House debates

Tuesday, 16 October 2018


Groom Electorate: Agriculture Industry

7:35 pm

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

) ( ): My region of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, which makes up the Groom federal electorate, has long been a leader in agriculture and agribusiness. In fact, that's our heritage. It's the very reason that pastoralists initially focused on our region from the mid-1800s.

Grain, pulses, cotton, horticulture, grazing, intensive livestock, feedlotting, food processing, packaging and freight to domestic and international markets remain to this day among the mainstay activities in our region. And, of course, with the Wellcamp Airport, the continued upgrades of the Warrego Highway and other highways in the region—the Gore Highway and the New England Highway, that intersect around our city, Toowoomba—the pending Inland Rail and of course, the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing that is nearing completion, marketing and logistics opportunities will only develop more in the future, in the years to come, leading to more businesses and, of course, more jobs throughout our region.

And now an array of new research and innovation will take our region to new heights. Robust and high-technology sensors, accessible computing power, robotics and automation in agribusiness and of course, the existence of the smart device we all carry nowadays, are increasingly making our farms more productive and with less environmental impact. Ultimately, this leads to greater international competitiveness. This competitiveness is very significant, especially when we consider the fact that whilst we are not the largest agricultural producers in the world, we are certainly world leaders in productivity, quality of produce and, of course, food safety.

In terms of the agricultural technologies, or agtech, that support and drive such initiatives, we are seeing more and more start-ups in the market. And of course the agribusiness giants are also taking notice. It's particularly exciting that FKG's $40 million Pulse Data Centre is leading Toowoomba's digital future. Given our agricultural heritage that I referred to, and the interest of agribusiness, universities and farmers, this will very much be an agtech future. This data centre, the first of its type in regional Australia, has unsurpassed security systems as well as cooling and power supply guarantees, and has really positioned itself as a hub for agtech across our famous Darling Downs and further afield.

I'm pleased, therefore, that just today local agricultural consultant Tim Neale was announced as the 2018 Rural Consultant of the Year at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards held here in Parliament House. As was explained during his presentation, Tim has more than 20 years experience working in Australian agriculture, with a focus on sustainable agriculture and precision agricultural technology. During his time he has supported farmers and agronomists to move into this space. To quote Tim:

By knowing variability in crop or pasture production, farmers and agronomists can help manage their farming activities by rectifying mistakes, track crop growth, varying fertiliser and chemical rates across a field, reduce input costs, and predict productivity before final harvest.

This means just that for the whole supply chain. It means opportunities in the future, from input suppliers, producers and contractors to shippers, marketers and financiers. More precise information and greater predictability will lead to an even more competitive future for our livestock and crop producers right across the board. Our burgeoning trade deals around the world provide opportunities for our agribusinesses, armed with these skills and data, to compete even more strongly.

This is great for the nation's economy. It's great for job opportunities in regional Australia. It's great when we consider the grains research. One example, Tosari, is a new research property in the central Darling Downs, led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. With the support of the federal government, this means that we will see continued initiatives into the future, and it is therefore fantastic to see my region leading the charge once again.