25 June, 2009

Snowy Hydro

In 2006 the NSW, Victorian and Australian Governments attempted to privatise the cash strapped Snowy Hydro organisation. An extraordinary campaign of resistance was mounted with leading Sydney radio commentator Alan Jones very prominent. That well known poet "Anon" penned the following piece of dogrel.

The Man From Snowy Hydro (With apologies to A.B. Paterson)

There was movement at the media for the word had passed around that the Snowy Hydro privatisation was astray,
It had joined the masses radar and could easily be beat-up, and all the media power would be on display,
All the tried and noted players from the (radio) stations near and far had mustered to the action over right,
For the Parrot loves hard riding where the national icons are and the populist “pollies” sniff the battle with delight.

There was Heffernan who lost his style when Kirby beat the slight,
the bush warrior with his redemption all aglow,
Few could go against him when his blood was fairly up,
Ask Barnaby and Fiona, they ought to know.
Bill sees water as his saviour and claims to know it all, with Cubbie Station firmly in his sights,
It really is much safer than homophobia and all, and anyway power recovery is his by right.

And Little Johnnie back from Ireland, three elections in his (saddle) bag, knows in truth the three Governments should get out,
I’ll be firm says he, they trust me, I’ll turn this around, a token gesture here and there, just watch me clout.

But the Parrot rode to wheel him, he was racing on the wing, it well might make the boldest hold their breath,
He drove his spiel right through them and he made the ranges ring, with his rhetoric in full audacious flight,
Howard and Iemma copped a lashing how inadequate they felt, and Nairn says Eden-Monaro will be death,
The air waves were electric, how the populace was swayed, it really was a movement to asight,

How could they even think of it, this dastardly plan, to sell an Aussie icon such as Snowy,
After all, the people own it and retention is a must, never mind the Railways and the PMG.
Governments can run things, just look at Cuba and all, don’t trust those nasty markets of the free.
We know Russia’s ‘gone to market’ and China’s freeing up, but clearly they must have got it wrong.
The pollies went to water, Johnnie pulled the plug, and all the rest is history.

Sometimes we must be reactive, give the populists a win.
“I have listened to the people just as democrats should do, it really never hurts to change your mind”;
Just like breaking non-core promises, ‘tis only a minor sin,
And it has the compensation of putting Iemma in a bind.

We must win the next election, me or Pete, it is just so important to get our priorities tall,
To do whatever’s needed to keep the masses on our side, a compromise here or there wont really hurt,
You give a bit and take a bit that’s the game we play; we know we cannot win them all,
We’ll take a bit of flack from the brightest in the land, but they’ll get over it and forgive us for the dirt.

So who are the real culprits, the ones who let Australia down and forced us down the road to the fall?
Where was the voice of reason, of the ones who really understand, the true bastions of the free?
Their silence was so deafening, they never said a word, why were they never heard at all?
If only Alan had not done arts at Oxford, and had not adopted the economics of the L.S.E.,

And down by Snowy Hydro, Terry Charlton holds his head, how to turn my vision really on?
It really is perplexing, are sovereign Governments so weak, they would ultimately control us after all,
Governments are all powerful, it is they that make and the rules, and without their Snowy shares their conflict would be gone,
There ain’t no funds to grow us, to take those foreign generators head-on; I was so looking forward to the brawl.

Snowy was built by immigrants, a truly global exercise, with lots of Yankee contractors their machinery and tools,
It could be something so much stronger, creating more wealth for us all, paying taxes, employing more people and playing by the rules,
Australia will always “own” it, whoever holds the shares, and with new capital it could really make a bigger mark,
But no, we are so jingoistic and myopic, afraid to let market forces have free reign. Sometimes we can behave like bloody fools,
We should live to regret it, but then perhaps we’ll never know, but let’s hope we don’t all end up in the dark.

The Guitar

10 June, 2009

Global Warming Theology-Open Email to Senator Fielding

Dear Senator,
I would like to congratulate you and encourage you on the stance you are taking on this subject. The arrogant dismissal of legitimate questioning of the science behind the conventional position has been appalling. It is my view that we humans are inclined to overstate our impacts and our level of control. I think we delude ourselves to believe we can change the climate of the earth (for better or worse) which has always been beyond man's puny impacts and efforts.

Whether I am right or wrong, all science should be open to question. Throughout history it has been the so called 'sceptics' who have questioned accepted science and led the way to man's progress.

In politics, 'players' need to decide whether they are going to be reactive to perceived public opinion and simply play political games or be pro-active in taking a leadership role when they are firmly of the belief that the majority public opinion may be misinformed.
This takes courage, but is the mark of true leadership and when proven correct carries great reward.
I believe there are many in the Federal Parliament who are personally not convinced by what seems to be the majority opinion, but believe it would be harmful to say so. Your stance of calling for open-minded questionning should encourage these people to be more forthright.

Best wishes and good luck.
David Boyd

09 June, 2009

A Favourite Quote

"This is my long-run forecast in brief:

The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indefinitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today's Western living standards.

