House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Private Members’ Business

Global Food and Water Security

Debate resumed, on motion by Mr Ripoll:

That the House:

notes that:
global food prices have risen 83 per cent since 2005;
the World Bank’s 2008 Agriculture for Development report predicts global cereal production must increase by 50 per cent and meat production by 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030 to meet demand;
Australia has recently suffered some of the worst droughts on record, increasing water scarcity and affecting our local crops and produce;
many Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development countries have diverted large proportions of crops to biofuel production; and
foreign aid to agriculture fell from 18 per cent of total aid 30 years ago, to 3.5 per cent in 2004; and
positive initiatives by the current Government to address climate change;
policies, projects and programs that deliver long term solutions for water security; and
the Government’s commitment to tackle the impact of rising food prices and shortages by addressing the root causes of global food security.

8:02 pm

Photo of Bernie RipollBernie Ripoll (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Global food security represents one of the greatest challenges that the international community faces. It is arguable that we have a responsibility to raise, debate and address these issues as a regional leader and a stable, developed nation-state. Over one-sixth of the global population, about one billion people, is now classified as undernourished according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN body responsible for monitoring the international food situation. The effects of undernourishment are well documented. Undernourishment leads to lower energy and concentration levels, susceptibility to disease resulting from weaker immune systems, and lower life expectancy for its sufferers—and this happens to many people in the world. Afflicted individuals are also not able to work at their full capacity, they have drops in productivity, and their yields and capacity to work are of course much, much lower. This leads to a drop in the overall economy of the nation or region and, as productivity falls, so does their standard of living. Lower consumption rates lead also to job losses, and drops in income lead to poorer families, making it even harder for them to afford to buy good-quality food, even if it is available.

There are gross inequities in the distribution of hungry people around the world. While ideally no man, woman or child should go hungry, it is deceiving to see the levels at which some states and areas are suffering. This is an emerging complication of the food security crisis that will play out in the next century. It is one we must face and address. Even with one-sixth of the global population starving there are still adequate cereal and food supplies to ensure that each person is fully nourished. The reason many of these people, often from the most disadvantaged areas on the planet, are unable to access food is simply cost. The spike in prices is largely attributable to the failure of global food production to keep pace with growing demand.

The world’s population is projected to increase from the current 6½ billion people to nearly 9.2 billion people by 2050 and anyone who has read the Intergenerational report in Australia will understand the significant challenges that we face not only here but also at a global level. Global food production will need to rise by some 70 per cent to meet this challenge, incorporating the growing use of biofuels as oil prices rise, to further complicate matters. This will need to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South America, where the only tracts of high-yield, sustainable and suitable farm lands are available.

The effects of the global financial crisis were not limited to the people of Australia, householders or financial institutions. The poorest people in the world have frequently been priced out of the market, with few options available to them due to the decline of subsistence agriculture. Biosecurity is also a serious threat to global food security. The vast plethora of edible fauna is largely ignored in favour of a small variety of engineered and chemically fuelled high-yield crops. These are corn, wheat, soy beans and rice. As tastes narrow and markets boom, the varieties of these staple products grow less diverse. The refined crops of today are mostly hybrids and increasingly susceptible to crop blights and other diseases that can threaten yields. By diversifying crop production, we can insure ourselves against this threat.

The most typical challenge for ensuring food supplies is something I believe the opposition is struggling to come to terms with—that is, some of the dangers of climate change that are with us today. Global temperature rises will contract food production, dropping yields from current levels while demand rises across a variety of geographical areas. The greatest decline is likeliest to occur where there is the greatest demand and need, such as places like Latin America, Asia and Africa. It is important that we address and consider these challenges concurrently to stave off ecological disaster.

AusAID also does a crucial job in providing funds and guidance to impoverished communities across the world, giving them the means to help themselves and their people. For example, in May 2009, the federal government announced a four-year $464-million global food security initiative, which aims to do a number of things in countries from Africa to Asia, across the continent and the Pacific as well, that are affected by global food security. There is certainly much more that can be done.

