Monthly Archives: November 2014

Bush Matters Op-Ed – “A co-operative approach”

28 November 2014

It is not mentioned every day, and it still remains just an ambition in the eye of a few passionate politicians, but the word cooperative is once again being spoken in the corridors of Canberra.

Whether it is sugar, beef or dairy, these industries have long and proud histories of cooperatives and/or grower-controlled entities scattered across the nation.

However, following the deregulation mantra of the 1980s and 90s, farmers gradually opted to relinquish control of these businesses and have long since cashed in their shares.

There is a case to argue that deregulation has, in many cases, left a gaping hole in the pockets of some farmers where their profits used to be.

There is certainly an ever increasing frustration among primary producers about the squeeze on their profits in the supply chain.

Decades on from the deregulation push, the consequences of these decisions are causing alarm among primary producers.

It is also leading industry and government to consider options for how apparent market imbalances can be addressed.

A milestone in understanding the role of cooperatives in the current Australian economic landscape was released earlier this month by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals.

The group’s 2014 National Mutual Economy Report lists the top 100 cooperatives and mutuals in what is a successful, yet often under-recognised section of our economy.

The report demonstrates the last remaining agricultural cooperatives are still reaping benefits for their farming shareholders.

If we skim through the introductory pages, we find a double page spread of the report, which details the cold hard figures.

Agriculture co-operatives have a combined turnover of more than $7 billion out of the total $25 billion generated by the top 100 co-operatives in the nation.

In fact, the top two co-operatives in Australia – across all industries – are West Australian bulk grain handler CBH and dairy processor Murray Goulburn.

While it always remains controversial over whether shareholders should retain their cooperative model or corporatize, these businesses have remained cooperatives and have invested company profits in improved infrastructure and further expansion.

As many will attest, the assets of these shares have also provided security to the farmers’ bank manager.

Further down the top 100 cooperative list, in 18th place, is Norco, which was one of the biggest winners from the free trade agreement with China.

Norco has 288 active shareholders across 159 farms and remains a shining example that Australian farming cooperatives can still compete, even in the cut throat world of supermarket staple items.

As reported just last week, Norco is an early adopter of fresh milk exports into China has recently had an order to supply an additional 90,000 litres of milk over three months to Middle Kingdom.

This improved market access has given the cooperative further confidence to invest $4.5 million to upgrade its Raleigh dairy processing facility, which will enable more processing capacity for its milk and more earning capacity for its shareholders.

So despite positive indicators that agricultural cooperatives can compete in the Australian and global marketplace, there is scant mention of a resurgence in cooperative models within Australian agriculture.

There is little doubt the ability to raise capital to fund establishment and further growth has stopped some would-be entrepreneurs before they really commenced.

The Green Paper for Agricultural Competitiveness delves further into this issue, with a listed ambition to consider what the Federal Government can do to encourage the development of more agricultural cooperatives.

Submissions for the submission process close on 12 December.

It is clear there are opportunities on the horizon for Australian agriculture.

Australia’s trade in goods and services reached a new high in 2013, growing by 3.7 per cent to $647 billion.

The Federal Government has signed free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan, which represent 52 per cent of our current export market.

The National Farmers Federation has speculated that Australia could conceivably see a tripling in agricultural exports to China within the decade.

But if our family farms are to reap these economic benefits, we must first begin searching for multiple ways to address the problems surrounding profitability and supply chain imbalances.

Cooperatives are one of the ideas that have been put on the table.

We need to have this conversation, so that action can be taken.

White Ribbon Day

25 November 2014

Senator O’SULLIVAN ( Queensland — Nationals Whip in the Senate ) ( 20:13 ): Tonight, I intend to speak

briefly in relation to today’s event of White Ribbon Day. It is well known that I spent a large part of my formative

adult years in the Queensland Police Service as a detective, until my mid-30s. During that time, I had much

exposure to events that involved direct and sometimes fatal violence to women and children—indeed, to young

infants. I can say for every police officer in the country, without even having to ask them, that these are the events

that cause the most stress and angst amongst the police officers, in the sense that they feel completely helpless

in some situations to be able to assist the victims.

 

Homicides amongst women are predominantly as a result of domestic violence. Unlike general homicides—

if there is such a thing—many of these events are foreseeable and, in some instances, predictable. Yet, in my

adult lifetime, it would seem that we as a society in Australia have not found a way to protect these women and

children, to take them out of harm’s way or, indeed, to remove the cowardly grubs who inflict these assaults

and intimidation on women and put them where they cannot bring harm to them or anybody else. We spend a

lot of time in this place arguing about this and that. We have spent weeks now dealing with the very important

issue of security and terrorism. We have devoted hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to solutions, and

I understand that. I support those decisions. They are important decisions for the security of our communities.

