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governments. Her call

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Que against Labor in marginal seats in

Queensland and New South Wales.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tony

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Mr Abbott

see the public questioning the Mr Abbott says he thinks it's good to

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THEME MUSIC On Landline today - heads for the home stretch the federal election pitch to the rural heartland. with the Nationals making a direct moving forward, As Julia Gillard talks about she's left behind. we're talking about the people the Government's water buyback money And some farmers accept that neither side of politics and the fact in irrigated agriculture. sees much of a future we were top of the heap, When I left school No.1 to supply water to irrigation. Now we're No.5. stock and domestic. There's the environment, town, country that irrigation is important Until there is a realisation in this I don't see any future in it.

welcome to the program - Hello, I'm Anne Kruger, coming from the Gold Coast Cotton Conference. and the 15th Australian Recent soaking rain or not, remain anxious many of the delegates here they can count on into the future. about how much water The future of the Murray-Darling the election campaign radar finally flicked across saying a Labor Government with the Prime Minister in the Murray-Darling will buy back water from irrigators to meet environmental targets. and not just cut their allocations it would strike a better balance The Coalition in turn promised and environmental flows. between food production in South Australia. It's lovely to be here delayed until after the poll. Release of a new Basin Plan has been waiting around to find out But many farmers aren't how much water there will be, getting out of irrigated agriculture. they're selling their water and near Swan Hill On the banks of the Murray River battle it out. the next generation of AFL wannabes (KIDS SHOUT) than country footy. It doesn't get much more country in a way that differs from city life. Sport is social glue Crime Stoppers here today. I didn't know you were filming where Jeremy Morton But the city is exactly and his family could be heading. that we've got a future here I just can't see from government policy with all the pressures and climate change. to provide our children We always wanted best education we possibly could, with the best opportunities, on track to achieving our goals. and look, 10 years ago we were well the oldest town in the Riverina. Moulamein proclaims itself and getting smaller. It's also a small town This is rice country. the driest decade anyone can recall At least it was until cut to the bone. saw water allocations here stretch back 150 years. Jeremy Morton's family connections continuously until 2005 We've grown rice since 1949

were too low to grow a crop. when water allocations on these paddocks again He won't be growing rice the Federal Government goes through. if a deal to sell his water to you won't have water for this area. Once the water is sold, after that point? So what can you do with it is knock the banks down What we'll probably do and sell a crop like lucerne. For stock. For stock? of farmers in the district Jeremy Morton is one of a group just didn't stack up any more who decided that irrigated farming was the best thing they could do. and that selling their water with government policy, basically, I just look at what's happening that live in the cities, and it's driven by the people

the everyday punters of Australia, to be returned to the environment. and they think that more water needs It's hard to overstate of recent times have caused. the dislocation the dry years there's been no water allocated. In two of the last four years, and in another, barely a third. One year, it was less than 10%, you can't grow much here at all. Without water, a couple of million dollars a year We've gone from turning over during these drought years, to sort of $300,000-odd that $2 million worth of turnover, and we just won't ever get back to water to be able to achieve that. because we won't have access to the

Selling his water entitlements than he imagined. is proving more difficult as one of a group. Partly because he's selling It's been a comedy of errors. a number of times. We've had - we've been close In April last year, on the table from the Government. we actually had an offer who was in our group Then we had an irrigator to continue. decided they didn't want with Murray Irrigation. So from there, we had trouble Irrigation, the irrigation provider, Having finally persuaded Murray that it was a good idea,

the farmers who wanted to sell well below the $1,600 a megalitre found the price had fallen they thought they'd get. Now if there are no hiccups,

they'll get a bit over $900 a megalitre. The $1,600 it was a good deal for the taxpayers of Australia, it was a good deal for Murray Irrigation and it was a good deal for us. Now the taxpayers of Australia are getting this water at an absolute bargain. One of the other farmers involved in the deal is Ian Shippen. And when this water sale is finally done, what happens to the channel, the regulator, all the infrastructure? It's de-commissioned. What that means, it will be Murray Irrigation will take what usable assets they can and relocate them if they can. If they can't, they will be just all pushed in. This channel will be just dozed in, de-commissioned. In irrigation jargon it's a subsystem retirement. The farmers who are selling their water are all in a row at the end of a channel.

That's better for the the remaining irrigators who don't have to keep paying for the fixed infrastructure. Like some of his neighbours, Ian Shippen will use a lot of money from the sale to reduce his debt, but he's also selling because he doesn't think irrigation has much of a future. Since I left school there's been a quantum change

in the way that governments think about irrigation. When I left school we were the top of the heap as the No.1 to supply the water to irrigation. Now I think we're No.5. I think there's the environment, town, stock and domestic, so until there's a realisation in this country that irrigation is important, I don't see any future in it. Would a change of government make any difference? No, I don't think so.

