Senator Milne to National Farmers Federation Congress: Let's grasp this opportunity to drive rural and regional agenda

Addressing the National Farmers' Federation Congress, Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, urged farmers to seize this tremendous opportunity to shape their own future instead of adapting to changes forced onto them.

The Greens and rural independents who will share the balance of power in the new parliament also share elements of a positive vision for rural and regional Australia.

"What a great opportunity that our parliament is getting a renewed focus on rural and regional Australia just as the vital issues of climate change, peak oil and food security are triggering a global rethink," Senator Milne said.

"For too long, farmers and regional Australians have had to simply adapt on the run to whatever change comes to them - contested biosecurity protections, unfair trade rules, tax rorts like managed investment schemes, growing market concentration thanks to so-called 'competition policy', climate changes and much more.

"It's time that we have a national conversation about how we feed and clothe ourselves, how we travel, what our country looks in the coming decades.

"In that context, rural and regional Australia must decide what it wants to look like in 20, 30, 50 years' time and go for it.

"The Greens are your allies in this - we want to see our farming lands protected, our farmers helped to stay on the land with decent incomes, our natural resources respected and shared fairly.

"If Australia is to keep our farmers producing on healthy land, we need three sets of interlinked policies.

"One set of policies needs to be geared to protecting the land itself and its capacity to keep producing, especially in the face of climate change, biodiversity collapse, resource depletion and increased encroachment of pests, weeds and diseases.

"A second set of policies needs to help keep farming economically viable. This will involve a rethink of failed national competition policy, global trade priorities and ill-thought-out tax policies such as managed investment schemes. It means approaches as diverse as stopping urban sprawl engulfing more prime agricultural land and beefing up labelling laws.

"The third set of policies is about getting 21st century infrastructure into regional Australia. Of course the national broadband network is at the top of the list, for health, education and much more. But an improved and intelligent electricity grid is vital, too, helping farmers invest in renewable energy as another crop in the rotation.

"The Greens have already shown ourselves to be ready and willing to talk to farmers and you are voting for us in greater numbers than ever before.

"Let's work together at this moment of great opportunity."

Senator Christine Milne | Australian Greens Deputy Leader and Climate Change Spokesperson



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