National Farmers' Federation

Open letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Dear Prime Minister,

Last week, for the first time in 39 years, farmers from across Australia determined that they no longer have confidence in your government to represent their interests.

This vote followed an unprecedented walk-out by farmers on your Agriculture Minister’s budget address.

This is not how we usually operate at the National Farmers’ Federation. Our members are professional businesspeople, and we typically represent them in a professional and businesslike way.

But decision by decision, your government is pushing farmers away and eroding their trust. Frankly they’ve had enough.

Last week’s appalling decision to ban live sheep exports from 2028 is just the latest example of your government’s refusal to support our industry – even when facts and science are on our side.

When asked why he’s choosing to destroy the livelihoods of farmers, shearers and truckies in WA, your Agriculture Minister simply answers ‘because we said we would’. When pressed on why this commitment was made in the first place, he offers figures from a limited RSPCA survey suggesting it’s what Australians want.

That isn’t leadership. Leadership is having tough conversations with voters and when facts change – as they have in the live sheep trade – changing policies to reflect this. Your government has proven it’s willing to do this, but perhaps that’s only when votes can be gained in the process.

Beyond live sheep, we’ve been steamrolled on water buybacks by a minister who didn’t want to hear the alternatives. We’ve sat with her and her bureaucrats advising of the impacts and pleading to save the farms and the communities where they are located – but our voices have been ignored in favour of deals with the Greens. We have talked about the short comings of the pacific labour scheme which your government has effectively abolished as one of the few workable labour schemes for farmers.

We’ve also had to fight against the biosecurity tax which was dumped on industry without notice and would have seen farmers subsidise their competitors to the tune of half a billion dollars over the next decade – thankfully managing to convince senators that this was bad policy after your government again wouldn’t listen.

You’ve been similarly unyielding on a planned superannuation tax which you embarked on, not realising farmers would be significantly overrepresented among those effected.

Prime Minister, as you face up to the dual challenges of anaemic growth and high inflation, it’s worth considering how your agricultural policies worsen that challenge.

By wiping billions from the value of our industry, you don’t just reduce the economy. You sentence voters to a more expensive weekly shop.

As Prime Minister and President of the NFF, this situation serves neither of us. We both have a job to do. The NFF’s role is to represent farmers and producers – we will not apologise for this – if we don’t do it, we are not doing our job and failing our members who are passionate about their farms, businesses and communities.

Yes, our members have lost confidence, but we are not giving it away – we remain committed to working with your government on things we have in common and the issues impacting on farmers to restore that confidence. Things like working together to ensure farmers can be part of the solutions to climate change and sustainability challenges. Transparent competition policy and investing in Australian industry.

I believe that can be done if your government commits itself to hearing the voices of farmers over the rabble of niche interests which seems to be dictating decisions at present.

I don’t believe you want to lead an anti-farming government, but the facts lay bare that you are. Let’s work together to change that.

Yours sincerely,

David Jochinke

National Farmers’ Federation