Yet when we compare the number of victims of terrorism in our country with the number of women and children

who are victims, there is a significant disparity. A woman is killed in our country each week, and we ought to

be ashamed of that. This is a national shame. Children are killed in their dozens each year. We all know of the

tragic incident where a father, returning to his 12-year-old son, killed him with a cricket bat. I have difficulty

removing images of my own 12-year-old grandson as I think about those issues.

 

If we want to talk about things that are important to this nation, then each day in this place and the other place we

ought to talk about this before we talk about anything else. This government, my government, our government,

and all the state governments have put their best foot forward in the last couple of days, but glossy brochures,

good speeches and the best intentions will not save the women who have this constant infliction in their lives. I

have spoken to children who have grown up in these households and they talk about the constant nature of it. It

is there always for them. They do not know whether they can turn their radio on or not or whether or not their

pillow is facing the right way on their bed.

 

We need a serious unity ticket on this right across Australia. This has troubled me and many of my colleagues who

work to provide health services and social services—police, the courts, everybody who is involved in this area

cannot help but be affected by the sense of hopelessness that seems to exist because of our failure to protect these

people from those who purport to love them and care for them. I say that husbands and partners have a special

duty, a higher duty, to their wives, their partners, their children and their grandchildren than they have to almost

anything else in their lives. Yet we see almost 100,000 women a year in our nation seeking protection, seeking

orders from our courts. But those pieces of paper cannot help them. They need to be relocated, their children

put into new educational facilities. We need to strike them off the roll so that the perpetrator cannot search and

find them. We need a special task force in every state. For every dollar that we want to spend on dealing with

terrorism—that infection that is coming into our nation from elsewhere—this nation ought to dedicate a dollar to

the protection of women and children. After prayers every morning in this place and the other place we should

ask ourselves: what did we do yesterday, and what can we do today?

 

I almost lost my grandson two years ago to an accident. I sat with a grandmother whose 15-year-old granddaughter

was on life support, having been assaulted by the de facto partner of her mother—who could not even be there

because she had to work the night shift to continue to give her even a remote sense of economic independence.

So I say this: if we cannot fix this—and it is going to take a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of will—we do

not deserve to be in the positions we are in. Starting tomorrow, I intend to try to weave into every conversation

that I have initiatives that might help here, because we simply cannot make one day a year the day to think about it.

We have to think about it and do something about it every day.

Deport perpetrators of family violence to Australian Antarctic Territories: O’Sullivan

24 November 2014

All possible measures and punishments should be considered by governments when determining how to end family violence in Australia, says Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan, who spent almost two decades in the Queensland police force prior to entering politics, said too much of his career had been spent investigating acts of violence and intimidation – perpetrated by men against women and children – to have any sympathy for the cowards who commit these crimes.

He said Australia had no option but to take a hard line approach if there was to be an end to violence against women and children.

He said the movement would also need to be adequately resourced and funded.

Senator O’Sullivan added that any punishments for these crimes committed should reflect their anti-social nature.

“There are too many of these offenders who abuse their wives and children out in the community,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“The men who commit these horrific acts show no sympathy for their partners, wives and children and I do not believe Australia should show any sympathy towards these men.

“We’ve got plenty of uninhabited sub-arctic islands with active volcanoes surrounding some of the world’s stormiest waters.

“They’d be the perfect dumping ground for these deadbeat cowards. We can send them there without a coat.

“This principle worked for England in the late 1700s and there is no reason it won’t work again now.”

Senator O’Sullivan joined politicians from across the political divide at the ‘Police Commissioners Stand Together Against Violence Towards Women and Children’ function at parliament house today.

With statistics that indicate up to half a million Australian women have reported being physically or sexually assaulted in the past 12 months, Senator O’Sullivan said the problem had exceeded crisis point and more government attention was required.

“My state of Queensland has already been very active in tackling crime and I believe we can take the lead in the push for adequately resourced national action to stop violence against women and children,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“I know Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart from my policing days and I know he will make a very significant contribution to fighting this issue during his time in the job.

“I also believe the parliamentarians at both the federal and state levels must wake up and think about this issue every day until there is definitive change and these cowards are removed from our society.

“This is a job for the men of our nation. Men are the problem and men need to fix it.”

island

PICTURE: The Australian Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, which lay about 1500 kilometres north of Antarctica and over 4000 kilometres south-west of Australia.

MEDIA CONTACT: Troy Rowling 0400 386 666.

