Monday, July 4, 2016

Medi-scare: Why it doesn't matter who won the election. Your going to lose your healthcare.

Those of you who follow me closely know I stood in the recent federal election for the seat of McMillan as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats. I did not fair well but that is the will of the people and the people are always right. Unfortunately something is "not right" the state of our budget, our health system and the attitude of our politicians.

Before you roll your eyes at me for stating the obvious, allow me to clarify. Labor did well in this campaign on the promise it would protect Medicare, the government body that pays almost all our medical bills and keeps healthcare more or less free for the rest of us. Medicare is a considered a national treasure, often smugly referred to when comparing us favorably with the USA. This smugness is about to bite us because someone has to pay for Medicare and that would be you.

The long suffering taxpayer.

Expenditure on healthcare has tripled in real terms over the last 25 years according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. That's a pretty alarming statistic. We're spending almost 10% of our GDP on health. Even more alarming are the many political gyrations tried over the last two years to try and continue to fund our health system. Tony Abbott at first tried a co-payment, only to see himself knifed by Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm then tried talking up a rise in the GST to 15% (great big tax on everything anyone?) with the support of NSW Premier Mike Baird. He then back-flipped and tried giving a portion of income tax to the states. Malcolm then tried a triple somersault and threw his treasurer under the bus by moving the date of the budget, canned the idea of letting the states collect income taxes, posted a budget deficit of forty billion dollars and called the double dissolution election which he just may lose in the next few days.

Now we have a senate which is bound to make any reform impossible due to the populist leanings of it's make up. The people don't care what their healthcare costs, they don't have to pay for it. The doctors have a vested interest in healthcare being expensive, it's how they make their money. The politicians have little care how much it costs, if the taxpayers won't pay, they'll just add it to the national credit card.

Our national debt is fast approaching $42,000 per family and ratings agencies are already threatening to strip our country of it's prized AAA credit rating which will increase our interest payments and add further to the debt. That $42,000 that your family owes has to be paid back, every last cent and both major parties are actively growing that debt. Treasury is already warning that we are one financial crisis away from serious trouble.

It doesn't matter if Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull wins this election. Either way our health system cannot continue the way it's going. Our government cannot continue the way it is going. The last thing you should give a heroin addict is an unlimited supply of heroin, so it is with our weak political class who are addicted to spending other peoples money. Sometime in the next few years that unlimited supply will be choked off and the long, ugly process of rehab will begin. Next election a party that is truly fiscally conservative might be just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Liberal Democrats - Why I joined them and why I believe they represent the future party of Australian agriculture

A few days ago I had a chat with a friend, a station owner, who sent me  the web address of a new rural party. I couldn't find any of their policies online so I asked him what they were about. "They support country people and rural industries" came the reply. "What does that mean?" I asked.

What does a party who has the best interests of rural Australia at heart look like? The funny thing is not even many rural people agree on this themselves. Go to a state conference for an organization like the VFF and you will often see heated debates unfold and votes taken on pivotal policy passed or struck down by very narrow margins. Farmers are leaders, and having three of them in the same room often means you have four different opinions on any one issue. Those opinions are not easily swayed either.

In recent years we have seen many political parties and various agitators spring forth from social media and rural areas. Katters Australia Party, The Shooters Party, Dr David Pascoe and the Australian Beef Association are prominent but by no means alone in this space. Many advocate for the government to shield farmers in some way from foreign competition, bank forclosure, foreign purchase or free market price pressures in order to preserve our base of farming families.

Dig a little deeper into these 'solutions' and you will often find terrible unintended consequences are waiting down this path.

Stopping food imports often causes our trading partners to retaliate, stopping or placing heavy tariffs on our exports of other commodities. They can react the same way when we subsidize produce we send to their market as well. Subsidies and trade protection, no matter how well intentioned are a net loss for Australian consumers who either have to pay higher supermarket prices or higher taxes to fund farm subsidies. Minor parties can advocate these policies all they want but I sincerely doubt the major parties will vote for a policy that can be so easily demonstrated to push up the cost of living for everyday people.

On a side note, if you think the environmentalists and animal rights activists have too much say now. Imagine what concessions they would want if their tax dollars were propping up farmers across the country with a Labor/Greens alliance holding the balance of power in both houses. Subsidies look like free money until you have to surrender half your property to a weed and feral infested "wildlife corridor".

