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when the Greens go bush. farmers see red won't be logged, The new National Parks out of the forest. shutting these locals their saws will fall silent Within weeks perhaps as many as 500, and regional jobs, will be gone. directly and indirectly, the Murray-Darling Basin continues. The wait for water certainty in of what they do, It's coming to the heart who they are and their families. it's affecting the whole fabric of for prime Australian farmland. And overseas investors, lining up more and more nervous In time to come, as countries become about their own food security we will see much increasing emphasis Australian food assets. on trying to acquire welcome to the program. Hello, I'm Anne Kruger, the Royal Queensland Show Coming to you this week from known, the Ekka. or as it's more commonly a big slice of the action here And while beef cattle are obviously for a blue ribbon the competition's just as keen in other traditional show categories. In the top 20 or 30 cheeses here, commercial makers, most small cheese makers, to be making that style of cheese would be very pleased being produced. as well as that technically power of Green preferences. But first to politics, and the sheer the Murray River flood plain From July 1, the red gum forests on by the NSW Government. were proclaimed as a National Park hailing it as a triumph Conservationists are of selling out local timber jobs but border communities accuse Labor in a backroom deal with the Greens. forests of southern New South Wales, In the vast red gum emotions are running high. there now, I know there's families at home people like us, there crying at night wondering... I know, that are sitting they're going to do. ..wondering what a Labor Government I mean, you know, and this is working class people. supposed to be looking after Labor you know? How does that make any sense,

Yeah, but yeah, sorry. Some are angry, to appear on camera. others too disconsulate or bewildered Most feel devastated and betrayed. the town It was really the timber that built sort of ripped from under you and to have all that for no really sound reason is pretty devastating. Parliament Early last month the New South Wales

these forests National Parks. passed legislation which made most of it spells victory For conservation groups, intensive campaign. after a long-running five environment ministers We have outlasted the last five years, and four premiers in but the outcomes have been worth it. for the threatened species The conservation gained in the red gum forests, is one of the most significant gains we believe,

of New South Wales for many years. in the conservation bitter, sudden resounding defeat But for residents here it's a spanning many generations and the end of a lifestyle over a century and a half.

degrading really. It'll be environmentally these Green-driven policies. Like, a lot of people as much as timber harvesting. Few environmental issues polarise won't be logged, The new National Parks out of the forest. shutting these locals will fall silent Within weeks their saws perhaps as many as 500 - and regional jobs - will be gone. directly and indirectly, we haven't got any future The trouble is and our grandchildren for our children and no future for the town. We can't see a future. completely devastated here. So, look, we're just Rural communities are accustomed of adverse decisions, to bearing the brunt made in capital cities far away. And they are quick to blame it, on political conspiracies. rightly or wrongly, go down the gurgler To see an industry of Green preference votes in Sydney, for the sake to campaign people that have been able and change the whole lives along the Murray. of so many communities I guess it's fair to say there's a big Green wave we understand the top of us in this community and that wave has come over the political environment and we know that in terms of this is about Green votes and not about the science. Such a claim might be readily dismissed as the customary complaint of timber workers except that many here allege to have heard it in person from the mouth of Frank Sartor the New South Wales Minister for Climate change and the environment. This is the Goulburn saw mill in Deniliquin in southern NSW and it was here in January at a meeting of timber workers that Minister Sartor made a most extraordinary and brazen comment about the real reasons behind the closure of these red gum forests. Or so it's alleged. He said I'm going to give you people a lesson in politics - the Greens hold 15% of the votes, we need those votes to stay in power. They also want or need a national park and they want it in red gum. And he said the Greens have 15% of the vote and I remember that figure because it's a figure that we'd dispute down this way, and he said, "We're going to need their preferences if we're to survive the next election and they want a significant national park in red gum." Of the 30 or so saw millers at the meeting about half say they clearly heard the Minister. Most say they will sign a statutory declaration to back their claim. Did you overhear him say that this was not about protecting the forests it was about politics? Did you hear that? Yeah. What were his words? He more or less said they needed a couple of seats in the Sydney suburbs that they want to hold and gain. The Green seats. Minister Sartor has since denied the claims under Parliamentary Oath and that has further strengthened the resolve of those in the timber communities to expose what they see as a gross injustice. Then a month after that, Ian Cohen, the leader of the Greens, reinforced that with an interview in Sydney, in which he said that Labor's going to be desperate

for the Green preferences come the next election and he said if they don't deliver sustainably on the red gum they can go to hell.