The Liberal Party put this process in place before the Labor Party got in. David May and John Lolicato are irrigators and active in the local landholders association. Well, Chris, the thing that worries us is that the buyback program doesn't take into consideration the third-party impacts - the value of the water in this area to the community. It's quite obvious that the votes from city-dwellers on green issues are paramount to both sides of politics at the moment. There's a lot of discussion about environments, forests, protecting forests, undertaking all this environmental watering. It's focused purely on gaining green votes. Neither thinks a change of government will make much difference. Maybe the Liberal government might have a bit more sympathy, but overall, the real problem is the disconnect between the urban areas and the country. The problem is people don't seem to have the understanding of how important it is to have clean, green, home-grown food that's been created in Australia. is a Wakool Shire Councillor who worries his community is dying around him. I understand that near on 30% of the water is gone out of the Wakool irrigation district. Council commissioned a study to assess the impact of water buybacks. For every 1,000 megalitres of water that disappears out of this district we roughly lose about $300,000 of production value, which roughly translates into one local job in the local economy, another job in the regional economy, and about $900,000 of regional economy production. If you're roughly extrapolate the numbers, we'd be over 200 jobs down based on the amount of water that's gone. There are similar stories across Australia's irrigated agricultural regions and people blame federal government water buybacks. The Government says that really, it's the drought. Even as some areas have started to come out of drought and during the last three years a lot of areas have started to come into much better seasons. It's still the case that we've got much less water - in the Murray-Darling Basin in particular - but in many of our river systems around the country, than we had a decade ago. That's what's driving it. One peak farm body, the National Farmers Federation, has drawn plenty of criticism from its own constituency for supporting water buybacks.

We support the water plan. Buyback from willing sellers is part of that. We support it, but what we need to take into account and what the government needs to take into account is the effect that it has on communities that have had water removed. Water buybacks are focusing minds on the very future of agriculture and regional Australia. If you incorporate lots of stubble you will end up with a potential nitrogen deficiency.

The nitrogen is there, but it's locked up in the organic matter. Professor Jim Pratley spent more than 30 years cultivating successive crops of Australian farmers and he says that despite, or perhaps because of the drought, there aren't enough young graduates coming through university to meet demand.

Currently the universities are producing something like about 20% of the graduates that are needed for the industry. And you know, that's not a way to sustain the industry and so we need to encourage more people to come into agriculture. From these quaint premises in downtown Wagga, Jon Medway and John Lucas run the sort of business

that should attract young minds to farming. John, can we just have a look at the cattleyards paddock of Andrew's?

I've been out doing some sampling. Yep, no worries. From their uni days at nearby Charles Sturt they now run an enterprise that takes them around Australia and the globe, using satellite images to work out detailed management plans for farming. In this case, precision application of fertiliser to maximise yield and minimise cost. The files can be emailed or loaded on to a compact flash card and then loaded into the tractor, which then controls the implement. Eventually the results can be measured in Andrew Demerick's wheat crop. It's quite important now,

especially the way fertiliser prices have gone. For every kilo you save of fertiliser you're looking at 80, 90 cents a kilo. Over a large area, it amounts to quite a bit of money. There's a widespread belief that in politics,

Australian agriculture barely rates. Do you think either of the major political parties has a clear vision for the future of agriculture and food production? No, I can't see a clear vision from either party, from Canberra at all. I suppose it comes down to the fact that it's business as usual. The farmers keep on keeping on. A lot of the message is tailored more towards the urban population rather than the specific needs of regional Australia. I think, generally speaking, a lot of the regional seats are relatively safe, and there isn't a political - a real political need - to cater specifically to the rural needs. Peter Bailey runs the Foundation for Regional Development, and this week found himself hosting Tony Burke, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, and latterly, also Minister for Sustainable Population. The concern I now have, if we don't begin to grow regional Australia we don't get the infrastructure dollars that are required. We won't get the support systems we require, because governments of any persuasion will increasingly have to put the resource where the population is moving to. But don't expect an old-fashioned Canberra-led de-centralisation plan if Tony Burke has anything to do with it after polling day.

There are some parts of country Australia where you would not realistically want to increase the population. Not every community is wanting their population increased, so if you view this as an old-fashioned city/country divide

and try to just say all country areas will have incentives for more people to live there, that's not what every community wants. In an election where population and crowded cities are issues, there isn't much talk about the vast expanse where the country's food is grown and where fewer and fewer people live. We're pushing for both sides to think about regional development, because the big driver in everything we do in agriculture,

