Concern for agricultural policy trend in Australia

20 November 2023

In Australian agriculture, a significant challenge we face is the apparent lack of understanding among policy and decision-makers, whether at various government levels or within bureaucratic structures, about the intricacies within the farm gate.

This disconnect continuously leads to decisions being driven more by philosophical ideas than grounded in scientific realities. This concerning trend is why the National Farmers Federation launched the 'Keep Farmers Farming' campaign.

While there is no shortage of voices advocating for issues such as animal welfare, land clearing, and water management, a common thread is the often-superficial knowledge these advocates possess.

Their perspectives are shaped primarily by the DNA of their philosophical beliefs rather than a practical understanding of the challenges faced on the ground.

Recently, Tasmanian farmers have found themselves at the receiving end of a new proposal - an increased fire levy. This decision appears to lack recognition of the substantial financial contributions farmers already make and the invaluable unpaid service they provide through volunteering in the community with groups like Tas Fire and the State Emergency Service.

It is unreasonable to burden farmers with an additional financial strain, with some facing bills up to $14,000 or a staggering 400% increase in their existing contributions.

Instead of subjecting farmers to such drastic council rate hikes, we should question the funding source. The solution seems to be simple rather than resorting to rate increases, the funds should be sourced from consolidated revenue.

This approach aligns with the consistent way we as a state already fund public services such as roads, hospitals, sporting venues, schools, and ambulances. Drawing a parallel to public education, where users still bear costs for books and uniforms, farmers are already active participants and payers in the existing system.

They willingly support the current system through levies and business taxes. Farmers have skin in the game and are willing contributors. However, fairness and sustainability should underscore any new financial imposts, ensuring that the burden is shared equitably and that the funding system remains consistent and just.

As the state's peak farming advocacy body, we are directed by feedback from members on such issues like the fire levy. It's only by hearing from members we can speak on their behalf. There is an array of issues on the horizon for which TFGA will need to ‘go into bat’ for our members and primary industry as a whole.