Friday, February 23, 2024

Visiting a country where they love their farmers

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Alan Emerson spoke to a few Aussie farmers about taxing burping and farting cows and they suggested he must have been drinking.
NZ has done well to build solid bridges with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who looks like being in office for a while. File photo
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We’re currently in Australia and it is great to be here after the winter we’ve experienced. 

Boringly, we go to Port Douglas, north of Cairns, and stay in a serviced one-bedroom apartment complete with a full kitchen, bathroom and laundry. 

Having done the maths, there’s not a lot of cost differential between a holiday in Port Douglas and one in Queenstown.

I wouldn’t like to swim in Queenstown this time of year.

Observing the current situation in Australia has been fascinating.

For a start, Australians love their farmers. 

Over three weeks I haven’t read one hysterical anti-farmer wail of the sort that has become routine in New Zealand. 

In addition, reporters dealing with rural issues know what they’re talking about. 

They’ve obviously had experience down on the farm. It has been good to see. 

The mainstream Aussie media are taking the foot-and-mouth disease threat a lot more seriously than ours are.

After pinching myself I went to the Greenpeace Australia website, thinking there was bound to be some anti-farming sentiment there. Alas no. 

I didn’t disagree with any of the sentiments and campaigns on the site. 

Unlike in NZ, the campaigns were factually based and free of hysteria and emotion.

The other major difference was over climate change and the handling of it.

The previous Morrison government was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but the government of Anthony Albanese has put forward a plan that will achieve their emissions goals while encouraging a move to renewables.

They were thanked and supported by the business sector for being upfront and providing a detailed strategy. 

Unsurprisingly, the National’s Liberal coalition opposed it. 

I’ve talked to some of the farmers I’ve met about taxing burping and farting cows and they suggested I must have been drinking, which I found hurtful, as you’d expect. 

Taxing food production isn’t on the agenda in Australia, which will make it difficult for us to compete in some of our markets.

That aside, there were many similarities. 

Inflation is a real issue in Australia, as it is in NZ. The Australians believe it is a short-term problem. 

Let’s hope it is in NZ too. For the record, Australia borrowed considerably more during the pandemic than we did.

Skills shortages are currently endemic in Australia. The shortage of school teachers is a major problem and they regularly discuss the staff crisis in the healthcare sector. 

Trades are also an issue, with the Queensland government spending A$2 million trying to recruit construction workers. Two applied.

Currently in Queensland if you are in construction the wages are high, you can work a four-day week or nine-day fortnight, and in some job advertisements cars are offered.

With teachers the new scheme encourages lawyers, engineers and IT experts to go into teaching. 

Their previous salaries are maintained. Top-performing teachers have been promised a 40% pay increase, which augurs badly for NZ.

With medical professionals, money is no object. The Federal and state governments want them here and now, which again isn’t good news for NZ.

The other issue I’ve noticed is that the Federal government is far more hands-on than ours is. 

Research has shown that Aussie banks were making an additional $A600m a month by not passing on the interest rate rises. They were told to fix it or else.

The gas industry said there was likely to be a local shortage next year because of export orders. They were told that local comes first and that the government would regulate if it had to.

There’s currently a shortage of eggs in Australia. The reason given is the move from caged hens to free range. We were told that free-range hens had a greater risk of disease and a higher mortality rate. Further, the weather reduces the laying output of a free-range hen.

The end result is that the price of eggs goes up, which takes them off the table of the less well-off.

I knew little of the new Australian prime minister before going to Australia, but Albanese is impressive. 

Whereas his predecessor came across as your archetypal Aussie bloke with all the brashness that suggests, Albanese is far more considered. Having said that, there is a real steel there that is obvious.

His satisfaction rating after two months in the job is massive at 61%. Previous PM Kevin Rudd was rated 59%, Bob Hawke 56% and Scott Morrison 51%. 

I can see Albanese being there for a long period and I’m pleased the NZ government has built solid bridges early.

Finally, at the end of July a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation report was released that told the nation there is “a tidal wave of social disruption ahead”. The causes, “resource scarcity, drug-resistant superbugs, disrupted international trade, an ageing population and an increasingly unstable climate”.

That could apply equally to NZ.

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