Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
From: The Northern Territory Agricultural Association (NTAgA)

Dear Prime Minister:

As I was thinking of what I could do about the situation that many of my friends and their families are in with the current ban on the live-cattle trade, I said…damn it, I’ll write you a letter. Firstly, thank you and your cabinet for coming to Darwin this week and listening to our community’s concerns. I was also at the discussion with Minister Joe Ludwig along with other industry stakeholders where he was informed of the impacts of the ban on families and the businesses. Did he listen…yes, did he hear…. maybe, did he understand….I don’t think so.

When I saw the footage on 4 Corners, I was horrified and my 16 year old daughter who insisted on watching it was traumatised. When she gained the courage to speak about what she saw days later, she asked with the simple and naïve wisdom of youth “Why don’t they just send the cattle to the good abattoirs ?”

We have all been asking the same question since. I don’t know how much of that goes on in Indonesia but if it happens in one abattoir, that’s too much. But all I know is what happens here in the NT and that footage horrified Territorians also.

I’ve been in the Northern Territory 25 years working with pastoralists and farmers. I suppose that gives me the right to form an opinion on the type of people that live and work within the NT industry. I have met and worked with many pioneering men and women of the industry, some of whom have sadly passed on. Many are now in the twilight of their working lives and have spent 40 or 50 years building up their businesses and developing their land and infrastructure at huge cost. In many cases their sons and daughters are taking over..

This is a hard place to work and live, make no mistake. It's not for the faint hearted nor does it tolerate half hearted efforts. The north sorts the men from the boys and has one of the most inhospitable climates in the world. It takes a special kind of person to work here, develop a business and raise a family. People are independent and resilient, not hard or cruel. Many producers have invested in infrastructure and courses designed to improve the handling and care of their livestock.

They depend on smart management and good animal husbandry to make a living. They take pride in their stock and invest huge dollars, time and energy to ensure that they produce quiet stock that performs well. stock are bred and selected specifically to tolerate and thrive in this harsh environment, run on native pastures with strict management systems. Where improved pastures can be grown, this is done at great expense to increase productivity and efficiency.

Those that succeed up here deserve to succeed. Its not by luck nor fate but by shear hard work, perseverance and love for the land and the livestock they produce. The pioneers of the cattle and agricultural industries have set up something that makes the north valuable and productive. The younger generation want to continue this with pride, dedication and passion.

Producers in the Top End were subjected to a seven year moratorium imposed by the Government on clearing and development in country that was purchased and earmarked for agricultural and pastoral pursuits. These same people have had ecologists and environmentalists walk all over their land, onto their businesses and tell them what they should and should not do. They have had their businesses scrutinised by people who enjoy the produce and labour of Australian farmers but rarely think of its significance.

These farmers and pastoralists have tolerated this in a controlled manner with tremendous dignity, just as they showed Minister Ludwig in Darwin recently. These people’s lives, livelihoods and properties are on the line and I’m proud of the way they have maintained their dignity in such circumstances, but that’s the way they are up here.

Prime Minister you have a lot on your plate, excuse the pun ! I wouldn’t have your job for all the tea in China, carbon in the atmosphere, or the cattle awaiting transport to Indonesia for that matter.

The country has a great industry, resource and people up here who are making a huge contribution to rural Australia and the nation as a whole. Farmers, pastoralists and their families are committed to improving this industry and contributing to the wealth of this great country. Don’t let these businesses and families go under. I urge you to do your utmost to protect this industry, get the trade resumed and animal welfare sorted. Then the people here can get on with their lives and businesses with the energy and passion that Australia badly needs.

Fergal O’Gara, on behalf of the Northern Territory Agricultural Association (NTAgA),  0416 235 734

Contact Profile

The Northern Territory Agricultural Association (NTAgA)

The Northern Territory Agricultural Association is an organisation dedicated to promoting and representing broadacre, mixed farming, fodder and forestry businesses in the Top End. It promotes the industries interests in relation land and water management, sustainable farming, development and agricultural policies. The Association also promotes and supports agriculture through targeted on-farm and extension and development projects.
Fergal O’Gara, The Northern Territory Agricultural Association (NTAgA)
P: 0416 235 734


Indonesia, cattle trade, Australian cattle trade, Julia Gillard



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