Bank forclosure would have to rank as the worst way a family could lose a farm, to have your home and business ripped away would would cause unimaginable pain. For those of us who have worked the land or own a property it is easy to get lost in the emotions and to identify with our fellow farmers. We easily forget that farming is a business. I do not know what really has been happening out in Western Queensland, I'm not an accountant nor have I seen the books of those families that have been forced from their homes. I do know this. Many properties are valued at twenty to thirty multiples of the income they can produce on a decent year. Government moves to limit forclosures or stop banks acting will increase risks for those banks. It is likely banks could react by increasing interest rates on rural loans or further de-valuations of rural properties to compensate for the increased risk, further penalizing people who mange their debt responsibly.

The recent foreign purchases of Australian land really should be cheered rather than dreaded by family farmers. Farms sold to foreign buyers are currently keeping prices stable where they are. The removal of these buyers from the market would possibly halve land prices overnight and trigger a wave of forclosures.

Agriculture does not need more government interference. As I have demonstrated above, however popular or well intended there is always a dark side, unintended consequence or string attached to that "help" or free money.

That is why The Liberal Democrats are the future party of Australian Agriculture.

While they are not offering Agriculture any money or economic protection they are the only party fighting to give farmers back the right to run their businesses as they see fit, their property rights and end the specter of government interference.

The rule of standard commodities comes into play here. Once your beef/cotton/lamb/wool/wheat or any other produce becomes standardized and completely interchangable with anyone else' on the global market with no unique selling point. The market will immeadiately seek to find the cheapest supply.

Rising inputs and over the top regulation are constantly squeezing our farmers. They struggle to compete in the constant race to cut costs and stay with commodity markets but over regulation prevents them from creating products with unique selling points or streamlining their operations. The recent restrictions on selling raw milk, the laborious process involved on setting up an on farm abattoir are good examples here. The Labor party were happy to approve the construction of a mine in Western Australia that hinged on 3000 foreign workers and both major parties are happy to allow 475 visa workers to fill our abattoirs but neither would ever contemplate allowing easy access to cheap overseas labor for on farm work at rates that are still far above what they earn at home but below award rates here.           

Farmers cannot improve their bottom lines without their property rights being restored. They cannot move to processing their produce and creating unique products while local councils make a point of refusing planning permission on the basis of conciencious objectors or whinging neighbors that will not be affected by improvements that are literally miles away. Nor can farmers expand with the government threatening to take their land out from under them for the purposes of mining or gas extraction. What a farmer does with their land is their business, not the governments and certainly not some inner city busybody with a weekend holiday shack, a friend on the local council and greater affinity for animals than people. Property rights have to be sacred.

Government interference has cost the beef industry dearly in the last few years. A live cattle ban launched at the beginning of the selling season, an inept administration decimating markets at the beginning of a terrible drought and the introduction of ESCAS (the exporter supply chain assurance system) retarding live exports at a time when farmers desperately needed to de-stock. For political reasons ESCAS could not be suspended or put off until the drought was finished. We are currently seeing high prices as producers try to restock but considering how cheaply they were forced to surrender their herds before one wonders how deeply they are diving into debt. A better solution would have been for those farmers to have been able to sell those cattle overseas at a better price allowing more cash to be retained and to make restocking easier. This would have triggered protests from bleeding heart animal rights activists and harrowing news specials on the ABC but consider this.

The government is only expected to interfere with live exports, property rights and how your business is run because they have the power to interfere. People have grown very used to screaming "the government should do something" at every problem. A smaller government, a less powerful government without the power or the funds to stick its nose in everyone's business will fall under far less pressure to do so. A political party whose principle doctrine is to minimize government interference, even more so.  The only party looking to give power away is The Liberal Democrats.

Protectionists will always be there but the truth is inescapable.

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."    


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting involved in politics - How I did, and why you should.

Those who follow me closely will know that I stood for a seat in the Legislative Council in the recent Victorian state election. Since then I have had several people ask me how I came to stand for the seat and expressed a wish to do the same themselves. My answer to them is always the same question,

"Why don't you?"

If you are considering getting involved in our democracy first of all let me say that I applaud you. Whoever you are, whatever you believe in, we need more people like you.

Let me tell you why I got involved in politics, and why you should too. 

In 2011 the then Labor government suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia. Family members and friends who I was working for just twelve months earlier, who relied on the trade, were shocked by the decision. On the night the trade was suspended I spoke to one of those people.

"What will you do if they ban it (live export) completely" I asked.

