Several guests spoke their minds in the no-holds barred style that, over the years, has become a defining feature of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA annual convention at Crown Perth last Thursday.
At the conference and annual dinner, PGA members and guests heard from a former politician and advocate for Aboriginal people, Nyunggai Warren Mundine and former governor of Western Australia Malcolm McCusker, who both provided their perspectives on the upcoming Voice referendum, as well as WA Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman John Cunnington, WA Agriculture and Food Minister Jackie Jarvis and Police Minister Paul Papalia who provided industry updates.
Federal opposition leader and Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton provided the keynote address, labelling this Saturday's referendum as "nothing more than another layer of bureaucracy in our country that we don't need".
"It's deeply regrettable and it's going to take a lot to rebuild our country after October 14," Mr Dutton said.
"Australians in their millions have a deep desire to see a better outcome for indigenous Australians in places like Laverton and Leonora, in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek etc.
"You want to see those kids go to school, you want to see those employment opportunities created and you want to see a functioning, productive society.
"But it's clear that the Prime Minister's proposal has none of the details, and it's quite deliberate."
Highlighting that since Australia was Federated in 1901, there has never before been a proposal to insert a chapter of such nature into the Constitution, which gives it equal billing to the nation's High Court, Mr Dutton said nobody believed the "broad" words Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had used to suggest the Voice would "just be a meek and mild respectful change" to the nation's rulebook.
"We want to make sure that if there is a change to the Constitution, that it's done for the right reasons and a deliberate strategy and a deliberate tactic by the PM is to take that information away from Australians is quite a significant act and without precedent," Mr Dutton said.
Reaffirming his stance on the voice, PGA president Tony Seabrook quoted former Prime Minister Bob Hawke's commitment on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 1988 to all Australians and concerning the country's future - "In Australia, there is no hierarchy of descent... there must be no privilege of origin".
"The commitment is all.
"The commitment to Australia is the one thing needful to be a true Australian.
"This change began quietly with the Mabo decision in 1993, indigenous land rights, indigenous land use agreements and the creation of an industry now consuming $100 million a day, $37 billion a year is a burden on all Australians, and this industry is not delivering the desired or expected outcomes," Mr Seabrook said.
Reflecting on his long journey with the PGA, having first become a member of the organisation more than 40 years ago and been the group's president for almost 10, Mr Seabrook said a common theme he had witnessed over the years was too much government policy creating economic harm to the agricultural industry.
Mr Seabrook highlighted numerous examples where the PGA had successfully advocated against these policies over the years, including when State and local government organisations sold WA's main auction livestock saleyards.
"Eventually and very reluctantly the State government was forced by the PGA to use the proceeds from the sale of the Midland Saleyards to build a facility at Muchea," Mr Seabrook said.
Looking back on other events like the deregulation of the grains industry, he said initially there had been massive opposition, largely from growers, due to fear of the free market and where this might take them.
"The first win was the freedom to trade domestically in wheat, then freedom to export barley and lupins and then the abolition of the AWB's power as the sole exporter in 2008," Mr Seabrook said.
"The opening up to free trade has put millions of dollars into the pockets of individual growers, thanks to the persistence and dedication of PGA."
Mr Seabrook said in each confrontation with the government, people had stepped up within the organisation and "unrelentingly prosecuted the case for common sense and a just outcome".
However he said more recently there had also been a shift in public attitudes and society's expectations which were impacting on the industry.
"We now find ourselves entering a world where we are told we need a social licence to produce food," Mr Seabrook said.
"Our farming practices are coming under intense scrutiny at every point.
"A large number of very necessary chemicals being used are under threat as are many livestock systems, intensive poultry, pigs and feedlots are being targeted by activists."
Mr Seabrook said Labor's policy to ban the live sheep trade by sea had been the result of "ill-informed but very noisy groups using their influence in the inner-city electorates to bully government".
Putting the group's views about government intervention firmly on the record, he said in a recent submission to the Federal government on food security in Australia, the PGA had stated that the greatest threat to food security was government policy.
"The agricultural industry is feeling very threatened," Mr Seabrook said.
"Asides from the activists... we have a government prosecuting its populist social agenda, rather than being honest with its people and putting the good of the country as a primary purpose."
Mr Seabrook said the phrase "we survive not because of the government but in spite of it," rang true for the agricultural sector.
"As an association we have done much, the future sometimes appears daunting with threats from many different directions, but as always, we will rise to the occasion, for if not us, who else," he said.
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