So there is no doubt that this has been sacrifice for political gain. Frank Sartor declined to be interviewed by Landline on this issue. A spokesperson said he was unable to spare the time

because his workload was especially heavy as he was preparing to go on holidays. But Ron Wilson says, the Red Gum National Park is yet another example of minority State Governments desperately trying to stay in power by cutting preference deals with Green lobby groups. I mean, there's the Victorian red gum decision, there's the Brigalow decision up in northwestern NSW, there's now this red gum decision of May this year and I understand from my colleagues in Queensland that a large part of the Cyprus forests up there are being scheduled for national park. Ron Wilson is a forester and former senior New South Wales public servant. He alleges the State Government put a gun at the head of the timber industry - take the compensation package now or risk walking away with nothing. The people making the decisions in the city, well, if they lose a job,

they can sort of walk around the corner and look for another job, so this is the shame of it really. The State Government has devised a multimillion dollar buyout deal for the timber industry.

The package that's come from the Government, which I think is about 97 in total, over a period of three years, will go nowhere near the replacing an $80 million a year industry. The National Parks Association disputes that. There are only small numbers of people employed in this sector. Glenn Gray's business, at Barham on the Murray River, will close by Christmas. It's been 16 years now, since we've been started making the red gum furniture and our resources has really disappeared now. So, no more resource, no more furniture.

Some of these tables sell for $20,000 a piece. Eight jobs will be lost here. We've gone to a lot of effort to do what we felt was required to show that we were value adding the red gum to its highest possible end use through furniture and veneer and various products like that and tremendous amount of expense has gone into infrastructure and research and development and promotion and we're not reaping the rewards for all that cost and effort. Glenn Gray and his employees do not qualify for any government compensation. The new national parks cover more than 100,000 hectares of what was formerly State forest. It was already listed as internationally significant under the Ramsar Convention. Logging, carefully scrutinised by the NSW Forest Department, was not considered detrimental. But look, it's a pretty easy sell if you're a Green, you know, you show a picture of a tree being cut down or some wildlife, it shocks people. People have an innate fear of seeing trees cut down. Do you think timber harvesting, of any form, is compatible with management of this forest? No, the association believes that active forestry in these areas are not conducive to good conservation outcomes. These are threatening process that undermines habitat significantly in our opinion.

The town's pretty devastated by it. for well over 100 years. In fact the town probably wouldn't have got going without the saw mills in the early days. Mathoura resident and retired journalist, David Joss, has showed early accounts which that the thick red gum forest has proliferated since white settlement. Red gum is recognised as a shade-intolerant species. It won't grow naturally

unless you get sun on the seed, down on the soil. David Joss believes changes to indigenous burning patterns and the arrival of sheep and cattle which removed the native grass cover, allowed more trees to flourish. That gave the red gums a chance, because they will grow like weeds if you give them the right conditions. And they were getting plenty of moisture, because back then the river flooded eight years out of every ten. The growth rate of these forests is at the heart of this debate. A recent State Government commissioned report placed heavy emphasis on predictions that climate change will dry out these wetlands in future, thereby slowing tree growth and making timber harvesting less sustainable. For saw miller Chris Clump that's hard to swallow. He has just weeks until he's barred from the forest but it's been so wet this year that he's racing against time. It's just the only thing that they could come up with, they couldn't come up with threatened species or endangered species, because they've been looked after. They just used the fear of climate change and drought and unsustainability to actually close us down.

Ray and Cliff Hall may be the last of their kind. The twin brothers, now 75, have worked together cutting timber since they were 14. The fact of the matter is the bush has been looked after. It's like it was flooding and that it's like a weed crop. It germinates and comes up thick and if it's not thinned nothing will grow but if they're thinned out like the industry's been doing then the forest is better off because of that. In far away Sydney, the National Parks Association admits

that the Red Gum Campaign caused ructions within its own ranks. It's certainly polarised the conservation movement as well because, you know, this was a significant project, we felt, and we've had some people that have participated in the campign but others feel there were other areas that were more of a priority.

The sudden end came as a surprise. The industry thought it would have a five year period to assess issues of concern. Two years ago the Government endorsed the industry as sustainable. I'm hurt more than anything because we believed in people, we believed people that were telling us the truth and they weren't. And that's really hurt us people down here. Staying with politics, and despite the Rudd Government's early pledge to end the blame game over water sharing in the Murray-Darling Basin, one of the country's most fundamental natural resource reforms remains a work in progress. A community discussion paper was supposed to be released about now, but the Basin Authority shelved it until after the election, deciding that it was inappropriate to put it out while Canberra was under caretaker rule. Recent rain has set some streams flowing to begin replenishing water storages in the Murray-Darling Basin

after long years of drought. This is Burrenjuck Dam, northwest of Canberra.