and that's world agriculture as well as Australian agriculture, is population growth and the changing nature of demand. With the water he has this year, Jeremy Morton's growing some wheat, but you need to grow a lot of wheat to make money. This wheat crop will produce about a million loaves of bread. Which, you know, a loaf of bread is worth $3. That's $3 million. By the time I cover all my costs, I will be making probably about $50,000 out of the crop. Moving to large-scale grazing is Ian Shippen's strategy to survive and prosper in a post-irrigation world. We are running 50,000 breeders at the moment. In the process of halfway through classing 15,000 new weaners. They've already established a sizeable merino flock. It's a lot lower cost operation than irrigation. I hate to say it's probably more reliable at the moment and that's why we've gone back to it. Even though it's on a reasonably big scale, it's a simple operation. Once Jeremy Morton's sold his water, it will be time to make a choice. The choices are that we can stay here and continue to farm. We do have some other properties which will still be connected to the irrigation system so we can continue to irrigate and with a rationalised farming operation. Or we could sell all the farms and move to the city. If that happens, they will be following a decades-old trend. People will still live here, things will carry on,

but it just isn't going to be as vibrant and successful community as it has been in the past. Cotton's king at the top of the Murray-Darling basin. And this week 1,000 people have gathered here on the Gold Coast to consider the way forward for their crops and the commodity market. Cotton Australia CEO, Adam Kay, told Landline boss, Pete Lewis, the widespread soaking rain may have put a spring in their step and a smile on their face for now, but uncertainty remains over what sort of water access irrigators will have in future. This uncertainty that's been hanging over the growers for a long time now through water reform processes, it started pack in COAG agreements in 1994, and National Water Initiative 2004,

and there's still uncertainty there today, you know, 16 years later. So we'd really like to get rid of that uncertainty for growers. It seems at this stage the government is the only one who has seen the detail of that draft plan. What does irrigated agriculture make of that? I guess we're concerned, because here's a plan, the time frame has always said it was going to be released in July and then early August,

and it's been put back again. We would've thought that information contained in the plan was critical to inform voters in the Murray-Darling basin. So, yeah, we're very disappointed that it's not there. Plus it would help ease some of the uncertainty that's out there

if we actually know what's in the plan. Now, the Cotton Cooperative Research Centre

has done a study into the collateral damage of water buybacks. What did it find? Well, look, the Stubbs Report was recently released. A very, very detailed report on the social and economic impacts of the potential cutbacks in water. A 25% cut, which is a pretty big cut, but that showed that it would clearly cost

at least 14,000 jobs in the basin, and it would impact every household in the country. It would cost something like about $380 per household, per year. So, it's not only those 14,000 jobs that are lost, but it's just the cost to everyone in Australia. The Murray-Darling basin is the most populated part of regional Australia

and if you go closing down jobs in those areas those people have to just end up moving back to the fringes of the already overpopulated cities. Do you think there is an appetite among irrigated cotton growers

to take the money and run? No, I think there are a whole lot of different approaches, you know? There are some people that certainly have done that. There are other people that have sold a little bit of water, reduced their debt so that they're there for the long term. So there are a whole lot of different approaches and different situations the growers find themselves in.

Has all this given a bit of a kick to dryland cotton farming? Look, there certainly is going to be a major kick to dryland production, but that's not really related to the water issue. That's because of small grain prices, that's because of the good moisture profiles that we find across a lot of growing areas. And also the benefits that we've seen from transgenic cotton making dryland production a little easier. So we will see a big increase in dryland,

but not really related to the MDBA plan. Beyond the federal election, what's the feeling

about some of the other influences on profitability in your industry? Yeah, look, at the moment, it's a situation where world demand is greater than supply. And we've seen record shipments of cotton in June and July, out of Australia.

And it's quite an exciting time. Prices are pretty good out there for growers

and so the short to medium-term outlook is very exciting for our producers, and that's what's causing the interest in the dryland or rain-grown cotton as well as the enthusiasm in the irrigated industry.

Adam Kay, thanks for joining us on Landline. It's a pleasure. Of all the contests in this federal election campaign, few affect rural and regional Australia more directly than the performance of the National Party. If it fails to arrest the steady slide in its support in recent polls,

the 90-year-old party may well lose its position as the third force in Australian politics. It's campaigning hard to win back seats lost last time, and like Labor and the Liberals, the so-called battleground State of Queensland is crucial to its future. Pip Courtney joined the wombat trail. UPBEAT COUNTRY MUSIC In the horse and cattle game, if somebody asks you if you've been to Paradise, they don't mean up here, they mean here at Paradise Lagoons, a beef property just outside Rockhampton. The annual camp draft hosted by the Acton family is the biggest and richest in Australia, and attracts hundreds of competitors from around the country. With thousands of bushies all in one spot, what better place to discover what's uppermost in the minds of voters in rural and regional electorates. I'd like to see a government that will get out and give the man on the land a go - the food producers. Long term, where are we going to be without the food? The fact that there's a female Prime Minister and I think a lot of people will vote for her simply because she's a woman. And I think that's wrong. Do you think rural issues are getting much airplay? No, they never to. They never do. We're only 2%. Nobody cares about their rural people. With no single issue occupying the minds of rural voters, what then do they think about the Nationals, the party that claims to represent them? Ah, well, I think they could be doing a lot better job. Do you know who the leader of the National Party is? Tony Abbott. Whoops, wrong one? Warren Truss. Oh, OK. I mean the older generation certainly recognise him. But I think Barnaby has a lot higher profile, in Queensland anyway.

