WA Liberal Party Food Security Vision

29 June 2011 FDI Team


Food security was the focus of the Western Australian Liberal Party’s Forrest Division annual conference, held in Margaret River on 17-18 June 2011. The Conference was attended by WA Premier Colin Barnett and several other Government Ministers and parliamentarians. The “show of force” highlighted the growing awareness and concern in the Party about ensuring food security in Australia. In addition, the impact of international food insecurity on Australia’s future interests was discussed. The party took the opportunity to speak about the long-term vision required to meet global and Australian food needs.


WA Premier Colin Barnett said it was important for the agricultural sector to get smarter in trading with other countries. He indicated that he was keen to use leverage from resource exports to develop new markets for Western Australian agricultural produce. It appears that the Premier’s next vision is to elevate the status of the agricultural sector on the world stage.

Other speakers were the former chief executive of CBH, Imre Mencshelyi, Senator Dr Chris Back and Dr Ian Fairnie.

Dr Fairnie spoke of the coming food crisis and the challenges that would come as the world’s population increased and lifestyle expectations continued to rise. He said one challenge would be to encourage more people to study agriculture, to ensure that a future generation of farmers would be able to maintain food production. This would involve spending more on encouraging people into agricultural studies.

The world spends about $40 billion per year on agricultural science, compared to $1,500 billion per year on weapons. Ironically, if more were spent on agricultural science it would reduce the need for weapons, as many of the conflicts today (and possibly in the future) result from intergovernmental food and water tensions.

To deal with future food security, the long-term trend of closing down agricultural colleges and research institutes will have to be reversed. Around two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural campuses have already closed down. Dr Fairnie argues that a five-fold increase in global investment to around $160 billion per year is needed to deal with future food problems.

Without this investment and a basic acknowledgement of the centrality of food and water security to global and regional stability, there is an increased likelihood of new conflicts flaring up, as has already occurred in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The importance of Western Australia playing a hand in sustaining global food security does not seem to have been lost on the WA Liberal Party and its Premier – at least in their policy statements. It remains to be seen how this vision will be put into practice and hard policy decisions resolved.

Gary Kleyn

Research Manager

FDI Global Food and Water Security Research Programme

[email protected]


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