21 November 2020

Good evening and welcome, farmers, distinguished guests and friends, and hello and welcome to the Thomas family on the Thomas farm holding another Agriculture Day, now a COVID restricted event, in South Australia.

Wonderful to start this national day with our anthem. Thank you to every choir member.

Welcome all to Australia’s fourth National Agriculture and Related Industries Day!

Today National Agricultural Day events are being held on farms and stations across our nation.

It’s fantastic to be celebrating our national day with you here in the country, at Kingaroy, Queensland!

For me it’s a very special honour to be returning to Sir Joh, Lady Flo’s and family’s much loved “Bethany.” Thank you John and to all the Bjelke-Petersen family.

As John and his family know, my first visit here was with my dad, more than 40 years ago! Wonderful memory and I’ve had many wonderful visits since.

And an extra warm welcome to all those who have travelled far and wide to join us here tonight.

This is the fourth year National Agriculture and Related Industries Day has been running since our inaugural function in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial, in 2017, and then Sydney in 2018 and Perth next to the Swan River last year. Every year was sold out a month before. Great get togethers.

Those of you who were with us last year in Perth, heard the then Federal Agriculture Minister, who kindly flew across from the east and also gave a filmed speech to show in case she was late, telling us that agriculture would be heading to a $100 billion industry by 2030.

Well, Canberra is still saying this, but are they undertaking the government tape cuts to allow this to be achieved?

John Roskam says in his excellent speech, which you’ll see tonight, government tape has grown 80-fold in the last 50 years, while agriculture has only doubled in those 50 years, very telling isn’t it.

As those on the land battling with government tape know, while also battling with feral animals, fires, droughts and more, government tape restricts us extensively, things like our ability to keep our stock safe from feral animals and poisonous snakes, restricting even our ability to make our families, staff, infrastructure safe from fires, limiting our firebreaks, even fining us and or jail terms if we breach.

These are areas of government regulation I especially hate, and make the blood of many boil. Plus restricting us from getting water for our stock. My goodness, haven’t our governments learnt anything from the fact most of us have been suffering from severe drought these last four years, many from fires too, and we need to invest in more water to support our stock and grains, let alone increase our produce, and to help protect us against fires.

We all know Asia is the largest growing market for Australia, and often hear that Asian demand for agricultural products is projected to show sustained growth towards the year 2050, providing opportunities for Australian exporters of high-quality, clean, agriculture products.

But what isn’t so clearly said, is that we mustn’t lose this opportunity due to our government holding us back through endless red, green and other tape that isn’t levied on our international competitors, and which drives up the cost of our production and our products.

Obviously, the list of government tape restricting our industry is much much longer, but let’s contrast this with when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier.

Sir Joh was a man of integrity, who loved his Kingaroy and Queensland. What he did for Queensland and the rural industries in this great state was remarkable. He built dams, he encouraged businesses and investment, he got things done. Agriculture prospered, Queensland prospered.

So much so, that when Joh Bjelke-Peterson became Premier, he inherited debt, then, with businesses growing under his leadership, when he left office, he left money in kitty. How many Premiers in my lifetime have done this. Kennett in Victoria, Baird in NSW, who else?

Sir Joh knew difficult decisions had to be faced, not run away from. Today, all our major parties seem to know is spend the taxpayer’s money, both major parties trying to buy votes with that money, more the better, rather than taking the tough decisions to curtail their government burden and tape. The government party goes on!

Spend and more spend, irrespective of what they are doing to our record debt, and the huge burden their overspending is leaving for the Youngsters in our industry and the next generations. But Sir Joh knew as a successful farmer and contractor, not to tie up agriculture and other businesses in excessive government tape, and he cut taxes too.

Sir Joh led the way and showed us that this works, those in government may not recall, but I do. And I hope you always remember your outstanding Kingaroy farmer, and Premier, and his record and spread these Very important lessons far and wide.

I reckon Sir Joh would be rather pleased that we’re here tonight, celebrating rural industries and our national day, with some of the proceeds going to Rural Aid. What do you think?

So tonight, I think we should create some real change, I have decided to do something special for this year’s agriculture day and I would like your help. I want to hear from each of you how government tape and taxes have affected your lives and your properties.

What changes you think the government should make that would be positive for our industry, and give substance to their policy that by 2030 Australia will be increasing the value of its agriculture to $100 billion.

So tonight, I launch with your help please, the “Change for Agriculture” initiative.

This new site shown on the screen is how you can submit your experience with problematic government tape and or the tax burden, which the government should have lessened the last four years, for all those struggling with drought and or fires and now, COVID.

The responses will be collated into a submission paper that will be presented to the Ministers who are making laws for us, for them to use as a guidance for positive change within agriculture, and it will come from us, people who actually know agriculture, and who love their land.

The site is live now and will be for the next three weeks for you to contribute to. So please visit the website www.changeforagriculture.com.au now or anytime until December 12 and let your voice be heard. It’s great to talk about these matters ourselves, but isn’t it even better we send our views to Parliament, calling for the change’s our rural industries need.

Now it’s my great pleasure to introduce my friend Jim Viets, who kindly created a song especially for our National Agriculture and Related Industries Day. With COVID issues he can’t be with us, but his song can.