How do you do, Barnaby? Why are you limping? Senator Barnaby Joyce has a big fan base in the bush. I mean, he's a trained accountant. He's not a farmer. He can see both sides. And no, I think Barnaby's excellent. He certainly attracts some attention. Like everyone, I don't think he is perfect, but he has a good try at doing it and probably does a good job 90% of the time. Great man with a big heart, knows the issues and calls a spade a spade. He's probably the best prospect we've got. Beef baron, Graham Acton, has voted National all his life. Like many National supporters, he was dismayed when the party lost two seats at the last federal election, followed within the year by the loss of the signature National seat of Lyne in a by-election.

The party now has only nine seats in the Federal Lower House. 20 years ago, it had 19. Is the Nationals, as a party, on the way out? It probably is. I think we need to form a coalition everywhere

so that we've got a very strong united voice. I have tried, and all my colleagues have tried as much as possible to put every endeavour we can to build this party up. Graham Acton believes the federal Nationals will eventually be forced to do what the Queensland Nationals did two years ago - merge with the Liberals. I think it's inevitable. It will have to happen, I think, for us to gain power. (CROWD CHANTS "LNP") When Queensland's two conservative parties merged, a new party called the LNP was formed. To publicise its two-year political marriage, it's staging a 1,200km cattle drive through what's supposed to be the conservative heartland. It's a way of demonstrating to the people of Queensland that we are a united party

and we want to start to lay down the foundations of what we stand for. Whether it's the outback and coming through all these small rural communities or whether it's the city malls,

we're there for all the people of Queensland. Prior to the merger, the Nationals and the Liberals bickered their way out of any chance of governing in Queensland. Are you a better, more organised option for people to vote for now? Most definitely we are. We've spent now just on two years as a united party, giving us a focus on one thing, how to be better at defeating Labor. And that's what we're all about. The LNP cattle drive started in Cloncurry in May

and will snake its way south to Roma between now and October. The beasts, all donated along the way by party supporters,

will be auctioned in Roma to raise funds for the LNP. Longreach cattle producers, Warwick and Rosemary Champion, are dyed in the wool Nationals and LNP supporters. They donated a couple of head. I think the Nationals and the LNP are the people who are going to look after us in the bush.

We just don't see any Labor Party politicians out here. We just don't. The mob had been making between 8 and 10 kilometres a day. But in Longreach, it'd get a few days off, for LNP and Nationals supporters from around the country

were flying in for two days of fundraising and sightseeing. The cattle were to be just one of the backdrops. One of the main attractions of the political weekend was the chance to meet the Nationals' star attraction, and no, it wasn't party leader, Warren Truss. Now, this is Longreach. This is the metaphor of the wombat trail. The National Party's approach to politics, and it's simple. As Julia Gillard talks about moving forward, we're talking about the people she's left behind. And there are lots and lots of these people. Whether they're at Longreach, whether at Palm Island, at Atherton Tablelands, in the outer suburbs, people who feel like, "Ms Gillard, you talk about moving, moving, moving forward, but we're left, left, left behind." Hup! Hup! Hup-de-doo! Come on, girls! Come on, Dolly! The senator was relieved to hit the campaign pause button for some quiet time in the saddle. So, do you think the cattle drive is a good idea? It's a very good idea. It gives people a sense of that the politicians have an empathy not only with urban Australia, but a genuine empathy and understanding of regional Australia. You can't get much more regional than sitting behind a mob of cattle on the road. He says there is a serious message out here for city people. If these people make a buck and they make some money on the farm, then in Blacktown, when you're pushing that shopping trolley through, you get affordable food. We want to make sure we keep people's standard of living and that's by getting food, a good product from the farm, to the shelf at an affordable price with these people making a decent go of it on the way through. That's extremely important. This is what connects Longreach to Penrith, and connects Longreach to Ipswich, connects Longreach to the western suburbs of Melbourne,

whose names I do not know. But if I did, I would say them. For the man who developed something of a foot-in-mouth reputation, it's been a relatively gaffe-free few weeks. Do you think you can cause much trouble out here in Longreach? Tony reckons if I get my arse into a saddle I can't cause any problems, but just watch me, Tony. While Bill Little had given me a neat little brown mare, I wondered if the Senator realised he'd been given a chestnut, the redhead of the horse world. You have to be careful of chestnuts. They have a tendency to throw you. They are wild and unpredictable. Smokey doesn't look very wild and unpredictable. This Smokey looks very quiet, this Smokey looks very quiet. But there are other chestnuts that you have to be careful of. While he seems to find it ridiculously easy getting in the headlines,

