Now six months late, Labor welcomes the imminent release of the Agriculture White Paper.
When I was appointed Shadow Minister for Agriculture, I said I wanted to take a bipartisan approach to the portfolio. This is needed to minimise agriculture’s exposure to the short electoral cycle, lock in a long-term strategy and promote investment certainty.
I was pleased when Barnaby Joyce immediately welcomed and echoed my commitment.
If the White Paper is a quality document Labor will welcome it as such. But to do that it must:
• Clearly identify the Government's priorities and demonstrate how they align with the sector’s aspirations
• Be a strategic document, not a political document - one which provides high-level strategic guidance and sends the right signals to both domestic and foreign investors
• Deliver policies for lifting both productivity and sustainability, and therefore, sustainable profitability
• Include a long-term plan to deal with changing weather patterns including drought
• Feature ideas to protect Australia's reputation as a supplier of clean, green and safe products
• Include a long-term and meaningful commitment to greater efforts in research, development and extension
• Include strategies to lift skills, training, education and participation.
Australia's agriculture and agri-business sectors face both significant opportunities and challenges. Government has an important role to play in converting these opportunities into good economic and community outcomes.
Sadly, the forestry and fisheries sectors were not included in the White Paper's terms of reference and the challenges and policies required to advance these important industries deserve full and proper consideration by government.
It's now over to you, Barnaby, to deliver for the farm sector.