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New Minister to lead Australia’s agriculture portfolio

1 July 2013

Following a tumultuous week in Federal politics, a new Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has today been appointed: the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) CEO Matt Linnegar welcomed Mr Fitzgibbon to the role, saying it was positive to see an MP with a regional background being promoted to the portfolio.

“Mr Fitzgibbon was born in Bellingen and his electorate is Hunter, including towns such as Aberdeen, Cessnock, Murrurundi, Muswellbrook, Scone and Singleton,” Mr Linnegar said.

“While this region is perhaps best known for its horse studs and mining developments, it is also an agricultural region, particularly dairy, horticulture, cereal crops, wool, beef, lambs and pigs - and I believe farmers across the country will be pleased to see that their new Agriculture Minister has this rural reach, as well as some 17 years experience as an MP.

“We will be requesting a meeting with Minister Fitzgibbon at his earliest convenience so that we can talk through some of the immediate priorities facing Australia’s farming sector.

“These include the implementation of the Farm Finance package, which is still awaiting state and territory approval – and, in conjunction with the new Trade Minister, the Hon. Richard Marles MP, the finalisation of the China, Japan and Korea free trade agreements. As Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in his press conference on Friday, the China FTA is currently moving at the pace of a ‘lame camel’.

“We look forward to working closely with Minister Fitzgibbon – and indeed all Federal Parliamentarians – on the NFF’s election priority of reprioritising agriculture in the national agenda. The need to do so is as relevant in the Minister’s own portfolio as it is on the national stage, with the importance of agriculture being overshadowed in recent years by the resources boom.

“But now, the dining boom is firmly on the horizon, and the need to ensure agriculture is prepared means sensible policy decisions are needed to increase investment in innovation, research development and extension; enhance our farmers’ competitiveness and profitability; build a stronger agricultural workforce; and ensure that there is a balance between the needs of agriculture and the needs of the environment,” Mr Linnegar said.

“We also welcome all new Ministers to their portfolios, many of which we work closely with in relation to the ag industry. Specifically, we welcome Minister Albanese as both Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Broadband and Communications, as well as Bill Shorten as Minister for School Education, Kim Carr as Minister for Higher Education, Innovation, Industry, Science and Research , Mark Butler as Minister for Climate Change and Environment and Brendan O’Connor as Minister for Employment, Skills and Training.”

The NFF also expressed its thanks to the former Agricultural Minister, Joe Ludwig.

“We had a strong working relationship with Senator Ludwig and his team, and it is important to recognise that he worked very hard to make improvements for farmers, particularly in the areas of research and development funding, the National Food Plan and farm finance.

“We understand that many farmers remain angry about the Government’s decision to suspend live exports – and rightly so – but it is not fair to lay the blame for this decision solely at the feet of Senator Ludwig, who worked constructively with the agricultural industry to navigate the difficult path forward following the suspension,” Mr Linnegar said.

Ends.

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