Friday, June 29, 2012

fighting over the food bowl

Loose Change has posted before on the potential for agriculture in the Far North so it was interesting to see it appear in the weekend column of Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large of The Australian: Abbotts Gamble on Cultural Change.  Kelly outlines the core philosophical agenda of the coalition including: "promote northern Australia as an export food bowl". The inclusion of northern agriculture related to the core coalition value of "green and red tape".

Environmental groups disagree with the proposal. However recent reports of their disagreement relate to an announcement earlier this month by Trade Minister Craig Emerson of a joint investigation with China into the feasibility of agricultural investment in the north.

This report in the AFR covers the debate, although reaches a generally negative conclusion:
"Our national psyche has been uneasy with the lack of development and population in Australia’s north since before federation. “Populate or perish” described our xenophobic fear of our overpopulated northern neighbours.
Now, in China’s state-owned corporations, we may finally have a partner with deep enough pockets to succeed where we have failed in countless attempts to establish large-scale agriculture across northern Australia.
In the past year, both major parties have turned their attention to agricultural development in the north. Last September Tony Abbott announced that if elected the Coalition would pursue an ambitious plan to double agricultural output by the middle of the century, through a network of new dams.
Now Labor has weighed in, with Craig Emerson launching a joint investigation with China into the feasibility of a northern food bowl."
"This is not to say that the only future for northern Australia is as a development free zone, but dreams of a food bowl to feed Asia are not supported by the science. It is almost guaranteed to be an expensive, taxpayer-funded environmental disaster."
There are many however who would differ from that conclusion. I suspect with no certainty that there is potential for expansion of agriculture in the Far North although maybe not to the extent some dream of? However, it's unlikely we will get an optimal outcome if it continues as part of a partisan values war.

To be continued .......


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