Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Will the minister update the House on how agriculture is supporting both jobs and innovation in the Northern Territory and right across the nation more broadly, and how is this helping to boost the Australian economy?
Mr Albanese interjecting—
I thank the honourable member for her question. She, more than most, would understand the improvements that are happening in agriculture by reason of innovation. She would know because of the work that she herself has done in the IT sector over a long period of time.
It is great to see that the Northern Territory in some instances is at the forefront of the innovation sector. Australian Agricultural Company has recently opened a new abattoir, and it is great to see that the Australian Agricultural Company have had a massive turnaround in their profits.
Mr Snowdon interjecting—
It is great to see that, in the six months to September, they had a $50 million profit. That compares to a $3.59 million loss in the prior, corresponding period. This is the first profit they have had since 2007, and it just goes to show the turnaround in the agricultural sector and how this is inspiring jobs and bringing a better outcome and a better standard of living for people in the Territory.
It is not just in the Territory, but it is also in South Australia with companies such as Thomas Foods, which has an annual revenue of $1.3 billion and employs 2500 people. The benefits of this are now seen even in my electorate—in Tamworth, their expansion is going to bring about another 200 jobs. It is happening all across our nation, and innovation goes hand in hand with new jobs. This morning I read about the upgrade and innovation by Steritech, which does gamma irradiation of mangoes and which is allowing the export of a new product into the United States, and so further expanding our capacity to export this product from all around South-East Queensland. The Acting Prime Minister is obviously very aware of those issues.
Robotics has also come to the fore, as the minister for innovation has been saying. These robotics in modular units are being used for the control of weeds and the more effective delivery of chemicals to land. Then there is the extension of drones to control weeds. And let us not forget the massive investment that the federal government—$¼ million in the ag portfolio alone—in matching R&D funding. In excess of $12 billion has been spent on water upgrades to the Murray-Darling Basin to get more effective delivery of water and a better return per unit of land. In the last week I have also had the pleasure of releasing a new grass, a tall fescue—not surprisingly, its name is Barnaby.