Politics for most of us is a painful process of watching divided parties spend more time hunting each other like children on the island in the book The Lord of the Flies than building the coalition of the willing to defend the homeland.
Australian political history is littered with examples of political parties that have flogged it out on the same side of the fence, often competing over the political scraps of a few seats in opposition rather than coming together and putting their differences aside and hunting and defending as one.
I’m sure most of you are not the slightest bit interested in political or military history but bear with me as my story is build on the lessons of the past. The sermon this week yet again is about the need to play as a team, fight as a unit, close ranks, or simply grow up, call it what you may but as an industry we can’t continue to go into battle with two generals and two armies supposedly on the same side but who spend half their time trying to out maneuverer each other.
The two great examples of this are the rise of Menzies under the newly formed liberal party in 1944 as a successor of the United Australia Party. Which once it sorted itself out managed to hold power for a record 23 years between1949 to 1972. They did this in large part because of a divided opposition with the Democratic Labor Party playing the role of a minority wrecker for much of that time. In hind site it was a bonus for the farming community as the subsequent Whitlam Labor government was an unmitigated disaster for rural Australia. But I digress.
The other great example is the 2008 merger of the National and Liberal parties in Queensland following the long National party rule of Joh Bjelke-Peterson who reigned supreme for 19 years between 1968 and 1987. That’s the good part of the story the bad part was when the labor party eventually came to power they changed the electoral rules so it was virtually impossible for the competing liberals and nationals to ever achieve power unless they ended their long civil war and came together. After much internal soul searching, debating the merits of perpetual opposition, they finally worked it out and come together in 2008 after a decade in opposition.
By 2012 the new party under Campbell Newman won one of Australia’s most convincing political wins. That election showed just what a united force can do, with the LNP scoring a 14.5 percent swing from Labor, just short of 50 percent of the primary vote, winning an additional 78 seats to Labor’s 7, one of the largest majorities in Australian political history.
We can get bogged down in the merits of the LNP or the true influence of the DLP but this is not a debate on the merits of particular political parties but the power of being united or the benefit of fighting a divided enemy. Just as Cori Barnardi’s Family First has recently joined forces with the Australian Conservatives and the Australian Greens are in lock step with the Australian Labor Party. United We Stand Divided We Fall. Its not that hard.
And yet for 60 years the WA Farming community has watched these political lessons be repeatedly learnt and then forgotten. Granted the political differences of the two WA state agri-political organisations were polls apart for a long time but with the end of the single desk in 2008, its hard to differentiate the two organisations now. In fact the executive of both organisations are about as economically rational and dry as each other. And no doubt both teams can field some seriously smart players.
We are facing a situation like many of our country towns that once had two competing football teams and now down to half their population they can barely score points against each other, let alone kick a goal when they attempt to play in their league. Its starting to be embarrassing for our two teams as even the government are telling us to get organised and field one team.
Just as we approach ANZAC day and remember the slaughter on the western front and the tragic losses of young Western Australia farmers we grow angry recalling the failure of past thinking by generals who are out of touch with modern warfare. Lets not continue to seek answers from the past, those who refuse to give up the frontal charges, those with a stubborn reluctance to see the benefits of joining forces, tapping new sources of reserves and using all the power of modern technology and the men and women of the millennial generation.
Where’s our Monash when we need them, where’s the leadership from both sides to say enough is enough, that recognises we need all the weapons available to a modern fighting force. That we are in fact fighting an entrenched and battle hardened foe on many fronts, be it the madness of the greens who are the modern day pacifists, Ministers for Defence who would send you into battle with out the tools of the trade, activists saboteurs or the fourth estate who actively undermine our credibility with the civilians.
Fortunately, we are not at war but if live export and glyphosate disappear as part of our arsenal then its going to feel like we have lost the war without putting up a fight. So what does history teach us? As the great Prussian Military Theorist Carl Von Clausewitz said ‘Its is even better to act quickly and err than hesitate until the time of action is past’. We as an industry need to take some risks and bring our forces together, we cant afford to wait until the old guard have received their awards and retired to the coast. We can’t afford to sit around for a decade debating which general gets to be top brass, the huns are coming and the soldiers in both armies need to rise up and say enough is enough. Its time to put the generals in the same room. And its time for the growers be it members or not to have their say. We urge all farmers to go to www or our web site and post their vote on a online poll being independently run by Optimise IT – we need to know what you think divided or united?