2003, Volume 6, Paper 57
ISSN: 2209-6612

The policy slide

David Trebeck – Executive Chairman, ACIL Tasman

Earlier this month in Canberra, the head of the Agricultural Directorate of the OECD, Dr Stefan Tangermann, listened to an extraordinary debate. So much so that he thought he was either suffering from acute jet lag, or was on another planet. The occasion was a private luncheon during the Outlook Conference. In a free-wheeling discussion, those present were giving their views on what everyone hoped would be postdrought recovery and what was needed to hasten it. There was a range of opinion about how rapid the recovery might be, but virtual unanimity that recovery would be facilitated the more governments got out of the way. To a European, such attitudes were breathtaking; later Dr Tangermann told me he found the discussion inspiring. This is one of world agriculture’s leading advocates for sensible policy and freer trade — a valuable ally of Australia. I think we can safely say that the cost of his invitation was well and truly recouped. I mention this story because it provides the flip-side to my main theme today, namely that enthusiasm for rural policy reform — and improved economic policy more generally — has badly stalled in recent years. Before I cite examples, I should take a moment to reiterate why sensible policy matters, especially to farmers. For a while I thought the arguments — which are all old hat — were well accepted, but I have been forced to conclude that this is no longer the case. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the policy vacuum that
currently exists.

Download full document here