"There is nothing I can do, I might as well just shoot all the animals and walk away."

The answer went straight through me. With the stroke of a pen, someone in Canberra had decimated hundreds of peoples businesses across the north of our country and if this didn't have the desired effect, they had the power to destroy those businesses completely. 

That was the day I learned there was nowhere to hide. That even if you live hundreds of kilometers from the nearest neighbor or town, work for someone or run a business, speak out or say nothing, the decisions made in our capital cities can hurt you and those you love.

The other terrible thing I learned is that the people who make those decisions are not often well equipped to make those decisions. Read the life story of so many current major party MP's you will often find they are very similar. They are almost always university educated, cut their teeth on student politics (The Greens, Young Labor/Liberal) while studying a law degree or similar qualification, They worked for a prestigious law firm, as a journalist or a political staffer or maybe took a short stint in local government before being selected by the executive of their party to run for a seat. If your talking about the National Party they almost always fought their way up through the various state agricultural bodies like the VFF. These people are often highly intelligent, great at working a room and excellent at defending their parties' ideology, but that is all they know.

They have spent ten years, twenty years or more working their way up the ladder to be preselected for a major party seat and in that time all they have become is a child of the party machine, a professional politician.

In 2012 a group of young people including myself was invited to Canberra to workshop new policy proposals for agriculture. While there we were guided (maybe railroaded) by a group of staffers who were placed with the group to help us. While trying to convince them of the value of one of my ideas, the staffer gave me a piece of advice I will never forget. "If you want to convince a politician about the merits of a policy, frame it in terms of their legacy, it is all they really care about."

 The old saying "to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" applies here. More people from the legal profession passing more and more sophisticated (read complicated) laws is not what our country needs, let alone politicians who would be proud to destroy thousands of peoples businesses across Northern Australia just to secure their "legacy". 

That is why I am involved in politics, and that is why you should be as well. We need more real people, people like you to get involved.

Join A Party

My first piece of advice to anyone who would get into politics is to join a party. Unless your the local celebrity and you've been in the papers constantly you will find it very hard to get the references needed to stand as an independent. Depending on what you are aiming for you might need as many as 50 written references from people not related to you by blood or marriage, just to register to stand, the electoral commission website has the details. 

Early on in this game your going to learn that the major parties make the rules and the elite don't like commoners playing in their playground so expect setbacks when you're trying to register either yourself as an independent or your party. 

There are hundreds of parties out there at the moment, many are single issue ( eg The Smokers Rights Party) while others take a much broader stance. Read their policies carefully and go along to a meeting or two so you know who you're dealing with and what they stand for. My advice is not to be too picky about who you join. You don't have to support everything they stand for and an alternative point of view is excellent for sharpening arguments and tightening policy. If you really don't like their policy on a certain issue you may be able to create change from within but remember you may have to defend that policy in public if it doesn't change by election time. As a member of a party your a member of a team, if that team stands for something that compromises deeply held principles, find another party.

As a member of a party you will have a lot of support behind you. You will have help shaping and learning to articulate policy, help to get registered and maybe some money to pay for printing and registration fees. You will also have the benefit of working with like minded people while fighting for something you believe in. I must say that is one of the greatest rewards.

Growth as a person

Being involved with a political party is one of the best ways you can grow as a person. In a world where every job is being outsourced overseas or programmed into a computer, it is only those people who have mastered the art of dealing with people that can truly say their job is safe. Leadership, communication, charm and charisma can't be taught in a call center or programed into a robot. 

Being involved with a political party is a great way to learn how to sell your point of view and deal with people who may not agree with you. You are forced to learn to write, speak and articulate your point of view better. 

We are often told that "if you don't stand for something you can fall for anything". Joining a party forces you to solidify your opinion, to educate yourself, arm yourself with better facts and figures so you can win an argument or hold your position. So many people in life never learn to do that, they allow themselves to be convinced by the last person that spoke to them and never learn to make up their own minds.  


Being a member of a party allows you to take advantage of the preference system. In the state election I narrowly missed out on a seat that went to a candidate who had only slightly more than half the first preference vote my party achieved. Working with a party increases the likelihood the person negotiating your preferences will know what they are doing and will be able to secure you a good deal. We have several people in parliament now who have won a seat with tiny first preference votes. 

If they can do it, so can you.

We are fortunate to live in a country where anyone can stand for and be elected to government. I feel there are people at the top who would like to change that but it can only happen if we let them get away with it. 

