The new year is nearly upon us! A great time for reflection – looking back on what has been achieved and importantly, what lies ahead.
Maybe I am a glass half empty kind of girl, because from where I sit there are ominous clouds on the rural horizon and they’re not just related to the impending wet season.
First cab off the rank is the Labor government’s plans to reintroduce tighter tree clearing laws. While I don’t subscribe to an intrinsic landholder right to broadscale clearing, government has to do more to acknowledge the significant cost to rural landholders in achieving the environmental benefits that are enjoyed by all.
As we enter our 30th year of the tree clearing debate it must be time to move beyond spin and look for new thinking that better balances commonsense conservation and economic opportunity.
Continuing with the tree clearing theme, it’s ironic that at a time where farmers are carrying the can for clearing and its impact on the reef, government approvals continue for the biggest coal mine in the world in the very catchment farmers are overly scrutinized to protect.
Rural development needs to be more than just big ticket mining headlines. Why can’t we do more to unlock the power of small business to employ more people, reinvigorate communities and lead innovation?
With nearly 50 per cent of the population employed by small business, it is a too often overlooked opportunity.
Further afield, but still in Labor territory is the closure of all five of Western Australia’s Schools of the Air plus other regional education programs.
While there is no talk of closures in Queensland, there remains an underlying truth that if rural services don’t stack up economically they are all too often closed.
Whether it be health, education or other essential services, closure is an ever-present threat.
Let’s find new partnerships, collaborations, cooperatives – that enable us to leverage assets differently to share costs, keeping doors open rather than simply applying urban-centric models that won’t work in a rural context.
Once again, rural constituents seem to be scrambling in response to poor policy decisions that suggest a growing divide between those of us who live in the bush and those that make the decisions.
Why can’t we move beyond short term policy responses, towards real resolutions giving us confidence in generational investment?
Some of the biggest issues affecting agriculture – vegetation management, leasehold tenure, native title, defence acquisitions, climate change – continue to wax and wane depending on political motivation.
This uncertainty shifts focus and energy from the real issues of rural businesses, competing in what is an increasingly globalised, disruptive and competitive market place.
The common thread with all of these challenges is our capacity rewrite the scripts and reimagine new possibilities.
Stick to policy on the run, sentimentality and the same fractious outlook and we will get the same results.
As Einstein said, “stupidity is doing the same thing but expecting a different result”.
No other country exists with the unique mix of landscape, resources and capacity as Australia – why then do we look to replicate the paths of others?
Let’s look for vision, new voices and true innovation that can accelerate positive results. This means parking politics at the door and being open to a different approach.
Here’s to 2018 and a truly HAPPY New Year!
– Charters Towers beef producer, Emma Robinson