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Landline -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) out natural disaster insurance.

Federal parliament will debate the 1

point 8 billion dollar flood levy

next week. And the Western

next week. And the Western Australian

town of Carnarvon remains on alert

for more damaging weather. After

yesterdays flood tropical cyclone Dianne is tracking south and in the north, Dianne is now west of Exmouth,

ex-tropical cyclone Carlos is now

expected to head out

expected to head out to sea and

reform. Carnarvon has escaped major damage so damage so far. Our next full news bulletin

bulletin is at 7pm. This Program Is Captioned Live # Theme music On Landline today, farmers begin to put their battered businesses back together after Cyclone Yasi. We're a very strong family business, very resilient and very determined as well to make sure that we get back in production and back to where we were, prior to the cyclone. If farming Far North Queensland is too risky,

how about a sea change on Flinders Island?

This bit of rain at the moment is a bit of a blessing, but that's a result of living in heaven. And putting a bit of body back into Japanese wine. Hello, I'm Anne Kruger, welcome to the program, in a week when Australia and New Zealand finally called a truce in one of the world's longest running trade disputes. What began as a quarantine stoush over the risk to Australia's apple and pear industry from fire blight turned into a test of our free trade credentials and sense of fair play. The argy bargy over apples is almost as old as the ANZAC legend itself. It cuts deep into the psyche of everyone connected with New Zealand's pip fruit industry, from packing house proprietors to the people who prune their trees. We, like you guys, we love our sport but frankly we see this as a horticultural vision of the under-armed bowling incident. That's right folks, they haven't forgotten that low point in trans-Tasman relations, nor forgiven such a spectacularly unsporting gesture. CHANTING: Two, four, six, eight, open up the bloody gate! This week, the current New Zealand Prime Minister preferred to focus on what our two nations have in common rather than dwell on differences. Treat it as a mark of respect when our friends across the Tasman

claim ownership of a such traditional New Zealand icons as pavlova, Crowded House and Phar Lap. Julia Gillard used a sporting analogy herself when confirming that Australia would now accept the umpire's decision on apples. Australia accepts the verdict of the global umpire and will implement the World Trade Organisation rulings on the importation of New Zealand apples into Australia. But apple growers on this side of the Tasman are angry the Prime Minister has preempted the results of the latest import risk assessment. Still on trade, but a little closer to home, Tasmanian primary producers have lost their only direct international shipping service. It's a blow to business in this region particularly, to exporters who obviously wanna get their product out of the state directly into international markets. The cancellation of container services from Bell Bay to Asia will force exporters to send produce to Melbourne to find a ship. We will be working closely with small business and other businesses to see that we can continue to help them get their product to market. To South Australia, where the Country Fire Service is pushing the State Government to increase vegetation burn-offs to prevent large scale bushfires. We'd like to see further support in the area of prescribed burning and I understand that's being considered. The call came at the opening of a new fire station in the Adelaide Hills. There's no doubt we've increased the level of prescribed burning. It was one of the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission,

and we'll continue to make sure that we're able to prescribe burn in those areas that will be most at threat of fire. To Victoria, where locusts are making a comeback after the floods. With the harvest complete, farmers are again being urged to turn their attention to combatting the hungry pest. We probably missed the boat with the smaller stage because they obviously hatched while we were busy with our harvest and with such a wet affected harvest it was longer and we didn't have the time. They sort of snuck up on us. The DPI says locust numbers are high from Horsham to Wodonga and only a small amount were washed away in the recent floods. We understand farmers have had a lot on their plate recently and they continue to have a lot on their plate with floods and all sorts of other impacts but it's really worth focusing on the locusts while they're still vulnerable. Still in Victoria, the Federal Government has made a $500-million downpayment for flood relief. Canberra's been told more than 3,000 properties in nearly 100 towns across the State were affected. The whole purpose of engaging with local government is that we get that local input. It's not a question of sitting in Canberra or Spring Street and saying, 'This is where we think it should happen', if it's not going to have the impact that is required to be rectified here. To Queensland where the Commonwealth this week also upped its assistance to farmers in some of the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Yasi. To keep those communities working,

to give the employers some certainty. Cane growers and small businesses along the coast can also apply for concessional loans and wage subsidies and there's a $20-million Rural Resilience Fund to pay for farm cleanups and counselling. This is a lifeline for the communities affected by Yasi. It will keep farm workers in those communities. However, Queensland's farm lobby group says the assistance package doesn't go far enough. We don't think it's gone as far west as it should do and we're in discussions with the State Government and the Federal Government about extending it further west. With the Government's flood levy still far from a done deal and the damage bill still rising, the assistance is not unconditional. There's not a blank cheque here, there's a limited amount of money which has to go to those in the greatest need. Which prompted this impassioned appeal to the union movement this week from the local Federal member. I'm on my best bended knees. I personally desperately need - for the 200,000 Australians that I represent - desperately need the AWU.

