And thank you to all our dazzling speakers for this year’s National Agriculture and Related Industries Day Conference. And again, thank you to our continuing and new sponsors who’ve helped to make our National Day possible.
Our agricultural industry and all those who work in it are critical to our lives. Just think, politicians could go on strike for weeks on end and our country would still function (in fact, you may think that it could function better!), but if our pastoralists and farmers went on strike, we and many others around the world would lose out on fresh foods and nations best Bannister milk and cream!
So, to start our National Day gala, please join me in a Hayman Island rousing round of applause for our agricultural industry, and each and every person who works in agriculture and its related industries.
The farmers, and indeed the people, of Sri Lanka have been devastated this year. Government policy there is, as we dine, destroying their agricultural industry, lessening food production, making farmers and their families poor, food prices high and leaving many hungry. This was a country that prior to socialist practises and the name change to Sri Lanka, was quite well off, thanks to their tea plantations and agriculture. But government leadership back then, also destroyed farming, brought people to starvation and riots, and peace could only be maintained by guns. Why couldn’t people learn the first time?
If we don’t speak out against poor government policy, we’ll get the policies we deserve but not the policies we want and need to lead our businesses. Policies to let us help Australia out of recession and maintain or lift our living standards.
Going right back to our early settlers and pioneers, farmers and pastoralists have been the backbone of our country, and they still are today. Throughout our history they have been part of the very best of our Australian culture.
Hard work, mateship, striving through adversity, not relying on handouts, common sense, practical, sensible, giving helping hands, trustworthy, responsible, striving to do the tasks at hand well, investors in our country, job providers, risk takers.
What fantastic qualities these are that we usually find in the people who live and work in the bush, making it productive. Qualities shared over generations by the people who built our country, people I admire, we all can admire. It’s a joy to visit our pastoral properties and farms across Australia and see many of these fine qualities live on today. I love our Aussies in agriculture!
They are people, I might add, that young Australians would benefit from knowing about. Our pioneers, including our pastoralists and farmers, faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, but they persevered. They coped. Life wasn’t fair, it was truly hard, there wasn’t room for any entitlement culture.
They arrived to nothing, no homes, no electricity, no hospitals, no restaurants, shops or takeaways, no water unless they carted it or found a drinkable river, no child care or roads or phones. Just their stock, plus supplies and possessions they could carry with them, and an iron will to make a life for themselves and their families.
As my dad used to say, “you either produced for yourself back then, or did without.” Life back then was tough. Every day was relentlessly tough. Today we stress over little things, bad traffic, a friend who didn’t smile at us, a teacher or employer didn’t tell us “well done”, we need to be able to put this into perspective.
I think a better knowledge of our pioneers and those who live on the land helps us to put our own struggles and concerns into perspective, and this is so important especially for our young people.
I know something of the first pioneers of the north in West Australia as three members of the Hancock family, John and sisters Fanny and Emma plus the husband of Emma, John Withnell, set off in their chartered little wooden boat the “Sea Ripple” and sailed over a thousand miles to the north west where they landed at what is now Cossack, the first port in the north which they established. Fanny was still only a teenager, Emma had a child and was expecting another, she was 21 when they set off into the remote unknown.
When the Hancocks and Withnells arrived, they had lost most of their supplies, possessions and stock during the voyage and had to walk about 14 miles inland to find fresh water. They established the first station which they called ‘Mount Welcome’.
Their first settlement became the heart of the first town in the north, Roebourne. About 20 years later, in the 1880s, the MacDonalds and another family also of British descent established the first two stations in Kimberleys, about 500 miles further north, and much hotter!
The MacDonald’s cattle trek from NSW took around three years, the longest cattle trek in Australia, the longest in the world, losing most of their stock and what they had along the way. This iconic Aussie history should be in every classroom Australian history book. My god it was tough, the father didn’t make it, sadly this great man dying along the way.
As the then Archbishop of Perth, Charles Owen Leaver Riley, said in 1928 of the north west’s pioneer women, quote: “I have often read about Spartan women and of how courageous they were and of determination they had. Well, … I don’t think many women of Sparta could have had the bravery and have made the self-sacrifice that our pioneer women did… [they are] a great example of the triumph of goodness, determination, self-sacrifice and courage over what seemed to be insurmountable difficulties.”
Goodness, determination, self-sacrifice, and courage over what seemed to be insurmountable difficulties. This pioneering spirit of these early settlers lives on in those who live and work in our country areas. Let’s make this incredible, magnificent spirit better known throughout our country.
If I may also add a quote written long ago about one of those pioneer settlers in our north, my ancestor of whom I for one am very proud, John Hancock: “He (John Hancock) may be described as one of Australia’s grandest sons, a man of strict integrity, high courage, truthful as the light, who never made an enemy and never lost a friend; and his claim to honourable mention among the bank of pioneer heroes who opened up the country for those who should follow them will readily be accorded.”
These are the values essential to our industry; they are values essential to Australia. We must always remind people of the essential nature of agriculture; it is the foundation of any civilisation.
We need to advocate in the interests of our agricultural and related industries, for less burdensome government restrictions and tape, lower taxes, and against the anti-agriculture policies that some misguided people are seeking to implement. We sure don’t want our country ending up like Sri Lanka currently. Please consider setting aside, at least 10 minutes a day, to do this, be that online, letters to editors and or government, talkback radio or otherwise.
There’s much to speak out about, including the lack of workforce, which could be solved if Aussie pensioners, veterans and students were allowed to work, without being prevented by onerous paperwork and significant financial penalties. And not only do we have the serious existing shortage, but front page of The West Australian today on agriculture day, we see that the prime minister is pushing ahead with industrial relations changes, changes that will lead to worker stoppages, and more disruption.
If I may repeat, if we don’t speak out against poor government policy, we’ll get the policies we deserve, but not the policies we want and need. We want policies for a brighter future, so please contribute.
Let’s thank and support those who do stand up, like our fantastic co patron, Tony Seabrook, outspoken president of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association in West Australia, and the Hon Adam Giles, our brave MC for today, and let’s have another so well-deserved round of applause for the workers in our agricultural industry and for the many businesses agriculture supports.
I hope you enjoy your evening, including our fantastic Aussie produce on your plates, and once again thank you to our sponsors. I wish you all a very happy National Agriculture and Related Industries Day.