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Invest in Australian research first say farmers

24 September 2010

DESPITE a new Productivity Commission (PC) report backing the strengths of Australia’s Rural Research and Development Corporation (RDC) system, new Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig will need to head off savage cuts to research and development.

“Earlier this week Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced at the UN General Assembly that “across our entire overseas development assistance program, Australia expects between now and 2015 to allocate... $1.8 billion to food security”,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said.

“At the same time as Mr Rudd is pumping $1.8 billion in food security for other countries, the PC is recommending cutting our domestic rural research and development by $60 million. It makes no sense.

“The Government needs to realise that research and knowledge developed in Australia directly feeds tens of millions of people every day and technical knowledge, developed here, is then often transferred to developing countries to address food security issues.

“Failing to invest in Australian research cuts our industries out of productivity gains, it reduces our output and places our exports at a competitive disadvantage.

“Further, the PC’s draft report on research and development, released yesterday, recommends that a new government-funded RDC ‘Rural Research Australia’ be established to sponsor broader rural research is welcomed, and will fill the strategically important gap in research and development the Government created when it shutdown Land and Water Australia last year.

“While ‘Rural Research Australia’ would focus on non-industry specific research and development in areas related to land, water and energy use, we fear that by taking funds from the other RDCs that this ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ approach will leave none with the resources necessary to the job properly.

“It now falls to the Government to not only reject research cuts, but to ramp up investment. The Government should push a vision to position Australia as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of agricultural research, delivering technologies and training that can benefit Australian farmers, as well as address the international challenges of food security.

“This has the potential to generate spillover benefits across the entire economy including the life and environmental sciences, to information technology and food manufacturing.

“Unless we ramp up our research and development effort as part of a coordinated national strategy encompassing food and regional Australia, we will be a world follower rather than a world leader, ignoring growing community concerns on issues of food security.”

[ENDS]

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