The agriculture sector will not be intimidated into jobs losses and economic decline as trade relations between Australia and China deteriorate, the sector’s lobby group has warned.
WA’s Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA WA) has stated it will not roll over to China’s “bullying” with the relationship worsening, impacting job in agriculture and the wider economic community.
The Association claimed Australia’s “mutually respectful relationship” with China had soured after the world superpower took “offence at something our Prime Minister said about an inquiry to the COVID virus and where it started from.”
It said China was hitting the agriculture sector as Australia’s “soft underbelly”, to “bring political influence to bear against our government.”
PGA WA President Tony Seabrook said Australia was being punished for its stance.
“We perceive this to be a spurious way of actually attacking Australia,” Mr Seabrook told WAMN News.
“They (China) are basically saying to Australia now if you say anything that contravenes what we see as good policy or the way we like to run our country, we will punish you.”
Mr Seabrook said there was “no doubt” that sector jobs would “take the first hit” but the wider economy would also be affected.
“When you deprive a farmer of income you deprive him of his spending capacity and the money that we would normally spend in the cities out a whole range of different things will not be spent,” he said.
“I’d like most to recognize that this is not just a punishment to wine growers, or beef producers as barley growers. This is an economic punishment that will be borne by the broader community.”
He said Australia needed to hold its principles and not be bullied.
“We as a nation need to join others in just standing up and calling it out for what it actually is and saying, “no, we won’t do that,” Mr Seabrook said.
He added that Australia needed to by self-sustainable by re-establishing manufacturing.
The McGowan Government has advised the Federal Government during the week to repair its “hostile and acrimonious” relationship with China with WA farmers caught in the crossfire.
China suspended barley imports on Tuesday from CBH Group, which is owned by about 3,900 WA growers.
Premier Mark McGowan said thousands of WA jobs depended on a solid relationship with China, with a significant impact to income to farmers.
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that PGA WA’s attitude was meaningless.
“We’ve been collateral in a trade war and quite frankly I don’t think the PGA attitude just helps,” Ms MacTiernan said.
She said WA had a plan to improve its economy.
“The more practical thing is to keep calm and keep as many as possible of our good relations with China going, whilst at the same time, very much focusing on diversifying our market.”
“We’re caught up in a bit of a power play between the Federal Government and China. And secondly, that the US has put an enormous amount of pressure on China, because of the trade imbalance between the two economies to divert $70 billion of farming product from the rest of the world to the US.”
“Jumping up and down and saying we’re going to be tougher doesn’t mean anything.”