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Developing the North part of the future of agriculture

18 June 2015

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) welcomes the announcement from the Government on the Developing Northern Australia white paper which is to be formally launched in Cairns on Friday. NFF Chief Executive Simon Talbot said agriculture is intrinsically interwoven into the economic, social and environmental fabric of Northern Australia and a strong agricultural sector is vital to ensuring development in Northern Australia.

The Developing Northern Australia white paper has identified the need to remove barriers for development in northern Australia, including a focus on improving security of investment and clarifying land tenure, and the need for significant public and private partnerships in infrastructure including economic, social and environmental. The $5 billion in concessional loans for projects through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility announced as part of the white paper will assist in public and private partnership process Mr Talbot said.

The funding for infrastructure including water will assist in identifying a clear business case which is essential if we are talking about a long term commitment. What we want to see now is how and where the funds will be allocated to ensure they have the most impact.

The agriculture sector recognises the significant magnitude of what the north is capable of delivering but also what is required over a long period of time. This commitment in terms of funding and policy from the government is a welcome contribution to what must be a long term bipartisan support for the region if it is to be truly sustainable.

Key projects for the agriculture sector that are part of the announcement include:
• $200 million to build water infrastructure in the north and tied to developing secure and tradeable water rights as part of a new National Water Infrastructure Development Fund
• $75m for a northern Cooperative Research Centre to focus on agriculture, food and northern health
• $600m for priority road projects
• Funding to assist in finalising native title claims
• Expanding the Seasonal Worker Program to all agricultural industries
• Broadening eligibility criteria for access in northern Australia to skills and training under the Industry Skills Fund
• Retaining existing access to second year visas for backpackers who work on farms for 88 days and extending second year visa access to backpackers from other countries if they work on farms or in tourism in northern Australia

The government must get the approach right and line up this white paper with a consistent approach on foreign investment, tax and the agriculture white paper. There is overlap in all of these issues when talking about the North.

The Developing Northern Australia white paper demonstrates that initiatives, policy and private engagement in the north must be coordinated across government and business and must deliver market development opportunities for agriculture and other sectors.

“Agriculture will not only be a beneficiary of, but a principal contributor to, a strong Northern Australia”, said Mr Talbot.

Contact NFF Media on 0408 448 250 or for further information.

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