With agriculture contributing $53.6 billion to the nation’s economy, and employing 314,000 Australians across the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector (with huge multiplier effects), it is essential that it is encouraged to grow.
The $1 billion of farmer and government contributions to agricultural research and development (R&D) organisations needs to be effectively targeted to help improve the profitability of Australian agriculture through enhancing the skills and decision making of farmers.
What needs to be done:
- Having strong competition laws that that can effectively deal with and penalise predatory abuse of market power from companies in the agricultural to retail supply chain. This needs to include a stronger ‘effects test’ than the government is currently proposing, divestiture powers to break up companies for gross abuse of market power, and quicker and more affordable access to justice.
- Continue to push for clear country of origin labelling for food and ingredients, including clear labels that show the source country of imported products. The recent changes that came into effect in July 2016, while welcome, need to be improved upon and monitored for their effectiveness.
- Scrap the punitive Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) charges on small exporters that destroy incentives to export.
- Continue to push for urgent strong anti-dumping rules to prevent domestic industries being dumping grounds for imported produce, such as what happened with tinned tomatoes.
- Encourage domestic investment in Australian agriculture through investment vehicles such as Australian superannuation funds.
- Encourage immigrant arrivals, including those with needed skills and investment dollars, to settle in rural and regional Australia to address rural labour shortages.
- Continue to support the full implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and ensure that it remains as a high priority for state and federal governments. The recent elevation of the implementation of the Plan to First Minister’s Level at COAG twice a year, and ensuring, for the first time, a separate and comprehensive cross-portfolio Senate Estimates process twice per year, are two significant accountability measures. As part of that, we see the automation and upgrading of the barrages where the river meets the Coorong as a key part of modernising the river infrastructure to more effectively manage the interaction between fresh and salt water. States which were early adopters of water efficiencies must be acknowledged in any federal scheme. Irrigators should be able to access federal infrastructure grants for value adding to agriculture more easily.
- Support the export of livestock to countries who implement Australia’s strict ESCAS Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. However, our preference is to encourage the processing of livestock in regional Australia to grow industry and jobs. We understand that different markets exist and that will take time to grow.
- Federal drought funding must require that state governments do not unreasonably impede the delivery of drought support.
- Ensure the Federal Government implements the Seasonal Workers Incentives Trial, proposed by the NXT during the backpacker tax debate. This is a two-year trial for Australian job seekers to earn up to $5,000 doing seasonal horticultural work without impacting their income support payments.