As TV programs from Masterchef to Food Safari show, we Australians love our food. But many of us, including our governments, are complacent about where it is grown and who produces it.
While people discuss the threat of obesity in the suburbs and in the seat of power, nobody talks about the threat of global food scarcity. No one in Government seems worried about where the world will source its food or the consequences of shortages. Few are concerned about land being bought by overseas interests, about farmers being driven from the land by low farm gate prices and trade rules which discriminate against Australian growers. In fact, the Labor government in its 2010-11 budget cut programmes for natural resource management and land stewardship in the face of climate change and peak oil.
In the next month, Kevin Rudd faces a bleak choice - will he backflip on a commitment he made to his favourite global body, the G20 or will he open up a new front in the pitched battle with the mining industry?
The only comfort for the Prime Minister is that the dilemma is over an issue that, while very important in policy terms, has never managed to get much public traction: subsidies to fossil fuels.
In the debate around carbon pricing, both here in Australia and globally, one of the elephants in the room has long been the fact that, currently, the playing field is skewed dramatically in the direction of 'carbon discounting', with a multi-billion dollar array of fuel tax credits, exploration subsidies, fringe benefits tax concessions, accelerated depreciation, research grants and much more.
With forest industry jobs being lost at a great rate and communities clearly suffering, there is little doubt that there will be yet another proposal for a Forest Industry Rescue Package for Tasmania before the federal election. It is vital that, this time, the rescue package truly restructures the industry to create long-term jobs and protect the forests at the same time.
But it worth asking, at this critical stage - how did we reach this parlous state when more than $650 million has been handed out of the pockets of the community to the forestry industry since 1997 on the basis of claims that it would protect jobs?
Were those claims false? Does the industry misunderstand global trends? Was the money wasted? Who decided where it should go and to whom? Who will now take responsibility for the "efficient and effective use of public money"?
Every Australian knows that, if you have two credits cards, it is very bad management to pay off your debt on one of them by racking it up on the other.
Last night's Budget pulled down the national economic debt, but it continued the process of racking up our ecological debt.
We are at a moment of great opportunity. Cooperative government in Tasmania may be about to deliver another period of positive reform. And, with the same effort, cooperative action in Federal parliament could deliver the beginnings of real climate action in this country with the Greens' proposal for an interim levy on polluters. In each case, the Greens stand ready. We are waiting for Labor and Liberals to come to the party.
Both the difficulty and promise of cooperative government has been brought onto the national stage by the spectacle of both Labor and Liberal parties in Tasmania refusing to accept before the election that, without a parliamentary majority, they would need to talk to one of the other parties to form a stable government.