As welcome as it is, that assistance package will only go some of the way

to helping farmers in Far North Queensland recover from Cyclone Yasi. The crops have been flattened, their income slashed

and their homes extensively damaged again. The Category-5 superstorm struck as many were just coming good after Cyclone Larry five years ago. For some the financial and psychological impact of not one, but two cyclones in close proximity, will prove too much to bear. For others, rebuilding is the only thing on their minds. (Radio reports of Cyclone Larry) In March 2006, Cyclone Larry, Australia's worst cyclone in a century, made landfall at Innisfail,

causing $1.5 billion in damage and killing one person. The impact on agriculture was enormous. Banana crops were wiped out, cane and exotic fruit orchards smashed. Five years later, Cyclone Yasi hit just 50km south of Innisfail, at Mission Beach. Unbelievably, many of the same farms were wrecked again. I think the first day you don't really absorb, you sort of just get hit smacked in the face with all these visions of what's out there, so it does take a while to set in and probably still hasn't set in yet, the full enormity of it. How do you feel having to deal with this twice in five years? Yeah, pretty devastating, um, you know, it's not just the financial loss, you know, you look around and you've been planting and working for a few years to get back to where you need to be and then overnight it's just smashed to the ground. You see all your good hard work - it's gone. Probably be some farmers who will fold up shop, you know, because Larry wasn't that long ago, they're probably still heavily in debt from Larry. Does it make you reconsider whether you want to keep farming? Definitely. Definitely does. Sometimes it's a hard, long road in farming.

Cameron MacKay's a third generation banana grower based in Tully. His family's weathered cyclones Winifred, Larry and now Yasi. Traditionally, they're about 20, 30 years apart where these cyclones come in and normally not two major cyclones together five years apart.

With six farms, turning out 2.2 million cases a year, the McKays are Australia's biggest banana growers. This was their plantation before Yasi. This is after. We've taken the full brunt of the hit so we've virtually had 100% of our crop destroyed. We have just over a thousand hectares of bananas, so over 1.5 million trees have been flattened. I won't try and sugar coat that it's very tough to take a hit like that on a business. But we're a very strong family business, and very resilient and yeah, very determined as well to make sure that we get back in production and back to where we were prior to the cyclone. In a few weeks the McKays three packing sheds will shut down, leaving 350 workers in limbo. Some will leave. I mean, they have been through a very traumatic event, they'll say enough's enough and they'll move on to somewhere else. We're hoping to keep as many as we can, that was critical after Larry, to keep those people at work and working. What can you get them to do? There's a heck of a mess to pick up here, so we're going to have to go round and pick up all the bags

that have gone down to the ground, so that'll be a process over months to go through and pick them up.

And we have to prepare the crop for the future. Cameron MacKay is President of the Australian Banana Growers' Council. When Queensland's Minister for Primary Industries, Tim Mulherin, visited Patrick Leahy flattened banana farm at Tully, he was by the Minister's side. The Council had asked Government to allow growers to sell bananas knocked to the ground. In a first for the industry the request was approved. It's a great outcome for the banana growers. This will certainly assist in the economic recovery. It's great news for lovers of bananas, because that'll increase the supply. The product is absolutely safe. Of course, you've gotta peel a banana, but it's good news all round. Yeah, well won't recover everything off the grounds. Obviously there's going to be stuff too damaged that won't make it. The sun's now out, so a lot of sunburnt fruit will happen. There's a possibility of maybe about 50,000 to 100,000 cartons per week being able to get picked up off the ground, roughly over the next couple of weeks. Within days of the cyclone, banana prices tripled, so the salvaged bananas will be sold into an inflated market. That's some consolation for Patrick Leahy who had a complete crop wipeout, courtesy of both Larry and Yasi. That money we get back from that, we've got to try and survive on that for the next several months, so it's very critical that we do get some of it back. While Yasi's impact on growers is immense,

its impact on the industry is just as profound. We think we've got about 75% of Australia's production knocked out,

so there'd be about 25% production being sent to market for approximately four months. You're looking at around seven months for full recovery, but a lot of growers took action before the cyclone came and chopped a lot of leaves off some trees, to actually get them to stand up in the cyclone, and that was successful. Cyclone Larry exposed the vulnerability of concentrating so much production in a relatively small strip of North Queensland. In the five years since, some growers set up elsewhere to spread their risk.

Others thought they had years to plan a similar move. There is going to be geographic spread, it will have to happen. That will ensure if one of these storms do come through again, we won't be taking the hit that we are at the moment.

