Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the House the important role the Australian agricultural industry will play in supporting Australia's economic comeback from the COVID-19 recession?
I thank the member for Nicholls for his question. Despite the fact that agriculture has faced up to drought, fires, floods and now COVID-19 it's continued to prove that it is still one of the bedrocks of our nation's economy. ABARES previously estimated that despite all these headwinds we would, this year, have an agricultural industry of $61 billion, up from $60 billion. Next week ABARES will update that outlook, and we're predicting that it will in fact go higher, such has been the strength of the agricultural sector.
That is the reasoning behind the ambitious goal of growing agriculture to $100 billion by 2030, and in this year's budget the government backed that, our own Ag2030 plan, with cold hard cash. There are seven pillars to our 2030 plan. The first is around exports, with over $300 million to invest in modernising our trading platforms, and complementary measures, particularly around regulatory oversight not only to protect our brands but to reduce the costs of regulation in making sure our product gets around the world more quickly. The second pillar—and, many say, the most important—is around biosecurity, protecting brand Australia. There is a record investment in our budget this year of $874 million not just for putting boots and paws on the ground but also for new technology, such as underwater drones that will be under ships, making sure there are no hitchhiker pests; and scanners, in containers, that will detect the movement of insects. So we're looking to technology to protect our brand as well. The third pillar, also about protecting our brand, is around our stewardship—protecting our farmers and our environment for their environmental stewardship and custodianship of the land. There is $34 million to support them and reward them for carbon abatement and improvement in biodiversity, and in terms of how they put that into the market.
We're also looking at supply chains. That's the fourth pillar. There's $1.3 billion under the modernisation of manufacturing in which agriculture is seen as one of the key pillars. And we'll continue to make sure we look at what we're manufacturing and at what we're exporting, but also at our agricultural inputs. Also important is infrastructure—$3½ billion. In wanting to dig dams and plumb the nation, we need the states to come with us, but we've got the chequebook to go with it. We're also looking at our innovation systems. There's $86 million going into new innovation hubs around the country, particularly in regional Australia, where our farmers can adopt the new science and technology not just for drought but for improving productivity.
But the most important investment is the last pillar, and that is in our people. There is $250 billion in this year's budget to ensure that short courses, particularly in agriculture, can be undertaken and to reduce the cost of agricultural university courses by 59 per cent. So this government will stand with the agricultural sector, whatever headwinds it may face, to help it achieve its goal of $100 billion by 2030. (Time expired)