Thursday, 12 November 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail
This year's budget is a pivotal one in the future of agriculture. We announced a targeted plan to go towards agriculture's ambitious goal of reaching $100 billion by 2030—a plan with seven key pillars—and we backed it with cold, hard cash, making sure we understood what will drive agriculture to grow from a $61 billion industry to a $100 billion industry over the next 10 years. I've got to say that agriculture has done its bit of heavy lifting, despite drought, fire and flood. We have, in fact, gone ahead this year—from $60 billion to $61 billion. Despite the headwinds that have been there, agriculture continues to support the nation's economy not just during COVID; it will help us accelerate out of this COVID recession even more quickly. But it was important that the government itself put a structured plan around Ag2030 and the NFF's plan of a $100 billion industry, and those seven pillars are very important.
The first one is around trade and exports. We understand we're a nation of 25 million people. We produce enough food for 75 million. If we don't engage with the world and trade with the world, we don't need farmers and we don't need regional communities that support our farmers. So we put real cash—over $300 million—into streamlining our trade platforms to make sure that farmers and exporters can do it even more quickly and simply with one simple touchpoint. We're issuing over 200,000 export certificates a year at the moment in manual form. We want to go back to a digital platform that makes that easier. We're doing complementary measures and, in fact, we've announced that, and I have to congratulate AMIC, as the peak meat-processing body, for working through regulatory reform that streamlines it. It'll save that industry over $40 million a year. As well, just yesterday we finalised the live trade complementary measures, which will save that industry around $5 million a year. We expect, over the next 10 years, potentially about $1.2 billion to go back to the industry from these measures.
There's over $873 million in this budget going towards the second pillar, which is biosecurity. We want to protect brand Australia. We're doing that with more paws on the ground and more boots on the ground, but also with technology—X-ray technology. We're also working with Home Affairs at our ports to be able to use X-ray technology that will use artificial intelligence to look for both contraband for Home Affairs and also biosecurity risks for us. So it is just using common sense.
We'll continue on with our stewardship program, worth $34 million in the last budget, and ANU is now finalising the methodology so we'll be able to go to a pilot program early next year. That's on target to be achieved by the end of this year so it will have that pilot ready to start early in the new year.
We're also working through supply chains and understanding the importance of supply chains for Australian agriculture. That forms part of what the industry minister announced around manufacturing, making sure we invest and we look at even the vulnerabilities that we've seen through COVID-19 in agricultural inputs, not just the outputs. It's important we look holistically at that approach. We continue to look at country-of-origin labelling, which is very important in making sure that Australians are empowered to make decisions that support Australian farmers. The review into that has started, and we're looking to possibly extend that to seafood and cut flowers. I've challenged the fast-food outlets to have that on their boards. McDonald's has taken that up, and I think Hungry Jack's is very close. That's important in empowering consumers. Multinational organisations can have a significant role in empowering that.
We're also looking at infrastructure. Around an extra $2 billion is going into water infrastructure to help the states build the dams. It's their constitutional responsibility to build the water infrastructure, but we're not going to cut and run. We're going to give them the money to go and start to plumb the nation. It's an important investment because, if we get the water, we will grow the agricultural sector.
Innovation and research is the six pillar—and very important to me. In fact, we've just gone to tender for eight new innovation hubs to be located in regional areas across the country—not in sandstone universities but out in the regions, where the adoption of that research can be taken up. It is very important that we get our farmers to understand the tools that we are trying to give them in a changing climate to produce even more. The last pillar is the most important one, as it is about our human capital, our people: an investment in education, reducing universities costs by 59 per cent for agricultural courses. In addition, the education minister announced an extra $200 million for short courses that agricultural students can take.
So this is a holistic approach. It is about our government putting the shoulder to the wheel with the agricultural sector in achieving their goal of $100 billion by 2030.