have scale in international markets, that global markets set the farmgate return for the largest share of agricultural production in the country, and that most of our farmers are, therefore, price takers.

Further, the green paper does not provide a sector-by-sector analysis of the global and domestic competitive landscape in Australian agriculture.

In fact, all this detailed analysis has been done but it has not seen the light of day in either the February issues paper or the green paper.

In 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry produced a report called FOODmap: An analysis of the Australian food supply chain that provides all this analysis.

Why is this analysis not front and centre of the competition policy debate in the green paper on agricultural competitiveness?

Unfortunately, all we can look forward to at this stage is not a white paper but a beige paper that merely plays back stakeholder views based on ill-founded myths about the competitive landscape.

Robert Hadler is a senior adviser at FTI Consulting.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


23/10/2014 11:22:36 AM

Hadler is correct.Joyce has hijacked this process and with no objective independent policy analysis invited a mass of populist sentiment and used it to justify his predetermined prejudices based on ill founded myths so common to Australian agriculture. Myths woven deep in Joyce,s fabric. We can only hope that discerning and clear thinking prevails.
24/10/2014 2:32:05 PM

I don't know which faction Robert Hadler represents but having done a quick read of the Green Paper, all I can say is that it is the best and most refreshing and rational basis we have seen in decades from any Government, to take us forward and set up Agriculture's advancement in Australia and for Australia. How about the whingers getting in and being a part of the process, as invited, instead of giving us their tired old rants.
Jock Munro
24/10/2014 5:45:59 PM

Dear Editor, Obviously Rob Hadler has put the fear of God into you because you will not publish anything bad about him!
26/10/2014 9:49:38 AM

The bureaucracy is what has stifled innovation in this country for decades! It is refreshing that they are NOT controlling the agenda this time around and we will be all the better for it.
26/10/2014 10:24:51 AM

Critical thinking consultants can positively contribute by producing a "White Paper" of their own. Leading by example is always more helpful (than taking pot shots at the current news cycle). At a deeper level, deeds not words matter nowadays. Yes, Govt, and their critics are still a long, long way from that. Yes, we all get that "White Papers" have long lost their impact. Yes, we can say that even before it is published. Deeds matter, that is why both farming & agribusiness's get on with feeding people more than a news feed that rolls off a screen (or a dusty beige paper sitting on a shelf).
Bushie Bill
27/10/2014 8:40:58 AM

LTF, the word "rational" has no place in discussion on this green paper, which is simply more of the same old crap that put this industry a risk in the first place. That crap, of course, is agricultural socialism, paid for by the hard-working long-suffering citizens and taxpayers of this nation. Thankfully, nothing will come of this piece of economic nonsense and it will rot on some shelf deep in the bowels of bureaucracy, where it belongs.
Old mate
27/10/2014 10:02:55 AM

Could it be Jock that some comments were just too bad (eg legally) to be published? Let's test it: Hadler, you're a dummy, we WANT stakeholder input!
27/10/2014 11:04:52 AM

As I said Bushie Bill, all were invited to contribute their ideas to the Green Paper. Unless you have records of all the 700 plus contributors and the philosophical backgrounds of all 700+, you may not assume to know what range of ideologists have expressed their views. Instead of ranting, get off your butt and make your own submission.
27/10/2014 12:29:17 PM

The policy makers are the voters and not the public servants Mr. Hadler.
Bushie Bill
28/10/2014 9:21:07 AM

How do you know I did or didn't make a submission, LTF? If I did, it could well have recommended that the best thing the Boof or anyone could do for agriculture is to ban agsocs from the public purse. That is al that is required to get the industry onto a profitable and sustainable foundation and not dependent on taxpayers coming to the rescue every time there is the slightest challenge (and it seems that every new event in RARA is a challenge and beyond the capacity of agsocs to handle).
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