The Turnbull Government today finally released the Productivity Commission’s report into the Regulation of Australian Agriculture, yet there’s not been a word from Scott Morrison or Barnaby Joyce.
We now know why the Government has sat on the report for five months. It’s because it is critical of many of the Government’s policies and says many of the things Barnaby Joyce’s Agriculture White Paper should have said.
The report found that there are number of areas in the agriculture sector - such as biosecurity and food safety - that require regulation.
However, the report has also found that at times regulation is used as the wrong tool. The push by the Turnbull Government to re-regulate the sugar industry is a case in point. The report found no market failure or other reasonable objective to justify the re-regulation of the Queensland sugar industry.
In what is a slap in the face for Barnaby Joyce and his National Party colleagues, the Productivity Commission also recommended that:
“The Queensland Government should repeal the amendments made by the Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act 2015”
The Commission also found that the Government’s regulatory policy to reduce investment thresholds for foreign buyers of agricultural land was “not in the long-term interests of farmers or the broader community”.
Another key finding was that animal welfare regulations should seek to achieve welfare outcomes that meet community expectations. The Commission concluded the current process for setting standards for farm animal welfare does not adequately value the benefits of animal welfare to the community.
Consistent with Labor policy, the Commission recommends the process for setting standards would be improved through the creation of a statutory agency responsible for developing national farm animal welfare standards using rigorous science and evidence of community values for farm animal welfare.
The Commission also expressed concern over the inconsistent regulatory requirements across jurisdictions and suggested a more consistent approach would improve outcomes. Sadly, this is not a priority for Barnaby Joyce who abolished the CoAG Committee (SCoPI) which coordinated Commonwealth/State policy.
As an example of regulatory inconsistency, the Commission cited the use of agvet chemicals, an area Barnaby Joyce is about to make worse by destroying the workforce of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority which he is determined to move from Canberra to his electorate.