Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister please outline to the House the Morrison government's commitment to supporting the agricultural sector, including through enhancing trade opportunities and freight and providing freight assistance?
I thank the member for Grey for his question and acknowledge the rich and proud history that the electorate of Grey has in contributing to the agricultural sector. We should also be more broadly proud of our farmers. Despite fires, drought and flood, and now COVID, they continue to be able to put the best food and fibre on the shelves for us every day, as well as contribute last year more than $54 billion worth of exports. We'll continue to support agriculture's ambitious goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030. There's renewed confidence for agriculture to achieve that, particularly with recent rains and looking at bumper winter harvests. It's important that we continue to understand and we put the environment around them. That's why we announced a further $2 billion to the Regional Investment Corporation to allow farmers to be able to get $2 million loans to restock and replant, with no interest and no repayments for two years. That allows them to repair their cashflow with no burden from banks. That's a huge saving to these farmers to get them back up on their feet and achieve that goal.
But, as we increase our production, it's important that we also understand that we put the environment around them in trade agreements. This government has secured many trade agreements, whether it be with China, Japan, Indonesia, the TPP-11 or, now, Indonesia, an agreement which came into effect only on 5 July. This is a significant trading partner just on our doorstep. We continue to pursue trade agreements with the EU and the UK to give our farmers the opportunity to spread their risk. That's what we'll continue to undertake to support the Australian agriculture sector and the regional communities that support it as well.
We've also wanted to make sure that we protect brand Australia. We've done that not just through our environment in biosecurity—$850 million to make sure that we keep pests and weeds away from destroying our brand of having the best product in the world—but now through wanting to be one of the most reliable exporters to our export partners around the world. We've created an International Freight Assistance Mechanism. We've understood that, with the reduction in the number of passenger flights that has come as a result of COVID-19, we have to make sure that we can get our high-end agricultural product into those key export markets to make sure those export partners know that we are reliable. But it also gives us a competitive advantage because, when we come out of COVID-19, our trading partners will know they can rely on Australian farmers more than anyone else in the world. This will be something that Australia will lead the world on, giving our farmers the leading edge. There's over $1.15 billion worth of agricultural product that will be going out on planes, committed already, and this program continues to show the demand for Australian exporters to send their product around the world. This is an investment in Australian agriculture, but it's an investment in our Australian economy as well.