On Friday, Barnaby Joyce posted the following on his Facebook page:
The fastest growing sector of our economy is agriculture where farmers are doing the heavy lifting to keep the standard of living we take for granted. At the same time in South Africa, farmers are under attack, being murdered, raped and assaulted on their own property – something we would never accept in Australia. You are three to four times more likely to be murdered as a South African farmer than the average South African, with an average of two farm murders a week. After representations to my electorate office and at the Local Land Services farming seminar in Tamworth yesterday, I support Minister Peter Dutton’s push to give these people refuge in our nation because not only can we help them, they can also help us by moving into regional areas and helping grow our agricultural economy.
Dear oh dear, where to begin.
Let’s start with Barnaby’s claims about the agriculture industry’s contribution to the economy.
In 2015-16, output from the Services industry was $1,051.1 billion which represented a 61.1% share of GDP and 79.2% of all industry, employing 9.4 million people. Agriculture’s output was $36.7 billion, which was a 2.2% share of GDP and 2.7% of all industry, employing about 300,000 people.
Whilst minerals and fuels still dominate exports, in FY2017, services exports were worth about A$81.6 billion. That was much larger than the value of exports of manufactures (about A$44 billion) or of exports of food (about A$43 billion).
As far as being the fastest growing industry is concerned, according to the March 2018 update from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, in 2017-18, the gross value of farm production is forecast to decline by 5 per cent, the gross value of livestock production to increase by 2 per cent, and the gross value of crop production to decline by 11 per cent.
Barnaby’s ode to agriculture then somehow morphs into support for Peter Dutton’s shout out to persecuted white South African farmers.
I am sure there are problems in South Africa. It was kind of inevitable when 95% of the country’s wealth is held by 10% of the population, when 73% of farmland is owned by white people even though less than 9% of the population is white, when the wage for a farm worker is less than $15 for a 9 hour day.
But the point is, they didn’t ask for our help, they don’t want to abandon their farms and, far more importantly, there are genuine refugees who desperately need help. What happened to the concern for the people who have been languishing in camps for years? Do two farm murders a week outweigh the deaths in Myanmar, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan? Do they outweigh the millions facing famine?
There is something odd about this sudden, and unwanted, focus on white South African farmers. It seems to have been a clarion call for the far right. A predictable lineup of suspects have been quick to express their support for Peter Dutton – Steve Ciobo, Barnaby Joyce, Andrew Hastie, Ian Goodenough, Andrew Laming, George Christensen, with David Leyonhjelm joining in as well.
Is the band considering a new line up? Is that Peter humming in the wings? Is anyone game to tell him that he’s tone deaf?
As Arte Johnson on Laugh In would say … very interesting.