I hope you all had a great Christmas and found some time to relax.
It is great to be back and ready for a busy 2024.
There is plenty of unfinished business from 2023. I’ve spent a lot of time out chatting to locals and know that the cost of living continues to be the number one concern for local families.
I will continue advocating for action on the cost of living, improved local roads and better access to quality healthcare for our community – among other issues.
The high cost of groceries, mortgages, energy bills, rents and insurances are leaving many families without adequate food on the table.
This is something I heard firsthand in my role on the Standing Committee on Agriculture during our recent Inquiry into Food Security in Australia.
As the National Farmers’ Federation told the committee, Australia produces enough food to feed 75 million people each year – both here and overseas through exports.
Local farmers in the Yarra Valley produce high quality fruit and vegetables that put our community on the world stage.
But as the 188 written submissions and many public hearings made clear, food security isn’t just about supply. It’s about ensuring all Australians have access to affordable, nutritious foods.
I know from my recent visits to Holy Fools, The Mustard Tree in Lilydale, Outer East Food Share, Discovery Community Care Mt Evelyn, LinC Yarra Junction, ADRA Warburton, Foothills Community Care and Soupees in Upwey that local food banks are under more pressure than ever to support families in need.
The committee made several recommendations, including that a Minister for Food be established with the responsibility of addressing food insecurity in Australia. It was recommended that a National Food Plan be created that maps out the entire supply chain – from paddock to plate – including transport routes, so governments and community can act to prevent future supply chain disruptions.
We also heard evidence of the duopoly, Coles and Woolworths, leaving Aussie farmers short-changed for their produce.
The stories of farmers getting $1.50 for pumpkins that the duopoly sell for $20 a piece is just the tip of the iceberg. The implications of this power disparity between hardworking farmers and the duopoly creates serious concerns for future food security. To maintain our production capacity both locally in the Yarra Valley and as a nation, farm businesses must remain profitable and be able to operate in competitive environments.
The ACCC inquiry into supermarket price gouging is long overdue. Not only for the sake of local farmers and our national food security, but for all Australians struggling to afford to put food on the table in these tough times.
(Published in Star Mail News, 30 January 2024)