Rural and remote children are being disadvantaged by lack of government funding in telecommunications

17 November 2014

Inadequate government investment in telecommunications is denying basic health and education opportunities to some children in rural and remote Australia, says Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan said these funding shortfalls were putting additional and unnecessary strain on rural families, who are already grappling with the worst drought to impact Australia in a century.

Senator O’Sullivan has just returned from an eight day tour of Far-Western Queensland where every single community and local government leader expressed ongoing frustration that their regions were falling behind the rest of the nation in being able to access affordable and reliable technology services.

He said family owned and operated businesses were the hardest hit.

“The vast majority of businesses across rural and remote Queensland are family owned – many are multi-generational,” he said.

“Just like many households in the cities, parents are juggling work and family commitments. However, the isolated nature of work in rural and remote Australia means access to basic services is often difficult and sparse.

“Where once people had to simply endure the problem – technology offers the opportunity to connect these rural and remote families with the rest of the nation and, in fact, the rest of the world.

“But government has to first deliver this infrastructure to their regions. And it needs to be high enough quality that it can actually make a difference.”

Senator O’Sullivan said there was no more urgent example than the exclusion of the Barcoo and Diamantina Shires from receiving optic fibre services under the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The areas are currently in the 3 per cent of the population who will receive a satellite-only service.

“When I visited Birdsville I saw state-of-the-art X-ray machines that cannot be used because the online services are not adequate to send and download images.

“I also met a mother who had been forced to move away from her husband and into town so her children could attend school because the available internet access was not adequate for School of the Air.

“Even postal services were under serious threat, meaning that some communities faced the prospect of almost third world conditions when it comes to mail, telephone and/or internet services.

“I am certain that the greatest majority of ordinary Australian wouldn’t consider this as being fair and reasonable.

“In some rural and remote areas, women are being forced to go to hospital months before they are due to give birth because a lack of adequate technology means doctors cannot monitor their progress remotely.

“My recent trip through Far-Western Queensland confirmed the problems these regions confront in attracting and retaining young families.

“Many parents simply feel they cannot offer their children the best start in life because of the lack of services. The only way government will change this perception is by taking action and investing in these communities.

“We need young people in rural and remote Australia because these areas are highly productive and make a significant economic contribution to our economy.

“The people of inland Australia feel abandoned by Canberra. They deserve better.”

Senator O’Sullivan said he would consult with Federal colleagues in the coming weeks about whether there is a need for a Senate Inquiry to investigate the current state of telecommunications in rural and remote Australia.

MEDIA CONTACT: Troy Rowling 0400 386 666.

Tour of Western Queensland

17 November 2014

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (22:20): I rise tonight to give a short report on a recent trip that I undertook across some 1,500 kilometres of an area that represents about 20 per cent of the landmass of my state of Queensland —commencing in Boulia Shire to the north-west and transgressing across the Barcoo, Diamantina, Quilpy, Paroo and Ballon shires. These areas are home to some iconic names and descriptions well recognised by many Australians. They are at the start of the Birdsville Track or the end of the Birdsville Track, depending on which side of the Simpson Desert you started or finish. They reside above probably our greatest natural gift— the Artesian Basin. The birthplace of the Flying Doctor is a couple of hundred kilometres to the north. It has the great Cooper Basin and the great Diamantina River —which, in effect, on the south-eastern end, represents the headwaters of the great Murray-Darling Basin It is this area where about 40 or 50 per cent of the production of beef cattle in my state is grown, where our state produces some 66 per cent of the national herd and so lifts its share, and someone else’s, in terms of the contribution that makes to the national economy in agriculture, and particularly in the grass-fed-beef sector.

This area is very seriously impacted by the worst drought in, some say, over 100 years. In well over 95 per cent of the area that I travel through there was absolutely no pasture. It is not just drought affected; it is totally drought stricken. In regard to the challenges of the drought, I have spoken about that in this place on many occasions. I want to acknowledge that our government is responding, I think, in a fair and measured way to the drought packages. I particularly want to congratulate the agriculture minister on recent adjustments to the package he has taken forward. I think they will close the gap for some who might have found the earlier packages too difficult to access. I think that in time that measure will be seen as the one that saved many hundreds, if not thousands, of producers, assuming that we get a decent break in the weather some time soon.

The other thing that struck me was the state of communications in this part of our great state and nation. I am embarrassed, and I have said so publicly, about the state of communications in some of those communities. For example, in Boulia you cannot use a mobile phone, landlines are intermittent, as is access to the internet. Also, the Australia Post office there was going broke and had to be purchased by the shire. The shire now subsidises the operation of the post office to the tune of $100,000 a year. Imagine if some of us in this place or the other place went back to our electorates and told the good citizens of those electorates that they all needed to put their hands into their pockets, additionally, to subsidise such services that the rest of Australia takes for granted.