For the Rigato family, having two farms 200km apart has paid off. Tully's been wiped out, by the cyclone, Mareeba is still standing so that is a plus. Now, with our Mareeba farm we can cash in, to a degree and get the company back into production as soon as possible. When Larry hit five years ago, Les Blennerhassett's Tully-based trucking business revolved around bananas. Back then he told Landline he went from 120 semi-loads of bananas a week to eight, and had to borrow to survive. Debt-wise, we're still recovering. We're not back to where we were before Larry. Five years later, we've got the same again. It takes longer than that to pay those loans back. It's an anxious time for his staff who have just one thing on their minds. Do you think you're going to have to let people go? We'll definitely have to probably... Yeah, we don't really know yet, we'll try and keep them employed 'cause this is their home, they're relying on for us a payroll, so what do we do? Yeah. While he diversified his customer base after Larry, bananas are still the core of the business. By the end of the month he expects to drop from 250,000 cartons a week to 30,000. Until the plantations are running at full production again his trucks will travel south empty to pick up north-bound freight opportunities. He hopes the Federal Government this time, will match the wage subsidy it made available after Cyclone Larry. I think after Larry they gave us the $400 a week per employee subsidy, which means then if we could cut their hours back we could keep them employed -

we've only gotta top their wages up a small amount. but there's no way with our revenue loss now that we can keep everybody employed with no wage subsidy. Some believe low interest loans, so helpful post-Larry, won't be the answer this time. I don't think this time, there'll probably be a lot that won't qualify for the loans 'cause they're still that much debt from Larry. Others say the only way they can keep going is to take on more debt. With Larry we doubled our debt overnight, and we're gonna have to do that again. Within a week of Yasi, Patrick Leahy was losing staff. I had two give me notice they're finishing at the end of the week, they just said we don't want to do this sort of work for the next six months, you know, cutting up and cleaning up. They're going to move on and find something else. They're probably not the only ones. We had growers exit the industry after Cyclone Larry I think there was about 500 hectares of bananas went completely out of production after Larry. Completely out of production. I'd say it'll happen again this time, to what level, it's too early to tell. It's inevitable that after Yasi there will be some

that will say well enough's enough, but I think banana growers are a fairly tough mob in North Queensland. The core group we've got is very solid. I hope that as many growers as possible stay in. Cyclone Yasi shook the resolve of even the toughest farmers. Larry was a sea breeze compared to Yasi for us. We were smack in the middle of it here, pretty intense, pretty scary, first time in my life I've actually been frightened, been through a few cyclones and quite a few big floods, never worried me, but this one certainly did. Tully canegrower, Mario Raccanello, said despite Yasi beating up his farm he has no intention of leaving. I farmed here all my entire life. To pack up and go somewhere else it doesn't matter what area you go to everyone's got their heartaches on the land. He lost 20% of his cane to Larry, probably more this time. There's a lot lodged on the ground from the first direction of the wind,

then we went through the eye in the second direction. What didn't get blown over virtually got snapped off, and some got pushed back the other way. What it is was like the first few days, as you absorbed what it had done to your farm? Just walked around dumbfounded. Still can't comprehend what to do, or where do we turn? Some of the cane might come good but he won't know how much his yields are down until the June harvest. He didn't borrow after Larry and he won't this time either. I don't want to keep borrowing money to keep going on and on and you end up digging a hole that you never climb out of. It gets to a stage where you've got to retire and if you've got a debt you can't retire. My long term ambition is try to keep the farm to pass on to the kids if they wanna be farmers. There's three residents crocs here. There's a four-metre and two three-metres,

plus all the babies, and... Landline first met Mario last year when he showed us the reef-friendly farming practices he'd adopted. He was especially proud of this natural lagoon. This was before Yasi. This is after. It's just all them years of work just gone down the chute in five hours. He says much of the good work growers have done to keep nutrients on their farms was ruined by Yasi. There's nothing you can do about it. It's a natural disaster, you can do all the right things and do everything by the book and do everything right and you get a natural disaster like this, nothing's gonna stop it. Looking at this, at a quick estimate,

probably 80% has snapped. He told cane grower boss, Steve Greenwood it will take 2-3 years to recover. Early estimates of losses today will be at least 50%. Given that Tully, normally in a good season supplies about two million tonne of sugar. We're down to at least a million tonne and the more we talk to the growers and the more we actually have a look on the ground, it could be less than that. A massive and expensive replanting program is already being planned. But it's going to take time. The nature of the plant cane is that it goes into shock, it struggles the next two seasons, it takes about three years before we get a full-strength harvest again. ..so, the next stage is what we call category C and D. I am very worried about the future for the industry. I think there is a lot of concerns coming out

about a lot of the farmers. Canegrowers believe the overall future for the industry is very positive, and that's evidenced by the fact

that we're seeing a lot of foreign interest in investing a lot of money in the industry. However, it's very hard to focus on that when you've got to deal with this short-term, very serious pain that we're dealing with at the moment.