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing" - Winston Churchill    




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Losing the farm: A survival guide

Losing the family farm. Losing any farm really, has to be one of the hardest things anyone in agriculture can go though. It's right up there with losing a family member and the grief and loss people go through can be just as devastating. 

For many it is not the property we are losing but ourselves, particularly in the case of properties that were held for multiple generations. After you introduced yourself to someone from your local district the inevitable question would follow "Are you related to (insert your family name) of (insert your properties name)?" Instantly your quality was known and your character was established, the questioner knew where you had come from and measured you by the reputation of your family.

For most of us it was a title that was worn as a badge of honor. 

A farm is never "just a place of business" it is a home in the truest sense of the word. Every place has a memory or a funny story attached, treasured time spent with family, triumphs and victories or days you would rather forget are always there in plain view, its a living photo album. Kids grow up in the mud and dust, often working alongside their parents, who watch as they turn into men and women before flying the nest for a few years.

Few people understand the love of the land that drives many farmers on year after year. A friend of mine in the finance industry once asked me why I wanted to be a farmer. When I gave him my answer he offered me a cautionary tale of another farmer he had as a client. The client by his own account had just had "a good year". My friend tallied up the money made and asked the client a few questions about the hours the client worked. Imagine the clients surprise when my friend informed him that during this "good year" he had been working for $4 an hour! Many of us have stories that ring similar to the clients. I gave up a job on a potato harvester at $11 per hour for a job on a cattle station that paid $250 a week with a minimum of 60 hours a week and no overtime pay.

Despite the snarling from some people about the "loaded" farmers and "landed gentry" few farmers are in business purely for the money. There are plenty of easier ways to make money but farmers thrive on early mornings, putting a coat on and carrying on through the rain or putting up with the dust, the heat, the cold and the isolation.

In short, we do it because we love it.

That is the main reason it is so hard to lose a farm. 

Dealing with the decision

 When the decision is made, whether it was your call or not, you are going to go through a range of emotions that are going to play hell with your decision making. My advice would be to hold off on making any other major decisions for a few days to a week. 

Let things settle and sleep on other big decisions. Go and blow off some steam if possible. Blasting a few feral animals off the face of the earth with a rifle 2 sizes too big for the game I was hunting or some time spent flat out on a motorbike are two of my personal favorites but go with whatever floats your boat.

The Black Dog

It's a fact that losing a property is one of the major triggers for rural suicide. I don't wish to dwell on this issue much except to say that if you "think" your at risk you are, don't muck about. Give your guns away temporarily and avoid working alone. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, it takes real guts to front up and tell someone that your struggling with whats going on. There are plenty of free services out there to help you get over the danger period and many of them are confidential. 

Use them.

As someone who has lost a close family member to suicide I can't stress enough the damage this can do to families. If you think your family has it rough saying goodbye to a cherished property, imagine how hard it will be if they have to say goodbye to you at the same time.   

Don't internalize the failure

This would have to be the hardest thing to avoid. John C Maxwell in his book Failing Forward repeatedly states that you should "never let failure from outside get inside". If a farm has been lost there has been a failure somewhere. A failure in succession planning, business strategy, weather contingency, markets or poor government policy are perfectly capable of ending an agricultural business on their own, let alone two or three of them combined together. 

Whatever the reason for the demise of your property, blaming yourself or obsessing over mistakes made by someone else is only going to create bitterness. If you were responsible for the business decisions that resulted in the current situation then any time spent tearing yourself to pieces is wasted energy. You also run the risk of putting yourself in a position of second guessing your judgement when you still have other critical decisions to make. The last thing you need is to make another poor decision because your too busy belting yourself  up mentally for a previous bad call. 

If the loss of the property is a result of someone else' decision then any time spent being angry or hateful toward them is not going to help you or make you feel any better, nor is it going to help you to waste time on wracking your brain to find things you "could have done" to salvage the situation.

However the circumstances have come about, time spent trying to mentally change what "is" is wasted energy and time that can be put to a much better use.

Plan your next move early

The most effective use of your time, once the farm is definitely sold, is to plan your next move. Farms can take months to settle and that means you might be faced with a lot of idle time as the operation winds down, livestock are sold and the clearing sale completed.

Put the time to good use by considering what your going to do for a living once the farm is gone. If you are considering going contracting for other farmers look to take on a few small jobs to get you into the swing of your new profession and test out the equipment you intend to use.  