The introduction of internet services, with the NBN, in the Boulia and Diamantina shires is going to be subsidised at the cost of $13,600 per ratepayer. Whilst we move around the cafes of Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and so many other centres around the country accessing free wi-fi, if you happen to be in Bedourie or Stonehenge or Jundah, or any of the hub communities within those two major and great shires, you are about to sign off on putting in $13,600 per ratepayer for the privilege to access the most basic and fundamental internet services that are available. Each of us as a test should doorknock a street somewhere near us in eastern Australia or in the bigger capital cities and ask the punters there how they would feel about putting $13,000-plus per ratepayer towards providing the services that we take for granted.

The impact of this on the lives of these people is enormous. It has an impact on their ability to conduct business and on their ability to deliver base education services to their children. In fact, in a case reported to me at Birdsville, a mother and her four children have had to move into town because they can no longer efficiently access School of the Air. It is gone. The intermittent service they get from the bandwidth prevents the children from being able to complete lessons on so many days that they can no longer persist with the issue.

The medical centres I attended out there have some state of the art equipment, funded in this case by the state, and I am sure that is true for most of the state, only they cannot use it. This is lifesaving equipment, with people there who are qualified to operate the equipment, but the bandwidth is not there for them to be able to upload some of the data imagery to go off to a physician in Adelaide or Brisbane so that they can guide them through the treatments that are required. In some cases it is life-saving treatment. Again, these are issues that I think we should all be considering. I am not here to lay this on the previous government or on this government. I think the more we expose it the more pressure there will be from a bipartisan point of view for us to rectify this.

These people cannot even conduct their businesses. We have businesses that talk about properties there that export meat, some of the best meat in the world—grass.fed meat from the Cooper—onto the plates in New York, yet they can go three or four days before they can enact business off their property, because they cannot access a fundamental platform with respect to the use of the internet. Sometimes, even their fixed telephone lines are intermittent. Even these intermittent services disappear in periods where we have wet seasons, where some of the infrastructure is affected. They can go for weeks and weeks without technicians being able to get to some of those isolated areas to restore this base service.

This is affecting families. I am not a Facebook person myself, but these people are prevented from interacting with their larger family when they have children away at boarding schools. They are now having to come away for grade 7 and not even waiting until grade

8. It has a massive impact on some families. Where they have four children who all have to board, over a lifetime there is another $80,000 on top of the $13,600, on top of the subsidisation of the post office and the like.

So I ask everybody to take a very conscious and measured approach to this. We cannot leave these Australians behind. They have made this nation, even if some might argue their contribution in contemporary times is not what it was 30 to 60 years ago. Anyone who does not understand the story of this nation, and anyone who does understand it, will understand what contribution the people who live in these isolated areas have made to the wealth of our nation.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight. I know that this is a matter that will attract the empathy and support of the opposition. I would expect it of all members of this place. I think we need to have a conversation over the coming weeks, and hopefully not much more than the coming months, until we come up with a solution that will provide these people with the fundamental dignity of being able to communicate with the rest of the world.

The PRESIDENT: I remind senators they have been invited to attend a parliamentary address by Mr Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, in the House of Representatives tomorrow at 10:15 am.

Senate adjourned at 22:30

Bush Matters Op-Ed – “Beef roundtable in Wonderland”

14 November 2014

No matter how much I might try, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) process reminds me of a chapter from Alice in Wonderland.

Early in the book, Alice finds herself standing before a pompous Dodo, who invites her to participate in a “Caucus-race.”

‘What is a Caucus-race?’ asks Alice.

‘Why,’ replies the Dodo, ‘the best way to explain it, is to do it!’

Alice is told the exact shape of the race course doesn’t matter. It’s simply important that everyone has a place at the starting point.

Without any clear warning, everyone begins running when and wherever they like so that it’s not easy to know when the race was over.

All the while the Dodo stands by, cheering everyone onwards.

When they have all been running for half an hour or so, the Dodo suddenly calls out ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowd round, panting, and asking, ‘But who has won?’

Everyone waits in silence.

At last the Dodo says, ‘Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’

On many fronts, this short passage unfortunately summarises where the GRSB process currently finds itself.

Since the roundtable released its draft Principles and Criteria guidelines several months ago, international beef industry groups have run randomly in circles, only to progress nowhere, and have now arbitrarily gathered at the same point where they originally found themselves.