From farms to mills to the cane railway system,

Yasi didn't spare much of the sugar infrastructure. Tully's mill, for instance, was hammered. Insurance assessors were in yesterday, and they've estimated the damage around the $10 million-plus mark, that's the total business. Main damage in the factory is about 60% of our cooling towers on the ground, the gas bin has been blown out, and a number of standalone buildings that have sort of been destroyed to some degree and of course a lot of sheeting damage around the mill itself. How frustrating is this to happen when prices are so good? This is the big thing for the industry, you know, for many many years the industry has struggled with very low prices, great crops but low prices, and now we've got a situation where we've got a very, very poor crop, our yields look as though they're going to the lowest

in about 16 years. At the same time we've got some of the highest prices and we can't take advantage of it. I planted this orchard six years ago, and replanted it five years ago after Larry... While Tully cane and banana growers should harvest something this year, tropical fruit growers like Keith Noble aren't so lucky. Rambutans take five years to harvest, so it could be 2016 before he picks fruit from this block. This is all that's left of what Keith planted in 2005, and then replanted a year later, after it was wrecked by Larry. I picked my first fruit off it last year and this year was going to be a good crop. 600 trees all leaning against the wind break or in the shed or gone who knows where? Pulled right out of the ground. It hasn't sunk in, and certainly the ramifications of what happened are really unclear, we don't know where we're gonna go. (Sighs) I don't want to give up farming because it's something I've always wanted to do. I didn't grow up doing it. I waited till I could afford to do it, and I've done it, so to give it up is a lifetime dream. But we're not in a position where we can replant, put all the resources in for another five years to get to the orchard to where I'd plan it to be. Papaya, paw paw and lychee growers have been hit hard too, as have dairy and aquaculture operators in the region. And they're all looking to Queensland's Primary Industries Minister, Tim Mulheron, for support. Everywhere he went he heard stories of farm families under severe stress. I've encouraged growers to keep an eye out for their loved ones, keep an eye out for their workers, and if they see any signs of stress there, everyone's under stress here but if it reaches that stage where it's going to affect the mental health, try and encourage them to seek the appropriate professional counselling. Hello. Hi, Prime Minister. Hi, how are you. Cameron MacKay, banana grower. Nice to meet you. I've had the view from the air, I've seen the television images so I knew it was gonna be bad. But there's nothing like seeing it in person

and it is very affecting when you see it, and you see people living in those conditions and working their way back.

This week the Prime Minister was back at Patrick Leahy's farm to confirm additional assistance to the hardest hit growers.

There'll be wage subsidies, concessional loans of up to $650,000 and a $20-million Rural Resilience fund. What that means is between the amount that's been made available in emergency payments, and the additional package that has been modelled on what happened after Cyclone Larry, our investment will be around $400 million in this region, and that's before we get to rebuilding infrastructure. Tully locals say that's recognition not only for the effort required

to repair and rebuild their severely damaged homes, businesses and farms but the communities that rely on their spending power. Day by day, as you see bits get picked up, your morale gets better and better, that's why I think it is essential that these places get rebuilt and rebuilt properly so the people have a pride in their community again. And they'll need every bit of that resolve

in the weeks and months ahead, as they rebuild their lives and livelihoods. This is our life, so we're part of the banana industry, so we're here for the long term. We've got four of our children on the farm with us now, so we've got no intention of going anywhere,

we'll start from scratch and go again. It is gonna be very tough, I think even tougher than Larry, to get through. But we made it through Larry, and growers, I think, will step up and make it through this one as well. Those cane farmers of North Queensland we've just seen can take heart from current raw sugar prices. After slipping earlier in the week, sugar bounced nicely The community on Flinders Island in Bass Strait workers who might have lost employment in the sugar industry because of weather events, are now being offered possible employment by cotton growers. With the big crop there'll be big requirement for harvest people and harvest labour, so we're looking at a program called Operation Harvest Help which we'll look to the cane industry who at present have a surplus of labour, and hopefully we can look after their staff for a short period of time through our harvest and they can go back into their industry. Now, cane and cotton growers are cooperating in this venture. And there's a harvest help hotline to recruit would be workers. Please call during office hours. Now cotton, and what can one say? It's cracked the 200-cent mark for the first time ever

and as the price rockets it's being reported that the 23 million cotton growers in China are hoarding their last crop, waiting for an even bigger price. Here's a check on how cotton has travelled over the past five years. It's the most remarkable spike. The price has doubled since July. Now, two points about the cotton bubble. First, and the absolute certainty, is all bubbles burst. And second, the forecast is for global cotton production to rebound to a record 27.6 million tonnes. Here is the New York price,

up substantially last week to a price I heard one grower describe as 'scary'. I'm also told the offer in the cotton paddocks

around St George-Goondiwindi last week was an unheard of $1,000 a bale.

