It came as something of a surprise to me the other day when I realised that my wife Lynne and I have lived in Australia for over fifty years — half a century! Most of that time in Western Australia.
As I write, it is Australia Day. For some there are parties and fireworks. For others there are protests, rallys and marches because they believe that today should be a day of shame, because it is the day that the British stole Australia from its indigenous people.
Australia Day is often heralded by ads about lamb and barbies being ‘Australian’. But what does it actually mean to be Australian? I am half Warlpiri and a mixture of Irish, Scottish and Welsh. My sons are of Warlpiri, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Malay, Indian, French, African, Chinese, Scandinavian and German ancestry. My stepson is half Scottish and a quarter Mauritian. They are all 100% Australian. My husband and stepfather of my children is Scottish but calls himself a ‘Scaussie’. What we all have in common is a love for this multifaceted and beautiful nation.
My great grandfather’s grandfather was convicted of ‘robbing a soldier of his arms’, in 1832 in Kilkenny at the age of 21. He came as a convict in 1833. He was an Irish patriot fighting for his faith and people. In the current political climate I would not be expected to acknowledge and celebrate his life because I have a Warlpiri mother. Most of the self-identifying indigenous members of our community who claim to feel hurt by Australia Day being held on the January 26 would also have white ancestors in their family trees and may not even have been born if the First Fleet hadn’t come.
The headline on the front page of The Australian of July 24, 2018, ‘NAB promises to stop fleecing struggling farmers’.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘fleecing’ as; ‘to take someones money dishonestly by charging too much or by cheating’. The Legal dictionary defines ‘restitution’ as; n. 1) returning to the proper owner property or the monetary value of loss. Sometimes restitution is made part of a judgment in negligence and/or contracts cases.
The NAB has admitted that it has fleeced (stolen from) some of its farmer customers and now, having realised the error of its ways, promises it won’t do it again. Isn’t that great? Will the other banks now admit to stealing? They should, because they all behaved in the same callous and reprehensible manner if the evidence presented to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry is anything to go by. Only a few of the many, many farmers who have been ‘fleeced’ will get the chance to testify, how many nobody knows, but the commissioner in reply to a question from Bob Katter MP has indicated that they won’t be forgotten. It may well be that Bob Katter has secured an extension of time for the Royal Commission to hear more from farmers. There is never any question where Bob Katter’s heart is, it’s with the people on the land. It’s a pity there weren’t a dozen politicians from rural electorates in court to give the commissioner a reminder, not that it seems he needs one, of the fleecing that has gone on in the bush.
It’s time to talk seriously about re-structuring the wheat industry in Western Australia and probably Australia. It’s time that wheat growers demanded recognition for the contribution they make to the national economy. When was the last time you heard the Prime Minister or the immediate past minister (Barnaby) or the current Federal Minister for Agriculture, or even the current crop of state ministers talk about the financial health of the producers of Australia’s biggest cash crop?
It’s time that the wheat industry faced reality, the bureaucracies they fund have failed them. Have a look at what Negative Profit means, it’s a euphemism for loss; then read on and tell me what you think, tell me if I am wrong in calling for change.
In the last issue of the Global Farmer I discussed the need for change based on a strategic plan for the behemoth called Australian agriculture. It is not possible to look at the whole until the parts have been examined.
To start with the wheat industry is logical and relevant considering this is the time of year to review last year and make plans for and give a commitment to the next season and beyond.
The headline says it all, based on current trends, the wheat industry in Australia will be gone in twenty three years. If you are having difficulty in trying to remember what was going on in Australian agriculture twenty three years ago, it was five years after the wool price crash and we were all being told to get rid of our world beating merino sheep. That is how close we are to the demise of the Australian wheat industry. It won’t happen like the wool crash, for those who refuse to recognise the signs it will be a slow, painful and imposed exit.
I blame politicians and their apparatchiks for my ever-increasing sense of despair regarding the future of this country and its agriculture. The evidence is clear and apparent. We are in debt up to our eyeballs and we shouldn’t be. We are a country rich in valuable natural resources from which we, the people, gain little benefit. We are rich in coal and gas and we have an power crisis for which we the people are paying dearly. Astonishingly, we continue to pay billions of dollars in subsidies to so-called renewable energy companies to generate the power we need, yet, even more astonishingly, we have failed to understand that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, they don’t generate power. To add insult to injury the wind turbines and the solar panels used in this massive ‘con trick’ are imported, mainly from China.
Who would have thought it? This year Australian agricultural exports could be just $3 billion less than the darling of every politician and the maker of billionaires in this country, iron ore. The leaders of this land love to wear the high vis vests, helmets and glasses, tug their forelocks and queue up to have a ‘selfie’ with ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and Gina Rhinehart or make sure they are seen wining and dining with the captains of BHP, Rio Tinto and anybody in the A League of world business. I haven’t noticed the Prime Minister or the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition queuing up to have their selfies taken with the President of the National Farmers Federation or the leaders of our state farmer organisations to say ‘thank you’ for the contribution agriculture is making to the economy of this great country. What a dreadful display of ignorance, an indictment against the government and the opposition of this country that they cannot spare the time to be seen saying ‘thank you’ to the thousands of Australian farmers, for striving to achieve the targets predicted in March of this year by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) that total agricultural production for 2017 will be $63.8 billion and that exports could reach $48.7 billion.
