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Six years is a long time to wait for a policy vision.



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Gavan O'Connor MP MEMBER FOR CORIO SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

1 March 2005

SIX YEARS IS A LONG TIME TO WAIT FOR A POLICY VISION

Today, after nearly six years as Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss has finally woken up to the need for a long term policy vision for the sector.

Year in, year out, Mr Truss has limped from crisis to crisis (Cormo Express, drought policy, Philippines’ bananas, New Zealand apples, Brazilian beef) without giving sufficient time or thought to the long term challenges faced by farmers and their families.

He has lurched from election to election largely by adopting Labor policy on everything from live exports to quarantine arrangements and market power, with little evidence of original thinking of his own.

Incredibly in his press release today Mr Truss lists a number of challenges for the sector as “new” and “emerging”. The challenges he lists, including animal rights, genetically modified organisms, rural labour shortages and environmental concerns, have been on the radar for a long time now, but to this Minister they are “new” and “emerging”.

It is very disturbing to learn that the Minister has only just recognised the importance of these challenges for the future of farming.

Mr Truss has only now heard the calls that have been coming from Labor, the National Farmers Federation and others for some time about the need for a policy framework, a vision, to take the sector forward for the next decade and more.

Labor wishes the reference group established to advise on future policy directions well, but notes that it contains no representative of rural workers.

Given that one of the key issues canvassed by the Minister is the shortage of rural labour, the group would be better served if it included the key unions representing workers in the agriculture and food and fibre processing areas.

It has taken this Minister far too long to wake up to the importance of clear long term policy settings for the future of Australian agriculture. By the time the reference group reports in December Warren Truss will have been Agriculture Minister for six and a half years.

We can only hope that it won’t take him another six and a half years to respond to the report.

Contact Bernie Eades on 0419 664 016