I also speculate, however, that many people will continue to think and say that the conditions of life are getting worse." (Julian Simon 1932-98).

Toorale Water is Different

At Senate Estimates on Thursday night, Penny Wong's officials said that the water saved at Toorale from the February flow comprised 5,900 megs from the Darling and 1,300 megs from the Warrego-a total of 7,200 megs.

Bill Heffernan asked them where they gauged it and for the Warrego River was told at Ford's Bridge. With the Warrego not much more than a shallow gutter, there are always huge stream losses between Ford's Bridge and the Darling junction.

Data shows that, due to water losses in the river system and the Menindee Lakes storages, for every megalitre of water that flows past Bourke only 0.3ML can be expected to appear as regulated flow in the Lower Darling or to contribute to flow in the Murray.

Apparently Toorale water is different as the whole 7,200 megs has been allocated to the various Murray environmental iconic sites!


"What a funny world!

1) The central unique physical characteristic of Australia is massive rainfall variability.

2) Consequently, 'available water' is largely a consequence of efficient storage.

3) Huge rainfall is occurring in Northern NSW and South-east Queensland.

4) We are in the midst of the biggest infrastructure spend in Australia's history.

5) The planning does not include a single new dam!"

Irrigation Facts

Thursday 28 May, 2009 - 21:27 by David Boyd

  • Irrigated agriculture contributes approximately 25 per cent of the gross value of Australian agricultural production, 3% of GDP, 22% of exports, but only uses 0.4 per cent of Australia’s farming area (Source: CSIRO, 2006)
  • Australia utilises about 8% of its available water for industry, agriculture and support of the population, with agriculture using about 65% of this, or less than 6% of Australia’s water (Source: National Land and Water Audit 1997 – 2002)
  • In their ‘natural’ state, the rivers located in the southern half of Australia experience more variable flows than virtually any other rivers in the world (Murray-Darling Basin Commission 2005)
  • Between 1885 and 1960, the Darling River stopped flowing at Menindee on 48 occasions – well before irrigation existed on the river or its tributaries (Australian Farm Institute).
  • Data shows that, due to water losses in the river system and the Menindee Lakes storages, for every megalitre of water that flows past Bourke only 0.3ML can be expected to appear as regulated flow in the Lower Darling or to contribute to flow in the Murray.

Fun Facts of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide
Wednesday 07 May, 2008 - 10:49 by David Boyd

Of the 186 billion tons of CO2 that enter earth's atmosphere each year from all sources, only 6 billion tons are from human activity. Approximately 90 billion tons come from biologic activity in earth's oceans and another 90 billion tons from such sources as volcanoes and decaying land plants.
At 368 parts per million CO2 is a minor constituent of earth's atmosphere-- less than 4/100ths of 1% of all gases present. Compared to former geologic times, earth's current atmosphere is CO2- impoverished.
CO2 is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Plants absorb CO2 and emit oxygen as a waste product. Humans and animals breathe oxygen and emit CO2 as a waste product. Carbon dioxide is a nutrient, not a pollutant, and all life-- plants and animals alike-- benefit from more of it. All life on earth is carbon-based and CO2 is an essential ingredient. When plant-growers want to stimulate plant growth, they introduce more carbon dioxide.
CO2 that goes into the atmosphere does not stay there but is continually recycled by terrestrial plant life and earth's oceans-- the great retirement home for most terrestrial carbon dioxide.

If we are in a global warming crisis today, even the most aggressive and costly proposals for limiting industrial carbon dioxide emissions would have a negligible effect on global climate!

Climate Change-Ian Plimer

In his new book, Heaven and Earth: Climate change – the real science, Prof Plimer, from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, notes that climatic change is ‘the norm’, sea levels rise and fall all the time, and that climate cycles are driven by massive forces completely unrelated to carbon emissions.

He says: “Climate changes in the past have been far greater and far more rapid than anything measured in the present. Not one previous climate change has ever been driven by carbon dioxide.

To talk of carbon pollution shows an appalling ignorance of basic school science. Carbon dioxide is plant food, without it humans could not exist.”

Irrigation-Letter In SMH

Letter in SMH 30.05.09
Saturday 30 May, 2009 - 07:25 by David Boyd in Irrigation

Solution flows from fewer licences and more dams
May 30, 2009

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause of our record low river flows, particularly in the Murray-Darling, and buying back water licences won't fix it ("River rescue deal leaves NSW spluttering", May 29).

Take a look at the graph on the Murray Darling Basin Authority website that shows record low run-off into the Murray in recent years. The problem is clearly not extractions, which in any event are limited by low, or no, allocations. The problem is lack of run-off and too few efficient water storages.

There has been no discernible benefit from the water licence purchases and lower allocations that have taken place. Why? Because there has been no widespread heavy rain in the catchment. Thus, throwing another $300 million at buying back water licences is fiddling with the problem and will only restrict production when the rain does come.

