Agriculture needs lifters and members

Date of publication:  23 November 2018

It’s easy to be a free rider, to be a leaner rather than a lifter.  We see it all the time in communities; there are those who step in and front up, putting their time and money into supporting their schools, sporting clubs, and community groups.  And then there are the leaners, those who lean back and enjoy what’s been achieved by others and can often be heard complaining that more needs to be done.

The lifters are the people that make our rural towns’ viable living communities, great places to live and work. Fortunately there are more of those with their shoulder to the wheel than sitting on the cart enjoying the free ride.

Communities don’t function alone, they work in closely with state and commonwealth governments who set the rules and provide the bulk of the funds that make our towns function.  Governments are made up of members of parliament, some of whom are lifters, some are learners, some are political slaves to the party machine and some are never to be seen.  But on the whole most of them, like our community lifters are hard at work making a difference.

We welcome these members and their interest in our communities, but we often forget that the real hard work was done long ago by those founding mothers and fathers of our communities those that came together to clear the first football field or lobbied to build the first school or swimming pool.

Our communities’ function because they have been built from the ground up by hard work by people who have come together to form groups to make things happen.  Things happen when boards and committees are established, projects developed, and funds raised.

The same thing happens at the state and federal level when organisations are formed to lobby politicians for projects to be funded and changes to be made to the thousands of pages of legislation that impact our regional communities and farming businesses.

There would be well over 100 organisations that represent agricultural related enterprises in one form of another across Western Australia; The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WA Vegetable Growers Association, WA Shearers Association, The Potato Growers Association, The WA Farmers Federation, just to name a few.

All of them are peak body organisations that exist through likeminded people coming together to give up their valuable time to sit on boards and committees to drive positive outcomes for their industry and to drive funds through membership fees. These organisations have staff skilled in the art of political persuasion and supporting members on the thousands of different issues which could potentially impact your business and wider industry.

They do the hard grind of lobbying government to unwind regulations and laws that make running a business costly and unworkable. They are the staff that read the fine print on explanatory memorandum in Acts of Parliament and draft submissions to parliamentary sub committees; they brief backbenchers and build alliances with other like-minded industry groups.

You see them in the halls of Parliament House waiting for meetings with back benchers or standing at the bottom of the Dumas House having ensured they arrived early for a long sought meeting with a government Minister.

For the leaners of the world it’s so easy to dismiss governments and politicians as doing nothing but being driven around in their government cars, jet setting on the government plane and sitting comfortably in the plush leather seats at parliament house.

But the reality is they also unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the legislation, are working hard to amend, introduce and repeal up to 10,000 pages of laws and regulations a year.  Rarely are these thousands of lines of law designed to make life simpler or less complex or less expensive to run a business.

Instead they are often responding to calls from the thousands of anti-business interest groups demanding the government to ban live exports or GM crops or end the rebate on diesel fuel or allow inspectors to walk onto a farm with no due cause.  None of which would help our farms, farm service businesses or communities survive into the future.

So it is left to industry peak body groups like WAFarmers to push back on these 10,000 pages of new laws and regulations to hold the line on our right to farm to keep rebates for on farm fuel usage and costs under control.

It’s a thankless, never-ending task but imagine what it would be like if there were no agricultural farming support groups to battle the onslaught of anti-farming regulations, taxes and charges.

So next time you hear of a push by some group to ban this or regulate that, think who is going to ensure your local Politician is going to vote this way or that.  Working communities and working profitable farms need people to join in and do their bit. They don’t just need people to join their local community groups and football clubs, they also need them to be members of their industry peak body that will be a voice for them, independent of the demands of some political party.  If you are a lifter then we need you to be a member.  Join WAFarmers.

Trevor Whittington

WAFarmers CEO

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