Last December a Senate Inquiry was established to inquire into the secretive ‘Commission of Audit’, set up by Tony Abbott’s government shortly after asssuming office in September 2013.
This Commission is operating in a non-transparent and largely unaccountable manner, with an apparent mandate to act as a de-facto ‘razor gang’, whose goal is to impose savage cutbacks across the public sector in the next few months and years.
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance shares the concerns of many others regarding the establishment of this Commission and its secretive modus operandi, and today (31st January, 2014) we issued a brief submission to the Inquiry, which we reproduce below.
To: Senate Inquiry into the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit
Chair, Senator Richard Di Natale
31 January 2014
Dear Senator Di Natale
Federal Government Commission of Audit: Senate Inquiry
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) welcomes the opportunity to express our support for the launching of this inquiry. We represent 125 individuals and organisations across Australia, including family farmers, community gardeners and food-related small businesses, who are working for an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians.
The Food Sovereignty perspective
Our perspective is rooted in the global movement for Food Sovereignty, led by the family farmer movement La Via Campesina, which embraces hundreds of millions of people in over 70 countries. The concept has been adopted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, and the United Nations Committee for World Food Security. The core principles include the following:
- Food is a basic human need, so access to good, healthy food at all times for all people is a basic human right, which our governments at all levels are obliged to
- uphold, having regard to the fact that Australia is both a signatory to the United Nations Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, and has ratified this foundational document of international human rights law
- Thriving rural communities and viable family farms are basic to a healthy food system
- Agriculture is impossible without healthy land and waterways, so farmers must be supported in their role as environmental stewards caring for soils and landscapes
- Sustainable agriculture for the future will increasingly be based around the principles of agro-ecology, where knowledge is freely shared amongst farmers and growers
- Our prime agricultural lands are the basis of our future: they need to be identified and protected from suburban sprawl, coal-seam gas mining, foreign ownership and control
- Food systems that are fair to farmers and eaters, and that are environmentally sustainable, are ones that are diversified and decentralised
- Excessive corporate concentration and control over any sector of the food system – seeds, inputs, land, distribution, retail, trade – is inconsistent with the democratic core of Food Sovereignty
The Federal Government Commission of Audit
We are deeply concerned about the establishment of this Commission and its highly secretive methods of operation. It is a basic principle of any society which aspires to be democratic that matters of public interest and concern are transparently and thoroughly discussed and debated, with the maximum amount of information being made available to the citizenry and their elected representatives. This non-transparent and non-accountable manner in which the Commission of Audit is conducting its business, on matters of the highest import to the Australian people in terms of the integrity of vital public services, is nothing less than a disgrace.
In particular we are concerned that the Commission is considering, behind the backs of the Australian people, the total or partial privatisation of vital public services, such as biosecurity control functions. We and many others are also very concerned about the way in which the Australian government is conducting the negotiations surrounding the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, which, like the Commission of Audit, have been conducted in the utmost secrecy – though with, it should be noted, the full participation of hundreds of corporate lobbyists. From what we have heard and read about the TPP through various leaks, it seems that it will significantly impact on Australia’s food security and food sovereignty, particularly with limitations on the ability of local and state governments and public sector organisations to support and preference local producers through procurement contracts.
We trust that this Senate Inquiry will fully and rigorously investigate the operation of the Commission of Audit and hold the Federal Government to account, in the name of democracy and the Australian people.
Dr Nick Rose
Churchill Fellow, 2013