Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
Government senators interjecting—
That was a good response, though. My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, Senator Ruston. Minister, could you please outline how the Liberals and Nationals in government are supporting our agricultural sector through the recent natural disasters: bushfire, drought and now COVID and the COVID recession?
I thank Senator Davey for her question and also her longstanding interest in all things agricultural. The Australian agricultural industry has a proud history of overcoming adversity. If you want to look at strength in the face of adversity, you don't have to look much further than the subject of Senator McKenzie's book which was launched today, 'Black Jack' McEwen. Like previous conservative governments, the Morrison government will continue to back our agricultural sector. We'll back them through droughts, we'll back them through floods, we'll back them through bushfires, and this year we have backed them through the coronavirus pandemic. By committing to them drought support—$10 billion—
Order! Sit down, everyone. We've nearly made it. Everyone just bite their tongue for four more minutes. Senator McKenzie, reading material of that nature would not be in order in the chamber anyway, I understand, so I think it probably needs to be placed in your drawer or a folder.
As I was saying, conservative governments over the years have had a very proud relationship with our agricultural sector, and this government is no exception. We will stand side by side with our farming sector through tough times to make sure that we continue to roll out programs that will support the huge contribution that the Australian agricultural sector makes to our economy. As an example, through the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced a $328 million Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters package to grow our food and fibre exports. From day one of the pandemic, the government recognised the pivotal role that agriculture would play and particularly the pivotal role that agriculture will play in the economic recovery. We've made sure not just that we look after the agricultural sector itself but that our supply chains remain open and safe, making sure that our access to the rest of the world remains in place by, for instance, addressing the airfreight shortages and the disrupted supply chains overseas through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism put in place by Senator Birmingham. We stand side by side with our farmers.
Thank you, Minister. As you've described, the past 12 months have been incredibly challenging. Can you please tell the chamber how our agricultural industry have performed in the last 12 months despite the challenges they've faced?
Once again, thank you, Senator Davey, for the opportunity to say what a great industry Australian agriculture is and to acknowledge the fact that, despite the headwinds that this industry has been experiencing over recent times, it remains an industry with a great ability to thrive under adversity. In fact, on Monday, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences revised its outlook for agricultural output in 2021. The gross value of agricultural production is forecast to rise by seven per cent to $65 billion this year. Given we've had droughts, fires and the coronavirus pandemic, this is an outstanding result, and it is an absolute testament to the resilience of our Australian agricultural sector. This government, the Morrison government, will stand side by side with our farmers to make sure we work with them to achieve $100 billion worth of agriculture.
As we all know, and there will be no argument from anybody in this place, Australia produces the best food and fibre in the world, and that's why our food and fibre commands the premium prices that it does. It's not only clean and green; it's sustainably grown, and it's produced ethically. This festive season, I'd urge everybody in this place and everybody watching—because I'm sure the whole of Australia's watching question time today—to buy local. If you can, have a look and make sure that that little green and gold icon that says Made in Australia is at the forefront of your mind when you're purchasing Christmas presents or food to share with loved ones over Christmas. It could be apricots from my home town in the Riverland. It could be mangoes from the Northern Territory that you want to put on top of the pav or, in the case of our colleague from the Northern Territory, you could make a mango daiquiri out of it. There are prawns from Coffs Harbour and Moreton Bay Bugs. There are so many amazing Australian products that you could be putting on the table this Christmas. I urge you to buy Australian.