The central feature of Australia's inland rivers is their massive variability. Storages can even this out and make production not only possible, but economically and environmentally sustainable.

Under natural conditions the Murray would have stopped flowing about two years ago and salt water would have entered Lakes Alexandrina and Albert (the Lower Lakes), as it always did when river flows were low before the building of barrages. Yet in this drought, with some water available from Eildon, Hume and Dartmouth dams, and from the Snowy system, a flow in the Murray has been maintained.

Conclusion: what we need are more dams and more efficient dams, not fewer licences. The Federal Government needs to recognise this and apply its collective mind to the profligate waste of fresh water in the form of evaporation from the man-engineered Lower Lakes and Menindee Lakes, and to identifying new sites for efficient storages. When it does so I will believe that it has
moved on from shallow, South Australia-centric political games and is addressing the problem.

With increasing world food shortages, Australia has a moral duty to maximise production, providing this can be done, as it can, without damage to our long-term productive capacity.
David Boyd St Ives

Irrigation Misunderstandings

Wednesday 18 March, 2009 - 09:50 by David Boyd
There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the cause of our record low river flows, particularly in the Murray/Darling; and buying back water licenses simply won't fix it!
Take a look at the Murray Darling Basin Authority website and the graph showing record low run-off into the Murray in recent years. The problem is clearly not extractions, which in any event are limited by low or no allocations. The problem is lack of run-off and too few efficient water storages.
Likewise consider the considerable “cut backs” that have already taken place, from which there has been no discernible benefit. Why? Because there simply hasn’t been any widespread heavy rain in the catchment.
Thus, throwing another $300m at buying back water licenses is really fiddling with the problem and will only restrict much needed production after we have the inevitable big rain event.
The central feature of Australia's inland rivers is their massive variability. Storages can even this out and make production possible and economically and environmentally sustainable.
Under natural conditions the Murray would have stopped flowing 2/3 years ago and salt water would have entered Lakes Alexandrina and Albert (the Lower Lakes), as it always did before The Barrages were built when river flows were low. Yet with some water available from Eildon, Hume and Dartmouth Dams and from the Snowy system, a flow in the Murray has been maintained.
Conclusion - what we need is more dams and more efficient dams, not less licenses. When the Australian Government recognises this and applies its collective mind to doing something about the profligate waste of fresh water in the form of evaporation from the man-engineered Lower Lakes and Menindee Lakes and to identifying new sites for additional efficient storages, I will believe that they have moved on from shallow, South Australian centric, political games and are actually addressing the real problem.

With increasing world food shortages Australia has a moral duty to maximise production, providing this can be done, as it can, without damage to Australia's longterm productive capacity.


Toorale and the Darling
Thursday 30 October, 2008


The joint purchase in September by the federal and NSW governments of Toorale Station in outback NSW has been shown to be the sham and public relations stunt it always was.
Not only did the Minister for Water and Climate Change Penny Wong admit in Monday’s Four Corners program that she didn’t know the identity of Toorale’s owners in the pre-purchase negotiations, it also emerged that the Commonwealth provided most of the funds for the $24 million acquisition “sight unseen”.
And after suggesting in immediate post-sale comments that 20 gigalitres a year would be returned to the Darling River as a result of the purchase, neither Senator Wong nor anyone else can now quantify the benefit.
Buyer, beware. Nobody ever buys a rural property of any size, let alone one for $24 million, without at least several inspections and a lot of questions – except, it seems, taxpayers. And when it comes to water, that was apparently intrinsically valued in the Toorale sale at about half the property’s price, you want to be doubly sure that what you expect is what you get.
The shambolic and hasty manner in which the federal and NSW governments acquired Toorale is bad enough. But worse, it has effectively killed any chance of achieving broad public understanding of the real problems affecting Australia’s inland rivers, and how they should be tackled.
The sale may well have convinced the public that similar acquisitions of farmland and/or irrigation water can restore health to inland rivers. But in most cases, buybacks will deliver only a trickle of additional water to the environment, because irrigators can access water only when there are significant and prescribed flows in a river after heavy rain.
This is certainly the case with Toorale, which has several thousand hectares developed for cotton, but not a boll of which has been harvested for several years because there hasn’t been enough water available from the Darling and Warrego rivers to support a crop.
So while the drought continues, the payback to taxpayers from the Toorale purchase will be nil. It will still be nil even if there is moderated rainfall, and only minor benefits during floods because a lot of water stays out on flood plains and only some returns to the river from whence it came.
Mother Nature – not governments, environmentalists, irrigators or anyone else – determine whether rivers flow or dry up. It may be too simplistic for some, but 99 percent of the problems on the Darling and other rivers are caused by lack of precipitation, the variability of rainfall, and evaporation. It has been that way for millennia, and always will be.
The Murray, Darling and most, if not all, of Australia’s inland rivers have been dry several times during white settlement, and often beforehand.
The Murray, for example, stopped flowing in 1850 and for six months during the “Federation drought” of 1902 before there was any real human intervention. But Australia’s greatest river has continued to flow during this drought – the worst since white settlement – because water has been stored and subsequently released from Hume and Dartmouth dams.
The Darling is a microcosm of the Murray, with only 12 percent of its bigger brother’s average flow. The Darling flows strongly after a big rain, or otherwise not much at all. Irrigators – mostly cotton farms – on its route are strictly controlled, can take water only when the river reaches prescribed flows at various points, and in a normal year access about six percent of the river’s entire volume of water.
Most of the Darling’s much-maligned cotton growers have produced only one or two crops this decade. The lion’s share of these properties – 97pc in Toorale’s case – is devoted to grazing. This is far from a profligate, raping and pillaging of the river mentality.
It also makes a mockery of the apparent intention of the new owners to pull down the main dam – and perhaps other small dams – on the Warrego (which meets the Darling on the station) that were built in the late 1880s by the architect of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme, Sir Samuel McCaughey, to prevent water being wasted during peak flows.
Like many smaller inland rivers, the Warrego flows only occasionally, usually about once a year. McCaughey designed a system that allowed excess water from the river to spill across Toorale’s floodplains. There are four-foot diameter pipes in Toorale’s dams on the Warrego to allow smaller flows to pass straight through to the Darling.
If the Toorale purchase was a blueprint for fixing the problems of Australia’s inland rivers, we can be sure that a lasting solution will never be found.
Paul Myers

