While the cat's away the mice will play and The Nationals are certainly free-wheeling today in Tony Abbott's absence.

Fresh from his victory over Graincorp, Barnaby Joyce has announced the outcome of his Agriculture White Paper before even releasing the terms-of-reference.

His thought bubbles in The Australian newspaper today indicate his plan for agriculture is a "hand-out" rather than a "hand- up", and in his mind the white paper has been written before the terms of reference have even been released.

He appears to believe the $600 billion of investment we need for productivity and output lifting infrastructure can come from within Australia from the Budget bottom line and by creating additional tax breaks for Pitt St farmers.

Labor welcomed the announcement of the White Paper and offered a bi-partisan approach in the national interest.

But if we are to fully capitalise on the dining boom we must find new ways to dramatically lift agricultural productivity and much of that will come from research and development and innovation.  Barnaby Joyce needs to understand that.

What we need is a new agriculture model and the white paper should be an opportunity to develop one.


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