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Last gasp for single desk marketing of Australian wheat

The Australian Government is set to pass laws ending the single desk marketing of Australian wheat this week.

As reported by nineMSN, farmers have gathered in Canberra to protest the change. Wheat Growers Action Group chairman Peter Cannon, who helped organise the day of protests, said farmers were being dudded by the changes and wanted the public to know about it.

Wheat Export Market Alliance chairman Graham Blight also told the rally that growers' democratic rights were being ignored.

Without a single desk, "the weakest seller will determine the market", he said.

"The multinationals will come in and have a field day ... our government's given them a blank sheet".

Critics of single desk marketing have used the AWB/Iraq 'scandal' and one particularly heavy loss by Board to justify throwing out the whole single desk system. The opportunistic timing and predatory nature of their push for de-regulation is similar to the Disaster Capitalism modus operandi described by Naomi Klein in her book 'Shock Doctrine'.

The system preferred by many of these critics is - surprise, surprise - a free-market open-slather arrangement where the price of wheat can effectively be bid down to the lowest common denominator by the buyers. The buyers, in this case, would be the same sorts of multinational agri-business conglomerates that are lining up to market Australian wheat once the single desk is gone.

Not surprisingly, both Liberal (in the dubious form of Wilson Tuckey) and Labor (new Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke) fully support the changes. Both operate in the mind-space of free-market economics, where any Government 'meddling' with the purity of the market is considered heretical.

Even when it helps Australian wheat farmers.

If there are problems with the way that AWB's been run, fix the problem. Don't change a structure that's served Australian wheatgrowers well for decades.

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Comments

A very useful and timely article.

Murdoch's Australian newspaper can claim some credit for having uncovered the AWB scandal, and never miss an opportunituy to remind us of this. However, if they never engaged in serious investigative journalism, then more people would see The Australian for what it is and be less affected by their usual right-wing anti-democratic propaganda, so, I consider their occasional practice by The Australian of serious investigative journalism to serve as a fig leaf.

In any case, the spin that The Australian put on the AWB scandal was cynical and illogical. They accepted the scapegoating of the AWB board members and accepted unquestioningly the preposterous notion that Howard Government ministers could not have been aware of what was happening. Moreover they attributed the fault entirely to the existence of the single desk wheat export system.

If anyone wants to know how badly screwed Australian wheat farmers will be if the single desk system is abolished, they should read Christopher Cook's Diet for a Dead Planet(2002(?)) which describes the whole (unbelievably appalling) US food production including agriculture. (You can also watch a videoed interview with Christopher Cook here.)

The way that Murdoch's Australian newspaper put its own spin on the AWB disgrace was unbelieveable cynical.

Copyright notice: Reproduction of this material is encouraged as long as the source is acknowledged.

James posted a reference to Christopher D. Cook's Diet for a dead planet: Big business and the coming food crisis,New Press, 2006. I think James should write a review of it for candobetter, but pending this, you can see an excellent interview with Chris Cook here.
There are lots of reviews of this formidably well-researched and solidly theory-based book on the net, which you may as well google. If anyone else wants to write a review of this book, please do. See also Orwellian waterworks on this site.
I will also just do a plug for my upcoming book, The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd ed., Pluto Press, UK, 2008, due out in September, which contains very solid articles about the impact of agribusiness in the US (biofuels) and Japan, among other articles on Australia, North Korea and a variety of different technologies.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.

This article, based on a book of the same name, gives a good overview of what processes are bringing us to this loss of democracy and fairness which is manifesting a lot in agriculture lately. How to kill a country, The Australia-US free trade agreement, by Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon & John Mathews

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.