FOOD, glorious food — Who grows it? Who owns it? And who can’t afford it?
Such questions dominated a Charles Sturt University forum last night when at least 200 Indi and Farrer voters heard their candidates’ views on food security.
Foreign ownership of land and agriculture, poverty and welfare, and our role in a global food crisis were all debated, but the hot topic was the Murray-Darling Basin.
The Katter Party’s Farrer candidate, Ken Trewin, said the basin plan was “shambles” that “dismantled everything that was not broken”.
The member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, said “the plan implemented was not the plan conceived by us” (the Coalition) and it was a “shemozzle”.
But Indi Greens candidate Jenny O’Connor said the plan must be considered as a whole so “people in South Australia aren’t affected by what happens in the Goulburn Valley”.
Ms O’Connor and Ms Ley were joined on stage by Labor candidate for Farrer Gavin Hickey, Indi independent Cathy McGowan, and CSU experts Dierdre Lemerle, Allan Curtis and Susan McAplin.
Other candidates also had the chance to speak.
Ms Ley said the Coalition would “put farmers front and centre”, invest in agriculture and create a register for foreign ownership. She admitted there was little between the major parties and both “recognised agriculture’s importance”.
She said countries like Australia had an obligation to contribute to global food security, a notion scoffed by KAP Senate candidate Peter Mailler.
“It’s not my job to feed the world, it’s my job to feed my family,” he said.
Ms O’Connor called for a stronger national interest test for foreign ownership and said the Greens would work to give stronger powers to regulators to break the supermarket duopoly.
But Ms McGowan said the duopoly kept prices affordable for struggling families, picking up on a point by Associate Professor McAlpin that food “insecurity” — not affording the basics — was just as important for people in rural communities.
Ms McGowan did not offer a policy but said she was “looking forward to discussion on what a sustainable food policy would look like”.
Mr Hickey said that with investment, a “farming boom could be more profitable than the mining boom”, although Professor Curtis had earlier said there was little evidence such a boom would occur.
Mr Hickey said Labor would safeguard the environment and implement its national plan to retain already-strong food industries.