MELBOURNE EXHIBITION AND CONVENTION CENTRE, MELBOURNE
SATURDAY, 25 JULY 2015
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It's a pleasure to follow Albo who knows the policy areas covered by Chapter 3 better than most and has played a key role in ensuring it projects the right vision for a modern, productive, prosperous and fair Australia.
Unsurprisingly, in the very short time I have, I want to focus on agriculture, fisheries and forestry and the rural and regional communities which largely rely on those sectors.
Not just because they fall within my area of portfolio responsibility; but also because it's another area of public policy in which the Abbott Government has been completely missing in action.
Agriculture and agri-business - including fisheries and forestry - are poised to play a much greater role in Australia's future economic prosperity; but only if we put in the work, and put the right policy settings in place.
What has become known as the "dining boom" - the enormous growth in global food demand - won't just come to us, we must go to it. This is also true for what I call the “fibre boom” and we must have the right policy settings to capitalise and attract investment into the innovative, high value products that the world is seeking.
Chapter 3 lays the foundations for the policies the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party will development and implement to ensure Australia fully capitalises on our reputation as a provider of high quality, clean, green and safe food - our greatest competitive advantage.
In particular, it establishes 5 pillars on which Labor will build its policies - policies which will ensure:
• We have people with the necessary skills;
• We are able to attract the necessary investment;
• We build the necessary infrastructure;
• We adequately invest in research & development and have an extension plan to take innovation to our growers and producers; and,
• We have a plan to ensure our finite natural resources are utilised in the most efficient, productive and sustainable way, and we have real and meaningful strategies for dealing with long-term drought.
It is just incredible delegates, that while the land sector which is the most affected by increasingly variable and radical weather patterns - including prolonged drought, the Abbott Government's now discredited agriculture White Paper did not have climate change and sustainability within its terms of reference.
Nor by the way, did it include the forestry and fisheries sectors,an omission which was a devastating blow for those who work and invest in them.
I thank all those who have shown an interest in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries portfolio including our friends from the AWU and the CFMEU, my parliamentary colleagues including Country Caucus members led by Justine Elliot and Lisa Chesters, and extra-parliamentary and our rural candidates including Mike Kelly, Janelle Saffin, Vivian Thomson, Michael Pilbrow, Brian Mitchell, David Kerrigan, Libby Coker, Luke Gosling, and Jess Jennings who has a healthy obsession with R&D extension policy.
I also thank Labor's State Minsters and Shadow Ministers, and Mark Butler, who are working with me in developing Labor's agriculture policy, and the many delegates who have proposed worthy amendments and resolutions.
Delegates, Labor has a proud history and legacy in rural and regional Australia.
Country Caucus and our Country Labor Branches are working hard to further enhance our engagement and support for those who live outside our capital cities.
Chapter 3 lays the building blocks for the development of the policies we will need to fulfill the aspirations of country people.
I commend the Chapter to the conference.