Right to farm and climate change were hot topics at the NSW Farmers’ primary industries pre-election forum held at Wingham Memorial Services Club on Tuesday night February 5.
More than 60 people attended the forum where Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, Shadow Primary Industries Minister Mick Veitch, Greens agriculture spokesperson Justin Field, and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party member Robert Borsak went head to head in the fight for the rural vote.
Unusually the four opponents from across the political spectrum agreed that: “everyone at this table supports agriculture, but we have different ideas on how we achieve the best outcomes for industry ”.
The first hour of the forum was largely a discussion on water usage and climate change, with three of the panelists– Mr Blair, Mr Veitch and Mr Field – agreeing that climate change was a topic that urgently needed addressing, particularly in regard to its effects on agriculture.
Mr Borsak, however, said that while his party acknowledges climate change “is going on” he does not believe it is induced by humans.
“The scare campaigns that are run that are designed by the climate change industry that we see around the world and certainly in NSW, the climate change claims that the current minister Don Harwin is making that we need would drive farmers and communities in the bush completely out of business and shut them down entirely,” Mr Borsak said.
...if we are not careful Coles and Woolworths will exist, but we won’t have dairy farmersMichael Veitch
All four panelists agreed the q-fever vaccination should be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and they did not support the Aussie Farms interactive map used by animal activists.
However, producers were left unclear on exactly what the parties represented could commit to, with ”watch this space” a strong message from the evening.
When asked what they would do to improve the dairy farmers’ crisis Mr Blair and Mr Veitch said they would be announcing policies at a later date.
“One of the disadvantages of speaking at forums this early in the pre-election campaign is that there will be policies announced at a later date,” Mr Veitch said.
“Without being coy, there is a watch this space moment for us… but if we are not careful Coles and Woolworths will exist, but we won’t have dairy farmers.”
Greg Newell of Linga Longa Farm in Wingham put forward the first question from the floor, being about food traceability at farmers markets.
Greg says he was disappointed the politicians “wanted to talk about the drought” in preference to local issues.
“It was big picture promises, but the questions were more local based,” he said.