Mining and agriculture are our economic backbone and don't forget it

Mining and agriculture are our economic backbone and don't forget it

COMMENT
Opinion
Ron Boswell is a former Senator from Queensland and former leader of the National Party in the Senate.

Ron Boswell is a former Senator from Queensland and former leader of the National Party in the Senate.

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Opinion: Former Queensland Senator Ron Boswell says Australia's economic backbone, mining and agriculture, must not be sacrificed for a "green recovery".

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Opinion | The Gauge 

It was only two decades ago that every galah in the parrot shop was saying that agriculture and mining were 'old economy' and we should diversify out of them into other more sexy sectors.

Thankfully that advice was ignored.

Today, during the biggest global economic crisis for 90 years our farming and mining sectors are keeping our economy in better shape than many other developed economies.

Let's take a look at some numbers.

In the period from January to May 2020 - the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, only two countries in the developed world recorded an increase in their exports - Chile and Australia.

On average, exports from OECD economies - the world's 38 wealthiest nations - fell by 29 per cent over this period.

Our food exporters have been a significant contributor to this effort.

Australian meat exports in the year to June 2020 reached nearly $17 billion, up nearly 15pc on the previous year.

Our vegetables and fruit exports were 10pc in the year to June compared with the previous year.

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that, despite the pandemic "value chains like agriculture and food and beverages have continued to see strong demand because of the essential nature of these products".

The resources sector has also performed strongly, with exports reaching record levels of about $295 billion in the year to June 2020.

While coal and LNG sales have been pegged back by falling demand resulting from a weak global economy, iron ore sales will reach $100 billion for the first time with higher prices due to production disruptions in our major competitor, Brazil.

We should never overlook the fact that eight of our top ten exports are produced in regional, rural and remote areas.

That is sometimes under-estimated by city-based commentators, experts and activists.

Before the pandemic, our unbroken record of 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth had contributed to an unhealthy complacency within these circles.

Silly ideas divorced from practical reality became commonplace.

Some argued that meat production should be curbed because it contributes to global CO2 emissions.

Greenpeace advocated a 50pc reduction in meat production claiming, without any evidence that "industrial meat production is tearing down our forests, polluting our water, harming our health and disrupting our climate".

State Governments have progressively implemented tougher and tougher land clearing requirements that made farming less productive layering green tape on top of red tape.

Meanwhile, around the world, beef demand continues to grow strongly.

In 2019 alone, China's imports of beef grew by 71pc, reflecting a decade long trend.

Since 2009, meat's share of China's food imports has grown from 3.8pc to 13.8pc in 2019.

Meanwhile city-based activists continue to try to kill the Adani Carmichael coal project and the more than one thousand jobs it has already created, and the hundreds more due to start over coming months.

And Australian banks continue to refuse to support the Carmichael project, at considerable cost to their shareholders.

It remains a mystery to me how Australian banks purport to represent the interests of all Australians, but quickly abandon the interests of regional Australians when they cave to a few noisy protestors opposed to new mining projects.

The big question is where the economic debate will go once we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 economic malaise.

There will be a lot of talk from the left about a green recovery which will inevitably involve plenty of money for pet green projects.

The contribution of the 'old economy' won't get much attention or support from the green new deal crowd.

It will be tempting, especially for the weak-minded.

My sense, though is that people in regional Australia won't buy it.

They will be more interested in ensuring that the sectors that have been the backbone of our economy for 150 years will remain our focus for the foreseeable future.

Australia is doing better than most economies because we know what we are good at and we do it well.

It was this approach that delivered nearly three decades of continuous economic growth, and what is delivering the one of the best performing economies during the biggest economic hit for a century.

Ron Boswell is a former Nationals senator for Queensland and former Leader of the Nationals in the Senate.

The story Mining and agriculture are our economic backbone and don't forget it first appeared on Farm Online.

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