AN olive branch extended by new Greens leader Christine Milne to agriculture has been sceptically welcomed by the state’s peak farm lobby group.
The minor party’s leadership change has resulted in a campaign to attract more votes in regional Australia, given that inner-city Melbourne and Sydney are still the main source of Greens votes.
Senator Milne toured regional NSW yesterday and claimed the Greens were keen to reach out to regional Australia, in particular the farming sector.
However, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Andrew Broad said the party needed to change its ways on policies which adversely affected farmers.
“Christine Milne grew up on a farm in Tasmania and she has a different approach to Bob Brown but they really need to have a hard look at their policies if they want to build bridges in regional Australia,” Mr Broad said.
“I welcome any moves towards politicians getting out of Canberra and seeing the real Australia.
“My big concern is that there are elements in her party which want to shut down Australian farming with extreme, counter-productive policies.”
Senator Milne visited Orange and the Riverina yesterday as part of the tour and her office confirmed she would visit regional Victoria during the next few months.
“I wanted to talk about things like the Coles-Woolworths duopoly and those impacts, the outcomes of the carbon farming initiative in the district, and anything else, particularly to do with renewable energy,” she told ABC radio.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan said the Greens were effectively an “anti-farmer party” given its restrictive policies on agricultural enterprise. He said the minor party’s support of a live export ban, the federal government’s carbon tax and an illegal logging bill would all hinder primary production nationwide.
“It’s a very unusual move by Christine Milne and if she believes what she says, she obviously does not understand the farming sector,” Mr Tehan said. “Farmers have care for the land at the front of their mind and do not need restrictive Greens policies to be told how to operate their businesses.
“The Labor-Greens pact in pushing through the carbon tax which will hit the dairy, wool and grain sectors hard financially.” Environmental Farmers Network secretary Peter Forster said he was pleased to see greater interaction between the Greens and the agricultural sector. He claimed many Victorian farmers were receptive to carbon reduction and green policies.