image
Jan Davis, ABC pic

It’s been a week of highs and lows - and I’m not just talking about the weather!

I left Quercus Park with a spring in my step after the three days of Agfest. I thought it was just sensational. The Rural Youth army runs the event with military precision; nothing is left to chance; everywhere you looked there is a volunteer doing their job professionally; nothing daunts them.

Visitors could not help but be impressed with the size and variety of the stands, pavilions and sites. The TFGA’s pavilion, you will be pleased to learn, won the award for the best double site (10m x 20m) at Agfest.

Undoubtedly, a highlight for many visitors to the pavilion was the demonstrations by Bob “the Butcher” Dewar of how to divide a carcass into its various cuts, their preparation for the table by chef Daniel Alps, sometimes overseen by Glenn McGrath in his role as an ambassador for the Australian Year of the Farmer. He looked right at home.

Most importantly, though, was the air of genuine optimism that prevailed. Everywhere you looked people were happy; farmers were locked in conversation about the good times we are enjoying in agriculture in Tasmania. They were talking about their plans for the future; they were talking about investment; they were talking about innovation.

All of which is essential if you take the time to drill down into the detail of Tuesday’s federal Budget to gain an insight into what life could be like in Tasmania a few years down the track.

Even before the Budget, we knew that the knives were out for Tasmania as far as GST receipts were concerned. There is growing resentment in the richer states of our share of that federal revenue. We get back $1.60 for every $1 collected in GST here. Western Australians get 55 cents.

The federal Budget forward estimates show that by 2015/16 the Western Australian take could be down to 29 cents in the dollar while Tasmania will still be above $1.40.

Now, no matter how many people in mainland states tell you that how much they love Tasmania, they are not going to put up with that sort of discrimination if they are told or if they believe that Tasmania is not pulling its weight in economic activity.

I have said before that the ideal of locking most of Tasmania away as a world heritage national park comes at a huge cost. Interstate resentment at footing the bill for this is growing. We are also beginning to hear reports of concerns about how you protect such a huge area of reserved forested land. Who fights the bushfires in the parks? Not the conservation organisations that demanded their creation. They are nowhere to be seen.

We are going to be under growing pressure to pull our weight economically. Time is running out to come up with the strategy to bring that about.

As Agfest demonstrated, Tasmanian agriculture will lead the way, if it is permitted to do so, but we need the shackles removed so that we can get on with developing our land to feed the world and create wealth for Tasmania.

We are ready to talk.

• TFGA welcomes Libs commitment to agriculture

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association today welcomed the Liberal Party’s agricultural policy release, saying it picked up many of the TFGA’s recommendations that were put to the government in its budget submission in January.

“What is significant is that the party has opted to proffer its agricultural policy as first cab off the rank. We take that to reflect the top priority they are according this important sector of the economy,” TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said.

“Their commitments are clear and we will hold them to each one. We take particular note of their support for the private forest sector, largely ignored in the current crisis talks and the proposed intergovernmental forest agreement.

“This is not to say farmers are backing the Liberals. It is to say that, with this policy, the Liberals are backing farmers,” Ms Davis said.

“Perhaps the key phrase in the document is the promise to give farmers a fair go by slashing green and red tape. As I am constantly saying, overbearing bureaucracy, often apparently for its own sake, is our greatest hurdle, one that inhibits farming and agribusinesses playing a greater role as the key economic driver in Tasmania.”

Ms Davis said the Liberals had picked up on the association’s main themes of:

• ensuring food security;
• industry productivity and innovation;
• maintaining our biosecurity status;
• protecting our environment; and
• partnerships with government.

Ms Davis said the TFGA was in the process of developing a strategic plan for Tasmanian agriculture in consultation with people across the agriculture industry.

This was against the backdrop of Professor Jonathan West identifying agriculture as one of the key opportunities for growth in the state economy, capable of generating another $5 billion a year.

Many of the commitments outlined in the Liberal’s policy document will assist in achieving this goal.