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Prof Robin Batterham - Australia should buy farms in Mozambique

Is there really any social justice or ethics that we continue to grow our own population and consumption levels if it means we parasitically must acquire valuable arable land from a country already being preyed upon by developed nations?

Prof Robin Batterham was the Chief Scientist of Australia from 1999 to 2005 and is President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).  

Scanlon Foundation

Behind ATSE is the property developer Peter Scanlon of the Scanlon Foundation.  At his address to the ATSE in 2007, he is quoted as saying -  The Scanlon Foundation is committed to the belief that Australia needs to continue to grow and that this growth will require a substantial and increasing role for migration...

Mr Scanlon, whose family wealth is estimated to be more than $600 million, set up a foundation in 2009 with the aim to create a larger and socially cohesive Australia. Mr Scanlon has extensive property development interests, which clearly benefit from immigration-fuelled high population growth.

Mr Scanlon's Brencorp Properties is a partner in the $1 billion Somerfield housing estate at Keysborough, said Australia's greatest asset was its “diversity”- a euphemism for high immigration.

Large investments in Africa

A new and surprising investment vehicle has Africa as one of the main destinations for inflows of capital, for one of the most prized and sensitive assets, the acquisition of arable land. The land grab has only just begun.

There has been large investments in Africa by firms linked to governments such as Saudi Arabia that has US$800m of agricultural investments in Ethiopia for the growing of major crops such as rice and wheat. China has 1.3 billion mouths to feed due to 7% of the arable land is being lost in China to desertification and pollution as a by-product of rampant economic and population growth, and has invested US$800m into Mozambique agriculture. The price of land in Africa is the cheapest in the world.

Mozambique hunger

September last year, thirteen people died and hundreds were wounded in Mozambique when police cracked down on a three-day protest over a 30 percent hike in the price of bread.

Mozambique bread riots could be a warning sign for African nations who have leased fertile agricultural land to foreign countries. Nearly 250,000 acres has been secured by the Swedish firm Skebab to produce biofuels.

Many African small-holder farmers know they can be moved off their land at any time, and the growing number of farming deals confirms their worst fears. As a result, many African farmers are reluctant to invest in their land or to improve their techniques, knowing the benefit may be taken away in the future.

Food security threats to the world

According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “By 2050, the risk of hunger is projected to increase by 10 – 20 %, and child malnutrition is anticipated to be 20 % higher compared to a no-climate change scenario.” It’s easy to blame climate change, a convenient scapegoat, rather than overpopulation and foreign investors as the biggest driver of growing food scarcity.

Although the estimated 700-900 million of the world's poor suffer in silence, food shortages have recently caused riots in Bolivia, Peru, Mozambique, Haiti, Indonesia and India. Within 40 years, global food production will have to increase by at least 40 percent to feed the additional 2.5 billion people who will then inhabit a planet endowed with just 11 percent arable land. Haiti, Indonesia, Cameroon and Mozambique have all been racked by violent food riots.

CSIRO efforts to lift food production

The CSIRO is predicting global crop yields need to double within 50 years to meet food demand. The benefits of Norman Borlaug’s “green revolution” are finite and his 40 year reprieve of food shortages has ended.

Dr Jeremy Burdon is the head of CSIRO's plant industry division. His researchers are collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Science to lift food production. They're trying to fast track plant breeding of improved wheat, rice and corn varieties. It’s an attempt at another “green revolution”.

I believe that we can generate another green revolution as a consequence of the application of modern biological techniques – using GM technologies.

Sharp rises in food prices in 2008 and 2010 had demonstrated that supply was no longer meeting demand, said Professor Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine.

Professor Robin Batterham

One of the prime minister's advisers on science and innovation, Professor Robin Batterham says purchasing farms in Mozambique, a former African food bowl, should be investigated to shore up Australia's food supply. 