From here the Murrumbidgee River meanders it's way across the Riverina region of New South Wales to one of the Australia's oldest irrigation districts. The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area around Griffith. The MIA will soon mark its centenary, but many of its farmers now fear they won't have the water to go on, that it will be taken away and given to the environment under a new water sharing plan. I mean, where do we stand? We don't know where our future is. Let's know exactly where we're going, at least we can plan. So the simple solution is, take water off irrigators and run it down the river. It's just putting incredible angst on everybody. I don't want to see my husband lose his whole life, what he's worked for. and spent all this money, The Government's went out the plan yet, their business plan, they haven't even released with the water. what they're going to do on a vineyard near Griffith, The sentiments being expressed, irrigation communities reflect the mood in the Murray-Darling Basin. right across

the water sharing plan The delay in the release of until after the election and the anger. has only added to the uncertainty of Murrumbidgee Irrigation. Gillian Kirkup is a chairman of what they do, It's coming to the heart who they are and their families. it's affecting the whole fabric of

probably the thing The uncertainty is that's weighed me down the most. have had breakdowns Always think all these people who how can it happen, but I understand how it can happen emotionally, because you get to a point it just keeps working on you. at the moment It's just adding insult to pain is the fact it's being delayed, going to come out. we don't know when it's the National Irrigator's Council. Stuart Ellis chairs the figure out there For goodness sake let's get at least discuss, talk about. so we've got something we can Basin Authority insists But the Murray-Darling it can't release the water plan that convention dictates is in place for the election. while a caretaker government raised by a study undertaken Anxiety levels had already been concerned scientists by the Wentworth Group of cuts to irrigators that concluded there should be the Murray-Darling Basin, right through but especially in the southeast.

Based on long-term averages, extent the Goulburn in Victoria the Murray, Murrumbidgee and to some the basin system. are really the big engine rivers of Environmental engineer Tim Stubbs the Wentworth report. was one of the architects of I would be very surprised is significantly different. if the basin's plan science

And that's what alarms irrigators, has recommended huge cuts because the Wentworth Group in the southeast - along the Murrumbidgee. as high as 65% It cannot be 65%, just cannot be 65% would close down because the whole area anybody's interests and I'm not sure that's in the politicians, including city people, a productive area as this. to close down such if I was one of them as well. I'd be alarmed as well This is a big change the scope of the change and I think till now hasn't really been addressed. the environmental degradation Change driven by the drought years, that's become evident during

the Murray-Darling Basin, along most of the rivers that make up in South Australia. especially at the end of the system through the mouth of the Murray, Only sea water now flows bringing marine life with it. ago but for the constant dredging. And it would have silted over long The mouth's an easy icon to look at, but there are a whole lot of other big environmental assets that are suffering just like the mouth, but it's a little bit more difficult to see the impacts there. It's been years since the Lower Lakes on the Murray filled

and spilled into the sea

or into the Coorong, a 100 kilometre-long lagoon that runs down from the Murray mouth. It used to be a haven for wildlife, until the fresh water flows stopped and the salt levels began to rise dramatically. It's just a crying shame that such a national icon like the Coorong is just left to die. It's just unbelievable. Gary Hera-Singh fishes the Coorong just as his father and grandfathers did but some species have already disappeared. If you don't have a sustainable ecology and environment you don't have sustainable human populations. It's not now, it's my kids, your kids and their kids are going to look back in 50, 60 years time and say, "What the hell were these people thinking? They were really poor managers. Couldn't manage a 50 cent chook raffle." This has just been sitting here evaporating, evaporating and each year it gets saltier and saltier. Dr Mike Geddes has been monitoring the health of the Coorong since the 1970s. At the bottom end of the lagoon it's now up to six times saltier than the sea and the only creatures that survive here are these tiny brine shrimps. Now it's switched over to be really like a salt lake where you would expect to find these brine shrimps are in Lake Eyre and Lake Torrens and the salty lakes throughout Australia. There are plans to pump the hyper saline water over the sand dunes and out to sea but Dr Geddes stresses that only bigger river flows can provide long-term solutions. I think the time's right for people to accept a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that sees a smaller percentage of flows going to irrigators and more to the river.

