Stock Journal takes a look at the candidates for the seat of Barker, including Liberal Tony Pasin, Animal Justice Party's Karen Eckermann, The National's Miles Hannemann and The Greens' Rosa Hillam.
What do you consider to be the most critical issue in agriculture in SA and what would you do to address it?
PASIN: The sustained and coordinated attack by activists seeking to undermine the right to farm. When land and water use for agriculture conflicts with mining, environmental and animal welfare considerations, the right to farm is threatened. Changing attitudes towards agriculture and other priorities - often caused by misinformation and outspoken minority groups - is a critical issue. We need to support farmers short-term while working to change negative attitudes towards farming and address the gap in understanding of where our food and fibre come from.
ECKERMANN: I believe our most critical issue is our reputation for food production, which has been compromised by ever-increasing intensive farming. I would like to attract free range and organic producers into the animal sector and regain a healthy and compassionately-farmed style of raising food animals. I'd like government to encourage farmers to transition out of animal husbandry into plant-based agriculture to mitigate climate change, improve water economies and feed more people with less resources. We should fund scientific endeavours to find weather-appropriate, water-friendly, sustainable crop options.
HANNEMANN: I think the most critical issue facing agriculture in SA is the lack of labour. Machinery dealers, meatworks, horticulture, tourism and agriculture find it increasingly difficult to find labour. I would use tax incentives to entice developers to build houses in regional towns, then ensure regional areas are provided with better education and health care, to encourage people to move to country towns.
HILLAM: The most critical issue in agriculture is the lack of water. We are heading for a life with less water and we need to be prepared. We need a government to ensure water and the environment are protected and the cost to the farmer is fair. We need serious effort put into mitigating climate change.
What is the biggest challenge in Barker at this time?
PASIN: Barker is an incredibly diverse electorate and while many agricultural industries are experiencing favourable terms of trade, delivering positive returns to the farmgate, some industries are experiencing low commodity prices. We need to build resilience and mitigate risk, such as volatile commodity prices and environmental factors.
ECKERMANN: Barker has been held by the Liberals forever and suffers from a generally disinterested government, which feels no pressure to please beyond its traditional handouts near election time. I believe the electorate is stagnating from lack of business entrepreneurship and lack of meaningful employment while qualified and enthusiastic young people leave the area. Barker has too much emphasis on animal agriculture, which doesn't serve its communities in job opportunities and health outcomes.
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HANNEMANN: The biggest challenge in Barker at the moment is healthcare and trying to ensure the regions have the same quality of healthcare as that available in the city. This includes making it attractive to doctors to move to country towns so most towns in Barker are able to have a doctor in their town and a hospital to look after the population, rather than having to travel to see a doctor. We also need a way to educate our young people so they don't have to leave for their tertiary education.
HILLAM: Water insecurity is the biggest issue for my community in Barker. We are all concerned about rising water costs, the lack of rain and the degradation of the River Murray, Lakes and Coorong. Loss of productivity means a loss of jobs for the community while the degradation of the environment puts our wild fishers in jeopardy, tourism at risk and reduces land productivity.
Do you think enough is being done to support farmers in tough times, such as drought?
PASIN: No government can make it rain but they do have an important role to play in supporting our farmers and communities. Our government has committed more than $6.3 billion for relief and recovery and to improve preparedness and resilience, including financial support, stimulating the economies of drought-affected communities, mental health support and the Future Drought Fund. As Scott Morrison said, should this drought continue, more will need to be done.
ECKERMANN: I wholeheartedly support cropping and fruit farmers to stay afloat in preference to animal agricultural farming businesses. The AJP is serious about transitioning farmers out of animal agriculture and into plant-based alternatives for many reasons, including human health and wellbeing, and the cruelty inherent in all animal food production. I would take the opportunity to use tough times to subsidise farmers to modify their properties to support more sustainable alternatives to address climate change and meet modern demands.
HANNEMANN: There are great tax incentives available to make farmers more resilient to tough times. Educating farmers about what help is available is important. We do a lot for short-term disasters, but long droughts do need government assistance.
HILLAM: I don't think enough has been done for farmers regarding drought. There has been a lot of lip service, red tape, and action that is too little, too late.
- Labor's Mat O'Brien, United Australia Party's Rupert Bacher and Centre Alliance's Kelly Gladigau were also contacted.