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NFF lays out 2010 federal election priorities

14 July 2010

LAUNCHING its 2010 Federal Election Policy Platform today, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) slammed both sides of politics for perpetuating old mistakes and failing to seize initiatives to tackle emerging national issues – laying down the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The NFF’s manifesto highlights policy failures and new opportunities that the next federal government must grapple with, encapsulated in four policy pillars: Population, Economy, Environment and Property.

“The next term of government will take this country to 2013 – a crucial period in how Australia will or won’t cope with future domestic population and transport pressures, inherent inefficiencies, the need to produce at least 70% more food while protecting and sustainably managing environmental assets, and enshrining natural justice for long-suffering landholders,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“We’re over the hollow rhetoric. We haven’t seen enough from either aspirant to Australia’s top job to warrant endorsement on any of these nation-building, forward-looking issues. Australia faces serious problems and we need leaders committed to meeting them head on, not fluffing around the edges.

Population

“Population growth and, therefore, overcrowded cities, squeezed transport systems and restricted access to services like healthcare are important to all Australians. Regional Australia can be our major cities’ saviour, providing new opportunities for businesses and families to grow and prosper.

“The political party that backs business in regional Australia will be at the forefront of meeting Australia’s population challenge. With 88% of Australians crammed into just 3% of the landmass – mostly small coastal recesses around Sydney and Newcastle, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth – the next federal government must think long-term and build regional centres.

“It’s unsustainable and short-sighted to perpetuate the outdated fixation on big coastal cities. The Federal Government’s own Inter-Generational Report projects Australia’s population will top 36 million by 2050. Existing problems with congestion in Australian cities can only compound unless governments recognise the role that regional development can play in relieving the stress.

“Providing major tax breaks for business and individuals to relocate or start up anew in regional Australia could re-energise the nation and rectify the imbalance that sees 97% of this country currently under-developed.

“The next federal government must commit to a concerted National Infrastructure Strategy, tying together roads, rail and ports to ease bottlenecks and account for current and future freight flows. We’re tired of electorate-based pork-barrelling. This plan needs to be upfront and we will be damning of ad hoc election funding announcements.

“But, it’s not just transport. Soft infrastructure (doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.) is needed now to make the move for families into regional areas viable. Quality, affordable telecommunication services are also needed now, as well as a guarantee of upgrades to new technologies as they come online into the future. These are vital for regional, rural and remote communities.

“Despite the hype around the National Broadband Network fundamental questions remain unanswered. What type of technology will regional Australia get, when and how much will it cost? The Government is still to address future upgrades to ensure regional Australia isn’t left behind.

“So whether you live in Mareeba or Melbourne, Ceduna or Sydney, population policy and developing hard and soft infrastructure outside of capital cities, matters to everyone.

Economy

“Agriculture is the bedrock of our national prosperity. When all else fails, as it did during the global financial crisis, farming kept Australia out of recession and the economy ticking over – recording double-digit growth when other sectors were mired in negative territory and going backwards.

“The world is already crying out for more food and fibre and essential human needs will multiply exponentially as global population grows to 9 billion over the next 40 years. Our politicians have a responsibility to meet these demands and invest in Australia’s future prosperity at the same time.

“Our farmers’ productivity growth of 2.8% a year has been second to none for 30 years, but those rates are now falling as successive governments have abandoned research investment. Australia could be the global leader in agricultural research and development, a hub for world food and fibre science, but such an aspiration demands political vision.

Environment

“Farming and the environment are co-dependent, with sound natural resources management needing a robust farm sector as a fundamental part of sustainable environmental planning and delivery. The tangible record of Australian farmers in sustainably managing natural resources is world-leading, with 94% of farmers active in environmental works.

“With the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s release now postponed until early August, there is increasing unease among farmers, regional communities and environmental scientists around due scrutiny of the Plan in an election environment. This is especially the case as the interpretation of ‘environmental water needs’ by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority looms as a crucial test for the Gillard Government.

“Water is the lifeblood of food and fibre production, our environment and local communities. Farmers need equitable, secure water property rights to underpin continued investment.

“Many people remain concerned about climate change. Government policy needs to make farmers part of the climate change solution. If you want environmental outcomes, you’re better off working with the people living on and working 54% of the continent. Governments need to provide market-based incentives, not regulation, if they are serious about these challenges.

Property

“Property rights goes to the heart of the Australian dream of what it means to own your own home. Gradually, this birth right has been eroded with successive governments making decisions that usurp basic rights and deny natural justice.

“While successive federal and state governments have been equally complicit, the next federal government must commit to rectifying the outstanding issues and ensuring landholders’ rights are protected.

“Too often governments assume a property right and leave the title with the owner. Full and adequate compensation must be provided where property rights are compulsorily acquired by governments or where farmers are required to undertake management practices above and beyond their duty of care.”

[ENDS]

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