But the fact is that the whole system is on its knees. Unless we can get water back into the river then it's all going to die. Henry Jones has fished the lower lakes of the Murray River most of his life, witnessing the decline of the area. He's now had a big say in its future. He serves on a community committee that has helped to draft the new water plan for the Murray-Darling Basin. It's our last hope. I'm building all my hope on it. I know some people up there and they do understand what's going on. There are some that are rednecks and think that water that gets passed the border is wasted water. They don't seem to think about the environment. Some water has finally reached the lower Murray, carried down the Darling River from floods in the north earlier this year. Lake Alexandrina has risen about a metre and salinity levels have fallen dramatically in some areas. Look out, quick, quick, quick. Clem Mason can use the lake water again for his dairy farm rather than having to access supplies from the main system. Thank God for the rains in Queensland that have actually sent the water down here. He says it clearly shows how quickly the system can recover if it's given a chance. We've got an opportunity now to start clawing back and remembering that the environment must be the biggest player. If it's not, we haven't learned. It's a most ambitious attempt yet to re-order water use in the Murray-Darling Basin in favour of the environment. I just pray that the politicians have got the guts to bring it off. It's our only chance down here and I think it's just a once in a lifetime chance to get the system right again. The Federal Government has $9 billion to spend on orchestrating the change. Under our analysis with the $9 billion, we could probably buy all the environmental water we need back for say five to six billion and that leaves quite a significant amount of money to help communities adjust to a future with less water. Meanwhile irrigators are in limbo waiting to hear the detail of their fate. We know it's going to be disastrous but for God's sake, get it out there, stop playing with our lives. Events like this can serve as a timely reminder for a lot of show-goers

that not only can Australia easily feed itself but through agricultural exports tens of millions overseas as well. Some believe that as the world's hungry population increases, countries like Australia risk losing control of their food resources. Andrew Robertson prepared this report as part of a multimedia ABC special Selling the Farm. The world's population is tipped to nearly double in the next 50 years. Feeding all those extra people

is going to become a massive challenge. With well over a billion people already, China is one of a number of countries aggressively buying agricultural assets around the world to shore up its food supplies. The issue has come to a head in New Zealand where a Chinese-owned company called Natural Dairy is offering around $200 million to buy 16 dairy farms which have fallen into receivership. It's the first part of a $1.5 billion plan for Natural Dairy to control a large part of New Zealand milk production all the way from the farm gate to Chinese supermarkets. The prime minister is among those raising concerns. There's a broader principle looking forward five, ten years into the future I hate seeing New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk if we sell out our entire productive base, that's something the Government will have to consider. We're going to add a minimum just in the short term of $100 million to New Zealand's exports by putting an added-value product UHT milk and infant formula. We're going to add I think about 132 more jobs and there's the increased tax take that's going to come from this for the Government. New Zealand farmers aren't persuaded though, they believe China should not be allowed to buy land in their country. The concern we have is that giving this freehold title to foreign owners without the chance of having that reciprocity - I mean, Fonterra, a major company in New Zealand, can only lease land in China, it can't buy it and I think perhaps what we should be offering here, is a lease. The New Zealand Government has the power to block the natural dairy deal if it chooses to, however that's not the case in Australia. Under the present arrangements you can go down the Murrumbidgee River in Riverina and buy every property without ringing an alarm bell. The reason is that overseas purchases of agricultural land are only subject to the Foreign Investment Review Board monetary thresholds. The minimum threshold for board approval of a purchase is $231 million - well above the value of nearly every farm in the country. The New Zealand Overseas Investment Office which is the equivalent of Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board operates under a different model for the purchase of rural land. Under the legislation in New Zealand, rural land is classified as sensitive land which gives the Government the power of veto no matter how big or small the monetary value of the transaction. However, even the farmers who oppose a sale to China can see the risks in the Key Government rejecting the natural dairy purchase. I do not want to spook the capital markets because in fact we are very capital thin in this country at the moment. There isn't a lot of investment occurring from within New Zealand, we need the foreign capital flows to be maintained. In other words, even if Australia brought its legislation into line

