An Australia Day resolution

An Australia Day resolution

A version of this article first appeared in the Coffs Coast Advocate on Saturday, 24th January, 2013

The traditional and conventional thing is to make resolutions on New Year’s Day, or shortly thereafter.

That makes perfect sense. Start the year off on a positive note, turn over a new leaf, and all that.

But resolutions can be made at any time. So why not make an Australia Day resolution? Something that each of us decides that we can do to help make this country a better place to live in, and leave it a better place for our kids.

My resolution is to keep working, in the ways that I can, for a fairer and more sustainable food and farming system for our region, and our country. So that our soils are regenerated, rather than degraded. So that our water tables are replenished, rather than depleted and polluted. So that our cities are full of food growing and producing areas, in schools, in childcare and aged care centres, in streets, parks, vacant lots and rooftops. In backyards, frontyards, and community gardens. So that everyone, no matter who they are or how much money they have in their pocket or bank account, can enjoy healthy, nourishing food, every day.

So that our farmers get a fairer deal, and are not up to their necks in debt. So that five Australian farmers don’t continue to leave the land every day. And so that our children will want to embrace farming and food production, and caring for the land, as a fufilling and dignified life choice.

Because what we have forgotten, in our modern, information age and consumer economy, is that any civilization, anywhere, is ultimately founded on agriculture. If we don’t get the food production right, if we don’t look after the land, the water and the men and women who do the work of producing the food, then we may as well forget about all the rest.

I think these resolutions chime with the sentiments of a great many Australians. In fact, I know they do, because last September, in my role as national co-ordinator of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, I was approached by the Australia Institute to include some questions in their regular national attitudes and behaviours survey.

These surveys go out to around 1,400 Australians, being a representative cross-section of men and women, city and country dwellers, different political affiliations, age groupings and so on.

We asked three questions in the October 2012 survey. The first was, ‘What top two measures should Australia adopt to ensure that sufficient quantitites of fresh, healthy and affordable foods are available to all?’, 86% nominated ‘Support local farmers to produce more’, and 63% nominated ‘Protect our best farmland from different uses, e.g. mining / housing’. 25% said ‘support people to grow more of their own food’, and a mere 5% nominated ‘import more of our basic food requirements’ as one of their top two choices.

The second question was, ‘How important is it to you that Australian family farmers and small-to-medium sized food businesses are economically viable?’. 62% said ‘very important’, and 30% said ‘quite important’. 2.3% said ‘not very important’ and a tiny 0.4% said ‘not important at all.’

Finally, when asked ‘What do you think should be the main two goals of Australia’s food system?’, a whopping 85% nominated ‘Promote and support regional / local food production and access to locally produced food’. 43.5% nominated ‘Achieve a globally competitive food industry and new export markets’, and 35.6% said ‘Ensure ecosystem integrity’.

Should any government or political party choose to take notice, these figures speak to a massive national consensus in favour of policies and public investment in regional and local food economies, and for support for our local farmers and food producers. Such policies enjoy twice the level of support of the goal of building ‘a globally competitive food industry and new export markets’.

Can you guess which is the primary objective of the Federal Government’s National Food Plan, due out shortly?