Barnaby Joyce made his maiden speech this week in Parliament – it was patriotic and supportive of agriculture but he does not admit there is little he can do to assist family farmers remain on the land. He is a part of the Liberal apparatus, in the same vein as the ALP and he cannot deliver better farm gate prices or security of land tenure when his party is owned lock, stock and barrel by Woolworths, Coles and the trans-national coal seam gas and oil companies.
Most primary producers are their own worst enemies. They are beyond help! Certainly when they keep supporting the parties that originally set in place the policies that are now destroying them!
Photo: Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce made a passionate defence of family farms in the House of Representatives. He’s pictured here with Luke Bowen from the NT Cattlemen’s Association in October 2013. (Matt Brann)
The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce made a passionate and unapologetic defence of the family farm in his maiden speech to the House of Representatives.
As his friend and mining magnate Gina Rinehart watched from the public gallery, Mr Joyce said that increasing the return at the farm gate must be at the core of Australia’s agricultural policy.
He said farmers were grappling with changing community attitudes that make it harder for family businesses to thrive.
“The family farm of the 1970s is generally unviable,” he said.
“The deft hand of external conscience has crystallised so that farm management practices have to conform to a view whose religion is a quasi-alternate environmentalism, of forms, or paperwork, of trees having attained an anthropomorphic character.
“We have evolved to the ridiculous extent where animal rights are interchangeable with human rights.”
Mr Joyce spoke of a childhood spent growing up on a sheep and cattle property in New England, and the formative experience that provided, saying “growing up in the soil gives a strong attachment to the country, and is integral to what the nation is”.
“Those who may be dismissive of this statement as prosaic could possibly not have had the seminal experience of a life lived outside,” he said.
“We must develop our capacity to get more which is of worth, to a venue that is willing to pay for it, on terms and conditions that are to our greatest advantage, and have us as a nation negotiating that advantage from a position of strength.
We must get a better return to the farm gate, and fighting to keep families on the land must be the core of agricultural policy.
Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture
“We must get a better return to the farm gate, and fighting to keep families on the land must be the core of agricultural policy.”
Mr Joyce vocally expressed his concerns about foreign investment in Australian land and agribusiness during his time in the Senate.
In his maiden speech to the House of Representatives, he broached the subject by recounting his own family history and connection to the decade-long Irish Famine, which began in the 1840s and saw hundreds of thousands of Irish people starve to death while grain produced in their country was exported to colonial England instead of feeding the local population.
“This is the deadly hand of bureaucracy,” Mr Joyce said, while noting he doesn’t suggest Australia is headed down a similar path.
“Responsible foreign investment is essential. I don’t oppose that and I never have. On policy, I am guided by my university motto, ‘from wisdom comes moderation’. That means absolutes and both extremes are perilous,” Mr Joyce said.
“But we must not leave tasks for our children that we cannot bear for ourselves.”
Mr Joyce won New England virtually uncontested, after the sitting independent MP Tony Windsor decided to retire at the September election.
There’s been little love lost between the two men, but Mr Joyce paid tribute to his predecessor in the chamber, saying that whatever people might think of Mr Windsor’s decision to back the Gillard government, “he showed great determination in delivering for his electorate”.