I have lost all faith in the political process in this country. I no longer believe that those whom we have elected over the last decade have the ability to run this country. We are one of the most naturally wealthy countries in the world and we are broke. Governments are elected by the people to manage the assets of the country for the people. Our governments have manifestly failed. They have abrogated the powers of government to multi national companies and financial institutions many of which are not Australian and who have demonstrated they have no interest in the welfare of Australia. Our assets have been colonised and to all intents and purposes stolen to build financial empires in other countries.
Nobody is born with common sense; it is acquired over time and by experiencing the joys and hardships of life. The mistake we the electorate have made, is that with a few exceptions we have assumed that those whom we have elected to run our States’ and our country had benefited from life’s experiences and when we elected them had at least a modicum of common sense and some experience and skill in financial management. How wrong we have been.
Michael West, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney, on March 14 2017, in an article in The Conversation, discloses that there is no shortage of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Australia or in the world, in fact there is a glut. The people of Australia and particularly landholders have been treated deplorably by the international energy industry. As pressure was put landowners and governments by the energy industry to allow prospecting for more gas, coal seam gas (CSG), on some of the most valuable agricultural land in Australia, landowners feared for their future and fought for their property rights. What the landholders didn’t know was that all the time the international energy industry was being less than honest with them, the Governments of Australia and the people of Australia. What follows are parts Professor West’s convincing article in The Conversation. Together with comments from me regarding the apparent dishonesty, at best, of the international energy industry. I thank Professor West and The Conversation for the material provided. I hope this time we can cause an outrage and have questions answered.
A global cartel has manufactured a gas crisis in Australia, when in fact there is a world wide glut. On the 14th of April Professor West predicted (and it happened) that the Prime Minister would be prevailed upon by the cartel to stay away from doing for Australia what the Carpenter Government did for Western Australia when it secured for WA 15% of the Pluto gas field production for WA. The cartel will plead with the Turnbull government not to interfere with ‘the market’ and encourage it to persuade State governments to issue licences to explore the Australian landscape for coal seam gas (CSG) so as to avoid an impending gas shortage. Put ‘there is no gas shortage’ into you search engine and you will find that the lies of the cartel prevail.
According to Prof West there is no such thing as a ‘gas market’. Six big companies have formed a cartel and control the market price: Santos, Exxon, BHP, Origin, Arrow Energy and Shell. Michael West claims ‘Markets have visible prices and quantities on the bid and offer. The cartel even hides information about its gas reserves from government.’
In his first one hundred days in office the President of the United States has done something which the governments of Australia have been too frightened to do in a thousand days. The big message from the White House is that agriculture is important to America — the big message from Canberra is that agriculture isn’t important to Australia.
Sure, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia is proud of agriculture’s contribution of $54 billion to the national economy. What he refuses to discuss in public is the lack of profitability for many of the producers who contribute to that $54 billion. He avoids discussing the ever increasing damage being caused by rural debt, low commodity prices, a poor and outdated infrastructure and a banking sector out of control.
President Trump, as one would expect coming from the dog eat dog construction and real estate industry in America, obviously knows the difference between strategy and tactics. Love him or hate him, respect him or despise him, he has achieved what many believed was impossible. The evidence is that both the Coalition and the Labor Party and all those strange individuals who nobody voted for, who spend their time scampering around the dark corners of Parliament House ‘currying favour’ and ‘horse trading’ with the future of this country, are all providing irrefutable evidence that they are seriously deficient in the strategy department. What they all have is a grab bag, a lucky dip of tactics. We are now running the country with party games. God save the Queen because nothing can save Australian politics.
About 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Barnaby Joyce could do worse than take a page out of Donald’s book — we’ll overlook plagiarism just this once. Look at what the President has asked the new Agriculture Secretary to do in the next 180 days. That is a business man speaking, bringing hard nosed business into politics. Will it work? Only time will tell.
For the first time in my life we don’t have a real leader either in the Lodge or in ‘waiting’. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are a miserable pair, neither is fit for office. Hanging on to power and the thirst for power at any price, is devaluing what is the real Australia. We are losing our national character by allowing minorities, both within parliament and outside, to determine national policy. Our attitude to the generation of electricity, the life blood of society, is just one example. We have the best coal in the world and there are those who want us to stop using it ourselves and stop exporting it – in other words close the mines. We are close to having the biggest reserves of natural gas in the world and being the world’s biggest exporter of gas; demand is starting to exceed supply because the ‘miners’ have sold it all for a fraction of its worth, and because we have sold our birthright it is being forecast that gas prices will rise and there may not be sufficient for Australia this coming winter— is that possible? And slowly and inexorably as we approach winter, we all wonder how big our power bills will be. No doubt there will again be a call for blankets for the aged and the poor, when, as you will see, it is all so unnecessary. (The link ‘forecast that gas prices will rise’ may not work. Put ‘winter gas shortage fears as prices soar’ into your search engine, the story is there, or put in ‘gas shortage in Australia 2017’ and the page will fill. RC)