Why we should worry about foreign ownership of rural land

Lachlan Barnes writes: Re. “Barnaby Joyce and the infuriating success of Australian agriculture” (yesterday). Bernard Keane seemed happy to whack the xenophobic label on Barnaby Joyce and then on that backward, small-minded, minority known as rural folk. Small-minded thinking takes root when failing to grasp the reasoning behind the actions, struggles and perspectives of another group, then assuming they have acted from stupidity or fear; just read colonists’ accounts of natives.

Barnaby Joyce may well be a small-minded isolationist, but based on this article I can’t be sure if he is or Keane is being rural-ist. Keane’s free-market ideology is OK, but when he made a claim of xenophobia then spread the label to all rural Australia that was, well, rural-ist.

Keane’s line of thinking almost stumbled on why rural voters don’t believe that companies whose profits minutely improve GDP but take people and money from the region is a benefit to them, but he stopped short. Is it surprising growers fear the company that handles the bulk of our export grain no longer lives or dies on the success of Australian growers but becomes a tentacle of a large conglomerate? Driven a Ford lately?

*I do see the irony of labelling Bernard Keane without knowing his perspective, sorry.

Geoffrey Heard writes: We get it time and time again from Bernard Keane — a mindless demand for “free-market” propositions to be realised — this time in the unconditional approval for foreign investment in the primary production sector.

Hasn’t he worked out yet that the “free market” is a ludicrous proposition, a complete fiction? All we need for food security is a free market, he says. Fine, Mr Keane — and when you find a truly free market you might let us know so we can join in! And you might let us know how it will be kept free!

There is no world free market for food and what remnant there is of it is becoming more and more controlled as monster companies like Monsanto grip the food supply with a giant and unfriendly hand and governments conspire in secret to give even more power to these companies to stamp out competition — even from national states such as Australia.

Would a private corporation do a better job than GrainCorp? I don’t think so — not if it was run by people like Keane, who do not realise that agriculture is NOT a simple process business but is very complex with a lot of unknowns and uncontrollable factors built into it — like the weather (and dare I say uncertainty because of climate change?).

He tells us that Australians have been doing a marvellous job with farming, then he tells us that we should sell it off to others. Why?

And go even further down the road in following the US industrial agricultural model. That model is not actually a great success in terms of productivity, winning in the free market, etc, it relies hugely on US government subsidies and protection.

As for his  throwaway line that China would have to ship Australian farms home to somehow benefit directly from them at Australia’s — it just beggars belief.

That is just a pathetic attempt to avoid acknowledging the truth. You know how these things work. China would simply send the product home — at its own price. That’s what China is doing with resources all over the world, including great swathes of farmland it is buying in Africa and south-east Asia.

Don’t kid yourself that China’s contribution to agriculture in those countries is doing anything for any food security except China’s. That production is not and never will be on the open market unless it happens to be surplus to China’s requirements.

By supplying itself at the host country’s expense, China is behaving exactly as Australian, American, and European companies — backed by their governments — have been doing since time immemorial and continue to do in the developing world — and exactly as the US et al, want to reinforce for ever and ever in the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic trade pacts.

Debt for investment does not equal debt for recurrent spending

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Should we have more or less debt?” (yesterday). Roy Ramage confuses debt used for investment with debt to fund recurrent spending. Dickens’  Micawber was referring to the latter. It is this sort of confusion (I am being charitable here) that presumably leads conservative governments to sell income producing assets to “pay off debt”.

Interestingly, Tony Abbott that self proclaimed fiscal conservative upped his mortgage in 2010 when he started feeling the pinch.