Agriculture is a vital part, not just of the fabric of rural and regional Australia, but of the entire nation.
With agriculture contributing $53.6 billion to the nation’s economy, and employing 314,000 Australians across the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector (with huge multiplier effects), it is essential that it is encouraged to grow.
The $1billion dollars of farmer and government contributions to agricultural research and development (R&D) organisations needs to be effectively targeted to help improve the profitability of Australian agriculture through enhancing the skills and decision making of farmers.
Examples of what needs to be done:
- Support the lifting of the small business tax threshold from $2m to $10m to encourage agricultural businesses to grow as agricultural output expands from individual businesses.
- Having strong competition laws that that can effectively deal with and penalise predatory abuse of market power from companies in the agricultural to retail supply chain. This needs to include a stronger ‘effects’ test than the government is currently proposing, divestiture powers to break up companies for gross abuse of market power, and quicker and more affordable access to justice.
- Continue to push for clear country of origin labelling for food and ingredients including clear labels showing the source country of imported products. The recently announced changes, due to come into force later this year, while welcome need to be improved upon and monitored for their effectiveness.
- It’s imperative to scrap the punitive AQIS charges on small exporters that destroy incentives to export.
- We will continue to push for urgent strong anti-dumping rules to prevent domestic industries being dumping grounds for imported produce such as what happened with tinned tomatoes.
- Help work to encourage domestic investment in Australian agriculture through investment vehicles such as Australian superannuation funds.
- Encourage immigrant arrivals, including those with needed skills and investment dollars, to settle in rural and regional Australia to address rural labour shortages.
- Continue to support the full implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. As part of that we see the automation and upgrading of the barrages where the river meets the Coorong as a key part of modernising the river infrastructure to more effectively manage the interaction between fresh and salt water. States which were early adopters of water efficiencies must be acknowledged in any federal scheme. Irrigators should be able to access federal infrastructure grants for value adding to agriculture more easily.
- Immediately scrap the planned Backpacker Tax as these young people are a vital part of harvesting different agricultural products, many of them with only short harvest windows.
- Support the export of livestock to countries who implement Australia’s strict ESCAS Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. However, our preference is to encourage the processing of livestock in Australia, in regional Australia, to grow industry and jobs, we understand that different markets exist and that will take time to grow.
- Federal drought funding must require that state governments do not unreasonabley impede the delivery of drought support.