Home' National Farmers Federation : Annual Report 2009-2010 Full Issue Contents 12 NATIONAL FARMERS' FEDERATION ANNUAL REVIEW 2009-10
For the National Farmers' Federation (NFF)
dealing with the federal policy settings in
response to the onslaught of man-made
and natural disasters has been extreme and
the political landscape ever-changeable.
As late as December 2009 both sides
of federal politics were committed to
an emissions trading scheme. The NFF
fought tooth-and-nail to ensure that the
agreed deal struck between the Rudd
Government and then-Turnbull Opposition
excluded agriculture, while providing
opportunities for farmers through o sets.
We also succeeded in ensuring that farm
costs -- both direct and indirect -- under
the amended Carbon Pollution Reduction
Scheme (CPRS) were appropriately dealt
with and enshrined as Labor Party policy.
All up this was a deal no other sector of
the economy could get... a fact not lost
on many of our Canberra counterparts.
Following Tony Abbott's ascension to
the Liberal leadership in December
2009 and the Coalition's subsequent
out-right rejection of the CPRS, we have
ensured that the Opposition's climate
change policies also exclude agriculture
but, equally, recognise the positive role
farmers can play in carbon abatement.
In e ect, this is the best of both
worlds for Australian farmers. (For more
information see the feature article Carbon
debate still burning on pages 24-25.)
In February 2010 the NFF publicly forced the
Federal Government to budge from its two-
and-a-half years of procrastination and embark
on a pilot of a new drought approach based on
the principles we developed.
Since before the 2007 federal election the
NFF has 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".
Naturally, there is real anxiety among the
farming community whenever drought
reform is mentioned. We insisted that any
change must not create further hardships
nor burden farmers already in drought with
uncertainty about support mechanisms for
them. This has been our paramount concern.
At the same time, governments are focused
on the nancial pressures of the current
drought and the anticipation of possible
extreme weather conditions into the future.
The proposal the NFF put to the Government
in February addressed these issues.
Our plan is to better drought-proof
Australian farms by investing upfront in
on-farm climate adaptation and mitigation
practices. Things we know can work.
This proactive investment is a forward-looking
solution that, over time, would reduce the strain
on farmers and taxpayers for drought relief.
So, we called on the Government to pilot
the scheme before the next federal election
in an area not currently drought-declared.
In May 2010, I went to Perth with Federal
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke to join him
and Western Australian Agriculture Minister
Terry Redman to launch the 12-month
drought trial, which covers half of WA.
Piloting a new scheme in a region not in
drought delivers against the management and
preparedness ethos. It gives farmers and the
broader community a better understanding
of what the future would look like under
the new regime and the ability to iron out
teething problems and ne-tune the model
before any further extension. (For more
information see the Drought preparedness in
a changing climate feature on pages18-23.)
The NFF recorded an historic victory in the
Australian Industrial Relations Commission
(AIRC) in 2009, successfully defending the
retention of the exible and straight forward
hours-of-work provisions under threat from the
Federal Government's Award modernisation
The Pastoral Industry Award (PIA) has
provided a ' exible hours-of-work' clause
re ecting the practical needs of the sector
for decades. Yet the AIRC, in its January 2009
draft of the modern Pastoral Award, sought
to obliterate the clause and replace it with
four costly and highly restraining conditions.
The result would have seen minimum
wage hikes of 10% at the bottom end,
scaling all the way up to a massive
100% in the case of the dairy sector.
The NFF, with the assistance of the Australian
Farmers' Fighting Fund (AFFF), engaged Senior
Counsel in a legal challenge to ensure that
farmers had the best possible representation
to ght the Award changes head on.
As a result the AIRC recanted its position
and restated its acceptance of the existing
provision for hours-of-work. That means
the unjusti able 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 exibility for all those employers
in the federal system from 1 January 2010.
However, despite this landmark win, farm
employers are still going to feel the nancial
and regulatory pinch. The changes mean a
38-hour week for shearing and ow on wage
increases, new substantive classi cations
and wage structures for the Pastoral Award.
MARKING a decade of drought 2009-10 also threw up unprecedented bush fires, flooding
rains, the global financial crisis, cyclones and the H1N1 pandemic. Surely 2010-11
will have more positives than last year for our farmers who have been whiplashed by
extremes on all fronts.
President's Report WITH DAVID CROMBIE
"All up this was a
deal no other sector
of the economy could
get... a fact not lost on
many of our Canberra
counterparts. In effect,
this is the best of both
worlds for Australian
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