Barnaby Joyce is sworn in as Agriculture minister by Governor-General Quentin Bryce at Government House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Arriving in Canberra to be sworn in as a minister was like the entry to a new job, completely removed from any vestige of a previous world where the rage of opposition echoes unanswered among the cogs of government.
The most apt metaphor was the ceremony: travel to Government House in a maxi cab, leave in a Commonwealth car to an office in a new wing with more staff than I have ever had in politics, more than 4500 staff of them.
Agriculture is a department reliant on so many other departments to bring about its goal, which I see as a better return to the farm gate in a nation where the family farm remains the cornerstone.
Agriculture is a pillar of our national identity - it is personified by the inland, RM Williams boots, Akubra hats, the stockman, the jackaroo, the jillaroo, the AWU.
It is the litmus test of whether we deliver economic justice to our own, in the corner we so often cannot see far from our overwhelmingly urban existence.
For me the metaphor is the weatherboard and iron house with the Australian family inside who live removed from the income and opportunity of urban Australia. The hospitals, choice of schools, childcare facilities, museums, parks and multiple benefactions available to a small geographic area with a large demographic of the population.
Agriculture is a testament to a policy that sees those who produce a product fundamental to our existence, but whose share is the least in the supply chain.
The riddle is how to direct the intellect and energies of those 4500 hard-working departmental employees to better the lives of those in the weatherboard and iron population.
The greatest diplomatic trick at the beginning will not be our relationship with other countries but our relationship with other departments, without whose co-operation the whole process of an agricultural policy can easily be confounded.
Agriculture is a fascinating mishmash of convergent issues which, over the years, many other policy settings have crept into then snuck away with part of the role.
If we are to succeed in delivering agriculture as an integral pillar of the current economy and our economic future, we have to herd these policy roles into a coordinated outcome.
Agriculture relies on the test of diplomacy as the parochial nature of the agricultural constituency is a ubiquitous attribute that does not respect borders.
At saleyards around the country they will be wondering whether the live trade in cattle is up and running and taking the downward pressure off their sale price.
For the vegetable grower and dairy farmer it will be whether they are to be treated fairly in a highly centralised marketplace and whether the differential in power belies any sense of fairness.
For the landholder it is whether the government respects their right as a voter against the mining rights of a corporation and whether the environmental issues, land rights and a return that makes their encumbrances a substantial gain not a fatal blow to the private asset of the land.
For the regional town, it will be whether the money starts to flow so small business grows.
What agriculture has is the national belief that rural communities are the barometer of whether government policy is providing a just outcome across the nation.
If we have Aboriginal poverty and weatherboard and iron destitution then we may have a theoretical splendour to adorn the active minds and idle bodies of economists, but we have solidly failed on policy and vision.
This does not mean that we retire to a nation of prickle farmers. It works on the theory that if someone is turning a dollar they'll invest in their industry to turn more, and the productivity that is best seen in our economy in such things as cotton farming will continue in many agricultural industries.
But if we believe there is a moral good in rigid standards pertaining to animals in the live export trade then we need a strong vision of the moral good of the farmer who delivers the endeavours of a lifetime to produce the animal, and what protection a nation gives to that livelihood.
As a team the Department of Agriculture has a huge job ahead of it, and I welcome the opportunity to work with individuals, peak bodies, industry and my department as we work on reinvigorating Australian agriculture where it needs help and building where it is strong.
Barnaby Joyce is the federal Minister for Agriculture and deputy leader of the National Party.