In disunity, weakness

  • Elizabeth Zadnik

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The National Farmers Federation (NFF) is a peak producer organisation. Its executive has purported to represent all Australian farmers with a unified voice. This thesis argues that primary producers are too heterogeneous a group ever to have developed much solidarity in articulation of or action for the furtherance of common interests and that this fact is reflected in the NFF. Heterogeneity results from farm size, product specialisation, level of technology adopted, geographical location and special needs. Successive farm organisations and the National Party (and predecessors) have attempted to encompass these differences since the 1890s. Producer differences either have led to secession or to unification when political and economic circumstances have warranted it. This diversity has prevented farm groups becoming united. The lack of unity at first prevented all farmers joining in one organisation, and when they did, they kept on splitting up. The charisma of Ian McLachlan allowed farmers to get together, but the diversity meant that the getting together benefited some not only without the others, but sometimes at the expense of others. This thesis explores the heterogeneity of the agricultural sector within the political and economic context of Australian agriculture and discusses its consequences, in the constant re-forming of farm organisations and the institutional framework of the NFF in the context of politicisation of agricultural interest groups. This thesis concludes that producer differences in terms of size and product specialisation determine how effectively they are represented. Corporate farmers have fared much better than family and family-plus farmers, who would probably be better represented by a small business organisation, with which they have more in common, rather than a farming organisation.
    Date of Award1990
    Original languageEnglish

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