Moving to grains now, and ABARE's is forecasting Australia's winter crop to be the largest in seven years. One can only imagine what might have been without the extraordinary wet on the east coast and without the drought in the west.

Wheat production should reach 26.3 million tonnes, a big rise on last year, while barley is also up and canola production also lifted nicely. Grain sorghum is having a bumper season. This season passing saw production go up 39% on last year. Local prices were a little soft last week, probably reacting to our firming dollar. Canola retreated $25, while wheat fell a fraction and sorghum was firm. The futures trading was also a little easy but still pretty good in historical terms. The nearby March contracts settled at $359 in the west and $20 less for New South Wales milling wheat. Market chatter in Chicago centred on the massive drought in China with traders getting edgy about where prices might go for wheat if that drought continues. There's also talk of China removing, or at least cutting, import duty for ag products. Soya bean slipped on the back of a massive Brazilian crop coming up. Wheat fell but remains $3.50 above the price this time last year

and corn continues its ethanol-powered surge. That price has doubled since March 2010. Australia's beef industry is in for a good year. This is MLA's opinion and comes amid problems in our life export trade and the overwhelming spectre of our rising dollar. MLA says industry growth will be led by emerging markets such as Russia, the Middle East and South East Asia. Last week MLA stepped up its Russian marketing, with a meet and greet at the prestigious Prodexpo Food Fair in Moscow. Importers were invited to taste Australian beef and touch base with an Aussie producer, in this case a grazier from Charters Towers Well, we're seeing Russia as an emerging market. And we're producing a high quality product, we thought we'd bring it to Moscow and present it to the Russian people. Get a reaction from them, see where we go from there. And what has the reaction been? Very good so far. We have some product here in Russia now with a company, East West, which they're going to take to the restaurants and get the feedback, and then they'll come back to us. And all reports indicate the Russians are loving Aussie beef. Our exports are tipped to touch 70,000 tonnes this year, up from 53,000 in 2010. Of course, there are many reasons and we can buy the more safe, more quality beef and with a lower price. The price lower than the meat from Brazil. MLA remains wary, but confident. Even though Russia's been developing as a commercial global trader for 20 years or more than 20 years now, there are still a lot of new or reasonably new businesses that are involved in the meat industry so we don't have the same sort of long-term historical relationships that there are in our traditional markets. And the market is still very much evolving not just from who the players are but also from what they do, so we've got new companies that are getting involved in Australia, purchasing Australian meat, but also we've got growing market sectors, and a good example will be the steakhouse markets in Moscow which we've seen grow significantly in the last two or three years, which is now a great market for Australian high-quality beef. So, places like this allow us to showcase our product,

they allow us to get exposure to a large number of people in a short period of time, and it allows Australia to also showcase the range of product we have. That's Jason Strong, MLA's boss in Europe. Very interesting to see that Russian buyer concede he can buy Aussie beef cheaper than beef from Brazil.

Incidentally, Jason Strong will be back in Australia this time next month

taking part in MLA's latest Meat Profit Day at Bingara. Now to the prices, and the National Livestock Reporting Service has described restocker and feeder demand as red hot. Slaughter numbers are booming as dry conditions emerge. Most of these prices are well above the levels for this time last year. It's hardly surprising given the amounts of feed available and competition is especially keen for younger cattle. And the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator is firm at $3.93. Firm is not the word for lamb prices, more like strong and strengthening. Last Friday week at Cowra in New South Wales, a pen of 39 lambs went for an Australian record of $240 a head. Ballarat went close last Tuesday, with $239 a head.

But for the moment, the lamb title is with New South Wales. Our lamb indicator lifted 29 cents for the week while mutton went along for the ride, spiking 21 cents. That's close to the lamb price of about 18 months ago. Checking dairy now where the headline is all about the milk discounting by Woolies and Coles, but the real story is the price of butter and skim milk powder. World supplies are as tight as a drum, stockpiles are down in America and Europe, and demand is up and up. The official Oceania price ranges - close to $4,900 for butter, but I'm told unofficially it's well above $5,000, and skim milk powder demand has pushed the unofficial price close to $4,000. Finally to wool, which continues its bull run. The market is up more than 21% since January and a remarkable 42% since the start of the season. The Eastern Market Indicator lifted 1% last week, China was dominant with Italian buyers on top at that fine wool sale in Melbourne. Tim Lee has been looking at the surge in wool

and will very have that report on next week's program. But for now, and for a change,