Looming food crisis showing on our shelves - The Age 3 April

Professor Robin Batterham, wants Australian companies to consider buying land in Mozambique to counterbalance foreign purchases of farming land in Australia and shore up Australia's food supply. Why are we losing control of our own land, and failing to enforce our sovereignty?

Instead of heading towards a “big Australia”, and adding to the number of parasite nations grabbing land in developing countries where they need it, we should protect our nation, our people, and our food production against global greed. We hear a lot about “sustainability” but government policies simply rough-shod over any sustainable and ethical principles.

The suggestion by Prof Robin Batterham that we buy up farms in Mozambique to ensure OUR food security is reprehensible.
Globalization and a “free market” economy means that nations with power can legally grab territories from indigenous people, living on subsistence levels, and corruptly threaten their well-being, human rights, and survival.

Is there really any social justice or ethics that we continue to grow our own population and consumption levels if it means we parasitically must aquire valuable arable land from a country already being preyed upon by developed nations?

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Thank you, Bandicoot, for doing the difficult and vital work of writing about this weeping sore in Australian politics, democracy and world democracy. Continuing where the Roman Empire left off, Africa has been raped and pillaged since the 13th century by Europeans - Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, British - in the trade and spice wars. Britain, with her exploitation of coal and iron in close proximity, industrialised this commercial raping, with the result of continuous disorganisation of many stable African societies. At first dispossession was a result of colonisation by governments, spearheaded by missionaries. These days it is colonisation by corporations, spearheaded by'aid workers', some of them presumably well-intentioned, working for business-backed 'foreign aid'. Charities and churches mask so many profiteers and so much land speculation. As long as the boards of charities contain corporate players, their policies will be skewed to commercial principles.

The extraordinary film Avatar is a classic dramatisation of this process. See candobetter pages on land grabs in Africa and elsewhere.

The corporate colonisation also continues in Australia, where people have been mis-educated to believe that they are 'white and privileged'[1] and that political and material dispossession by corporations can only occur in places like Africa. Wrong, as you point out. Over the past few years Victorian farmers have been fighting the corporatised government's water-stealing pipeline and "Foodbowl Unlimited" and week after week for years now groups of suburban citizens, largely led by women, (see: "Anti-Growth Lobby: Women in politics: why don't more participate - or do they? (Melbourne, Australia))" have been fighting for our rights to live in peace and self-govern.

Only relocalisation of power, from clan, tribe and village upwards, can bring this machine to a halt. The machine must be halted. Its servants must be identified and held to public shame.

Note also that has whole sections devoted to the network of activities associated with the Scanlon Foundation, ATSE, the Multicultural Foundation and the Institute for Global Movements, all of which lead back (particularly via the Multicultural Foundation) to a decades long entanglement with Australian prime ministers and priministerial contenders, in a kind of gordian knot which, as a fascinated and apalled sociologist, I would just love to find the beginnings of. The roles of these associations in our history and ongoing politics needs to be exposed to every schoolchild and academic student. We cannot rely on the corporate press to do this, such as the Fairfax and Murdoch media, because they are sponsors and financial beneficiaries of these undemocratic forces in our society.

[1] On this subject, this short and relatively comprehensive paper by Peta Stephenson, "'Race', 'Whiteness' and the Australian context,"gives a quick introduction to this subject. Peta has not spelled out how the ideology of "Whiteness" has been exploited by land speculators, but she does say how it can disadvantage its apparent beneficiaries by preventing them from identifying common cause.

New research from the University of Melbourne shows Australia does not produce enough fruit and vegetables for the population to sustain a healthy diet. Climate change, increased importation of oil and population growth, are straining food production systems both in Australia and overseas. Lead researcher Kirsten Larsen, of the University of Melbourne, said the project using computer modeling challenged the notion that Australia had vast amounts of food. Which ever scenario is selected by the program, the result is an adequate supply of all foods in 2030, except for cereal grains which are transformed into biofuels. By 2060 there are not enough crops to cope with biofuel and food demand. We don't eat biofuels!

