Ad chief: sell agriculture industry story or be a target

Zach RelphCountryman
Former Fremantle Dockers president Steve Harris has told the agriculture sector to stand up for what it believes in.
Camera IconFormer Fremantle Dockers president Steve Harris has told the agriculture sector to stand up for what it believes in. Credit: Steve Ferrier

A marketing specialist and former Fremantle Dockers president is urging the agriculture sector to improve its public perception, warning a blazing inferno of negativity could reduce the industry to rubble.

The Brand Agency chief executive Steve Harris issued the stark warning at last Friday’s Pastoralists and Graziers Association convention, urging farmers to paint a positive picture for consumers.

Mr Harris told delegates Australian agriculture was riddled by a “negative narrative”, with issues including labour costs, drought and climate change hurting the industry’s public image.

Mr Harris, who left his Fremantle Dockers president post in 2016, said farming lobby groups must do better to sell a story championing agriculture to avoid future attacks on producers’ right to farm.

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“It costs you more money to rebuild the house after its burnt down than it does to insure,” he said.

“If you don’t stand for something and if the public don’t support you and know what value you contribute, you are a target for fringe groups and a target for government.

People need to know what you stand for and why.

Mr Harris shone a light on the WA gold industry’s bid to survive the McGowan Government’s proposed gold royalty hike in 2017.

He also cited how the rock lobster industry was forced into survival mode earlier this year after WA Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly announced the State Government would take control of 17.3 per cent of its annual catch.

With the gold sector and cray fishers both launching successful eleventh-hour campaigns, Mr Harris encouraged agriculture figureheads to act hastily to avoid being placed in a compromising position.

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