Remember, farmers feed us all

Remember, farmers feed us allPaul Myers
April 3, 2009
If there's one industry in Australia that needs some decent PR, it's agriculture.
There are 175,000 farmers who feed Australia and contribute significantly to global nutrition. But they have lost the hearts and minds of the people who depend on them. Their status has sunk to an all-time low, and they are now regarded, variously, as environmental vandals, cruel managers of livestock and economic opportunists.

How times and attitudes have changed. Fifty years ago farmers (or more so, graziers) were at the top of the social and economic pecking order. It was a status symbol just to belong to a farming family, or to have relatives on and connections to the land.
Not now. In a world where the lines between perception and reality are blurred, all types of farming are viewed as being bad, and taking water to grow food and fibre is worse. Using fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides is untenable.

The farming community seems incapable of overcoming this negativity, incapable of working out how to make a public argument that sustainable food production is a national and global necessity.

A good starting point would be abandoning the word agriculture. Agriculture is no longer sexy. It is widely seen, inaccurately, as an outdated industry with anachronistic low-tech practices - one that the best young minds are increasingly avoiding.

Producing food and fibre may be a simplistic way of describing what farmers do, but there is an astonishing gap between what the public thinks of as farming and maximising food production.

Many farming critics don't seem to understand that inhibiting farmers' capacity to produce food limits the global supply, increasing the need for imports, making scarcer food more expensive and taking food away from those who need it more.

That arrogant disconnect is far graver than whatever environmental irresponsibilities farmers may or may not practice.

The planet has more than 6 billion people, but only enough for five. By 2050 9 billion people - the vast majority living in cities and towns - will compete for scarce food produced from less agricultural land than we have available now. Nutrition has to come from somewhere, and farms seem an obvious choice for continuing to meet that need. But the prospect of widespread food shortages does not, apparently, engender any greater understanding of the vital role of farming in the future of both the planet, and humanity.

Some of us who live in the developed world - with full bellies and ready access to cheap, wholesome food - are among the strongest critics of modern farming, yet many don't look beyond their next meal. Certainly not in Australia, and Sydney in particular, where planned urban developments will remove three-quarters of the Sydney basin's food production capability. It is a significant capability, still, and removing it means a lot of poultry, eggs, Asian vegetables, fruit and specialty crops will have to be produced elsewhere and transported, or not grown at all.

Agriculture - or whatever it should be called - urgently needs to start talking to its customers, not just to itself and governments. It needs to explain what's right, sustainable and good, and why. Not doing so threatens Australia's future food supply.

Take, for example, the way the federal and NSW governments trashed the reputation of responsible riparian pastoralists when they bought Toorale station in western NSW last year. Government and environmental spin machines went into overdrive to convince us the purchase was necessary "to restore water flows to the Darling River".
Not true. Farmers can take water from regulated rivers like the Darling only when there are certain flows and river heights downstream. They can't, and don't, take water when there isn't enough. Until recent rain, little water had been extracted by Toorale or nearby properties for years.

When farmers are allowed to take water, either so much flows that there's virtually no "return of water" to the river, or it spills out on to floodplains (where it is available for productive agricultural practices) and some returns to the river naturally. The lack of water in rivers is more because of the lack of rain than farmers taking the water, although water has been over-allocated on the Murray.

When properties like Toorale store water in the wet times, river flows are much better than when there are marginal amounts of water available.

Toorale is to become a national park, and will not be cared for like a private property. Within a few years it will be overrun by weeds and feral animals, to the detriment of the property, the neighbours and everyone.