Having something to look forward to is a big step in getting through the loss of the property. It provides a light at the end of what is otherwise a very dark tunnel.

Some people might be lost as to what they could do, thinking that farming is the only thing they know and that contracting is not an option.

Take heart, your in an industry that is screaming for skilled labour. Even if you can't find work locally there will be an opportunity somewhere. If you don't want to work in agriculture you will be shocked how well your other skills translate in the outside world. Chances are your tractor or truck driving skills will be very attractive in the mining or construction industries for example. Regardless of what practical skills you posses, if you have ran a farm you have run a business and will approach your work from the perspective of a boss. You will be employable. 

A word on leadership

Every farmer I have ever met is a leader.
Yes I am talking about you. If you are running a farm you are a leader in the truest sense of the word because you are capable of leading yourself. No-one tells you when to get out of bed in the morning, plant your crops, milk your cows or pull the lambs off their mothers. You make that decision yourself and you live with the consequences when you make a bad call. You have to organize and lead other people, agents, truck drivers and contractors. You can think for yourself and form your own opinions, that alone is incredibly valuable in an economy where any job that can be written into a manual or completed by a 'robot' is being outsourced or shipped overseas at an alarming rate.

If you've been a farmer then you most likely see the world like a boss would, you understand that everything has a cost attached and that showing up is not enough. You have to be productive.

You may need to brush up on other soft skills to properly fill a leadership role in another industry (offering a co-worker a cup of concrete is not appreciated in the outside world, even if they need it) but don't let that hold you back from improving yourself. Courses about improving your people skills are readily available, as are many other courses on aspects of personal development. Books on body language skills are helpful, as are NLP courses. 

Clearing Sales

I have been to clearing sales with reserves and I've been to clearing sales without reserves. I recommend you do the clearing sale with no reserves at all. Even on big expensive equipment. As soon as an item is passed in the buyers seem to put their hands in their pockets and keep them there. If your looking for people to get excited enough to bid on expensive items then you have to offer them the tantalizing prospect that they may get a bargain. 

Take as little away with you as you possibly can. Especially if things are particularly raw. A new set of fencing pliers will twitch up wire just as good as that old pair that "built every fence on the place". If it's going to bring painful memories every time you pick it up, it's not worth keeping. 

Bikes are probably the most tempting thing to keep over from the farm, especially old ones that might not sell for much but will "probably come in handy". 

They are money pits at the best of times.

Batteries die after a few months of sitting and other essential parts also seem to wear amazingly fast considering the bike hasn't moved an inch. 

When I finally went to sell one of my own farm refugees, a 250cc quad bike, the diff blew up when the buyer came to test ride it and I had to scrap the quad for a fraction of its value. I have other bikes which I kept for fun and to do contracting jobs with but they are aging fast from doing little. My advice, let them be someone else' headache.

Sell everything you possibly can. A few dollars here and there for the nick knacks that are hanging on your shed wall will add up to serious money at the end of the day.

Don't Linger

I stayed on the farm till the very last moment, swagging in the main house after my grandparents had moved out and only moving the last of my gear off the day before the place was settled. There were hundreds of little jobs that had to be done, gardening, cleaning up for the new owners and so on but not much real work. The cattle had all been sold weeks ago and the clearing sale had left us with no machinery, only my own tools to complete the final act. 

Those last days I felt compelled to be there. To soak up every last second I could before the curtain fell. 

Don't put yourself through that. 

It's just not worth it, there's too much time in those long days to think dark thoughts and brood about the loss. 

Move out as soon as the livestock are sold and the clearing sale is done, hire a professional cleaner to go through the house and a gardener to tidy the rest. 

If you must go back to say goodbye one more time then make sure you take someone with you and get a few photos but don't delay the agony any longer then you have to.

The Aftermath

When the papers have been signed and you've taken that long, slow, final journey down the driveway, your likely to feel like you've just laid a close family member to rest. For the next few months you'll probably walk around feeling like you've lost a limb.

If your not immersed in your new career and you find there is time enough for brooding over the loss my final tip is to find someone in need and help them. Help a family member that is short of people or volunteer with a local charity. Helping others is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, it gets you outside of your own mind and increases your self worth exponentially.

You Will Survive

 You should never judge a person by their failures, judge them by how they bounce back from failure. 

