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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmer Power meeting a call to arms

A crowd of more than 500 packed Tongala’s community centre on Wednesday at the Farmer Power meeting.

TRENT HORNEMAN February 15, 2013 4:55am

People spilled out of the community hall in Tongala on Wednesday at the Farmer Power crisis meeting.


Farmers and concerned residents were spilled onto the street to listen to Wednesday’s Farmer Power meeting at Tongala.

Frustration and anger at governments, which farmers say have chipped away at their industry, was evident from the moment the room began to fill.

While dairy regulation was at the heart of the debate, there was a wider level of frustration from farmers of all varieties at the perceived decline of their industries.

Farmer Power’s first meeting was only a month ago, in a small Western Victorian town.

A crowd of more than 500 packed Tongala’s community centre on Wednesday. Such growth shows the level of farmers’ ill sentiment.

Member for Rodney Paul Weller and Senator Bridget McKenzie were on one side of the room, while the larger-than-life Queensland firebrand Bob Katter held court on the other.

Katter clapped his hands and shouted like he was listening to an evangelist sermon during speeches.

Local government promised support through mayor Ian Maddison and councillor Robert Danieli, a man with aspirations of federal politics.

Member for Murray Sharman Stone and outspoken National Barnaby Joyce spoke with the experience of years in parliament.

Key speakers, Lynne Wilkinson and Dick Smith were almost polar opposites.

While their message was the same, Ms Wilkinson spoke with clinical authority of someone who has sat in some of the most powerful boardrooms in the country.

Mr Smith was energetic from the moment he took the stage, inviting the crowd to take part in an impromptu exercise class before he spoke.

While elements of his speech were a push for his food label, his ideals, passion and support for farmers impressed.

He revealed to the crowd global giant Heinz was taking legal action against his company for its tins of beetroot, which carry unsavoury claims about Heinz’ products.

He defended the quality of Australian produce, which visibly lifted spirits in the room.

Katter almost stole the show with a late call-up to the stage. The microphone was not needed.

He delivered a passionate speech, a mixture of sadness and roaring anger.

The anger in his voice was enough for some small children to cling to their parents.

Given its infancy, Farmer Power’s Tongala meeting was a call to arms, a search for support. With a packed house and a throng of media from throughout the state with cameras pointed on them, there is no doubt it was mission accomplished.

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