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NFF's Call for Govt 'Farm Blueprint' on Track
3 October 2006
The Federal Government’s response to the Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group (the Corish Report) has been hailed as a ‘landmark statement’ by National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie.
The 2005 Corish Report, Chaired by then-NFF President Peter Corish, and today endorsed by the Government, follows NFF calls for a national blueprint on agriculture – recognising and harnessing the vital economic and social contribution farming makes to Australia, now and into the future.
NFF ‘on-the-whole’ supports the Government’s response containing broad policy directions, and looks forward to working with the Government between now and the next federal election to put ‘flesh on the bones’ of the intent – particularly in key areas:
The Government’s commitment to a comprehensive agricultural outcome from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha Round by building the case for multilateral trade reform through strategic international alliances (like the Cairns Group and Australia’s membership of the G6), is essential.
NFF is committed to supporting this approach and continuing to inform the Government’s trade agenda by building and maintaining our own strategic alliances with international farm bodies. The pursuit of free trade agreements to open markets for Australian farmers is crucial, as we export 73% of everything we produce. The Government’s acknowledgement, in the face of scepticism, that more must be done to bring down international trade barriers, aligns our joint efforts.
NFF has also called on the Government to strengthen Australia’s quarantine system, advocating changes to improve processes and restore confidence in our science-based risk management. We look forward to the Government’s response to the issues raised.
Market dominance and supply chain issues are crucial to farmers. NFF is pleased the Government recognises farmers need to be more engaged along the supply chain. In that regard, NFF supports the National Food Industry Strategy (NFIS) and is closely examining proposals for NFIS and enhancing NFIS’s emphasis on the production sector.
NFF strongly supports proposed changes to the Trade Practices Act currently before Parliament (the Dawson reforms) regarding market power issues. Australian farmers, perhaps more than any other small business group, will be among the main beneficiaries of the reforms and we look forward to their implementation – sooner rather than later. The Government’s endorsement of improved collective bargaining amendments to the Act (and progress to further clarify section 46), will boost safeguards for small businesses.
Research and Development…
Australian agriculture’s nation-leading productivity growth of around 4% a year has been achieved by the sector embracing new technologies and sustainable practices, delivering efficiency gains to secure and maintain our competitive edge. This is entirely underpinned by a focus on research and development (R&D).
Greater collaboration and meshing of effort between R&D corporations is essential to harnessing potential gains and translating them into tangible farm-gate practices and outcomes. Through the Government’s review of its rural R&D priorities, NFF will help inform and guide this process.
Water & Environment…
While fully supporting the National Water Initiative (NWI), NFF is frustrated by Government delays in implementation, particularly the counter-productive by-play between State and Federal Governments.
The issue of water and its efficient use has, quite rightly, captured metropolitan and regional attention. No longer is drought seen as an issue solely for the bush. The community microscope is increasingly turning to water trading issues, the clarification of entitlements and cost effective implementation of NWI programs, which must be progressed at the same time as pricing issues.
Selective implementation of the NWI undermines the generational shift needed to deliver efficient water management, and generations of Australians will condemn governments who do not move quickly to ensure security for water resources.
NFF welcomes today’s announcement that the Natural Heritage Trust and Landcare will continue. NFF has also strongly advocated for an Environmental Stewardship program, which we have developed together with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment and Heritage, to see farmers recognised for preserving and managing natural resources and safeguarding the environment on behalf of all Australians.
We look forward to the Government’s announcement of its next environmental flagship program, which NFF believes should be founded upon our stewardship program and principles.
Strong, vibrant regional communities are essential to farmers and their families, supporting them in maintaining the ‘backbone of the nation’. NFF urges Government to clearly articulate a vision and strategy for regional development. NFF proposed a Tax Zone Rebate revamp to spur regional development. Given its rejection by Government, NFF looks forward to seeing how the Government will help people tap into the emerging opportunities in regional communities, while overcoming the imbalances regarding higher transport costs and lack of infrastructure.
Regional development is intrinsically linked to the ever-increasing problem of labour shortages in rural Australia. NFF does not believe the Government has focused enough on labour shortages and migration issues, as highlighted in the Corish Report, and we urge the Government to re-examine its oversight of this issue and its consequences.
Overview of the Government Response…
NFF welcomes the Government’s recognition of the importance of the issues confronting Australian farmers and the challenges they, and their closely related sectors, face in generating $103 billion in production (12% of GDP), driving $28 billion in exports, and supporting 1.6 million Australian jobs.
While we are encouraged by the broad strokes outlined today, we are keen to see ‘recognition’ translated into ‘substance’. We would expect much of the tone from the Government’s response to take tangible form in next year’s Federal Budget.
NFF will ensure the voice of Australian farmers is engaged and heard to see today’s Government intent delivered in the paddock.
Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan, NFF Public Affairs, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 email:
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