History is littered with successful people who have picked themselves up off up the floor time and time again. Abraham Lincoln went broke in his 20's and worked until he was in his 40's to pay back all the people who invested in the business venture that ruined him. Paul Eurlich took years of trials and nearly went broke trying to develop a cure for syphilis. Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times to perfect the light bulb before he got it right.

Now it's your turn to pick yourself up.

Farmers are built to survive, it's what we have always done through drought, flood and fire. 

I don't know you and I may never have the privilege of meeting you but I know that you have the strength to get through this. That the same strength, tenacity and courage that has carried you this far will carry you into the future. I know that the same strength that carried the pioneers through in the old days beats within your heart because we shed our blood, sweat and tears across the same land they opened up and love it just as dearly. 

You won't just survive, you will thrive.

If I had to pick one song that has kept me going, it is Stan Rodgers: The Mary Ellen Carter




Thursday, May 29, 2014

An open letter to Will Potter

Dear Mr Potter

I have not had the pleasure of reading your book "Green is the new red" but I was rather interested in the sentiments you expressed in this talk you did for voiceless while you were in Australia.

I am no fan of jackboot politics and would never condone someone being prosecuted simply for filming a farm.

I feel however that you may have been misled about the calibre of animals rights activists we have in this country and the deliberate damage some of them visit upon Australian farmers and their animals.

As I write this the media here is buzzing with yet another break in at an Australian piggery where 250 piglets drowned as a result of suspected animal rights activists who damaged the farms water system deliberately. The piglets were caught in open drains and killed by the rising water.

Break-ins are common here despite trespass laws in Australia and damage to the farmers equipment is sadly not uncommon. Neither is the act of taking footage completely out of context to make a false point. Much has been made of pigs showing signs of distress when animal rights activists have broken into their shed in the middle of the night. This "distress" is a result of the pigs being disturbed in the middle of the night and vocalizing in protest because they were expecting to be fed.

I have to ask, do you really condone this sort of behavior in the name of freedom of speech? 

A few of the more extreme members of the animal rights community have openly discussed introducing foot and mouth disease to damage our livestock industry.

The disturbing thing about this is that it took a rural media backlash to spur prominent animal rights organization Animals Australia to condemn these rogues publicly. Intensively farmed animals are kept inside in part to shield them from disease. People creeping around who are not supposed to be there pose a definite threat to these animals and could introduce dangerous diseases both intentionally or unintentionally. 

A further problem with your talk is that you constantly come back to the notion that animal rights activists are only there to "tear down the walls" and "show us what they don't want us to see" in the name of having animals treated better. The problem is that in a lot of ways those walls were not there at all until animal rights activists began actively targeting the industry and that many of these organizations do not wish to make farming more animal friendly, they wish to see it abolished entirely.

Some of their tactics may shock you.

In November of 2011 an animal rights activist visited the Giles abattoir in Victoria. She had asked the owner for permission and was granted full access to the facility to take pictures while they were slaughtering pigs and lambs.

She even gave a false name.

The owners had nothing to hide. While she was there one young employee was incorrectly stunning the pigs, she filmed the act but did not take the time to inform the owner who had so graciously allowed her into the facility. Later, out of either malicious intent or a complete lack of livestock knowledge, she placed herself in positions which caused animals to rush gates and bounce off rails, eventually causing a pig to escape. Under the safety standards of the day, a loose animal on the kill floor had to be secured quickly and a sledgehammer was used for this task. (The Ag department later found this act was justified and the abattoir owners were not found guilty of animal cruelty despite the high profile nature of the case). The activist filmed this incident and again never reported her concerns to the owners. Once safely back in Melbourne the activist made herself famous by publicly vilifying the owners of the abattoir on prime time television, aided by ideologically aligned journalists. The use of the sledgehammer and animals bouncing off rails was of course skewed completely out of context.

The next day hysterical bureaucrats took away the abattoirs license and 30 people lost their jobs just before Christmas.

Things did go wrong here, but the few bad practices I have detailed above could easily have been righted had the owners been made aware of them or failing that, government regulators. 

Instead the activist involved aimed for maximum shock value by taking the footage straight to the media and the regulators showed (perhaps unlike regulators in the US) that they are all too keen to hang abattoir owners out to dry at the first sign of a cruelty complaint.

Your argument that animals are not protected by law, simply doesn't hold water in Australia.