The property has been taken out of production to satisfy an agenda that doesn't pass scrutiny. It was a $24 million stunt.

But it may be the policy blueprint for future food and fibre production and, as such, is an ominous signal that producers will ignore at their peril. A vocal minority can quickly sway a debate, as happened with mulesing, a debate the wool industry comprehensively lost.

The same outcome threatens the next big-ticket issues: carbon trading and genetically modified foods. Farmers will lose this battle if they don't take the initiative and sell it to the people they feed. The world will lose. We need it to eat, prosper and survive. Extreme views about agriculture are biting farmers hard, but losing control of the food production imperative will be disastrous for everyone. Farmers may have lost some battles, but the planet can't afford them to lose the war.

Paul Myers, a freelance journalist, is a former editor of The Land and an Australian trade commissioner in Canada.

Climate Change-Paul Johnson

The idea that human beings have changed and are changing the basic climate system of the Earth through their industrial activities and burning of fossil fuels--the essence of the Greens' theory of global warming--has about as much basis in science as Marxism and Freudianism.

Global warming, like Marxism, is a political theory of actions, demanding compliance with its rules.Marxism, Freudianism, global warming. These are proof--of which history offers so many examples--that people can be suckers on a grand scale. To their fanatical followers they are a substitute for religion.

Global warming, in particular, is a creed, a faith, a dogma that has little to do with science. If people are in need of religion, why don't they just turn to the genuine article?
Paul Johnson
2002 Africa/UK/Thailand Travelog
Link to narrative and photos

Climate Change-Washington Times

Global Warming
Wednesday 07 May, 2008 - 10:20 by David Boyd in Global Warming
The Conservative Position on Global Warming:

The strongest conservative position on global warming is as follows:

Climate change is happening, always has happened and always will; humans contribute to it to some unknown degree; a hysterical U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has leapt far ahead of the science, and, in its politicized discredit, should be ignored; climate policy is to be determined by elected officials, not unaccountable technocrats; it is surely worth society's efforts to fund, study and develop realistic alternatives to fossil fuels in the event that the man-made impact turns out to be significant — this is advisable for security reasons also; the leading liberal proposals are simply too expensive; and, crucially, forcible mandates are harmful. Productive government attention to technical and scientific problems always more readily resembles the efforts of the National Institutes of Health, ARPANET (the Internet precursor) or the Manhattan Project than mere decrees. Technological research and innovation are the best means of harnessing ingenuity to solve mankind's technical, scientific and environmental problems.
Washington Times Editorial 17.04.2008

Speech to World Hereford Conference 2004

World Hereford Conference 2004
J D O Boyd

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished audience on a subject close to my heart.
I would like to give you a broad picture of the agricultural "environment" (climatic, political and economic) in which I am involved, and provide you with an overview of its commercial realities.
I run a large-scale family farming business for UK owners, with investment spread across cotton, sheep, wool, cattle and dryland arable farming (grain, pulses and oilseeds).
These properties extend from Longreach in the central north of Queensland, west to the Channel Country and Cunnamulla, and to Bourke and Coonamble in western NSW.
I propose to discuss
• The vagaries of the Australian climate