with New Zealand there are no easy solutions to the growing foreign interests in our food assets. In a country as steeped in farming as Australia, food security is not a hot button topic but according to experts who have studied the issue such as the University of Technology's Professor Julian Cribb, the clock is ticking. It's more important in my view than the global financial crisis because you can do without money at a pinch, you can't do without food. It's probably more urgent than the global climatic issues because they're going to take a long time to build up in the background. This is something which is going to happen within a generation. In his new book The Coming Famine, Professor Cribb paints a bleak picture of a planet where food is in very short supply. The world's population is tipped to hit nine billion by 2050 and 11 billion just ten years later. Food production will need to double but many countries will be left behind, particularly those like China which is already feeling the strain of feeding its current inhabitants. Well, I once asked that question to some Chinese academics, I asked them what the carry capacity of China was in the long term and they said they thought about 640 million people and this is against a peak population in China of the order of 1.6, 1.8 billion people. So for a period of time China is going to have to feed probably around about three times as many people as it can carry in the long run. According to Professor Cribb this shortage of food is going to have serious implications for countries like Australia.

Australia has always had foreign ownership of some of its food assets but in time to come, as countries become more and more nervous about their own food security we will see much increasing emphasis on trying to acquire Australian food assets.

The evidence suggests that process is already under way. Just this month Singapore-based Wilmar outbid China's Bright Foods to buy CSR's Sucrogen division. At $1.8 billion, that deal is being heavily scrutinised by the Foreign Investment Review Board

but others are not. An increasing number of prime Australian farms are being purchased by overseas companies. For example, Victoria's largest land sale this year was the transfer of the Mount Elephant station

in the west of the State to a company in Sweden. The Packer family has sold 17 properties to a British private equity firm, the American pastoral giant Westchester has paid $40 million for properties at Moree in NSW and Glenfine in Victoria whilst a company registered in Bahrain

is running its eye over the vast Cubbie Station in south-east Queensland. Bill Heffernan is the chairman into the Senate inquiry into food production. He shares Professor Julian Cribb's concerns about the surge of foreign investment in Australian agricultural assets. We're asleep in Australia to the fact that a lot of places around the world, such as China, India and the Arab States are looking at where they're going to be in 40 or 50 years time and they're making provision now for their food task in the future. Which according to Bill Heffernan eventually could see Australian farmers becoming tenants in their own country. Because we are an attractive destination for safe capital investment Awe will lose control of our destiny to outsiders and the worst of that will be government outsiders. A look at the Tasmanian dairy industry provides some salutary insights. It's actually costing us to go to work. We're going to work, doing our job

and at the end of the day we're getting a bill for doing our job. How many people do you know who do that? No-one. In the Apple Isle, the dairy farmers have had enough. Their industry is dominated by two foreign companies - New Zealand's Fonterra and China's Kirin.

Milk price at the gate have been slashed to the point where farmers say they can no longer make a profit. We've been milking 25 years and our farm is really our super fund, like a lot of farmers, and we're just seeing that going down the drain. For Bill Heffernan, it's a classic case of how Australians can be the big losers when foreign investment is allowed to go unchecked. I chair the milk inquiry in Tasmania as well, you see, took evidence down there and like 26 cents a litre. Can I tell your viewers that this is a con job on farmers. The irony is that although foreign investment has contributed to the plight of Tasmanian dairy farmers for many of them, foreign investment could also be the only hope of escape. With no Australian buyers coming forward for their farms, estate agents are hawking them overseas. One agent alone has 40 farms she's trying to sell in China. No-one wants to see our farms sold out to another country, there's not one of us who want to see that but what do we do?

Do we sit back with our hands tied and go broke and lose everything? The answer for many people connected with agricultural industries is for Australia's foreign investment laws to be tightened. When prices go down quickly it's often called jaw dropping and when prices go up at a fair clip it's usually referred to as breathtaking. Well, last week was more than breathtaking. It was more like heart stopping as wheat prices accelerated north on the back of export bands from Russia and crop reports from Canada and around the Black Sea. Now of course nobody rings a bell when the price peaks so where to now? Is this price sustainable? Is it based on fundamentals?

It is what it is. Russia and countries under its control control about 20% to 30% of wheat exports in any one year

and certainly when you take such a chunk of wheat exports off the global market like that the market will react notwithstanding the fact that, you know, there are, you know, solid grain stocks or wheat stocks in the reserve carried over from last season. That's Richard Koch from Pro-Farmer. Let's check exactly what happened in Chicago. And local wheat reacted to Chicago for two reasons. There's the obvious fundamental but there's also great concern over the WA crop. The need for rain is bordering desperate. Most of that wheat belt soil retains little moisture and steady rain is needed through the growing season and they simply haven't had it. And WA, of course, is where Australia grows most of its wheat. The ASX also reports they've traded a million tonnes in the past two months. At one stage last week they traded 300,000 tonnes in a single day. It's strikingly obvious now if it wasn't before that futures trading is now an essential part of farming. And spot markets were also hot, even Sorghum has come strongly back into favour.

