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Agriculture a national Coalition pillar, yet no Budget focus

22 May 2013

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey’s address to the National Press Club on the Budget has today picked up where Opposition Leader Tony Abbott left off: a promise of a better future but not one mention of farmers or agriculture.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Duncan Fraser said Mr Hockey’s speech, the Federal Budget reply, failed to recognise the critical role our farmers play in Australia’s economy.

“While we certainly welcome a number of promising commitments from the Coalition – namely axing the carbon tax, cutting red tape and putting in place fairer and more flexible workplace laws – we are disappointed that there has been no mention of agriculture and its importance to the nation’s future,” Mr Fraser said.

“We are pleased to see that the Coalition has included agricultural exports as one of its five ‘national economy pillars’ in its Real Solutions for all Australian plan, which is why we are surprised that agriculture did not rate a mention in either of the post-Budget speeches.

“This is perhaps even more surprising, as it was at the NFF’s National Congress in October that Mr Abbott said that farming is a ‘critical part of our national economy’ and, even more so, ‘part of our soul.’ He said: ‘an Australia without a vibrant, dynamic, growing farm sector wouldn’t be the country that we all know and love. So it’s very important that the farm sector be supported and encouraged by government, not hindered by it.’

Australia’s 130,000 farms not only own, manage and care for 60 percent of Australia’s landmass; but also contribute some $46 billion to the Australian economy at farm gate, including $37 billion in exports. And when the rest of the agricultural supply chain is added in, agriculture employs 1.6 million people and creates 12 percent of Australia’s GDP – making it a vitally important industry in terms of jobs, the environment and the economy.

Mr Fraser said: “In his Congress address Mr Abbott said that ‘it was only because of growth in the agricultural sector that we avoided going into recession as part of the global financial crisis’.

“All this, and from a sector that receives the lowest level of taxpayer subsidy of any agriculture sector in the world!

“Yet when he stood in Parliament last week to respond to the Budget, Mr Abbott mentioned mining and manufacturing, but not once did he mention the critical role that agriculture plays in this country. And today, Mr Hockey did the same.

“Our nation’s farmers deserve to be recognised for the enormous contribution they make – and our sector needs to be considered a national priority by our political leaders.

“We’ve heard plenty of rhetoric from all sides of Parliament – now it’s time for the Government and the Opposition to both put their money where their mouth is and invest in the long term future of our sector,” Mr Fraser said.

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