Parched rural Australia thirsty for solutions

Parched rural Australia thirsty for solutions
Year published: 2009


Drought and water shortages are regarded by a clear majority of Australians as the most serious problems facing rural Australia, according to the results of the sixth ANU Poll.

The poll also found that the Federal government is regarded by the majority of respondents as the agency most responsible for solving the problems of regional and rural Australia.

The sixth ANU Poll provides an insight into what the Australian public thinks are the main problems facing regional Australia, the nation’s rural background and rural knowledge, perceptions of rural Australia, as well perceptions regarding agriculture, farming and food.

According to Professor Ian McAllister, who leads ANU Poll, opinions are divided on the use of biotechnology in food production and agriculture, with 50 per cent of Australians supporting the process and 39 per cent opposing it. Those against the use of biotechnology were almost equally divided between moderate and strong opponents.

“Since it first became a commercial possibility in the 1980s, the genetic modification of crops to obtain greater yields has been a contentious issue,” said Professor McAllister. “Trials of genetically modified crops have produced strong, sometimes violent, opposition from those who see it as potentially dangerous to food supply.”

“It is perhaps significant that those in support were predominantly moderate supporters, suggesting that strong feelings were likely to be generated in opposition to the new technology.”

“There is also a significant minority view that foods produced through the biotechnology poses serious health risks. When asked if they believed that foods produced in this way posed a risk, 31 per cent said that they did pose a risk, and 46 per cent said that they did not pose a risk.”

The poll found that a large majority of Australians consider that agricultural production and rural areas as very important for Australia’s future. “More than eight out of ten respondents see both as important to Australia’s future. Australia’s historical legacy as a primary producing country has given agriculture and rural living a high profile among the public,” said Dr Linda Botterill, Director of the National Institute of Rural and Regional Australia at ANU, who contributed her expertise to the poll design,

Every ANU Poll asks Australians to identify the most important problems facing the country, and checks the political mood. In the current ANU Poll, 32 per cent mentioned the economy as the most important problem, a decline from 42 percent in the previous poll. Conversely the environment and global warming were mentioned by 14 per cent, an increase in four percentage points, followed by immigrations (down two points) and health care (up two points).

“The political mood has been remarkably positive over the period of the ANU Poll surveys and this poll is no exception. A remarkably high 70 per cent are satisfied with the way the country is heading, compared to 71 per cent in July,” Professor McAllister said.

This is the sixth ANU Poll. ANU Poll is a survey of Australian public opinion of matters on matters of national importance. ANU Poll differs from other opinion polls by benchmarking Australia against international opinion.

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