A FAIR price for a fair day's work still goes begging, writes SHANE PAULGER
As a Queensland dairy farmer milking 400 head, I follow with interest the formation of the Farmer Power Organisation.
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Fourteen years ago, a group of farmers formed the Australian Milk Producers Association to stop the Howard-Truss government's pursuit of total dairy deregulation.
We argued that to totally deregulate the domestic market would destroy farmers and their communities, while handing hundreds of millions of dollars to the supermarkets, overnight.
We were right and, for a decade, huge profits flowed to Woolworths and Coles. AMPA was derided by dairy leaders in a shameful act.
These dairy leaders saw in deregulation, devaluing our domestic industry on the words that 'it's inevitable'.
Yet they regulated themselves through our levies into power.
Bob Katter said at Warrnambool that an arbitrated regulated price was the way forward for the domestic market to rein in supermarkets.
ADF president Noel Campbell replied that this would be a backward step, which is why agriculture is in dire straits.
The peak bodies blindly follow Labor's and the Coalition's flawed direction of supply-side economics.
Industry and the two political parties gnash their gums about lowering inputs such as wages and productivity, but never talk about low farm income from our undervalued commodity.
If only our peak bodies were like the unions, delivering to farmers a fair price for a fair day's work.
It beggars belief that the major political parties think we can be competitive globally when we have interest rates 300-400 per cent higher than our competitors, and among OECD nations our level of government support is almost non-existent.
Foreign speculators of our currency are having a field day, driving a grossly overvalued Aussie dollar. In the 1980-90s, supply-side economics swept the western world like a bushfire. Hawke and Keating joining the Cairns Group of Free Trading Agricultural Nations placed farmers on a collision course with disaster.
The structural reform Keating introduced in the early '90s was tenaciously pursued by the Howard-Truss administration, with implementation of National Competition Policy in 1996 removing the remaining orderly marketing arrangements in the rural sector.
Multilaterally through the WTO, the Doha round of trade talks is not delivering tangible results and bilateral trade agreements could be more fruitful. We are the only country fully embracing free trade at the demise of our own people. The Coalition's spokesman, John Cobb, is saying in government, it will review Competition Policy, which the Coalition legislated and brought to bear on many hard-working Australian farmers in the first instance.
- Shane Paulger is a Queensland dairy farmer