Mr PASIN (Barker) (13:51): I rise to speak about something that’s threatening not only the future of rural and regional Australia and our ability to produce the food and fibre that feeds and clothes the world but also our economic prosperity as a nation. I’m talking about the sustained and coordinated attacks by activists who seek to undermine the right to farm. While this phenomenon is not new, its increase in frequency is alarming. So too is the change in attitudes towards agriculture caused by misinformation and outspoken minority groups. Studies recently showed that 75 per cent of primary and secondary school students think that cotton socks are made from animal products; 45 per cent don’t think that bread, bananas and cheese come from farms; and 40 per cent think that farmers harm our environment.
The expectations and attitudes of future generations are critical. Those opposite agree. Long term, we need to change the negative attitudes towards farming and address the gap in the understanding of where our food and fibre comes from, particularly amongst our youth. But in the short term Australia’s farmers at the very least have a right to feel safe in their businesses and in their homes. Our farmers should be celebrated, not persecuted. Some farmers are questioning their place in the industry, and others have left. We can’t afford to have hardworking farmers driven out of their businesses, pressured by activists.