Congratulations to David Jochinke on his election to the president of the National Farmers' Federation. My interactions with David are that he is a thoroughly decent chap who has reasonable hearing, which is a good start.
Agriculture has its challenges, but as one very wise head said to me: "Advocacy groups come into their own when your backs are to the wall". When commodity prices are good, the weather is favourable and the government is listening, who needs a voice in Canberra?
I like David's first play on attaching an anti-farming tag to this current government. He has bundled up a litany of mis-steps to make the case for a reset. The real work comes in prosecuting these issues as problems for the government, the fun part is framing and selling the politics of the solution.
I do love the smell of fear from a backbencher on a small margin when you point out how politically brave they have been in adopting some ill advised nonsense.
It is critical that the NFF reacquaint themselves with all the offices of all the players in the big house. Obsequious obedience is not the way to get quality access. They have to rate you and also be a little bit afraid of you.
It is also critical to work with your members as they have resources, contacts and credibility.
An issue like live sheep export is ripe for prosecution by the NFF. It has been mismanaged until now, but is recoverable.
The polls are tightening up for Labor in the west and Queensland. If they want clear air in the lower house after the next election, they need no baggage in these jurisdictions. They have repeatedly flagged that the live export policy is restricted to sheep to try to contain the collateral political damage.
With the government's history of being extremely transactional with the Greens, it is obvious that live cattle export will go under the bus in the next term if the price is right.
A plan would be to sell Murray Watt and his susceptible colleagues' political coverage on cattle in exchange for a review into sheep. Hit the media monitoring of a very reactive government with a barrage of local stories in those sensitive jurisdictions. The game plan writes itself.
The other piece of advice I give from the cheap seats is to focus. The NFF has had an existential crisis for the past few years, trying to decide what and who it is. Obviously, it is always good to reflect and review, but please, enough is enough.
Accept that agriculture, like many sectors, has a plethora of issues and voices espousing all sorts of views. Embrace the reality and navigate the politics by building consensus by logic rather than demanding compliance by coercive governance structures.
We have all started a lobby group when we felt unloved to prosecute a specific agenda. It's great we are so engaged.
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