Fo­cus on our own plans, not China’s

Dairy News Australia - - OPINION - WAYNE JOHN­STON Wayne John­ston is Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent.

THE LAT­EST growth fig­ures for China re­leased re­cently caused me­dia fan­fare about what it would mean for Tas­ma­nian agri­cul­ture and also Aus­tralia more broadly. This in­ter­est is gen­er­ated by the sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Tas­ma­nian agri­cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly in the dairy and hor­ti­cul­ture. Peo­ple are con­cerned that when China sneezes, Tas­ma­nia and Aus­tralia will catch a cold. The re­al­ity is that this cliche com­ment does not re­flect. While China may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some level of slow-down, that is the ex­pec­ta­tion and fo­cus of the Chi­nese govern­ment to en­sure that their econ­omy does not over heat. This does not nec­es­sar­ily mean a cor­re­spond­ing slow­down in Chi­nese trad­ing part­ner’s economies. We need to keep in fo­cus that China has his­tor­i­cally had very high and con­sis­tent GDP growth over an ex­tended pe­riod. The cur­rent tar­get of some­where in the or­der of 7 per cent is a fig­ure that ev­ery other econ­omy in the world can only dream of. By any stan­dard GDP growth in this or­der is not only sub­stan­tial, but demon­strates a very healthy econ­omy. As a re­sult, Tas­ma­nian agri­cul­ture has noth­ing to fear from these lat­est fig­ures. It is ob­vi­ous that China will still seek to in­vest in Tas­ma­nia. Any such in­ter­est only serves to un­der­score the con­fi­dence that the Chi­nese have in Tas­ma­nia’s agri­cul­tural future. If we look to the future the pre­dic­tions are that by 2030 China will be the largest econ­omy on the planet. I of­ten hear con­cerns raised around China and the pur­chase of agri­cul­tural land. The re­al­ity is, that if we are to have a rea­son­able de­bate around for­eign own­er­ship, we need to be clear that coun­tries such as China are down the list of which coun­tries own­ing a stake in the Aus­tralian econ­omy. The United States and Bri­tain far out­weigh most other coun­tries. The real ques­tion is whether for­eign own­er­ship, ir­re­spec­tive of its source a fun­da­men­tal and struc­tural prob­lem for Aus­tralia’s future? What we should be do­ing as a coun­try and a State is mov­ing our fo­cus from for­eign own- er­ship to our­selves. We can­not con­demn other coun­tries for hav­ing a plan and a vi­sion for how they will feed their pop­u­la­tions in the decades to come. What we should be say­ing, and the questions we should be ask­ing are, where is Aus­tralia’s plan for the future? Where is our vi­sion and plan to feed future gen­er­a­tions? It may be that part of that strat­egy would be to ban and or re­strict for­eign own­er­ship. Equally it could and should be about en­hanc­ing Aus­tralia’s agri­cul­tural sys­tem, and en­sur­ing that Aus­tralian farm­ers are not only prof­itable, but sus­tain­able for the long term. •

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