Kill, cure or strangle: The history of government intervention in three key agricultural industries on the Atherton Tablelands, 1895 – 2005

Gilmore, Marjorie Anne (2005) Kill, cure or strangle: The history of government intervention in three key agricultural industries on the Atherton Tablelands, 1895 – 2005. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

The Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns in Far North Queensland, comprise some of the richest agricultural lands in Australia. The area was settled from the 1880s, following the discovery of gold and other minerals on the Palmer River, the Hodgkinson and the Herberton fields. Situated as it is on the economic and geographic periphery of Australia, government sponsored agriculture on the Tablelands was seen not so much as a food producing venture, as a means of closer settlement and strategic defence in accord with the White Australia Policy. Maize, dairy, and tobacco industries were set up by opening Crown Land for selection under conditions which inevitably caused destruction of thousands of acres of valuable rainforest, with consequent land degradation, erosion, and invasions of weeds. Subsequently, production became less than optimal, and without assured markets, transport systems and access to communications, the farmers struggled with subsistence conditions. In order to keep unviable industries alive, successive Queensland and Commonwealth governments intervened with a plethora of schemes which had the effect of subjecting farm families to years of poverty and despair. In the process, the industries became subject to ever-increasing regulation which stifled enterprise, and led to over-production of commodities for the available market. All of the industries were supported to some degree by mechanisms ranging from statutory marketing to subsidies, bounties, direct grants and tariff protection. When Australian governments moved to realign the economy of the nation according to neo-liberal principles, all of the support mechanisms which had allowed the industries to stay alive were withdrawn over a period of thirty years. The result has been predictable. Tobacco growing in the area has ceased, the dairy industry has declined to the point where it is unlikely to exist for much beyond 2010, and the maize industry is surviving as a provider of stock feed to the local market. This study traces the establishment, development, and rationalization of each industry, and records the effects of these processes on the people, the environment, the wider community, and the politics of the area. In terms of regional decline, it is a microcosm case study of the effects of government intervention, both in the process of regulation and deregulation. The lessons to be drawn from the study point to profound implications for the production of food within a sustainable environment in Australia.

Item ID: 1205
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Establishment, development, and rationalization of industry, Effects on people, environment, wider community, and politics, Effects of government intervention, Regulation, Deregulation, Maize, dairy, and tobacco industries, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2006
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160805 Social Change @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160510 Public Policy @ 0%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160810 Urban Sociology and Community Studies @ 0%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070106 Farm Management, Rural Management and Agribusiness @ 0%
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