In this article, Lachlan Clark contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Australia’s level of red tape and how that affects Australia’s regional communities.
Just like some of the crops they grow, the grain farmers of the Goondiwindi region have proven themselves resilient in the face of unfavourable conditions.
The conditions which determine how a particular crop fares compared to another are, to a great extent, in the hands of the gods.
But the conditions which determine how a particular farmer fares to another are, to an absolute extent, in the hands of city-based bureaucrats.
This year, due to a tough season and lighter rains, barley has come out on top.
As reported in these pages on 1st of November, North Star farmer James Hardcastle, who won this year’s John Woods Memorial Dry Field Wheat Competition, said “Barley is a tougher crop, much more resilient and uses water more efficiently’’.
This season has demonstrated what farmers in the region are already well aware of – certain elements of their businesses are out of their control, and sometimes, or perhaps quite often, things don’t end up going as they had planned.
If this highlights anything, it is that there is a need, at the very least, for a level playing field. No one producer of a particular crop, nor one famer of a particular industry, should be favoured over one another.
Yet in Goondiwindi, the field is far from being level.
According to the Australian Business Licence and Information Service, an Australian Government online tool which informs businesses of the regulatory categories they are required to comply with, some business need to comply with far more red tape than others.
A grain and crop growing business in the Goondiwindi Regional Council needs to comply with a total of 98 separate regulatory categories, under each of which sits hundreds of further permits and conditions.
Yet a wind electricity generation business only needs to comply with 67, and a solar electricity generation business in the region only needs to comply with 69.
This means that in Goondiwindi, barley and wheat farmers are faced with almost a third more red tape.
This is just the latest example of how our farmers and food producers, who put food on the table of Australians and export much around the world, are forgotten about by policymakers from the inner-city.
Each year, governments at all levels impose more red tape on our farming and resource sectors to satisfy the concerns of those of the inner-city, particularly activists, all the while making it harder for regional areas to prosper and expand.
The political class too easily forget the role the bush plays in our lives, and the important role that it will continue to play in the future.
It is heartening that mainstream Australians are deeply aware of the vital contribution our rural and regional communities make to our nation, even if our leaders aren’t.
The Institute of Public Affairs recently conducted a poll on the attitudes of Australians on key regional industries and activities. The research found that over two-thirds of Australians believe that farmers and food producers are under-appreciated, while only 11 per cent disagreed. And two and half times more Australians think farming has a positive rather than negative impact on the environment.
Our leaders need to heed this and refocus policies to back the bush, and bridge the city-country divide. It is time governments, at all levels, got out of the way and backed the bush to continue to deliver for Australia, just as it has done for the past two centuries.
Environmental activism today is not so much about protecting our nation, rather it seeks to impose an ideology over how we live our lives and run our farms and businesses. Without refocus on the bush, the city-rural disconnect will only widen, and the onerous conditions placed on farmers and preferential treatment of undeserving industries will only get worse.