I also want to link this motion that I have put forward to what I think is a growing problem in Australia. It is about crop diversity and it is about food security even within Australia, because I think these matters are all linked. One of the biggest problems that we have in Australia is type 2 diabetes, which is linked directly to our diet. There is clear evidence that over the past 30 years our diets have shrunk to a very small base and that people’s lifestyle choices and what they eat are getting narrower and narrower. Our diets are now mostly filled with fructose and sucrose, high in fat and high in salt. There is very, very little diversity in all of that, and people’s lifestyles, particularly exercise, have not kept pace. We need to have a close look at what we can do to improve that. It is one of the biggest challenges that this country and the world will face, with type 2 diabetes causing so many problems for our health budgets as well. (Time expired)

8:07 pm

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to support in principle this motion on global food and water security put forward by the member for Oxley. This motion was obviously written before the climate change summit in Copenhagen last year, so I will forgive my colleague for his vain hope that there would be some significant outcome from that talkfest. However, I do acknowledge that the United Nations have on their agenda the issue of global food security.

We are very much on the verge of a global food crisis, if we are not already in the midst of it. Last year, rising food prices were the basis of violent riots in Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Senegal. At the moment, global food production cannot meet global demands. This is the challenge that we face: trying to feed an increasing global population so as to avoid riots, which could tragically lead ultimately to war. We are trying to do this in the face of rapidly diminishing arable farming lands. By 2050, most of the world will be urbanised. By 2025, there will be around 30 megacities with populations of more than 10 million each. To feed the population in these megacities and the projected global population of around nine billion people by 2050, food production will have to increase by 70 per cent globally. By 2030, global demand for meat will increase by around 80 per cent. There will be more mouths to feed but fewer farmers to meet the challenge.

In Australia it is expected that we will have a population of around 35 million by 2050. Our farmers contribute to feeding over 60 million people a day, so we are not only well placed to feed ourselves but we are also in a position to feed the world. To do this we must ensure that our farmers are given enough support from government, consumers and industry. Yet at the moment farmers across the nation are facing their biggest challenge: encroachment on their land by urbanisation and mining. More than 80 per cent of Queensland’s land is in some way affected by resources exploration, exploitation or excavation. For the past few years farmers have suffered uncertainty in the face of the mining giant, but they have certainly not laid down without a fight and I have been with them in this fight. They have strongly and rightly called for the assurance that the state’s prime agricultural lands will be protected from the threat of urbanisation and mining.

I support my colleague when he calls on the House to support policies, projects and programs that deliver long-term solutions for food security as a means of reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. However, we cannot help others if we do not help ourselves. That is why it is important that we find the right balance between protecting our productive agricultural lands and harnessing our fossil fuel resources. I was pleased to learn that recently the Queensland government has finally listened to the concerns of the state’s producers and our vital food and fibre producers. It has released a policy and planning framework discussion paper on conserving and managing Queensland’s strategic cropping land. This has been a long time coming. I have been calling for progress like this since I organised and hosted a ‘meeting of the minds’ forum between farmers and mining groups almost two years ago in my electorate of Maranoa.

Nevertheless, I welcome this paper, as have many of the farming community groups in Queensland, and I will certainly be putting a submission to the strategy. I agree with the paper on the strategic cropping land proposal when it says that they have to ‘protect such land from those developments that would lead to its permanent alienation or diminished productivity’. With only two per cent of Queensland classified as cropping land, I do not think it is a big task to ask the Queensland government to ensure our prime arable lands can continue to provide a vital source of food and fibre for the state, the nation and the world. We protect national parks; we protect the Barrier Reef; it is time that we protected our prime agricultural food resource: arable lands in this country, not just in the state of Queensland.

We must also make sure that our governments and our parliament are open to the highly supportive and new technologies which increase our yield, and I read a disturbing newspaper article recently which talked of some of Australia’s top chefs signing to an anti-GM agreement last year. The author rightly pointed out that these chefs are in a privileged position of being able to access some of Australia’s finest organically grown foods, yet across the ocean there are more than a billion undernourished people—(Time expired)

Photo of Danna ValeDanna Vale (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.