Now to livestock where sale yard action saw very strong competition from restockers and processors. The good season in the east is opening producer wallets and this pushed the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator to its highest point of the year. Now let's check the major indicator. I've just mentioned processors - the world's biggest processor, the Brazilian family-owned JBS Swift was at the Brisbane exhibition last week by the boss of their Australian operation Iain Mars. You might hear some gloom about the meat industries these days in some quarters but not have Iain Mars, he's very bullish about the future. The lamb business has gone in leaps and bounds, I think we've gained share overseas and managed to keep these high prices which I'm very pleased with. It's good for the processor, good for the producer to actually gain those shares from our major competitors in New Zealand. The beef side is a little bit more difficult at the moment

but I think we'll get through that. As I said today in my speech today we talked about, let's concentrate on what we can control as a business, within our plant, make sure we're producing the product at the right price, within the right yields and get the right efficiencies throughout our operation. Iain Mars told Landline the company has spent well over $300 million

since they arrived in Australia just three years ago. We've got fantastic owners they've got the courage of investment. They are, they're prepared to spend to save rather than to spend to fix and that's so important. A lot of businesses you spend to fix something, we're actually spending money to actually to save more to actually - on productivity. And that really is a great, really, very, very exciting because they've got that courage to do that. That's Iain Mars, the boss of Swift here in Australia. I'll tell you how big JBS is worldwide, they process more than 47,000 head of cattle alone each day. Iain Mars mentioned lambs, well they did well again last week as numbers declined on the back of cold and wet weather. Strong retail demand bumped export needs

and this can mean one result - prices headed north. And pig producers would welcome their current price trend. Dairy prices are falling, one analyst has called the drop rebalancing, whatever the dressing up, it's still bad news for our dairy farmers. Finally to New York where sugar and cotton faced contrasting outlooks. Cotton bounced on the back of news that those floods in China will cut that country's cotton production. China is the world's biggest cotton grower and the flood impact could be as much as 15%. And the wool auctions resume next week and that's the Landline prices check.

Chemistry classes in Queensland high schools have gone a little bit country.

The new curriculum's designed to teach teenagers how to make, eat and appreciate cheese and encourage them to think about where their food comes from.

Are you winners? Are you grinners? (ALL) Yes. Cheese. (ALL) Cheese. This year, 15 Queensland high schools added cheese making to their curriculum. There was a bit of pride involved too. For the results would be eligible for the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show's first ever student cheese competition. Regardless of who wins though, teachers say making cheese is a great way to enthuse students about chemistry. Bringing real science into the classroom rather than teaching them abstract scientific concepts, yeah, fabulous.

If you stop stirring for ten seconds, you're going to denature the proteins and you're really going to make it difficult for yourself. But before the teachers could teach, they had to go back to school themselves to learn how to do it. They were in good hands too, for showing them the ins and outs of curds and whey was Russell Smith, one of the country's top cheese judges. I think it's a great opportunity for kids to see how, you know, one of the products, basic primary products is produced. From all the cheeses they could make, Russel Smith picked the famous French white mould cow's milk cheese, Camembert. Teachers expect the class to have value way beyond chemistry. I think them actually getting to see something and the process it goes through to get to the final stage and what they find in the supermarket is really good. It's really important. Talking to some students years ago, asking them, younger students, not senior students, about where milk came from and a young girl told me they came from seals and she had no idea of a farm and cows and the only reason she said seal was that because on the label of the milk it was Paul's Gold Seal milk and so for all those years she thought it was seal milk. Facing this group on their return to the classroom,

would be many students unfamiliar with soft cheeses. They probably think it's a bit of a shock, it doesn't come in a plastic wrapper, it's probably not worth while,

but I think it's good to let them experience other tastes. It's education after all. The milk has quite a good fat content for making cheeses and then once they're properly warmed, you will be putting them into your containers. When cheese making day came around at Sandgate High in Brisbane, students were lucky enough to have Russel Smith overseeing proceedings. I travel around the country tasting cheeses and educating people about how to taste cheeses. Mr Smith expects the age-old process to be a revelation. Just that whole awakening for people who don't understand the process and suddenly seeing here's the milk turning into cheese, you know. For me cheese making is mostly science and a bit of art in there.