We have politicians, economists and big business elites calling for more population and more immigration, yet there is little consideration to anything but increasing the Economy, not the finite nature of our planet, our nation, or the welfare of populations. The masses of people are simply tools, or resources, to be exploited for the benefit of a few. Both the Liberals and Labor both support the concept of perpetual and unsustainable growth. The Greens, without a population policy, will not be a mainstream political party until they face realities and stop being complacent enough just to be a protest party.

I'm not an expert on history, but the whole situation of greed and "managed" population growth surely has parallels with the cause of the French revolution - and probably others too. The chancellorship of Calonne came up with a package of changes which, had they been accepted, would have been the most sweeping reforms in the French crown's history. They included abolishing lots of taxes and replacing them with a land tax to be paid by everyone, including the previously exempt nobles.
He suggested that no new tax should be imposed without the king first consulting the nation and, but as they were unelected, they couldn't speak for the nation.
The Nobility, like the clergy, the represented another privileged Estate. The nobility held the highest positions in the Church, the army and the government. As an order, they were virtually exempt from paying taxes of any kind.
With democracy, civil rights and justice, the horrors of this revolution could have been avoided.
Most peasants did not own their land but rented it from those peasants who were wealthier or from the nobility. Peasants were victimized by heavy taxation - taxes were necessary to pay for the costs of war, something that had already consumed the French government for an entire century. Those paying had no benefits from the taxes, or what the money was spent on. While average tax rates were higher in Britain, the burden on the common people was greater in France. Taxation relied on a system of internal tariffs separating the regions of France.
With the elite, economist and governments pushing for higher population and higher immigration levels despite housing affordability declining, increasing poverty, and food security threats, it seems that the average people, the great masses of "peasants", will bear the burden of irrational and callous decisions being played out onto the population. This new generation is also becoming landless. Democracy is being eroded and without holistic decisions being made on behalf of the voting public, will polarize our society. Wealth, resources and liveability, is being redistributed unequivocally to the elite, those with power. The prospect of grabbing land from developing countries to support our own economic growth is abhorrent and unethical. The masses will support the lifestyles of the wealthy. Globalisation is economic treachery and gives greater scope for corruption.

Robin Batterham was interviewed on ABC Radio's The World Today story Doubts about Australia's ability to feed itself earlier today.

The story gives a contradictory picture of Austalia's ability to feed itself, At one point reporter Simon Lauder said:

[Robin Batterham] told a national food security conference in Melbourne this morning Australia is sitting pretty at the moment, producing enough food to feed 60 million people.

This is the same Robin Batterham who is advocating the Australia buy Zimbabwean farms, so that Australians can feed themsleves with food now being fed to Zimbabweans. Lauder immediately added:

But there are worrying signs ahead, and market forces will make Australia more and more exposed to global prices.

In confirmation of Simon Lauder's statement, Batterham then said:

The value of our imports is heading fairly close to the value of our exports. So what will we think of ourselves as a food bowl? In value terms we're almost at the point where we're not.

Simon Lauder said:

An 11 per cent rise in fruit and vegetable prices in Australia last month shows how vulnerable household budget's can be to a few natural disasters and new research suggests Australia would already struggle to feed its own people properly.

A team of researchers commissioned by the Victorian government agency, VicHealth, has modelled scenarios for Australia's food needs in the future based on a healthy intake of fruit and vegetables for every Australian.

The scenarios rely CSIRO modelling to factor in population growth, climate change, exports and imports and fuel and water use.

How could these reporters would have failed to notice that Australia has massively boosted its population in recent decades and that many prominent Federal politicians as well as State Governments are using every opportunity to promote further population growth?

Let's hope that next time the like of Victorian Premier Ted Ballieu appears on ABC Radio preaching that further population growth must be accepted, he should be asked if he is really prepared to see Zimbabweans to to go without food so that Australians can eat.

Or Australians and Zimbabweans go without food so that developers can make profits?
Robin Batterham reminds me of Marie Antoinette.