Survey reveals Aussies concerned about selling the farm

ABC Rural | 23 August 2013
The ABC's Vote Compass has revealed that three-quarters of Australians want more restrictions on foreign ownership of agricultural land.

Survey reveals Aussies concerned about selling the farm

By Anna Vidot and Neroli Roocke

The ABC's Vote Compass has revealed that three-quarters of Australians want more restrictions on foreign ownership of agricultural land, and a little under half think that live exports should be banned.

More than 875,000 people from rural and metropolitan areas, right across Australia, have now completed the Vote Compass survey. It asks people for their opinions on a range of economic, social and environmental questions, and compares them with the published policy positions of Labor, the Coalition and the Greens.

In the latest report looking at responses on environmental, agricultural and related issues, the most marked response was on whether the Federal Government should introduce further restrictions on foreign ownership of agricultural land.

Three-quarters of Australians say that's a good idea, with Coalition voters the most likely to think further restrictions are necessary. However, the response in favour of more restrictions was consistent across party and geographical lines.

But the ABC's election analyst Antony Green says that's a response that's coming as much from voters' hearts as their heads.

"It's one of those issues where I think people instinctively have an attitude that there shouldn't be foreign ownership of farm land," he said.

"On this, foreign ownership is probably a good thing on getting investment into properties, because if people want to sell their farm, they want to get the best price for it.

"For people selling their land, if there's restrictions on foreign ownership, they will not do as well.

"So I think this is an area where rational policy decisions are actually quite distinct from the gut feeling of most voters."

It was a similar, yet less pronounced, result for coal seam gas exploration, with about half of respondents saying they'd like more restrictions on CSG. Voters in NSW were most likely to want additional CSG restrictions, perhaps reflecting the high profile campaign against the industry being led by NSW Farmers Association and the Greens, among others.

The debate over live exports has been one of the most significant political issues for many regional Australians over the past two years, and Vote Compass asked voters whether they thought the trade should be banned.

Overall, just under half of all responses agreed to some degree with a ban; as expected, Coalition voters were more likely to disagree with a ban, while Greens voters were more likely to agree with a ban.

Labor supporters had more disparate views: while 49 per cent agreed to some extent with banning the live trade, 19 per cent were neutral on the issue, and 30 per cent did not support a ban.

Antony Green says the overall live export results also reflect some predictable differences between rural and metropolitan voters, and between voters in different states, with voters in the live export hub of the Northern Territory the most likely to disagree with a ban.

But while those who are engaged with the issue feel strongly about it, Antony Green says his suspicion is that live exports isn't an issue that the majority of Australians feel very strongly about, one way or another. And he doesn't think it's an issue that will sway votes at this election.

"I don't think so; neither of the major parties are proposing any form of ban, they both want better welfare standards if live exports are going to go ahead. I don't think there's anything there which is going to change people's votes, because apart from the Greens, there's no positive proposal to ban live exports," he said.

Groups advocating for and against live exports say one question in a survey of many different issues doesn't provide a full picture of community attitudes.

The Live Exporters Council says National Farmers Federation research, where people were given more options and more information, came out with greater support for the trade.

"The common theme throughout all of the research undertaken is a desire from the Australian public for improved animal welfare outcomes.

"I hope over time that the community can come to better understand the role that we're playing internationally in helping improve animals' welfare."

Lisa Chalk, from animal rights group Animals Australia, thinks the Vote Compass result in favour of a ban could have been higher than 44 per cent with a different question.

"It is what we would have expected with the question that was posed.

"I think the results would have been quite different if the question had pitched it in terms of a phase-out, which would allow farmers time to adjust.

"All the proposals on the table at the moment do advocate for a phase-out of live export.

"You don't need a crystal ball to see where future opportunities lie for producers.

"Our meat exports are absolutely booming and meat exports would provide a much more stable trade."

On carbon pricing, voters were most likely to line up behind the party they prefer. But while Coalition supporters dislike the carbon tax, they were more likely to want the government to do more to tackle climate change, with 42 per cent of Coalition voters saying the government should do somewhat more, or much more.

When asked about the amount of tax being paid by mining companies, Labor and Greens voters generally wanted the companies to pay more, in line with those parties' policies.

Some Coalition voters broke ranks on the mining tax though; while 41 per cent believe the miners are already paying about the right amount of tax, 36 per cent believed the mining companies should be paying more.

CORRECTION: In his interview with Anna Vidot, ABC election analyst Antony Green incorrectly states that live sheep exports in Western Australia have been largely confined to the port of Bunbury. ABC Rural can confirm that live exports continue from Fremantle.

  • Icon-world  ABC
  • 23 Aug 2013

Who's involved?

Who's involved?


Special content


Latest posts