House debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice


2:43 pm

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency. Will the minister please outline to the House how the Morrison government's world-leading Ag2030 plan, with its key pillars of innovation and human capital, will help Australia's agricultural industry to chart our way out of the COVID-19 recession?

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Barker for his question. The member for Barker knows better than anybody that if we're to support agriculture to reach its ambitious goal of $100 billion by 2030 then we have to invest in our most precious asset: our people. Sadly, there have been generations of young Australians who have left agriculture and left regional Australia. They felt it was all too hard—the drought, the fires, the floods. But we're slowly changing that around.

As part of our Ag2030 plan, as part of this year's budget, we made a significant investment in our people—in our young people. Not only did we invest over $250 million in allowing 400 short courses, including agriculture, to upskill young people but also we reduced the price of agricultural courses at university by 59 per cent. That's had an immediate result. This year, for the University of Queensland's bachelor of agricultural science course, enrolment has gone up by 127 per cent. At Longy college in Victoria, enrolment is up by 66 per cent. And at the University of Tasmania it is up by 50 per cent. These are the new jobs of agriculture, the exciting jobs in technology and science that are bringing your young people home.

It fits in with our innovation agenda of ensuring that we give our farmers the tools to continue to produce the best food and fibre in the world, with the science and technology to back that. That's why we're reforming our innovation systems. We have 15 research and development corporations across 15 commodities. We are bringing them together and making sure that we get back to first principles: value to the levypayer and value to the taxpayer. We're making sure there is no duplication of research across those 15 research and development corporations. We're making sure there is also commercialisation of the work that we're doing with the best and brightest here in Australia.

Above all, we're collaborating. That's why, as part of our efforts around Ag2030, we have invested $86 million in physical platforms, in innovation hubs, across the country to bring together not just drought research but our research and development across commodities, to get them to collaborate, to ensure that we are continuing to grow this as the next pillar of agriculture so that young people of Australia can come back to regional and rural Australia and contribute to ag's vision of $100 billion by 2030. We're going further than that—not just a physical platform. For the first time, in a world first, we're creating a digital platform, growAG. We will be launching it in the next month. It will bring together all the research and development across all the commodities onto a digital platform that the world can see and participate in. This is something that hasn't been done anywhere else in the world. In fact, there are nations around the world that are wanting to sign up to the innovation that we are starting here in Australia around agriculture.

This is the exciting thing about the investment that we are making in agriculture. We're not just helping it grow the productivity and profitability of our country; this more than anything is about bringing our young people home.