Barnaby Joyce is frustrated that the media focuses on the Barnaby-esque, not the sensible things, he says. Is it time to adjust your style or are you going to stay the Barnaby that we know? You adjust too much and people stop believing you. They say you're a different person. I don't think Bob Hawke adjusted his style too much. I don't think Malcolm Turnbull will change too much. Malcolm Fraser seems pretty much like Malcolm Fraser always was. People have to make a judgment, whether you're a decent person or an incompetent person and, you know, make their call on it. But I don't - you know, if you want to - life's too short to try and create - to make yourself into somebody you're not. With a string of marginal seats stretched up the coast, Queensland will play a crucial role in the election. With his high profile and growing fan base in the bush, Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals' best weapon, and he's been deployed all over Queensland. He knows if the party fares as badly as it did in 2007, its future as the third force in Australian politics is grim. My goal is to be part of a process that we have more seats after this election than we have before it. For me, it is a battle, and I will be making sure that the Australian people understand that without a National Party, you start going towards a sort of centralist position of politics.

The National Party looks after the poorer seats,

not the richest, the poorest. G'day, mate. Barnaby Joyce is my name.

Wherever he campaigns, this trained accountant's message is about money. Whether you like it or not,

you can't do anything unless you've got your books straight. If you're broke, you can't do a thing right. That sort of frankness spooked the big end of town when he was shadow Finance Minister. Now he's wrangling the new portfolios of infrastructure, water and regional development, and relishing the population debate. Stressed cities and regional towns looking for people - there is a good nexus there. He has committed the Coalition to revitalising inland Australia. We've got a $600 million package for bridges and their whole regional policy is only worth $200 million, so, we think bridges are three times more important than they believe the whole regional Australia is worth. If the Americans put a man on the moon, I reckon we could develop regional towns. I'm backing us in. While critics have labelled him a maverick, even a wild and whacky political sideshow, others appreciate his shoot-from-the-hip style.'ve come up with a cash for clunkers, and now every young buck in town's going to be going out picking up every bodgy car on every property and cashing it in. Why wouldn't you? Like him or loathe him, in an era of stage-managed political spin, he's hard to ignore, even in opposition. Just ask Kevin Rudd. Do you feel you had a role to play with Kevin Rudd walking away from an ETS? I believe the National Party had a crucial role, yep. You have to be a realist. We belled the cat from the word go. If the Coalition wins the election, Nationals Leader Warren Truss will be Deputy Prime Minister. He's widely regarded as a good bloke. The trouble is, by comparison with the Senator from St George, he's missing in action. Mr Truss has none of the recognition

and exudes none of the charisma of his predecessors, Tim Fischer, John Anderson, Doug Anthony or Ian Sinclair. Indeed, in a poll last year, 9 out of 10 Australians couldn't name the leader of the Nationals. 3% thought Barnaby Joyce was leader. Barnaby has a wonderful way of cutting through with lines that mean things to people, explaining economics in language that people can understand and that makes him a very valuable member of the team. So I think we work well as a partnership and that team works well in the interests of regional Australia. Does he cut through better than you? I think he cuts through with some clever lines. I also have a particular responsibility to manage the party as its leader and to make sure we have an appropriate breadth of policies that are also delivered in a way in which people understand them and make sure that they're really relevant to their needs. The Nationals used to be the party of the bush. But in recent years, it's broadened its focus to include regional Australia and small business. It's vital for its survival that the slide in support it suffered three years ago is at least arrested, if not turned around, for it's got to be a bit embarrassing when the regional party represents fewer rural electorates than its Liberal partner. The race has started, and, you know,

the coalition, the LNP's horse is going well, but you don't call it as a winner until it passes the post. The Australian people have shown lately that they're willing to swing up to 23%, so it's never lost. You know, it's game on all the way through. To our news summary now. As expected, the World Trade Organisation has found Australia's breached international trade laws by imposing unfair restrictions on apple imports from New Zealand. Back in 2006, the Federal Government lifted an 85-year ban on imports from across the Tasman, but then imposed strict new conditions due to fears of fire blight disease.

The Kiwis have consistently campaigned for a fair go at the Australian market, and claim the delaying tactics amounted to an agricultural "underarm bowling" incident. This isn't about science, unless it's political science. It is about trade protectionism. New Zealand growers are confident of selling their apples on this side of the Tasman by Christmas, but the Federal Government plans a last ditch appeal. I won't be sending apples to Australia but he will be, don't you worry about it. From apples to pineapples

and Australian growers say they're crushed

by the prospect of Malaysian imports swamping the local market.

