Summary of Concerns
AFSA’s concerns with the draft local law relate primarily to those laws that impact on peoples’ ability within the Shire to determine their own food systems. Our concerns are grounded in lack of genuine democratic process in the drafting period – the manner in which Hepburn Shire Council (“the Council”) endeavoured to consult with the community – and further extend to the substance of the amendments that are contrary to the public’s right to food sovereignty.
Food sovereignty asserts the right of peoples to nourishing and culturally appropriate food produced and distributed in ecologically sound and ethical ways, and their right to collectively determine their own food and agriculture systems.
It is puzzling that a Council as progressive as Hepburn, often held up as an example of best practice, is seeking to curtail peoples’ freedoms when it comes to food production or collection.
As well as referring to other relevant local and state legislation (both in Australia and in other countries), we will here draw Council’s attention to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (“the Declaration”), ratified in New York in October 2018.
While it is not common in Australia to refer to smallholders or others as ‘peasants’, the Declaration defines peasants thusly: any person who engages or who seeks to engage alone, or in association with others or as a community, in small-scale agricultural production for subsistence and/or for the market, and who relies significantly, though not necessarily exclusively, on family or household labour and other non-monetized ways of organizing labour, and who has a special dependency on and attachment to the land. (1.1) […] The present Declaration also applies to indigenous peoples and local communities working on the land, transhumant, nomadic, and semi-nomadic communities, and the landless engaged in the above-mentioned activities. (1.3)’
As such, there are many people in Hepburn Shire who fall under the definition of peasants, and we argue that many of the proposed new or amended legislation under the draft local law will have a negative impact on peasants and Indigenous Peoples.