I mean the most successful cheese makers really are artists as well. Camembert's eight week maturation is perfect for a term's work

and the mild creamy taste just right for a teenage pallete. There are many things that can go wrong making Camembert. Poor hygiene today will mean certain disaster down the track. It's not just one day's work either. For eight weeks the cheese must be stored at the right temperature and turned regularly. Camembert, I think, is a pretty sexy cheese, I think really

and it's one of the most interesting to watch the maturation process, I think, because you're going from block of Kurd, doesn't look very interesting, in a couple of weeks it has its white, fluffy mould, which looks really good and then you wrap it and then it becomes softer and softer over the next four or six weeks, so it really is a transformation. Camembert, honestly, not really. When we first were told that it was cheese making that we were doing this term I was a bit sceptic,

I didn't think it was anything to do with chemistry at all, but it's really interesting. I thought cheese was just, you know, milk, done something to it. I didn't know it was moulds and all this, so it's sort of put a different spin on cheese. I mean, who doesn't want to make cheese for a day? It's like something you don't normally do. Teachers judge the class a big success. I think because it's something new for them and something that they've never had a go at before, the interest levels are there

without me having to do much prompting. Eight weeks later, cheeses from around the state arrived at the RNA showgrounds in Brisbane for judging. I expect to see cheeses that are much better than what we see on the shelves actually. Doing the spitting and assessing was some big guns from the dairy and food worlds. Flavour base quite acceptable too. Cheese maker Ulli Berger from King Island cheese fame was there as was cook book and television star Peter Howard. You buy that in a supermarket, you'd never know it was made by school children. It's beautiful, beautiful product. The RNA was happy to support a project highlighting agriculture. Little competition it may well be, but we feel as an awareness issue this is crucial and to bridge that gap between the bush and the city, this really establishes that bridge in a really firm fashion and we're really excited about it. We think it's a fabulous event. Probably one of the most important competitions we have this year. One unfortunate school had a fridge breakdown, ruining their cheese. But apart from that, Ully Berger said the students had done well. Texture is very nice, it's nicely - so this one is a very good cheese. You know, so comparing to up here we had some that might be just a little bit too moist when they're making it. To understand their decisions the judges held a mini master class. Get the nose on this because this is starting to look really - it smells like camembert, it smells, it's got all that mushroomy and all that marvellous, marvellous nose. Russel Smith was excited by the quality. The top 20 or 30 cheeses here most small cheesemakers, commercial makers would be very pleased to be making that style of cheese as well as that technically being produced. St Aiden's Anglican Girl's School took out first prize. At the end of the day there was barely anything left of their winning effort. Sandgate High grabbed third. Cheese making be on more school menus next year. And what will please farmers in particular is that the exercise went down so well Sandgate plans to build on it. We think, we hope, we're going to take them to an actual dairy farm and watch the process of the cattle being milked and then right through the whole milk production process and then they'll be doing the cheese making process themselves. So, yeah, makes it all a little bit more real for them, I think. The Ekka marks the climax of celebrations for one of the enduring links between Brisbane and the bush, the Queensland Country Life newspaper. For 75 years it's taken the agri-economic pulse as well as the political, environmental and social issues that swirl around the Sunshine State. Some company names give you no clue to what they actually do but not Rural Press. These days Rural Press is part of the Fairfax Group so its new $25 million printing press is rarely idle, turning out local daily editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review as well as the North Queensland Register. But it's the Country Life that's been the mainstay for 75 years and for some Queenslanders it's just about been the only source of news they've got from the outside world. Years and years ago we went to a Cale property called Pandora at the mouth of the Mary River. There's an old chap there, he was like tanned leather,

he was a tough old bloke, and we said do you know the Country Life? He said I'd rather miss my brekky than the Queensland Country Life and that's where we got the slogan from. That was a genuine, unprovoked, unsolicited comment from this gentleman. QCL has been a major part of Malcolm McClocker's life too - over the past 50 years he's done just about everything but print it.

I guess I love the country people, love the work, there's nothing finer than to get in a car, head out bush and say I'm being paid to do this and to see the evolution of agriculture as I've seen it for nearly 50 years and that's been a marvellous thing. Great changes in agriculture but very little change in the attitude of country people - their hospitality, their graciousness and their acceptance of you. And it's pretty much been that way through good seasons and bad. Commodity price booms and busts, straight shooters and crooked politicians. No-one's kept an ear closer to the ground in the bush than Malcolm McCosker and his mates. As luck would have it most of the interest in this year's federal election campaign

is right in Queensland's backyard. Still plenty of political clout in the bush, I would never underestimate how much clout's out there. The biggest problem the bush has

is the divisiveness of rural industry itself and it's certainly a divided industry

and industries within agriculture are certainly divided. So it's really about agriculture getting its act together.