• Recent trends in Government involvement in the agricultural sector

• Our export dependence, and its inherent price volatility

• Some characteristics of the sectors with which our Company is involved
Climate Vagaries
One of our most popular poets of old wrote:
"I love a sunburnt country a land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains,"
Australia is almost as large as the USA (Alaska excluded); is 50 per cent larger than Europe, and 32 times larger than the UK. It’s 3680km north to south and 4000km east to west.
It’s the lowest, flatest, driest developed country on earth. Mean elevation is a touch over 200 metres. About 80 per cent of the continent has median rainfall of less than 600mm per year.
Two-thirds of the continent is arid or semi-arid, where it rains less than 50 days per year.
Seasonal air temperatures vary from 50 degrees centigrade (with surface temperatures embracing 80 degrees) down to below zero.
As an example of temperature extremes, from April to October in 1923, Marble Bar in the north west of Western Australia recorded 161 consecutive days (over five months) with temperature exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rainfall is irregular and unreliable. Evaporation is high. Less than 1 per cent of the agricultural land is irrigated. Only one-fifth of divertible water resources have been developed.
While just over 60 per cent of the land mass is used for agricultural pursuits, about 84 per cent of the population live on 1 per cent of the continent, along the south east and east coast.
Soils are subject to erosion and waterlogging, and generally deficient in phosphorous, nitrogen and some trace elements. Large areas are subject to salinity and acidification.
But with these resources, we manage to house 20 million people, 26.4 million head of cattle, 95.6 million sheep, and around three million pigs, and crop around 20 million hectares of grain, plus cotton, winegrapes, sugar, etc.
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of wool, sheep and cattle, exporting around 6 million sheep and up to 1 million cattle annually.
We started our livestock industries in 1788 with just 6 cattle and 29 sheep imported from the Cape Colonies and later from India.
Live cattle exports began in 1844 and live sheep exports a year later in 1845.
Herefords were first imported in 1826 and first crossed with Zebus in the Northern Territory in 1931. In the late 1930s, some nine-tenths of the blood of NT cattle were Shorthorns, with some Hereford and Aberdeen Angus.
By the late 1990s, 50 per cent of northern cattle were of Brahman blood, and most of the remainder Brahman derived.
The resurgence of live cattle exports after the second world war, and the foundation of the modern live cattle export industry, comprised the export of Herefords to the Philippines in 1954-55.
There are around 70,000 grazing and broadacre properties, including 39,000 that grow wool and run sheep (including 8000 that specialise in prime lamb production), with about 40,000 properties running cattle.
One characteristic common to all sectors is the dominance of the family farmer. Among beef producers for example, only 1 per cent of all properties are owned by publicly listed companies.
Thus the top 20% of family farmer’s "set the pace" in Australian agriculture, battling price volatility, the long-term downward trend in commodity prices, and the continual challenge to improve productivity.
In far-western Queensland we own a famous old property called "Thylungra". A colourful Irishman called Patsy Durack first settled this property and his granddaughter wrote a well-known Australian pastoral classic titled "Kings in Grass Castles".
The book takes its name from a quote attributed to Patsy Durack when he heard that he and his compatriot graziers were being referred to as "Cattle Kings". He apparently said in his Irish brogue.
"Cattle Kings ye call us, if we be kings then we are Kings in grass castles that may be blown away upon a puff of wind …"
So quite early our pastoralists recognised the transitory nature of kingship or in other words, were already aware of the inherent climatic variability.
There are two words that loom large in developing strategies to deal with variability: "flexibility" and "conservation".
Flexibility, to adjust to ever changing conditions (but not over-react), and conservation to "put away" in the good times against the certain knowledge that they will not last. Cash, feed (in various forms), and water each lend themselves to conservation.
Government Involvement
Australian agriculture has a history of extensive Government involvement.
Statutory marketing arrangements, closer settlement schemes, extensive regulation and subsidisation, coupled with tariff regimes for secondary industries that had a deleterious impact on rural exporters, were features of the past.
With a small domestic market, farm product prices were generally set by global supply and demand shifts, yet costs were set in a closeted Australian economy.
However, over the past 25 years we have seen great change. The Australian dollar has been floated, assistance to manufacturing industry wound back, statutory marketing arrangements largely disbanded, and much regulation reversed.
As a consequence we have a much more flexible, innovative, competitive, globally exposed agricultural sector.
Albeit, a sector that in the last few years has suffered low prices from depressed global economies and has weathered the worst drought in our recorded history.
Assistance to Australian agriculture is now amongst the lowest in the world (See graphs)
The Australian cotton industry is a prime example of an industry that has survived and prospered from the withdrawal of Government intervention.
Once highly dependent on Government support, the cotton industry has now eschewed Government intervention, particularly in marketing, and has adopted a relentless and open-minded pursuit of technological excellence.
Its research effort has been world class, as has been the sharing of information. So much so that yields have increased some 40% in the last 15 years and over one third of the crop is now genetically modified for insect and weed resistance, with a consequent dramatic drop in chemical usage.
Australia is the world’s fourth largest exporter.
Over 95% of production is exported in its raw state and is renowned for its quality.
Major markets are in Asia-Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan, with the occasional foray by China.
In quantitative terms (not value) Australia actually produces more cotton than it does wool.
(I should mention that in the last two seasons we have had dramatically reduced quantities (50%) as a consequence of drought. But, this is surely a temporary aberration.)
The number of farmers is quite small with about 1300 growers, and the industry is mostly geographically concentrated in eight river valleys in northern NSW and Queensland.
The marketing system is a delight from a producer’s perspective, with considerable volatility and the ability to fix prices forward when they are strong.
