BARNABY Joyce has given an impassioned speech to agriculture industry leaders imploring the “incredibly noble task” of farming and need to enhance its political and economic status, to improve the lives of some of Australia’s poorest people.
The Agriculture and Water Resources Minister contrasted his view on the importance of farming to also help feed the world, which deserved parliament’s attention, and the current political “soap opera”.
Mr Joyce came out swinging in his brief talk at the farmer of the year awards held at Parliament House in Canberra with significant political pressure weighing down on his future.
After having to leave the event due to a division in the House of Representatives, he returned and took the podium, where he made a backhanded swipe at the level of attention paid to his NZ dual citizenship scandal that’s dominated media and public attention this week after he revealed the controversy on Monday.
Mr Joyce acknowledged the unusually high level of media presence at the event wasn’t necessarily attributed to reporting on awards like the farming ‘legend’ of the year being announced, saying he’d keep reporters there, “while I talk about farming for a while”.
He said politicians were in power to try and raise the standard of living, pointing to agriculture’s improved economic performance as one of his priorities.
The Nationals leader said the Coalition had delivered a $4 billion Agricultural White Paper that started at just $30 million.
Mr Joyce said if agriculture can be lifted “wealth can be multiplied across our nation” aided by the construction of dams for example, that provide water to fuel production.
He also cited the Coalition government’s big budget announcement this year of $8.4b towards building the inland rail, as another initiative, as well as three quarters of a billion dollars provided for concessional loans to help people who are “under the pump”.
“That is our job in this building – that’s why you come here,” he said.
“If you can get the wealth in you can raise their standard of living for the poorest people in Australia, with the poorest standard of living, with the poorest health, with the poorest education.
“And the thing that’s manifestly close to tem is agriculture.
“If we can make agriculture work we raise their standard of living and that’s vastly more important than all the other side (shows) and other issues that are going to go bounding in this house today.
“That is the moral cause - that is why you’re in this building - that is the job you’re supposed to do down here.
“And that’s why we’re in this building - that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s not a soap opera; it’s an incredibly important task.
“We should celebrate those at the forefront of that incredibly noble task.”
Mr Joyce said if that job of improving agriculture wasn’t focussed on properly, in 2050 10 billion people would be living on the planet but food supply wasn’t keeping up with the pace of population expansion.
“Whether you like it or not, they’re coming, 10 billion people, in the next 50 years,” he said.
“And we have to produce the same amount of food that humanity has consumed to this point in time.
“Think of that awesome equation.
“We don’t have the green revolution anymore - we’ve chewed that up - the population has grown, so we’ve matched it.
“We don’t have the capacities that they did in the green revolution where Mexico increased their wheat yields, from 1947 to 1963, six-fold.
“That was remarkable but we’ve chewed that up, the population has caught up to us.”
Mr Joyce said people’s diets were starting to go down again.
“If we don’t do our job, people who you’ve never met, and they’ll be living in North Korea, and they’ll be living in North Africa and they’ll be living in the Pacific Islands, they will starve to death because they will not have the food to consume to sustain themselves,” he said.
“The vital amount of protein, the vital amount of fats, the vital amount of carbohydrates – the stock of rice – if we don’t do our job.”
Mr Joyce said farmers didn’t farm to help feed others purely for “financial motivation”.
“They do it because they love it and it’s a moral and good cause,” he said.
“The purpose of their endeavours is to feed and clothe people - not to swindle people; not to live on the peripheries where what you were driving for them is to somehow hurt them.”
This year’s winners of the award co-sponsored by ABC and Kondinin Group were:
· Australian Farmer of the Year: Andrew Bulmer, Victoria
· Young Farmer of the Year: Jason Smith, Victoria
· Farming Legend of the Year: John Bennett, Tasmania
· Rural Community Leader of the Year Award: Kristy Sparrow, Queensland
· Rural Consultant of the Year: Greg Mills, New South Wales
· Excellence in Innovation: Rob Cook, Queensland
· Excellence in Technology: Lachlan Seears, South Australia
· Excellence in Diversification: James Walker, Queensland