Tuesday saw the release of the green paper by Australia’s Federal Government for its first ever National Food Plan. Joe Ludwig, Agriculture Minister, stated that this plan will ensure Australia has a stable, competitive, and resilient food supply that supports affordable, nutritious food.
Although the plan appears to be for all Australians, closer inspection reveals that it is a plan for large retailing and agri-business corporations. It should not be surprising that it was created at the request of Michael Luscombe ex-CEO of Woolworths), for a food super ministry before the 2010 Federal Election. A corporate-dominated National Food Policy Working Group was instrumental in the early development of the plan. It was established following the election to foster an understanding [between the Government & the food industry about the industry’s priorities and challenges as well as future outlook across all supply chains.
In June 2011, the Issues Paper contained 48 questions. Half of them were about how to create a competitive, productive, and efficient food industry. Only one question was asked about sustainability. It was obvious that the consultation was a top-down and tightly controlled process. The Government set the topics and corporate representatives had direct access to the decision-makers. For example, the further liberalization of trade in agriculture and food was not an issue on which the Government sought the views of the Australian public. Free trade was assume to be of obvious public benefit.
Unpromising Prospect First
Despite the unpromising prospects, many community members participated in good faith in the public consultation. Two hundred seventy-nine submissions were receive. Many of these identified the need for bold, transformative policy changes to ensure Australia has a sustainable food system. The Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at Melbourne University, which published the groundbreaking Food Supply Scenarios report back in April 2011, stated that:
Substantial, imminent and unavoidable changes in our food supply system. Will require fundamental shifts to how we manage land resources and food production. These potential non-linear changes can mean that the past does not always provide a reliable indicator of future events and it is important to avoid making ‘lazy assumptions about the likelihood of going back to business as usual.
The green paper relies heavily on these assumptions. According to the greenpaper, Australia has a strong, stable and secure food system. Australians also enjoy high levels of food safety. The paper also focuses on how our food industry seizes new market opportunities, echoing the Prime Minister’s recent call for us to be “the food bowl in Asia. Allan Curtis, who made the claim last week on The Conversation, gently exposed it as a preposterous example if wishful thinking.
We will be discussing some of the most important flaws in the draft National Food Plan. These tend to be implicit and reflect an underlying commitment towards the free market. Free trading, and continuously expanding production an inalienable imperative in capitalist economies.
Increased Food Production
Some concessions made in the green paper to the multidimensionality and insecurity of food insecurity. For example, poverty, distribution inefficiencies and political instability are all mentioned. The overwhelming message is that food insecurity must be address by more food production. This will happen when agricultural trade is liberalise further.
The Food Plan was originally announce as an attempt to develop strategies to maximize food production opportunities. The green paper now states that Australia’s first strategy for food. Security is to build global competitiveness and resilient industries sectors. This will allow them to capitalize on the anticipated rise in demand.