For all of the published lies about Australian farmers, none are more often repeated than those told about live export by Animals Australia and their sister organizations. The best one being the "systemic cruelty" on the ships and within the supply chains overseas. Over the last two and a half years Animals Australia has reported 19 cases of animal cruelty within these supply chains. Over that time we have exported over 6 million animals. If the cruelty is so systemic, where are the reports?

One has to ask what they have done with the estimated $8,000,000  they've received during that time?  Besides campaign for more donations, my guess is not much.

In all of the examples I have detailed above, one common thread emerges. Australian farm animals are suffering, not from the cruelty of their owners but from well meaning and misguided activists invading places they have no business being and attacking people who have done no wrong.

In the last few years we have seen animal rights activists gather in packs to howl down anyone who opposes them online, posting photos of farmers children when they dare speak up for their industry. We've seen them breaking into farms and destroying our property. We've heard them threaten to bomb live export ships, make late night phone calls loaded with abuse to farmers whose cattle have been identified half a world away on a television program, sometimes death threats.

We've heard them threaten to introduce disease in an effort to cripple the industry they hate so much.

When a person is willing to go that far, to destroy the very thing they are trying to protect, to disregard all collateral damage.

Is that not the very definition of a terrorist?

I'll make you a deal Mr Potter, farmers will stop treating animal rights activists like terrorists, as soon as they stop acting like terrorists.      



Thursday, April 10, 2014


 I usually steer clear of twitter battles with animal rights activists. Voicing your opinion at the wrong time on twitter can be like putting a drop of blood in a tank full of sharks. Last night however I couldn't help but have a go at the obvious amateur spouting off the usual myths on Animals Australia's twitter account.  

The argument that producers will be better off without live export has been completely debunked  time and again so I won't waste breath on it here.

After hitting them with several examples of how producers were in fact much worse off both during and after the ban I realized how wonderful the entire live export ban had played out for the foreign owned abattoirs in this country. Even Jenny Kelly thinks processors could afford to pay more for the cattle they are receiving.

Abattoirs have always done well in dry periods or in circumstances where there is an oversupply of stock. That is a natural rhythm of the meat industry. They often run at a loss when cattle prices are high and that shortfall has to be made up somewhere or we won't have anywhere to process our cattle.

That being said, the deliberate fleecing of farmers and the manipulation of the political landscape to facilitate that behavior is just plain wrong, which led me to my next question. How much money did the abattoirs and meat-workers union donate to Animals Australia's live export campaign?

See Here 

The question must have hit a raw nerve as Animals Australia have yet to answer. 

In response to the live export ban, Indonesia slashed import quotas to around 50% of previous levels for the next two years, cutting the live trade in half and creating an oversupply of cattle that enabled the abattoirs to get away with paying chickenfeed to farmers desperately trying to de-stock in the rapidly drying conditions.

Farm profitability was smashed. Many properties were repossessed and the rural suicide rate spiked alarmingly. The hopelessly restricted market, coupled with a sudden drought, created widespread devastation while the abattoir owners made massive profits. 

Rumors and conspiracy theories about the meatworks and the meat-workers union colluding with Animals Australia and the WSPA have swirled through the industry since day one of the live export ban.

I do not believe these rumors do farmers or activists any credit.

In order to put these rumors to bed, Animals Australia should come clean about what donations they received from the abattoirs and the meat-workers union.

If a significant amount of money changed hands in order to facilitate the attempted assassination of the live export industry by a "charity" working as a puppet for powerful vested interests, the people of this nation, particularly the farmers who lost so much over the last few years have a right to know.

If they have nothing to hide then why are they still silent? Why does the list of donors to Animals Australia remain a secret?

For years now the people who dared to stand up for the live export industry have been attacked mercilessly for having a "vested interest" in this debate. They have been accused of putting profit before the welfare of the animals that supply their livelihoods and told at every turn their opinions do not count because they have "dollar signs clouding their vision".

So I say to Animals Australia, prove to us the millions of dollars spent attacking our farmers came from cake stalls and $35 annual memberships, prove to us the websites and billboards came from selling fluffy toys, prove to us you pay your wages with t-shirt sales.

In short, prove to us that you are not a puppet of vested interests.


Animals Australia have responded, see below.

I have asked for clarification (as "receives" would only imply the present/future tense) That they or any organization they have a financial relationship with has ever received funding from the meatworks or the meatworkers union.

This article from the meatworkers union admits there is an alliance between the meatworks and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). 
(Thank you to reader: Sheena)

Was this alliance backed up with money? Would the meatworks have anything meaningful to contribute except their considerable financial muscle?