We run a very strict quality assurance program that looks after the pineapple product from farms to consumer, presenting a world class product to the market and we'd like to keep it that way. They're gathering evidence to try to convince the Federal Government there's a real threat of diseases from the foreign fruit. The Government's expected to release a draft report on the issue by early next year. Still on trade-related matters - meat workers in North Queensland are calling on the Federal Government to ban the live export of cattle by 2015, to protect local jobs. We have seen Townsville go from a seven-day operation back to a five-day operation.

Don't think you have to be Einstein to work out where it's happening. The union says 300 jobs in Australia's north have got the chop since the start of the year. All because of the growing appetite for live exports. If Australia didn't supply, someone else would,

and there is absolutely, unquestionably, Australia's standards on welfare, our standards on animal treatment, movements, transporting, etc, etc, far surpass those of anywhere else in the world. But as the global demand for meat grows, so too do the pressures on the environment. We need to be rejigging the policy signals, the signals from Canberra and the state capitals, so that we're rewarding livestock producers for doing the right thing by the environment. Farmers say profitability and sustainability need to go hand in hand because it's hard to go green if you're in the red. Unless we're profitable, we'll have to sell out. Someone else will come in. If they can't be profitable, and people have to walk off the land, well then who will manage that? You can see more from that forum soon on the ABC's Big Ideas. To the Top End, where authorities are taking to the skies to deal with feral camels. 2,000 of them have been shot in the Territory this year as part of a $19-million national culling project. I think progress is being made, and by the end of July next year, 60,000 more camels will be humanely removed, and economic opportunities can also be looked at, and are being looked at. There's still an estimated 300,000 camels in the Northern Territory alone, wreaking environmental havoc and invading communities. Genetically modified crops will be planted in open-air fields under a trial in South Australia, despite a State Government ban on commercial production. State and federal approval has been granted to extend a research trial, now limited to wheat and barley crops

in a glasshouse at the University of Adelaide. Scientists hope the trials will lead to the development of drought-tolerant varieties. Staying with higher education, and the University of Queensland has opened its new $100 million vet school at the Gatton campus. The state-of-the-art facility will for the first time centralise animal science tuition and research in the one spot. And that really does put us certainly at one of the best facilities within Australia, and right up there with those in the world.

For older alumni, it's obviously light-years ahead of facilities when the vet school was initially created. The then-dean of the school was Professor Tom Ewer and he described the veterinary school of that day as a miserable collection of huts in the bush. And really, that's what it was. They were an old prefab that had been shifted in from goodness only knows where and that's where we did our training. To the Cotton Conference here on the Gold Coast. And Susan Maas, who spearheaded the team, tackling a mealybug outbreak this season in central Queensland, has been judged the industry's Young Achiever of the Year. As bad as the situation was

it was great to see the industry pull together.

We had researchers, extension, and of course, growers and industry working together to make sure that the information was out there, so that growers and their agronomists could make the right decisions. The big gong, the Cotton Growers of the Year prize, was shared by John Norman and Tony Taylor who achieved a stand-out three bales of cotton for every megalitre of water applied on their property, Kalanga, near Goondiwindi. You don't go into these competitions thinking you're going to win them.

There's just some self-improvement along the way

and we've all got a lot out of it, John and I and our staff, and our farm's a better place because of it. Our beef cattle industry is facing a crisis which has the potential to severely damage producers all over Australia. At the heart of the issue is the decision by Indonesia to drastically cut the number of live cattle imported from Australia. Here's a graph which illustrates how important the Indonesian live trade is to beef producers, especially across the north. Now, the background of that graph is that the total number of cattle exported last year exceeded 950,000 and of this number, more than 770,000 went to Indonesia. Joining me from Canberra to talk through this issue is Cattle Council Executive Director, David Inall. First up, I suggested that although this was a live export problem, it could have ramifications through the entire beef industry. Certainly, government and industry are working very closely together.

A delegation went to Jakarta around about two weeks ago, where they met with high levels of the Indonesian Government. This is work in progress, certainly from our end. We're doing everything we can to get clarity on the issue. We're aware that the Indonesian Government has an ambition to be self-sufficient in beef by 2014. We have sent breeding cattle to Indonesia for a long period of time so we'd like to better understand and marry up how that might meet the Australian needs in terms of supplying cattle. But under what's happening at present, around 300,000 Australian cattle will need to find new homes or a new destination. That's about right, isn't it? That's certainly the concern. That's the shortfall figures as we calculate them. We're already hearing of cattle in northern Australia moving to southern abattoirs, some being some considerable distance away, as we're aware. Meat processing facilities in northern Australia have rationalised over the last decade or so, so there needs to be a home for those cattle and we're looking everywhere we can. But if producers in the north send those cattle south, they'll take a huge hit. Most of them surely couldn't come south and if they did, what sort of impact might they have on prices? We have good access into America in terms of grinding beef. So that box market,

