The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today moved to remind the Federal Government that attempts to ‘weasel out’ of its 2004 election pledge to mandate a Code of Conduct for horticulture by clouding the issue will not be tolerated by the electorate – much less farmers who are being dudded.
For the record, on the election trail on Monday 4 October 2004, then Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, The Hon. Warren Truss MP, said:
“A re-elected Coalition Government would mandate a Code of Conduct to govern the commercial relationships between fruit and vegetable growers and the wholesale markets.”
Later, in the same statement, Mr Truss added:
“Therefore, I can confirm today that a re-elected Coalition Government would, within 100 days of the new Government, propose legislation to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission powers to enforce a Horticulture Code of Conduct.”
Then, in a letter to the NFF on 5 October 2004 from the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Mr Brian Loughnane wrote:
“… a re-elected Coalition Government will, within the first 100 days of the new Government, propose legislation to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission powers to enforce a Horticulture Code of Conduct.”
“Clearly, the Government’s decision to renege on this unambiguous undertaking has seen it resort to a ‘deny everything’ and ‘hope it goes away’ tactic,” NFF President David Crombie said.
“In addition to their clear election promise, the Government invited the NFF and others to work with them to mandate a Code of Conduct. Almost two years later, they are now attempting to defuse their back-flip by re-starting talks.
“This latest twist of the knife, denying the promise itself, is yet another disturbing rebuff to farmers. The time for discussion is long past. Farmers and the broader community expect the Government to make good on its election promises, or be dogged by suspicion and mistrust from now until the next election.
“As the recent Queensland state election result showed, with a substantial swing to Labor in rural seats, regional communities are prepared to make their dissatisfaction ring out loud and clear.
“There is no doubt the Government has dropped the ball, failing to once-and-for-all fix an area of clear commercial breakdown and imbalance. It is bewildering the Government isn’t seizing this opportunity to ensure contractual clarity within the industry, as it promised.
“At the end of the day, despite any philosophical view some Cabinet Ministers may have about regulation, there are some things Governments are responsible for… their promises for starters!”