Saturday, September 29, 2007

Australian Farming Audit

Last week, Opposition Shadow Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, agreed that an audit of farming land would not be a bad thing. He said this in response to a direct question.

The Federal Government's (junior) Parliamentary Secretary for the environment, John Cobb, immediately responded by trying to "shoot the messenger", saying that Garrett was "the grim reaper" of farmers. Such a response contributes nothing to the discussion. It's a discussion teh Government does not want to have. There has been a number of media stories and editorials supporting John Howard's plan to provide more assistance to farmers.

Much of Australia has been in drought for more than 6 years, the average temperature has been higher than in other droughts, possible due to climate change, and rain events that have occurred have been less common and more extreme. Add to this, the mix of high-water use irrigated crops such as cotton and rice planted in the very dry Murray-Darling Basin, and there would seem to be a good case for a national audit of what we produce on farms, where it's produced, what water is needed to produce it, and whether some areas currently farmed are viable. Some years years ago, both the manufacturing, sugar and dairy industries were restructured, and the Federal Government encouraged some farmers to leave the industry: there might be other areas where this is appropriate, with suitable financial inducements.

A national audit of farming land, production and water use is a worthwhile response to the effects of climate change/"shift" on our farmland, drought and our farmers and their families.

The question is not whether our politicians have the "ticker" to do it; the question is, are we willing to insist on action for Australia's benefit.