going in and supplying hamburger chains throughout the US, is certainly an important market and that's where those animals could end up. But unfortunately we just don't have the capacity in the north but certainly in the next few weeks or months or so we may well see some impact in terms of prices. At this stage, it's too early to tell. Let's hope there's a resolution very soon. David Inall, thank you very much for your time. Thank you, Kerry. That's David Inall from Cattle Council. I also spoke with MLA, and they were much more upbeat about the possible impact on cattle prices if the Indonesian live trade is virtually cut in half as the present plan indicates. We shall see. In the meantime, the live trade out of the north

continued at its rather leisurely pace last week. Prices are OK, but there's no demand at all for cows. Of interest would be the 1,300-plus PTIC Brahman heifers which went to Indonesia out of Darwin. I believe that's the first such shipment for many years. Now, the other big issue last week was the ongoing wheat saga. And as ProFarmer newsletter suggested in its current edition, some sanity has prevailed and prices have retreated. Not a great deal, but enough to make the speculators very wary. In Chicago, wheat for September came back more than 70 cents a bushel. Locally, the ASX futures market was busy, but January wheat went up early and then faded to lose on the week. And the spot price also dropped. Unfortunately, time has caught up with us. The rest of the prices can be found on our website: Not so long ago, the mention of Aborigines and Moree in the same sentence

would almost certainly have been negative, so poor was the reputation of the town in the north-west of NSW

when it came to race relations. But many in the cotton industry are proud to have had a hand in a home-grown success story, which is now helping Indigenous youngsters across Australia set and achieve some all-important career goals. MC: Please acknowledge the flags of our Great Southern Land. Proud to be Australian, proud to be Aboriginal. More than 2,000 kids from across the north-west of New South Wales attended Vibe Alive at Moree - a celebration of Indigenous culture, traditional and contemporary. MODERN ABORIGINAL DANCE MUSIC The two-day festival has been travelling around Australia with its emphasis on good health and choosing a career. We don't have beauty therapists, but we have everything else. There's 300 jobs. Can you think of any health careers? Who looks after your teeth? Dentist. So the aims of the festival is to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and to tell kids that it's OK to actually talk about and to plan a future for yourself

and to talk about what you want to do when you finish school and what kind of career you want to have. Our other aim is to build because if kids don't have a strong self-esteem and they're not proud of who they are and where they come from, they don't really want to plan that much of a future. We're not about a job. So gone are the days of a job for us.

It's about a career. Gone are the days of an Indigenous job-seeker. It's purely about an Indigenous career-seeker. The Aboriginal Employment Strategy, or AES, is a home-grown success story in Moree. 14 years after it was established,

it's still engaging potential new local employers. Only now, the emphasis has shifted to careers, not just jobs. Currently, there is over 20% unemployment within Indigenous Australians. That's four times larger than non-Indigenous.

And in fact, the labour work force population, the majority of those individuals working are in that low-level occupation. Predominantly blue collar, rather than white collar. So the challenge for us, whilst we've had fantastic results and achievements over 14 years, the key thing for us is about changing that typical mindset of blue collar into white collar and to bring about more Indigenous Australians within the world of work, within the private sector. Carpenter William Pitt is one of three Aborigines working on this social housing contract in Moree. His employer, the Queensland-based construction company McNab, is working with the AES to take on even more apprentices and is offering a university engineering scholarship. If the company gives it there,

that means it gives another opportunity for the young fellas and that carries over to the next young fellas. If they can see one person as a role model working in their age group, they'll do the same thing. It's all about role models with Aboriginal people. We've got offices in Brisbane, Townsville and Toowoomba and we want to try and get Indigenous people involved in all of those offices. For us, it's having people involved as apprentices, but also, to try to get people in to work as contract administrators and project managers - more at the professional white collar level as well. The AES started as a cotton industry initiative and came at a time when unemployment, welfare dependency and social dislocation was reaping a rotten harvest. I lived in Moree and my house had been broken into four or five times in the last two years. People were crying out for the government to fix the problem of Moree. When you sat and thought about it, no government was going to fix anything. I thought it was probably my turn to have a go. But there's less damage here than there is over there. Today, Dick Estens is growing citrus as well as cotton, but his commitment as chairman of the AES remains unchanged. He reckons its grassroots formula of Aborigines helping Aborigines could be grafted onto Indigenous health, education and housing with the same success. Absolutely. The whole philosophy of the AES is we manage up, we work underneath people, we build self-esteem and pride and you build can-do and performance

by managing the right way. You do not build it like bureaucrats have on Aboriginal people for the last hundred years, managing down on top of 'em. From its humble begins here in Moree, the Aboriginal Employment Strategy has spread across Australia with 13 offices employing more than 80 people and turning over more than $16 million a year. Now it's working to an ambitious target

of starting 5,000 new careers in three years. The new emphasis on careers has been well supported by all the major banks. Initially when the trainees start

