Monday, 24 June 2013
Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry Committee; Report
On behalf of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry I present the following reports together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee: the inquiry into the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research annual report 2011-12 and inquiry into the Wine Australia annual report 2011-12.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the reports were made parliamentary papers.
by leave—These are two reports of the House's ag committee. The first report concerns the committee's inquiry into the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research annual report 2011-12 and the second report summarises our inquiry into the Wine Australia annual report 2011-12. Regarding the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the committee's inquiry canvassed a range of issues, including an independent review, food security and the domestic benefits from the centre's work. In May 2013 an independent panel assessed the research centre's work. The committee found that the overall panel's findings were positive, despite raising a number of questions. The committee noted that it is currently unclear whether the Australian government intends to act upon all of the review's recommendations. The committee has, therefore, recommended that the government respond publicly to the review.
One of the centre's core initiatives is the running of the Australian International Food Security Centre. The committee believes that the food security centre will allow Australia to take a leading role towards improving global food security. The committee learnt that around 10 per cent of the benefits for the agriculture research centre's work are applied domestically. A major domestic application is in biosecurity. The centre's research has contributed to addressing issues such as rabies, foot-and-mouth disease and other diseases. Finally, the committee has noted that better communications and promotion of the centre's work is needed. We need to do more to telegraph our expertise and findings to Australia and the world.
I would like now to move to the committee's second inquiry which looked at Wine Australia's annual report. The committee's report highlighted the recent approval of the merger between Wine Australia and the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation. The committee considers that this merger will significantly improve the Australian government's ability to service the wine industry. Wine Australia will be further strengthened through its recent partnership with Tourism Australia. Two other initiatives will also increase wine related tourism: Aussie Wine Month and Savour Australia. These events are fantastic initiatives to promote Australian wine producers, regions and associated businesses.
The committee was also pleased to see Wine Australia actively working to promote Australian wines in key emerging markets, including China and India. Despite the recent drops in export levels, the committee believes that from initiatives such as these the outlook for the sector is very bright.
The committee's report also considered some difficulties encountered by wine producers in the domestic market competition for retail shelf space. The committee felt that where wine producers feel retailers are impeding competition, further action was needed to produce a stronger evidence base to inform sensible decisions.
Before concluding, I would like to reflect on the committee's work in this, the final sitting week of the 43rd Parliament. The committee's work has included policy inquiries and seven bill inquiries—something relatively new for this committee. Our policy inquiries included major investigations into the future of the fishery and forestry industries. If the committee's recommendations are implemented, they will have real benefits for these sectors. These are important reports containing important recommendations and I strongly encourage the government to consider them fully and act on their findings.
In closing, I would like to thank the members of the committee who have contributed significantly and in a constructive manner to the committee's work. In particular, I would like to thank my deputy chair, Alby Schultz, who retires at the culmination of this parliament after a long and distinguished career. He worked tirelessly in furthering the interests of regional and rural Australians. On behalf of the committee I wish him well in the next chapter of his life. He has always been strongly supported by his loving wife. He spent some years in the New South Wales parliament representing regional and rural interests. I wish him extremely well in the future. I commend the reports to the House.
I would like to add to the comments by the member for Lyons. These were two very important inquiries: the inquiry into the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research annual report and the inquiry into the Wine Australia annual report. Important work is done by both of these bodies, particularly because of their direct relevance to regional and rural Australia.
The report into Wine Australia was very significant. There are two key points that I would like to reflect on. The first is that it is very important to see that the wine industry in Australia not only is looking at volume but is doing all it can to make sure we can continue to add value to our wine. I think that is going to be incredibly important going forward. Adding value to the wine that we produce, especially when we are dealing with the Asian market, is going to be incredibly important to the sector. We have to keep looking at ways that we can gain further market access, especially in our near region. It was very good to see that these are considerations that Wine Australia are on top of, including where they should be putting their resources—whether our resources should be more evenly spread across the globe or whether we should be starting to move away from resources in our mature markets.
I would also like to add to the comments of the member for Lyons with regard to the committee. I would like to commend him as chair for the way he has gone about his job during this current parliament. He has been a very fair chair. He has made sure that the committee's work has been done very much on a bipartisan basis. I commend him for that. There has been only one bill that has in any way caused us any problems and the chair very wisely moved that bill on, so I commend him on the way he has handled himself.
I would also like to thank the other members of the committee for the way they have gone about doing their job and thank the secretariat for the very professional way they have done their jobs. Finally, I would like to reinforce the comments with regard to the member for Hume, the deputy chair of the committee. The member for Hume has been on this agriculture, forestry and fisheries committee—and the previous committees that have gone before it that have had various names—for 12 years now. I think that shows quite clearly his passion to represent regional and rural Australia. He has done an outstanding job. I will never forget him relaying to us in one of the committee meetings the work that he and his wife, Gloria, did with regard to drought stricken farmers. I think it was very moving and showed their absolute commitment and their ability to roll sleeves up and actually go out there and not just talk but also walk the walk.
Member for Hume, we will miss you on this committee. I must say there are probably some witnesses who have come before the committee who might not miss the member for Hume because he can be quite direct and frank in his questioning. But he saw that as very much part of his doing his job and we will miss the member for Hume.