Thursday 24 April, 2014
The NFF's recent submission to the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper - Issues Paper will help assist the Australian Government to identify pathways and approaches for growing Australian farm profitability and boosting agriculture's contribution to economic growth, trade, innovation and productivity. The submission, which has been developed in conjunction with members, brings together the NFF's views on government policies that will bolster growth and sustainability of the sector.
The submission suggests generating income will go hand-in-hand with harnessing new opportunities, some of these include the need to secure comprehensive trade deals, reduce costs via the removal of red tape and ensure the sector investigates new business models to enhance productivity. Further to this, the submission also covers the vital need to unlock the sector's potential, by attracting public and private investment to renew ageing and inefficient infrastructure in rural and regional Australia.
Furthermore, the White Paper process provides an opportunity to acknowledge the government's role in progressing many of the recommendations that came out of the NFF-led, industry-driven, Blueprint for Australian Agriculture. An incredible amount of work went into this visionary document, in fact, it was the first sector-wide effort to set out a strong and sustainable path for Australian agriculture, and the NFF would like to see government policies align with the direction articulated in the Blueprint.
The future of the National Water Commission (NWC), an independent statutory authority which provides advice on national water issues and audits water reform initiatives, is in doubt after Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Senator Simon Birmingham, this week confirmed the commission's role was under close review. While some have argued that the cut could save $30 million over the next four years, the NFF has warned the government to think twice before cutting the independent water authority.
While the NFF recognises the government is operating within a tight fiscal environment, it reiterates that an independent authority, without an agenda and without vested interests, should exist to oversee the national water reform process. Existing agencies, such as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority or the Department of the Environment, cannot take on the role. In the NFF's view, agencies responsible for shaping and implementing water reforms, State and Commonwealth, should not mark their own homework.
It's been a busy month on the trade front. In early April, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott led a 500-strong diplomatic and trade delegation to visit key trading partners across north-east Asia. During the trip, the government concluded an historical agreement with Japan, officially signed the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement in Seoul, and accelerated talks with Australia's major trading partner, China.
In particular, the conclusion of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA), has brought about mixed reactions from the Australian agricultural sector, with the agreement appearing to be positive for Australian beef, horticulture and seafood. However, much was left to be desired within the dairy, sugar, grains, pork and rice sectors, who received little or no improvement, across the board. More recently, the sector has received criticism for its glass half-empty response to the agreement. The fact remains, that whilst we acknowledge the flexible and constructive approach undertaken by the government in reaching this agreement, it simply did not deliver the optimum result for all products, across all sectors, of Australian agriculture.
Securing a comprehensive trade deal for agriculture is a difficult part of any negotiation. However, the NFF represents Australian farmers, across all major commodities of Australian agriculture, and we have a longstanding commitment to call for the best possible outcomes for the sector. Going forward, the potential trade agreement with China remains a key priority for all commodities, and the NFF will continue to work constructively with the government and industry to ensure the best possible results can be grasped.
The NFF Grains Policy Council (NFFGPC) met this week in Sydney to focus on the current and emerging issues affecting grain producers across the country. The NFFGPC was established in 2013, and meets with the view to ensure Australia's grains producers have a strong voice on issues of national importance. At its recent meeting, the Council discussed the urgency to improve national infrastructure, the need to resolve the problems embedded within the early stages of operation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and the need to decipher competition constraints hindering the grains industry.
Members voiced their concerns surrounding the current state of domestic infrastructure, including roads, rails and ports, and to what degree of impact it may have on the fortunes of the grains industry. As such, the Council reiterated the critical need to encourage public and private investment for rural infrastructure, and to encourage the government to think beyond political cycles and into the realm of long-term investment strategy to unlock the industry's potential.
For more, read our media release here.
The NFF AGvocate
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