We need to address Australia’s food, energy and the border crisis

Read the latest column from Mark Bouris in the Daily Telegraph, addressing food, energy and borders

20 August 2018

Mark Bouris's column was first published by the Daily Telegraph and is published here with permission.

WE HAVE the world at our feet, we have a huge surplus of energy resources, we have a large and productive agriculture sector and we have half the world knocking on our door, wanting to migrate to this strong, wealthy nation.

So why are we so useless at the three core functions of government: food, energy and the border?

There are basic assurances that a nation needs and I call them the ‘Three Securities’: Border Security, Energy Security and Food Security.

All the other debates in parliament should be subservient to them because they determine our safety, our economy and our standard of living.

The most important is Border Security. If you can’t define and enforce your national borders, then you probably don’t have a nation. And when you have so many people wanting to live here, you have a blessing: you get to select the ones who will benefit this country the most.

So why are so many politicians and media commentators trying to undermine the government’s border security function?

There will always be arguments about migrant numbers, skill-levels, family migration and what to do with illegal arrivals. But sustained attempts to undermine the government’s border function with moral shaming — about even having borders or enforcement — is a dangerous political trend.

Border security is not politics — it’s the government’s job.

Energy Security is another critical function for government. Australia has massive reserves of coal, gas, crude oil and uranium. It’s a gift that means a better standard of living for households and low input costs for businesses. Yet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics — as reported by ABC News — since 2008, our electricity prices have increased 117 per cent, more than four-times the rise in all prices across all sectors.

The problem is Australia doesn’t have a national Energy Security policy of the type that can be invested-in for the long-term.

Energy is a crucial marker for a sustained standard of living but in Australia it’s apparently not worthy of a long-term, strategy.

So we squabble over a National Energy Guarantee, built on the controversial concept that electricity and gas should be reliable, affordable and sustainable. Right now all we know about the NEG is that it’s a short-term fight between ‘left’ and ‘right’ and someone is going to win.

That isn’t good enough: it doesn’t help the businesses trying to run at full productivity or the families that can’t properly heat or cool their homes.

And then we have Food. Without the ability to feed your population, the game is over. Anyone who wants to sit in our national parliament should understand this before they ever nominate for an election.

If households can’t access food staples at affordable prices, the repercussions can be drastic: civil unrest, entrenched poverty, rampant crime, black markets and a weak economy. Ask a Venezuelan.

Food production answers predominantly to natural forces such as weather, water, soil, natural disaster and disease (and transport costs too). Dominating our minds right now is the drought on the east coast. It’s devastating and reminds us why a national government has to be strategic about agriculture’s sustainability and invest-ability, from milk price policy to rural banking codes. It also reminds us that we need a water policy that aids food production and acknowledges that ‘the environment’ includes humans and agriculture.

The Three Securities are basic elements of government, but they’ve been seized-on by fringe politicians, questionable NGOs and media commentators who think it’s all up for grabs. But our food, energy and borders are not up for grabs, they are the core security undertakings of executive government.

What can we do? We can remind our politicians why we sent them to Canberra, and we can shut-out the noise of the fringe voices who never seem to be speaking for Australia — only for their narrow agenda.

We don’t have to accept the spurious arguments that borders can be open or electricity can be unreliable or that food is optional.

We can reject those arguments before they even get going and tell our politicians to do the same.