Fighting for our farmers' future

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Term one: Six weeks in

It has now been six weeks since the Federal Election - a busy six weeks for the new Government, Opposition and the NFF, as we progress our key priorities and issues for the farming sector.

From a policy perspective, trade and foreign investment continue to dominate the headlines, along with drought, the Basin Plan, red tape, and most recently, severe bushfires in NSW. More on some of our key policy priorities can be found below, while our thoughts are with all those affected by the fires and the tireless firefighters, many of whom are volunteers.

These and other issues were on the agenda when NFF President Duncan Fraser, Vice President Brent Finlay and CEO Matt Linnegar sat down with the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, in Canberra last week - our first official meeting after a series of informal catch-ups with the new Minister, following his recent tour of NT and QLD with NFF members, Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association and AgForce.

Last week also saw the election of Bill Shorten to the position of Leader of the Opposition, with Tanya Plibersek appointed as Deputy Leader. The NFF welcomed the announcement of the Opposition Ministry, including Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, and his Parliamentary colleagues (for more, read our media release here).

As Parliament prepares to resume on 12 November, the NFF is now meeting with key MPs and Senators from all sides of politics. On with the job!

Priority 1: Finalising free trade agreements

Finalising Australia's free trade agreements has emerged as an early priority for the Coalition Government - welcome news for the NFF and Australia's trade-reliant agricultural sector. But we urge the Government to ensure that any free trade agreements are comprehensive and results in positive outcomes for all our agricultural commodities and agribusinesses.

We particularly want to see the finalisation of trade agreements with key export markets in Asia - Korea, Japan and China - that provide commercial outcomes for the entire agricultural sector, and we are working with Trade Minister Andrew Robb and the Government to achieve this.

The efforts come as ABARES releases its 'What Asia Wants' report, looking at long-term food consumption trends and export opportunities in Asia. The report was instigated in response to a key ask from the NFF - ensuring that work is done beyond the farm gate to build understanding of our international markets and to improve opportunities for our sector to sell produce.

For more, read our media release here or view the What Asia Wants report here.

Priority 2: Drought reform action

Six years after national drought policy reform reached the national agenda, the NFF is still pushing for the finalisation of the policy.

With severe rainfall deficiencies across large parts of QLD, NSW and the NT, and 60 per cent of QLD declared in drought, a return to severe drought conditions is a reality facing many Australian farmers.

Farmers need certainty regarding the drought support available to them - both in preparing for, and surviving, extreme drought conditions - and we are working with the new Government to ensure they can either finalise their own drought policy or lock in the detail on the existing one.

Of course, in any discussion around drought support for farmers, it is important to note that the Australian agricultural sector currently recieves the lowest amount of government support of all OECD countries when compared to our GDP - we're not asking for handouts, but support in circumstances that are beyond what is reasonable for farmers to manage.

For more, read our media release here.

Priority 3: Basin plan cap

In a win for the NFF, farmers and Basin Plan communities, the Federal Government has committed to capping water purchases under the Basin Plan.

The cap, confirmed by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Simon Birmingham will see water buybacks limited to 1,500 gigalitres - 1,137 gigalitres of which has already been purchased by the former Government.

The NFF has been extremely vocal in its call for a cap, as we know that irrigation infrastructure creates efficiencies that trump water buybacks hands down. We welcomed Tony Abbott's comments back in December that the Coalition, if elected, would cap water buybacks, and we're thrilled that this has translated into policy now that they are in Government.

For more, read our media release here.

Upcoming Events

> NFF Members' Council and AGM
The NFF Members' Council and AGM will take place in Canberra on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 November. Members' Council is the peak policy setting forum for the NFF, and brings together the key farm industry leaders and decision makers - the Presidents and CEOs of the NFF's 27 member bodies.

The NFF AGvocate
Issue 43

In this issue

Term one: Six weeks in

Priority 1: Finalising free trade agreements

Priority 2: Drought reform action

Priority 3: Basin plan cap

Upcoming Events

NFF Members' Council and AGM

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