Saturday, April 13, 2024

Yes, Minister, we will sell your message for you

Recent stories

I recently received a copy of a letter sent from the Federal Department of Agriculture to a farming family in Beverley in response to their letter to the Minister for Agriculture, Murray Watt, asking him to explain the basis of the government’s policy to phase out live exports.

Unfortunately, the Minister was too busy searching for the magical new markets for mutton that he promises exist, which will replace live export sheep, to have the time to put his own name to a reply, so he delegated the response to his loyal department.

Yes Minister

Now, under the separation of powers, departments are supposed to write letters explaining how policy works, while ministers write letters explaining why they have implemented such policies.

So, it was a bit disconcerting to see a government department attempt to defend the government’s policy position.

They wrote the government is planning to end the trade because “…..research commissioned by various organisations demonstrates that the trade struggles to have broad community support

Unfortunately for the department and the government, this flies in the face of the evidence unless your source of information is the RSPCA and the various animal activist organisations who regularly poll their members for their views on the live export trade.

Whereas the Australian Live Export Council’s most recent polling by credible pollsters, RedBridge, undertaken earlier this year, found the trade does indeed enjoy very good, broad community support. 

Furthermore, RedBridge found that if the position of farmers and the trade is better explained and understood, more people are inclined to understand and support the trade. 

This idea the broad community is against the trade is a furphy!  If left unchecked, such perceptions now being pushed by the government department responsible for regulating the trade will lead to animal activists and others with agendas to grind using this same flawed argument in support of curtailing other perfectly legal enterprises such as live cattle exports.

Whatever happened to frank and fearless government departments who would, in days of old, tell the government of the day what they needed to hear and who would refuse to become actively engaged in selling misinformation on behalf of their political masters?

Maybe this is why a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Report, ‘Trust in Government 2023’, has Australia’s confidence in the Federal Government falling steadily over the last 15 years from 64.5 per cent to 49.9 per cent.  

Farmers are quite rightly growing increasingly concerned that the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has been captured by not only the government, but also by activists within its walls who want to stop farmers farming.

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