There are a number of competitive merchants (both local and international firms) always in the market and prepared to carry the quality risk, whilst they are able to offset their price risks by way of back-to-back contracts or on the very liquid New York futures market where most of the world’s supply and demand is concentrated.
Wool and Sheepmeat
Wool is to Australia as cotton is to the US. It is probably our oldest industry and deeply embedded in Australian culture.
"Australia rides on the sheep’s back" is an expression known to everyone of my generation. How things have changed.
The current Australian sheep flock of 95.6 million is at its lowest level since 1947-48. The flock has fallen by one-third over the past decade alone. We had more sheep in 1890 (97.8 million) than we do now.
More than 50 per cent of the sheep in Australia are grazed in just two States: NSW and Western Australia. Australia produces some 70% of the world’s apparel wool.
Over the last 40 years, wool's share of the world textile market has dropped from 10% to just under 3% of a total market which has tripled over the same time, with most of the growth going to synthetics.
Australia's finer apparel wools continue to hold substantial shares of niche markets like men's suits, jackets, women's outer wear and, amidst wild fluctuations, command a price premium (three to six times cotton and synthetics).
They need to, as the product is much more expensive to grow and to process. Its niche market positioning now makes apparel wool a specialist market product and less a commodity.
The industry has had a history of extensive collective action and considerable Government intervention, particularly in marketing. This has resulted in a lack of innovation and a poor productivity improvement record. Real effort is now being made to change this.
Australia used to convert about 25% of the clip into tops. However, competition from China has reversed this trend, and now 40 to 50 per cent of greasy wool production is exported to China, with the balance going to a range of markets from the Far-east to Europe.
The wool production/processing chain is long and complex with many changes of ownership, and it is notoriously difficult to get a clear picture of the state of the industry.
Historically, there has been almost no sharing of price risk along the processing pipeline, with the majority of growers' wool sold at spot auction when it is ready for delivery. Processors are thus fully exposed to price risk.
The prices for different types of wool vary considerably, with the price differentials also subject to considerable change, depending on ever changing supply and demand levels for particular categories.
Climate, rainfall, and vegetation variations, to a large extent, dictate the type of wool that can be grown in a particular area. Whilst scientists are now questioning this conventional wisdom, it is deeply embedded in the industry psyche.
The industry is fragmented, with over 40,000 growers and an average clip size of fewer than 50 bales.
Over the last twelve years the industry has laboured under the weight of a massive stockpile, which was slowly sold in competition with newly produced wool.
This stockpile was the result of some excessively aggressive intervention in the market by a statutory empowered grower body (hobbled by Government edict and agro-political infighting) which was insufficiently flexible to adjust to a dramatic demand change in the early 90’s when Russia withdrew from the market. In recent years China (including H.K.) has emerged as the dominant buyer of raw wool and the largest final consuming country.
Over the years of low wool prices, sheepmeat sales, whether direct or indirect, have been the major driver of sheep prices.
For most Merino sheep, wool prices, along with seasonal conditions, have historically been the major influence on prices.
Around 66 per cent of all mutton produced is exported, as well as about 32 per cent of lamb production, hence our vulnerability to global market access, prices and currency changes.
With 26.4 million cattle, Australia has half the Argentinian herd, one-quarter of the herd in the US and China, and about one-sixth the herd in Brazil.
Between 1976 and 1984 the herd fell about 10 million to 19.4 million, but most of that decline has now been recovered, although it has taken 20 years to achieve.
But Australia is the world’s largest beef exporter, with two-thirds of its production exported to major markets such as the USA, Japan, Korea and Canada.
The industry has made good productivity gains, turning off younger animals at higher slaughter weights than in the past.
Whilst there is a growing feedlot industry (about 27 per cent of cattle slaughtered are from feedlots), the major proportion is grassfed, thus low cost.
The relatively low cost of land and transportation, together with recent improvements in abattoir productivity, means that the industry is now highly competitive in world terms.
It also has the great advantage of Australia’s high disease-free status and high food safety standards.
Trade barriers to export growth remain extensive, particularly in Europe, but are progressively being reduced in Japan where per capita consumption remains tiny compared with western nations.
The industry is widely dispersed throughout Australia, with most of northern Australia being cattle dominant (now mostly Bos Indicus breeds), but at quite low stocking rates (one beast to 37 hectares in parts of the Northern Territory).
Two-thirds of all cattle reside in northern Australia. Queensland is the largest cattle producing State, holding 40 per cent of the national herd, almost double the number of cattle grazed in New South Wales.
Queensland runs about 11.5 million cattle and has been a major producer since the late 1800s, when the herd jumped from less than half a million head in 1860 to almost 7 million by 1895.
Prices in recent years, with the help of the weak $A, have been attractive to Australian producers. They are determined by a range of factors, including the production cycle in the US and the rate of turnoff relative to slaughter capacity in Australia. The latter is largely dictated by variations in seasonal conditions.
As mentioned earlier, Australia exports more live cattle than any other nation, with the major markets being Indonesia, Egypt (until this year), the Philippines and Malaysia.
Around 80 per cent of live cattle exported are from northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and the north west of Western Australia. We export from 17 ports to 22 countries.
Grain, Oilseeds and Pulses ("Dryland Winter Crop")
Dryland (non-irrigated) cropping in temperate Australia is dominated by the production of wheat. In the areas Clyde currently operates this includes high protein wheat (prime hard) which allows a degree of differentiation and which can attract significant premiums.
The Australian industry has been notable for its productivity achievements, particularly over the last 15 years when productivity growth has averaged 4% per annum, compound. Major contributing factors have been: -
• the advent of larger scale machinery, allowing country to be worked very quickly after rain, taking full advantage of surface moisture;

