Fighting for our farmers' future

Wednesday 8 August, 2012

still no balance in Basin Plan

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority released the latest version of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan this week, which still fails to find the crucial balance for food producers and the Basin's communities called for by the NFF.

A month ago, we welcomed the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council's directive to the Authority that more attention be paid to ways to maximise the river system's efficiency through infrastructure, environmental works and measures and river operations.

The Ministers called for an adjustment mechanism that would reduce the amount of water needed for the environment through improving the efficient use of water already in the system - essentially, making the water work smarter and harder.

Yet from our reading of the Authority's report, we can only conclude that this adjustment mechanism has been turned into an opportunity to take more water from the system, with the Authority claiming that infrastructure would increase the amount of water to be returned to the environment.

The Basin Plan is now out of the hands of the Authority. It is over to the Ministerial Council and ultimately Minister Burke to deliver the balance we've been asking for.

Coalition proposes land register

On Friday, the Federal Coalition released a discussion paper into foreign investment in Australian agriculture, including the proposal to develop a national register of foreign-owned agricultural land.

The proposal comes four months after the NFF called for a national land register in order to gain clarity on the purchases of land and water, and the ability to monitor trends.

Two months ago the Government announced a working group to consult on the development of a register, and the Coalition has now gone a step further. Both the Government's, and the Coalition's, action is welcome news for the Australian agricultural sector, as it's a step towards greater transparency around this much-debated issue. We believe having a full understanding of foreign investment is crucial to getting the policy decision right.

We have also welcomed the Coalition's proposal to increase the Foreign Investment Review Board to include at least one individual with agricultural sector expertise. For more, read our release.

Fair Work Act, but no flexibility

Last week saw the release of the review into Australia's employment law, the Fair Work Act 2009. The review panel has recommended some incremental changes to the Act, but we believe these do not go far enough to address the concerns raised by farmers.

In its current form, the Fair Work Act does not live up to what was promised by the Government: it is not simpler or fairer. Flexibility is billed as a key feature of the Act, yet the law doesn't allow for genuine flexibility for farm workers.

As it is, farmers have told us that the paperwork and red tape they have to wade through under the Fair Work Act often impacts on employment. The costs to business of labour hire is rising under the Act, and, in some cases, farmers are being forced to invest in machinery rather than employ people to decrease costs and increase productivity. This not only impacts on farmers and the agriculture sector, but also towns and communities in rural areas.

We are calling on the Government to simplify the Fair Work Act and reduce its level of regulation and prescription. For more, read our release or our submission to the Fair Work Act Review.

Reminder: NFF National Congress

A reminder that the NFF National Congress 2012 will be held in Canberra on Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 October, bringing together Australian agriculture: farmers, industry
and government from grassroots to global.

The NFF Congress will look at the major issues affecting the Australian agricultural sector on both a policy-development level and a practical on-farm level.

The Congress is open to all within agriculture, and farmers are strongly encouraged to attend. Full Congress registration opens this week: to register your interest, or for further information, visit the Congress website today.

The NFF AGvocate
Issue 22.

In this issue

still no balance in Basin Plan

Coalition proposes land register

Fair Work Act, but no flexibility

Reminder: NFF National Congress

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