a pretty good week for most commodities. That's the Landline check on prices. The community on Flinders Island in Bass Strait is keen to follow the example of neighbouring King Island and add value and prestige to its farm output. But like much of regional Australia, it's been faced with a dwindling population and ageing farmers. Despite the numerous challenges associated with living in relative isolation, farmers are embracing technology and looking forward to the future. They're also hoping to re-open the abattoir to help market the Flinders Island brand. And there's one very well kept secret that might just attract a new generation of farmers. Martin Cuddihy reports from Flinders Island. (Lamb bleats) I've been probably back here for two years, I just love - I love the lifestyle. I love the rewards of farming and the fact that you can get to the end of the day

and you can look back and see everything that you've done and the positive changes we've made to the farm in the last couple of years. Yeah, it's certainly fantastic to be home.

Flinders Island locals proudly argue this is God's country. The Klug family have been here for almost 40 years, the last few seasons have been especially kind. We've been able to enjoy the feed that's here and the stock of have really finished very well. But this bit of rain just at the moment is a bit of a blessing, but that's a result of living in heaven. Less than 100km off the north-east coast of Tasmania, Flinders Island is quality grazing country with a reputation for producing premium beef and milk-fed lamb. Farming really got a kick-on here after the World War II thanks to a soldier settlement scheme that drew people to the island, mostly from Tasmania and Victoria. But today, this close knit community

is facing the same challenges as regional centres across the country. While the size of farms has expanded,

fewer workers are now needed to run them, so the island's population has steadily dwindled - from more than 1,200 residents 30 years ago, to 800 now. When I first came here there were probably five shearing teams that lived on the island and in those days

I think the sheep population was very close to 200,000. Now that's shrunk as a result of the decline in wool market and profitability,

and we all struggle to get even one shearing group together to do the work. So in our case, we find that we're usually having to import one or two shearers. The relative isolation also comes at a price, fuel is as much as 30% more expensive and groceries have to be shipped in.

And over the past 12 months the island has faced some serious transport issues. At times, exporting beef and lamb to Tasmania and Victoria was nigh on impossible, and islanders went close to running out of food. It all proved too much for some. We just sold the farm and this is the last lot to get off. We're gonna take 'em all home, and yeah, they've got to be killed and send 'em out to slaughter and what have you. So, yeah, this is the last lot I've got left on the island. Just, yeah, too much freight. Everything was killing us with freight. At the moment this is how every sheep leaves this island. They're looking at a voyage of up to 20 hours to the port of the Welshpool in Victoria's Western Gippsland.

What happens to your profit margins and that sort of thing with the shipping? I worked on about 50% loss with the cattle. That's what I worked on.

With the weight they lose and the freight to get them across. You get 30% rebate back

but we worked out it was at least 50%, by the time they were weighed here, to the time they got to Pakenham, or whatever, you lost a lot of weight in stock. 'Cause they stress out on the boat. You know, if it's a calm trip it's good, but if it's rough, well, it just stresses 'em out. Interstate regulations mean it's often harder to relocate livestock than it is to slaughter animals when they arrive in either Tasmania or Victoria.

You have to run double the amounts of stock here to make the same cheque as you would in Victoria or even Tasmania or Victoria or New South Wales, wherever, 'cause it's just too hard on them. One way to minimise the impact of freight costs would to be process more of the livestock at the island's abattoir. The facility's been closed now since December, and yeah, it is in a poor state of repair.

But we are working very hard as a council to support someone coming in. We even looked at it, from a Council perspective. They don't have to look far for inspiration. King Island had its abattoir bailed out

by the Tasmanian government last year. The owners, the giant Brazilian processors - JBS Swift, were given a 15 year, $12-million loan to upgrade their meatworks. And with 15% of Tasmania's beef herd and almost 10% of its lamb, Flinders Island locals would like similar help. I definitely think it'd probably support what we're doing here and market our product, a bit like King Island have actually done a fantastic job with their product. But I think Flinders Island probably needs to get their name on the map a bit more.

With the facility closed at the moment we're forced to export our livestock off the island. But for a community level and a sustainability level, like, we've got such wonderful resource here, it seems pointless importing beef and lamb from Tasmania or Victoria when it's all here - just needs processing. Despite the challenges, once a year, Flinders Island locals head into Whitemark for the local show, even if the weather's pretty ordinary. I've gone with this big volume cow, 163, she just has a little bit more frame about her. There's no Sideshow Alley here, and if you want a ride you have to bring your own. This is a chance to compare cattle and sheep against your neighbours, catch up and enjoy a quiet drink. Scott Anderson grows out his cattle on Flinders Island before finishing them off on mainland Tasmania. Local show's one of those things, you know, you like to support the local community. And it's one day that you get to throw out their what you do. So, yeah, it's good to bring 'em in and give people a look. The cattle judge was more than impressed. Tim Woodham manages stud stock for Tasmania's main rural supply business. Tassie's recognised as a clean green state and this is just another portion of Tassie - it's own acknowledgement, Flinders Island - beautiful pastures and they're real good cattleman over here. I've had the opportunity to judge the cattle and, you know, they've put a lot of effort into buying good quality bulls over the time, so, you can can see the rewards.

