Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison-McCormack government is driving our economic comeback from the COVID-19 recession by opening new trade markets for Australian agricultural exports and supporting our agricultural industry to export their world-class products?
I thank the member for Mallee for her question and acknowledge the significant contribution the electorate of Mallee makes not only to agriculture but to agricultural exports. She knows better than anyone the importance of that to her community. To put it in perspective and keep it simple, we are a nation of 25 million people and we produce enough food for 75 million, so, if we don't engage with the world and trade with the world, we don't need the communities that support those agricultural communities around Australia. There are 270,000 Australians employed in agriculture. Three in every five of those jobs are linked to agricultural trade. Last year we exported nearly $54 billion worth of agricultural product. That's up $4 billion over the last four years. Such is the importance of the investment we continue to make in securing new free trade agreements. In fact, the trade minister is working on agreements with the UK and the EU, and that's not long after we ratified one with Indonesia, which has 260 million people on our doorstep. That has opened up market access and reduced tariffs to make it easier for our primary producers to get their products around the world.
We've also taken COVID into account. There is $669 million committed in airfreight support to make sure that we can get our high-end agricultural product out on cargo planes; it was previously going out on passenger planes. We are making sure that we are seen not only as producing the best food and fibre in world but also as being one of the most reliable exporters in the world even through COVID. We're also putting boots on the ground. We now have 22 agricultural counsellors in embassies and high commissions around the world, and the job of those men and women is to work at government-to-government level to reduce technical barriers and get market access commodity by commodity.
We've also made a significant investment in this year's budget: over $300 million in modernising our export platform, making it single touch and allowing our exporters to apply to export their product. Where previously around 20 application forms were required, we are going back to one. We were issuing over 200,000 export permits a year on a manual basis; we are now going to do that on a digital basis. This is engaging with technology to streamline regulation but also to have complementary measures to support industries around the regulatory task—to protect Brand Australia but make sure that we can do that with the lightest regulatory touch by engaging technology. We're putting smart glasses on meat inspectors so that they can do external inspections to cut the cost. We expect that, for the meat industry alone, over $45 million a year will go back to the industry. Over 10 years across all our commodities, about $1.102 billion will be going back into those industries. This is about an investment in our agricultural sector and in achieving their ambitious goal of $100 billion by 2030.