In a radio interview I did with Glenys Oogjes on Howard Sattlers evening program in late 2011 she pointed out that that the RSPCA paid for some of Animals Australia's ads and that "sometimes we pay for theirs".

Could funding from the meatworks have flowed through the WSPA into the coffers of Animals Australia? 

Animals Australia have so far neglected to answer my fresh questions or volunteered to surrender their lists of major donors for scrutiny.

Animals Australia.

Please offer proof you are not a puppet of vested interests.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fair Go, Joe

This week we have seen the dreams of many of our farmers cruelly shattered by the ruling Liberal/National coalition. The drought package offered very little hope for those who are up to their eyeballs in debt with their herds literally dying around them.

Concessional loans at 4% are useless when you have nothing coming in to pay them back.

More debt has never been the solution to a debt epidemic and I fear the problems we are facing with regards to rural suicide and indebtedness are going to get much worse.   

While I agree with the free market thinking behind what the Liberal party is doing, they are implementing the free market backwards and failing to take into account the perfect storm that has led to this situation. 

The farmers that are in trouble now are still reeling from the consequences of the live cattle ban in 2011. Farmers never received any meaningful compensation. Since then we have had the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) thrust upon the industry. ESCAS has had the effect of choking off many of our export markets and has therefor depressed cattle and sheep prices at home. 

With the promise of a new government with friendlier ties to our neighbors and a more common sense attitude to agriculture, one can understand many farmers making the decision to try and hold onto as many animals as they could rather then give them away at bargain basement prices to meat works who had supported the live trade ban.

(So much for activist claims of farmers being "better off" without live export but I digress) 

The sudden onset of dry weather and heavily stocked country in an already depressed market is a trap that will snare even the best operators. Throw in election promises of higher prices to come (through the opening of live export markets) and you have the best trap anyone could have crafted for livestock producers.

If the Liberal party wants to play free market politics they have to give the farmers the "free" part, not just the market.

ESCAS is in place because the community demands it, then let the community pay for it, for the duration of the drought let the community pay the farmer for the loss in value to their stock that this regulation causes, or abolish it and find a better model that encourages animal welfare while supporting the industry. Free market means less regulation, not more.

The federal government should also stop the RSPCA persecuting farmers and trucking companies for transporting stock in poor condition. This legislation has been a complete failure. If the animals are poor that is a good reason to put them on a truck and get them to a better place where they have a chance of surviving. Nobody likes the idea of losing half a truckload of stock because of poor condition but that is still better than the whole lot starving to death or having to be shot. Give our farmers a little credit and let them make the call, the consequences are their own to bear.     

Kangaroos are another issue. They add pressure to watering points and take up valuable feed yet the farmer is forbidden to cull them when they're numbers are out of control. Once again if the community demands that the farmer maintain such a heavy burden as a kangaroo plague during a drought then the community should pay for that privilege. Drought assistance could be packaged as kangaroo agistment.

No discussion on the free market is complete without a discussion on property rights. If there is a tree on the farmers land then commonsense would dictate that the tree belongs to the farmer, not the government. The government has no business telling the farmer what they can and cannot do with their tree's and if the government wants to interfere with that right then the government should pay that farmer for the lost production.

While farmers are made examples of in this regard, mining companies seem to get away with murder.

Coal seam gas is another case where the farmers rights are often trampled. This is easily solved by dissolving the stupid state of affairs where farmers, by law, only own the top 300 millimeters of their soil and powerful mining and petroleum companies can effectively buy peoples farms right out from underneath them. The easiest solution is to give the farmers ownership of their properties all the way down to the core of the earth.

If the farmer wants to mine coal or drill for gas instead of running cattle that is their business and their choice.   

Australia desperately needs free market reforms in order to keep up with the changing world we face. The previous governments dismal record at picking winners should convince any thinking person that government is too slow and ponderous to keep up with the ever increasing pace of change we will see going into the future. Only the free market can keep up. That being said free market reforms are worthless if they are not backed up with a restoration of property rights and the freedom for farmers to run their business' without government interference. Until government takes the shackles off it is only fair that the government pays for the damage it does to farm profitability and compensates  producers for the damage done during the live cattle ban. Joe Hockey is known for saying "the age of entitlement is over".

It is, the government is no longer entitled to hamstring our rural businesses and trample our property rights for free.

If you want free market, give the people the freedom they need to exploit it first.