Tim Woodham's been coming to the island for years and has seen a steady improvement in the herd. He rates Scott Anderson's steers as among the best on the island. I think it's one of Flinders' natural advantages - we grow grass - good grass, volumes of grass through the winter and allows us to actually do it cheaply. And grow 'em well.

The farmers are trying to meet specific markets in the way they're finishing. You can see a lot of quality in the carcass attributes that the cattle here are showing, and obviously the outcome, the desired outcome, is being reached. Like most local bush shows, the Flinders event is run by volunteers. The show Society President is Arthur Withers, who can still remember the first island show back in 1934. This out 76th show. I'm a bit older than that, yes. I can remember going to the first show and that was in the town of Whitemark - along the side of the street, plus in the hall. And I can remember that quite well. Has much changed since then? I think so, yeah. As far as machinery and stuff like that, that's certainly changed a lot. Mr Withers joined the committee in his 70s, because, well, he was getting bored. We're proud of Flinders Island.

We think it's the greatest place on earth. But I suppose everybody's thinks of their home like that. Not that I know everybody, but everybody - they talk to you even if they don't know you. Out of town, the Grimshaw family run 750 head of blank Angus cattle on Clifton. Liz Grimshaw describes herself as a reformed vegan. In a former life she lived in Melbourne and had a high powered job with a multinational mining company. It's completely different and I would not go back to what I was doing before. Although I can use a lot of the skills that I'd learnt in my job -

I was, I sort of did that for about ten years a lot of those skills, I think, are directly transferable in terms of running a small business, and having to do the longer term planning to run your business - make it work. The businesswoman and mother of two has adopted quickly and is now applying some of the organisational skills she honed at the big end of town running the island's farm productivity group. There's quite a big group of us. We run multiple, probably about everybody six weeks we get together to do some educational stuff. Usually around technical things - so, pastures, fertilisers,

we've got a pasture trial on here at the moment. So, we do a lot of that as a group. She's also helping to benchmark the surrounding farmland against some of the most productive grazing properties in the country. By any measure Flinders Island stacks up pretty well. We've got a number of farmers in our productivity group - beef, prime lamb and wool farmers - that are right up there with other production systems in terms of cost of production and profitability, than, you know, you could pick right up the Eastern Seaboard, in similar type country - Eastern Seaboard and western district Victoria and into Western Australia. So, why aren't there more young farmers looking to a future on Flinders Island? There's no doubt this really is a beautiful place. On its own that's probably not enough to lure the next generation of farmers here. Something that might is the price of land - it's about $2,500 a hectare, a $1,000 an acre in the old scale. The community's hoping that might help lure

the next generation of farmers to Flinders Island. We've got really good carrying capacity. And I think it's probably pretty well-kept secret.

Unfortunately now if it's on Landline it won't be so secret. And we know that that's so, because we do our benchmarking figures every year. I would personally love to see some young farmers come. Got a lot of farms up for sale. For generations, my parents's generation,

and they're at the point where they want to retire,

and just relax and enjoy life. And there's a lot of good farms up for sale at a reasonable price. So, It would be be fantastic to see some young farmers come in. For those who might be tempted but still aren't quite sure - just try asking around. They'll tell you this is Australia's best kept secret. It's a great place to live. It's a great community. It really does go back to Victoria 30 years ago, where people help each other, farmers help farmers. And it's a generous egalitarian place to live.

It's renowned around the world for it's Sake and its malt whiskeys are now regarded as the equal of anything out of Scotland. But when it comes to wine, Japan has until now had a reputation for producing plonk that was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

Now a young winemaker who learnt her trade in Australia, is winning sceptics over with a homegrown grape variety from the foot hills of Mount Fuji. The ABC's North Asia correspondent, Mark Willacy, reports. It's the ultimate way to get pickled.

But this wine spa in Japan, people aren't just sipping it,

they're dipping in it. Here wine is truly the elixir of life and good times. TRANSLATOR: Normally I can't even drink a drop of alcohol so I feel that I'm getting drunk just from the smell. TRANSLATOR: I also don't drink but it smells great and it feels like it has a healing effect. While this is intoxicating fun when it comes to the standard and reputation of Japanese wine, there has been little to laugh about. In fact, Japanese plonk has been laughed off as nothing more than sweet swill. We only thought about Japan's domestic market when it came to producing wine. I think it's important that we make wine good enough for export. In the past wine makers would only buy grapes from farmers. They never tried to grow their own grapes. And while we were good at making Sake, we never had an idea about making wine.