All the while the World Wildlife Fund, just like the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, has stood by and cheered them onwards.

The GRSB announced in Brazil last week that its membership had “overwhelmingly” approved global Principles and Criteria for defining sustainable beef and sustainable beef production practices.

Apparently this followed months of consultation with key industry stakeholders.

But just like Alice in Wonderland, we are peering through a looking glass.

The Principles and Criteria is a mirror image of the absurd document that was initially proposed at the beginning of the year.

This can only lead to the conclusion that the environmental groups, which have imposed themselves on the beef sector throughout at this process, have managed to minimise any sincere consultation and instead ploughed forward with their disastrous view of the future of the industry.

The Square-table, which was organised earlier this year, fortunately enabled Australia to avoid becoming a participant in the Global Sustainable Beef caucus race.

Australia did not need to run around in circles, seeking meaningless consultation.

Instead, industry took a unified stance to collate and explain its own sustainability credentials, free from any influence of those dodos in the World Wildlife Fund.

Furthermore, the mass manipulation of our international beef rivals presents a significant business opportunity for Australia.

Through the logical, careful and considered sustainability approach we are undertaking, being spearheaded by the Red Meat Advisory Council, Aussie beef will soon be able to offer a product that very clearly differentiates itself from the rest of the world.

I am pleased to report that this initial culmination of existing legislation and credentials is in the process of being finalised.

It will prove a significant step forward in celebrating and marketing our industry’s hard earned sustainability gains.

At a time of tightening profit margins this could prove a welcome outcome.

GRSB president Cameron Bruett says the roundtable now intends to work with the regional and national roundtables as it identifies locally-focused solutions.

But the question must be asked – are these beef industry participants in the GRSB about to embark on just another caucas race, which has no apparent end and seemingly no purpose?

Because it seems clear the WWF and their associated green groups already know the direction they are heading.

And it will be those participating beef producing nations that will pay for the final prizes.

Third World telecommunications infrastructure in sections of rural and remote Australia threatens our national economy

12 November 2014

Australia’s long term economic potential is being jeopardised by a lack of telecommunications investment in rural and remote regions, says Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan, who sits with the National Party in Federal Parliament, has just returned from an eight day tour of Far-Western Queensland where every single community and local government leader expressed ongoing frustration that their regions were falling behind the rest of the nation in access to affordable and reliable technology services.

He said there was also a clear message from locals that they felt their economic contribution was being overlooked by Canberra.

Senator O’Sullivan said a dramatic priority shift was needed by politicians when deciding how telecommunications infrastructure funding was prioritised and committed.

“Policy decisions too often focus on the number of people living in a region and not the economic output of the area,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“Rural and remote regions punch well above their economic weight and underpin the wealth of the rest of our nation, yet are too often overlooked or ignored when delivering even basic infrastructure. Some infrastructure is almost third world.

“This is both unacceptable and unsustainable. We need these regions to prosper because of their significant economic contribution to the national coffers.

“Rural and remote regions are wealth generating regions and they need much higher consideration when we are determining priority infrastructure.”

Senator O’Sullivan said declining international commodity prices for iron ore and coal was making Australia increasingly reliant on a strong and vibrant agriculture export sector.

However, he said our international competitiveness was under threat wherever rural and remote business operators did not have access to reliable technology.

“There are significant export opportunities for our agriculture sector in the coming years and decades,” he said.

“We must ensure our farmers are able to compete on a level playing field in the global marketplace and in the 21st century that means access to fast and affordable wireless broadband, mobile phone reception and reliable landline services.”

Senator O’Sullivan said there was no more urgent example than the exclusion of the Barcoo and Diamantina Shires from receiving optic fibre services under the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The areas are currently in the 3 per cent of the population who will receive a satellite-only service.

“The councils currently have a proposal before government that would deliver optic fibre services to the regions and I believe the Federal Government should agree to it,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“Ratepayers in these two shires are willing to contribute $13,000 per person in additional costs to fund this project, which every other Australian takes for granted.

“This is technology that all Australians are not only entitled to, but will increasingly rely on. We simply cannot afford for the bush to fall behind the rest of the nation.”

Senator O’Sullivan said he would consult with federal colleagues in the coming weeks about whether there is a need for a Senate inquiry to investigate the current state of telecommunications in rural and remote Australia.

“I am deeply concerned about the widening technology gap between city and country in this nation,” he said.

“Quite frankly, the lack of investment in basic infrastructure for people living in remote Australia is a shame on our nation.

“It is a shame on the previous government and if there is no action taken soon, it will be a shame on the current government as well.

“We ignore this plight at our own peril.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Troy Rowling 0400 386 666.