How good was Jim! Hope you’re all enjoying our night? Thank you again, very much for joining us at Bethany, and thank you to all for making tonight possible.

Now before I leave the stage to go and say hello around the tables, I would firstly like to introduce a very well-known stalwart of the agriculture industry in West Australia, the head of the Pastoralist and Graziers Association of WA, Tony Seabrook. Tony is a farmer and much needed leader who loves our agricultural industry and you’ll glean from his speech he is a fantastic contributor to our industry and country.

Hello again, Mick, that was fantastic, thank you. This is our second crossover to the Thomas Farm in Adelaide.

Let’s all give Darren and family a huge wave, and to all viewers around Australia! Let’s get even more of these terrific Aussie Akubra’s in action.

Hi Katie, Kate and Penny! Hi Carmel, this year’s Shine winner, hi to each of those on the stations who’ve prepared terrific speeches tonight, also available on our National Agriculture Day website, great speeches direct from the land, and which shortened my Agricultural Day address! Thank you!

Hi everyone on our stations and farms, and to those on our orchards, veggie gardens, hatcheries, vineyards, fishing and pearling boats, and to all enjoying Agriculture Day. And to everyone at the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Where would Australia be without you all? Thank you each one of you. I hope you’re all having a wonderful night, and have enjoyed picnics or arvo teas to celebrate our day.

Well Darren was going to hold a national day dinner for 700 at his South Australian farm, Darren, big thanks for all the trouble you went to, and your tremendous enthusiasm including throughout every COVID change. That was Darren in his dinner suit and Akubra showing his farm at the beginning of the evening, just before our Queensland Station Manager, Nathan, spoke.

Thank you to everyone contributing fantastically to our evening, including to each of you for drinking up and helping add to proceeds for Rural Aid. Now with me is John Warlters from Rural Aid.

John, we have some extra cheques to give you. Dave, our General Manager in Queensland, who’s been working overtime to help put together tonight, has one from S. Kidman & Co, those tasty pies were also donated by S. Kidman & Co.

I’m delighted to be presenting one on behalf of Katie and Harvey Norman, great supporters of those on the land, and, from someone you all know, Claude Renshaw, Manager of our Kingaroy farms, who’s handing over a cheque from me, and who’s also been helping with his Kingaroy team.

Rural Aid, thank you for your great initiative to help those on the land. Let’s hear it please for Rural Aid!

May I also thank Senator the Hon Matt Canavan and our local State Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington MP who are here with us tonight.

Hi Matt and Deb, you’re at the coal face helping our governments to better understand and appreciate agriculture, and the many businesses agriculture supports, rather than saying without sufficient knowledge that their policies are great, when their onerous government tape and high taxes are not, and must be fixed.

We need good dedicated people fighting hard for agriculture. Please let’s make Matt and Deb feel welcome.

And please join me in thanking someone else, Queensland’s and Australia’s Country Women’s Association, a fantastic association serving those on the land throughout at least my lifetime. You all would know that saying, “behind every great farmer, is a truly great woman.”

Let’s hear it for the Country Women’s Association.

And we still have a fabulous night ahead of us, Mick Lindsay’s concert, thanks Mick, and a really wonderful treat from the world-renowned Mao’s Last Dancer, and now the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin AO. And with the most difficult speaking spot, Queensland’s own Senator Matt Canavan, to round off the night. Who’ll be sharing with us a brief speech from the Federal Agriculture Minister and Murray Hartin’s fantastic Aussie poem, Spirit.

But right now, let’s hear Matt, with the National agriculture Day poem, Murray Hartin’s, “The Farmer, the pearl of them all.”

None of our evening would have been possible, without my dear and special friend, John Bjelke-Petersen, so kindly letting us enjoy his family’s historic “Bethany” farm. John has put huge effort into this, ploughing paddocks for us to sit in, and for our cars too, and that’s just some of what he’s done, and graciously put up with, to ensure a happy night. And his wife Karyn, for leasing with the choir, to ensure we could all enjoy the anthem live. Trouble is John, this night is so fantastic, what about Bethany permanently on the National agriculture day calendar!

Now, I’m sure you’re all keen to know where National Agriculture and Related Industries Day will be holding its speaking panels and gala night next year.

I’m pleased to announce that next year it will be in the Whitsundays – a truly beautiful Queensland location, “Perfect one day, better the next,” as dear Sir Joh used to say, about all his beloved Queensland!

I hope you will all be able to join us. Please let Talitha know to reserve your spot. It will be a great night, those who were with us for last year’s national day, the London Essentials will be back, this time helping us celebrate on jet skis and in the water!

Please don’t forget to contribute to our ‘Change for Agriculture’ initiative so that we as those who actually know in the industry, can put forward the government tape reductions our industry so desperately needs. Please speak up for your industry. Like the outstanding Tony Seabrook already does. The more who write in pre 12 December 2020, to what should be showing on screen, the better our joint submission can be.

May I wish you all not only Happy Agriculture Day, but also, best wishes for a Merry Christmas, and hopefully, rain on your paddocks next year.

S. Kidman & Co has donated a Christmas calendar for you, if you’d like to collect from gate when you leave.

Let’s now enjoy Mick Lindsay’s performance.

Thank you Mick, and thank you all Again.

Photos from National Agriculture & Related Industries Day celebrations 2020.

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