Ayana Misawa is the new face of Japanese wine. She's the fifth generation of a wine making family, but she's the first to train overseas. The area under wine production in Australia is huge. I was lucky to be able to work with both the Hunter Valley and Margaret River, under some excellent winemakers. Ayana Misawa's goal now is to inject some excellence into Japan's wine industry. And she's leading the way with her family's Grace Winery, already exporting their product to Australia, Europe and South East Asia. Famed for its Sake, Japan has long been derided for its poor quality plonk. But the days of the dreadful drop could soon be over, with Japanese winemakers banking on an indigenous grape, sparking an export-driven revival.

This is a Koshu grape, this is a very important grape for us because this is the only grapes for making wines, I mean, in Japan. This originally come from Europe, but it exists just only Japan. It came from Europe, I believe a long time ago. Many hundreds of years ago. Yeah, 1,000 year ago. 1,000 years? Yeah. The Koshu grape originally came through the Silk Road from the Caucuses. But now it's being claimed by Japan as its great wine hope. I believe the Koshu grape can restore Japan's reputation for producing wine. Chardonnay and Cabernet are grown all around the world but Koshu is a uniquely Japanese grape. Its special taste goes very well with Japanese cuisine and because Japanese cuisine is very popular now, I think Koshu has a great chance that many people will try it.

At the foot of Mt Fuji, Yamanashi is Japan's premier wine-growing region.

Grape growing began here more than 1,000 years ago. Here the Koshu grape is in its element, able to withstand the region's rainfall and resist the rot that plagues Vinifera grapes. Shigekazu Misawa is the father of Ayana Misawa and the owner of the Grace Winery. So Misawa san, how long has your family been making wine for? TRANSLATOR: We've been making wine since 1923. I'm the fourth generation of my family in the wine business. Shigekazu Misawa is banking on Yamanashi's Koshu wine becoming as well known and respected as other big names such as the famous drops of Bordeaux, Monterey and the Barossa Valley. This year it's expected Yamanashi growers will export more than 10,000 bottles of Koshu wine. TRANSLATOR: I think Koshu is Japan's most unique variety. What is Koshu's uniqueness? It produce a delicate fresh and natural wine with a slightly lower alcohol percentage.

It goes very well with light and healthy food. But just convincing the Japanese to take a tipple of their own wine could prove the toughest task for the industry. In a notoriously fickle society driven by fashion and fads, Japanese vino just doesn't cut it. TRANSLATOR: Japanese wine is cheap.

There are many of them that make you bored. I've tried Australian wine and it was delicious and easy to drink. TRANSLATOR: Japanese wine tastes a little light and sweet. I like Italian and French. Scoffed at, rather than quaffed, Japanese wine needs to rise above its reputation as sweet swill. That's the task of the next generation of Japanese winemakers like Ayana Misawa. And to help her achieve her goal, she's adopted a motto she learnt during her studies in Australia. She'll be alright, mate. She'll be alright, mate. And here's cheers to that. The good news, weather-wise, is that the La Nina pattern associated with the east coast floods is showing signs of easing, the weather bureau says the current La Nina is one of the strongest on record, but the latest signs point to a very slow breakdown. And maybe it's just started. The current Southern Oscillation Index has dropped a fraction over the week from above 20, it's now positive 18.9. Last week's rainfall, amazing as it was in the north, it can be best seen on a national map. There's the indication of how wet it was around the Top End and into Western Australia. That deep purple indicates rain above 400mm and it was well above that. To numbers - and a fairly typical pattern in Queensland. We've picked Warwick in the south with just 10mm. Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales scored 60mm. 20mm was the reading at Orbost in Victoria. Tasmania a fairly dry week, 2mm found in the gauge at Fosterville. Hallett in South Australia, 23. In the Top End, the rain gauges were very busy. The Darwin suburb of Leanyer registered 881mm. And there was plenty of rain in the Pilbara, with Millstream recording 203mm.

That's the Landline check on rainfall. We're almost out of time. Next week, Prue Adams looks at chickens. We're taking a rare look inside the chicken meat industry. We're looking at and getting ready for a doubling of this industry within the next 10 to 12 years. The biggest in the business has opened its doors to us and is busting a few myths along the way. It is frustrating because the industry we know and love

and work in,

the myths of hormones and steroids in chickens, it's commonplace and we're constantly challenged by them. But if you read the literature and understand the science, chickens haven't been fed hormones or steroids for over 40 years. Chicken feed, a special report when Landline returns next week.

We look forward to your company. Until then, bye for now. (Closed Captions by CSI)