I read with interest the PGA response to Rhys Turton’s open letter to PGA president Tony Seabrook, which appeared in the Countryman last week. Turton has called for the politics of the old bulls to be left in the paddock, and urges a poll to be conducted on the merits of establishing a new single farm organisation to take on the anti-agricultural forces that are building on the horizon.
As usual the PGA showed no interest in talking just outright rejection. One would have thought that the Labor Party’s recent policy announcement that they plan to shut the live sheep trade down within five years would have been a call to arms from the PGA. But no, it seems they plan to battle on with one eye on past battles and long forgotten wars.
WAFarmers and the PGA are like two pre-World War One dreadnoughts that have been continuously refitted and rolled out for each campaign until today they both drift valiantly half afloat. The refits cannot withstand the missiles launched from the ALP, and swarms of small boat raiders led by the likes of the Sea Shepherd place them both under siege.
While WAFarmers recognise that we have just lost a major battle and are heading home to refit and rearm, the PGA reminds me of the Monty Python Black Knight sketch refusing to give an inch as yet another limb is lobbed off. ‘Tis, But a Scratch!” decries the old warrior.
The only problem is the loss of the live sheep trade is far more than a scratch – it is a mortal wound to our industry and it has attracted the dingos and eagles to the road kill. They can sense death and want to share in the feeding frenzy. Next on the horizon will be cattle, glysphosate, GM, Fuel Rebates, and carbon taxes – the activists’ boats are putting to sea to finish us off.
While the PGA might share an office with Australia’s biggest pastoralist and WAFarmers might have five times the number of members, neither of us individually have the resources and membership to take on the flotilla that’s coming over the horizon. We are like the Australian government that continues to plan the building of their next submarine, talking and planning and more talking. Years go by and nothing happens.
I was recently given an article from the Western Farmer and Grazier from 30 years ago, where a hundred farmers came together in the Esperance zones of both the PGA and WA Farmers Federation to vote on “one single grower voice in the state to represent all the interests of all farmers, pastoralists and graziers”. The meeting which was chaired by the inaugural NFF President Sir Donald Eckersley drew predictable responses from the WAFF President Winston Crane who welcomed the move as the most important meeting on unity in 10 years.” Conversely, the PGA then-president Tony Boultbee cautioned members “to consider very deeply what you are doing before taking any action”.
Like the Australian government with its track record of building submarines, the PGA are confident that their old Collins class can be refitted yet one more time, but the enemy is at our gate and we can’t afford to fight using yesterday’s weapons.
It’s time for the industry to vote on going nuclear. It’s time to pool our resources and buy a brand new off-the-shelf attack submarine and sink below the waves ready to strike with lethal force next time we are threatened.
If PGA want to battle on like the Black Knight then that’s their right, but their grain growers need to consider the merits of the poll that we will run. It’s time for industry to stop kidding itself that two organisations is the best way to fight the next war.