By comparison with a lot of his staff, the current editor is a Johnny-come-lately. He's only been here since 1987. Still, the changes since then have been dramatic enough. Most of technological and invariably involving doing more with less. Certainly every editor on the planet wants more - more reporters, more journalists, more photographers - but technology has changed the industry incredibly.

Everyday people and certainly lots of our readers send us material so we've got a lot more reporters effectively now than we ever have, certainly probably don't have as many journalists but we certainly have more reporters for us. And what are they telling you they want to see? The biggest change has been the role of advocacy for rural industry and people want to see a better deal for agriculture

and it's certainly an industry in Australia that plays second fiddle to a lot of other issues. But for one week a year

the bush still muscles it's way into Brisbane and plays second fiddle to no-one and everyone, it seems, wears a big hat, whether they've got cattle or not. The ribbon. The ribbon out, the ribbon. Good-o.

When it comes to doing this sort of thing,

the bloke in the pink shirt is one of the best in the business.

He's Rod Green, chief photographer for the biggest rural paper in the State - Queensland Country Life. One animal will take a minute or 20 minutes, depending on the beast. You find that British breed cattle are a lot easier, they're more placid. To the Brahman, Santas, they're pretty intelligent, they get not stirry but they're wake up to what's happening and they're a bit difficult. In an era when so much of the media is more about stories with sizzle rather than sausage,

around here there's still clearly strength in continuity and more traditional values. But for how much longer? I think the reports of my death are a bit premature. I think at the end of the day quality journalism will always sell. We've certainly embraced the ins and outs and a lot of our readers have embraced it as well but the print product is selling as well as ever and at the end of the day it's about what the words and images and what the content is that matters. Has it got another 75 in it? I think it's got another 75 or 175. I attended a seminar at New England University at one stage and they said in ten years' time all the print media will be all gone, people will just sit in front of a computer. I find it enjoyable to sit with my Queensland Country Life and perhaps a light rum on the veranda and read it. I think there's a lot of people out there that do that.

That's part of thing that I've enjoyed tremendously about being with Queensland Country Life and being with the people that I trust and know and love. Well, the farmers and graziers I've spoken with at the Brisbane Show this past week have all been upbeat about the prospects heading into spring. But they're all east coasters and the contrast for the west is startling, we'll check that in a moment. First up as usual the Southern Oscillation Index. Here's the graph and you can see the upward movement to where it now sits.

The 30-day moving average is plus 19.8, up a fraction for the week, and all things being equal, looking good rainfall-wise for the coming months. Now let's check where the rain fell over the past week. Once again it was all in the east and some farmers are now complaining it's actually just too wet. They've had too much rain and they can't get onto their paddocks or shift stock. But in the west look at that south-west corner - not much or even less. Some numbers now in Queensland - Ballandean had 39mm, Parkes in NSW scored 30, Castlemaine in Victoria had 27, Tasmania's Ross had 12, 20mm was the reading at Clare in South Australia, the Air Force base at Tindal in the Top End had 2, while Pemberton in WA had 11mm. And that's the Landline check on rainfall. Well, we might be practically done for now but the Ekka has a whole lot more life left in it. Another week, in fact, of showcasing some of the best Australian agriculture can produce. Next week we'll continue our analysis of the federal election campaign. Chris Clarke looks at the Government's water buyback scheme. Look, we support the water plan, buyback from willing sellers is part of that. We support it but what we need or what the Government needs to take into account is the effect that it has on communities that have had water removed enough attention being paid to that and I don't think there's enough attention

being paid to on-farm improvements. We'd like to see that picked up as well. And Pip Courtney hits the election trail with Barnaby Joyce for a snapshot of politics in the conservative heartland. This is real moving forward, 1,500 head in front of you, that's real moving forward. Better than big Julia's moving forward, I assure you of that. The campaign turns into the home stretch. That's next week on Landline. We'll leave you with the Ekka's answer to Masterchef, a celebrity cook-off. Landline's secret steak sandwich ingredient was a tropical themed mango and pineapple salsa. Enjoy.

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