when they're at the beginning of Year 11, they'll learn how to greet a customer, how to serve a customer, processing deposits, withdrawals, talking to customers about any needs they might have. And then the back-office work of actually processing that work. Emily Collins has just been made a permanent part-time employee and she has big plans already. Well, you can always work your way up in the bank but I'm also hoping to branch out a bit as well and try different things, because I am so young. I'd like to go to uni some day as well, but if I do choose to stay in the bank I would hopefully like to become a branch manager or something along those lines. Need to count out, make sure there's 15. Oh, yeah, it's been challenging. At the moment I'm doing my training and I will serve customers for a bit with supervision, but, yeah, I'm in training at the moment. It must be nice to go home to the family with a pay packet? Yeah, it's helpful having extra money as you're at school, and, you know, to spend it on what you need and what you want. There are currently 30 Moree Senior High School students taking part in AES programs.

That's 15% of the entire school enrolment. You get three benefits out of it - you complete your HSC, you learn job experience working in a particular industry and thirdly, you get paid. So for those attractions, it means that more students are staying back at school and they're completing their HSC. In some cases, there are some students who is have been involved in part-time traineeships and apprenticeships who I wouldn't have imagined when they were in year 7 that they would've got this far. So I think it has been a significant attraction for them. For some of our other students who are high achievers, it's also given them the opportunity to start their career paths

while they're at school and complete some of their work, particularly in the financial services industry. The ultimate goal is finding and keeping employees like Nigel Swan. He did his apprenticeship as a fitter and turner at the irrigation and mining services company, Irritek, and is about to clock up ten years of service. It's made a lot of difference. Having raised kids here and been brought up here all my life and been given a good opportunity. You've got two kids, they're quite young. How confident are you of these sort of opportunities they'll have when they are older? They'll have lots of opportunities, yep. A lot more than what I had and what my dad had, and it will be good, AES has done good. The key thing for our business is retention and that's what the employers are wanting, is for a stable work force.

Certainly through the work that the AES does it's about the initial assessment, it's about then their placement, and the key thing, as well, is our coaching. So we support the trainees and all of our employees that we place within employment for the long term. So whilst we do get financial incentives up to 26 weeks, we work beyond that, because it's about the relationship with the employee and also the relationship with the employer. Irritek is a keen supporter of the AES

and says the benefits go both ways. We get committed loyal employees who are committed to the local community, and who aren't going anywhere. A few years ago, at the height of the mining boom, we lost a lot of skilled tradesmen who went to chase the big dollar in the Bowen Basin.

Our AES sponsored employees didn't go anywhere, they had very strong ties to the local community, they had very strong family connections. So one of the main advantages for any business is to have employees who are not looking over their shoulder for another opportunity in another region. They're Moree-born and bred. They're here to say. There may still be disadvantage in Aboriginal Australia, but for kids like these, the future is more about confidence, optimism, and a life where welfare dependency can be a thing of the past. The key thing is about the sense of pride and the confidence and self-esteem within our individuals that are placed within a career.

We see it first hand. For us, welfare shouldn't be a part of lifestyle. It should be a safety net. Having a permanent full-time job and being able to earn money

to look after your family and to maybe buy land and buy a house and put your roots down properly, that's all steps towards equity, and it all starts with having a decent job.

It's been another week of winter with unseasonal rain in many areas, especially in the east. More on that in a minute. First up, the Southern Oscillation Index. And it's firmed yet again just a fraction, and now standing at a neat and even 20. And further confirmation of La Nina-type conditions ahead. Last week's rainfall continued the contrast between the east and the west. In WA, they badly need rain while in some areas of eastern Australia, there's actually talk of too much rain. Here's the map, and you can see the significant falls stretching through much of the good grazing and farming country in the eastern states. And then there's WA, where most of the decent rain

has been falling too close to the coast to do much good, although there was a reasonable dump in the south-east corner late last week. Numbers now - in Queensland, Oakey had a handy 29mm. Manildra in New South Wales had 42. Skipton on the western plains of Victoria had 57. Mount Seymour in Tassie had 73, South Australia's Hallett scored 19. Not much in the Territory, but there was a reading of 4mm at Cape Wessel, and Bencubbin in the WA wheat belt had 18mm. And that's the Landline check on rainfall. We're almost out of time. Next week, we'll look at one of the most serious exotic threats to the Australian bee-keeping industry, the varroa mite. Experts say it's inevitable it will reach our shores. When it does, it will have a devastating impact on our food crops. A lot of the wild bees that a lot of people use for pollinating different crops, they will be the first to go. And the commercial bee guys will still be able to have bees, but it's just gonna cost to treat them and to protect their bees and to keep varroa from destroying the hives. We'll leave you with some of the stand-out fashions from the Cotton Conference, including the long-awaited catwalk debut of the all-Australian bath towel. THEME MUSIC Closed Captions by CSI