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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2010
44 YEARBOOK 2010 CATTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA As a result, the AIRC reversed its earlier position and restated its acceptance of the existing provision for hours- of-work. That means the unjustifiable wage increases of 10 to 100% that were to be imposed on farm employers have been averted. The new Pastoral Award, which also replaces current equivalent state Awards, now enshrines this greater flexibility for all those employers coming into the federal system as 1 January 2010. However, despite this landmark win, farm employers are still going to feel the financial and regulatory pinch. The changes mean a 38-hour week for shearing and flow on wage increases, new substantive classifications and wage structures for the Pastoral Award. DROUGHT REFORM Drought is set to be a major policy battleground in 2010, with the NFF pressing the Government to budge from its two-and-a-half years of procrastination. Naturally, there is real anxiety among the farming community whenever drought reform is mentioned. It is vital that any change must not create additional hardships nor should they burden farmers in drought with uncertainty about support mechanisms for them. At the same time, governments are focused on the financial pressures of the current record drought and the anticipation of possible extreme weather conditions into the future. The proposal the NFF has put to the Government addresses these issues. At the last federal election we pushed both sides of politics on the need to shift the policy paradigm from 'drought relief' to 'drought management and preparedness' based on mutual obligation. We said at the time, this requires "a generational shift in thinking" and that "we -- as a nation -- must rethink how we plan for, and deal with, drought in a changing climate". Our plan is to better drought-proof Australian farms by investing upfront in on-farm climate adaptation and mitigation practices. Things we know work. This proactive investment is a forward-looking solution that, over time, would reduce the strain on farmers and taxpayers for drought relief. The Rudd Government, to its credit, accepted these principles when it won Government. However, to date, despite ongoing negotiations between the NFF and the David Crombie President National Farmers' Federation Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, not much has happened. So, we have called on the Government to pilot the scheme before the next federal election in an area not currently drought-declared, a trial based on the principles we have established with the Government. Piloting a new scheme in a region not in drought would deliver on the management and preparedness model and drought policy reform principles. It would give farmers and the broader community a better understanding of what the future would look like under the new arrangements and the ability to iron out teething problems and fine-tune the model before any further extension. First and foremost, existing support for families currently in drought must not be changed while the current drought persists. Drought-stricken farm families are under immense pressure, dealing with devastating circumstances, and it would be unconscionable to pull the rug out from under them. WATER Despite the Water Act 2007 laying out the need to balance farm production and the environment in the water reform agenda, the newly formed Murray-Darling Basin Authority -- currently drafting its Murray-Darling Basin Plan -- has made it abundantly clear that the environment is its priority consideration. The NFF is already engaged with the Government in pressing a political solution to addressing this case of bureaucracy gone mad. The NFF is currently formulating a major push to correct this imbalance. And, backed by the Federal Government's own Inter-Generational Report, mount the case for farm production needs, as they pertain to water, be foremost... with the environment getting whatever is left over. We maintain the farms have as much interest, indeed, more at stake in healthy river systems and environmental flows. However, with a national population projected to tip 36 million by 2050 -- and some nine billion people around the world by then -- food and fibre production must be a national priority.