• the development of moisture seeking and conservation methods, including minimum till, which has allowed arable farming on a large scale to move into lower rainfall areas once regarded as suitable for grazing only;

• developments in the understanding of root and soil diseases and how they can be contained by the use of rotational crops, which can also contribute to soil nutrition;

• the advent of "precision agriculture" utilising global positioning systems (GPS) to precisely carry out farm operations with minimum wastage (overlap) and containing soil compaction.
Future developments will be the use of soil mapping and variable rate applications so that fertilizer and weed controlling chemicals can be applied to different parts of a paddock on an "as needed" basis.
Australia is usually the world’s second largest wheat exporter (after the US), with 16% of international trade in 2002. Its main markets are the Middle East, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. China is an occasional substantial buyer.
The marketing system is dominated by AWB Ltd, the former Australian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly over wheat exports.
This monopoly is coming under increasing pressure with the domestic market freed up in recent years and the flexibility in the marketing of oilseeds and pulses demonstrating to growers that "big brother" is not necessary.
A significant disadvantage of the export monopoly was the insulation from competitive pressure that the monopoly gave to the transport and storage system participants. There is now increasing price pressure on these sectors, which will increase as the system is further deregulated.
General: Exports and Volatility
You will have noted the export dependence-
Cotton over 95%
Wool (including early processed) over 95%
Wheat over 80% (??)
Beef around 65%
With wool, cotton, beef and wheat Australia is a major world exporter, the largest for wool and beef the second largest for wheat, and the fourth largest for cotton.
With cotton, beef and wheat only a small proportion of world production is actually traded internationally.
The biggest producers are generally also the biggest consumers, so only small changes in the supply/demand balance in the major producing countries can have a huge impact on volumes traded internationally and thus on the world price. This is a recipe for price volatility.
The unreliable rainfall means that there can be periods where lack of rain for grazing pasture, dryland arable farming, and water for irrigation can create quite impossible conditions for profitable operation.
Throw this in with volatile commodity prices and a long- term adverse cost/price ratio and the challenges facing Australian farmers are significant!
Corporate Farmers
Except in circumstances where they can acquire large amounts of capital that are not available to even the bigger family farmers, or where they can command technology that is otherwise difficult to acquire, there is little room for corporate farming operations.
With the industry dominated by family farmers who are generally more focused on asset growth than annual returns on shareholder funds, conventionally funded corporations find it very difficult to compete.
Family farmers simply bid the price of land to a level where the returns necessary to competitively service equity capital investment are simply not achievable for corporations.
This problem, combined with the inconsistency of returns flowing from the variability of seasons and prices, has resulted in a consistent exodus of corporations from Australian agriculture over the last 25 years.
We believe that the Australian cotton marketing system described earlier should be a model for Australian agriculture.
By quite clearly separating the functions of pricing and physical delivery, living with volatility becomes much easier.
Often prices can be fixed when markets are strong providing there is a longer period in which the price can be established.
This is best done before "harvest", as afterwards cash imperatives often demand quick action.
Care needs to be taken that unbearable production risks are not incurred.
The existence of a liquid futures market is an enormous benefit.
We are now selling our wool in the same way we sell our cotton, utilising a mixture of forward physical sales and derivatives.
I have attempted to provide, from a farmer’s perspective, a broad overview of the conditions under which Australian agriculture operates.
I have attempted to describe some domestic economic changes of recent decades, which I believe place the general industry in a strong position to grow.
I have further attempted to give you a broad picture of the particular agricultural sectors-cotton, wool/sheep, beef and arable farming- with which my Company is involved.
Finally let me say that it is my view that there are substantial market opportunities ahead for agriculture, in the growing markets to our north, and particularly in China.
However competition will always be intense and individual enterprises will need to adopt a long term view, be clear on defining the business they are in, and be in a position to quickly adopt and apply relevant technological developments.

David Boyd - A story to be told.


David Boyd - A story to be told.
They say this country is a book of anecdotes and tales
From the red of Central Queensland and Western New South Wales
Through the black soil of the Darling where the flooded plains unfold
And your place within this country is a story to be told

It will take a bit of writing with some stops along the way
But it's sure to be exciting, and of course be ‘triple A'
It will start just west of Nyngan with a young man fresh at work
And will end at Wirribilla, or probably at Bourke

The writer will be hand picked, as all the stations are
And he'll never drop his standards, for you've set a lofty bar
He will need to know the country and must learn to love the land
And must try to speak the stories only you could understand

There will be a lot of chapters that this writer must combine
And the honest reader still will need to look between the lines
Some stories are for telling and some we must withhold
But your place within this country is a story to be told

Your friendships loom as large as your attention to detail
So Edward Scott and Dudley Dunn will feature in your tale
As will Beemery, Toorale, Clover Downs and Wingadee
And Pier Pier and Thylunga and Latoka and Rumleigh

There will have to be regrets if the story's to be true
So Portland Downs will rank among the losses that you rue
But your tale is not a sad one, and will not dwell on loss
It's measured by your influence on lives that you have crossed

As a mentor and a father and a husband and a friend
As a leader and as someone upon whom you can depend
As a steward of the country with a future to unfold
Your place within this country is a story to be told.