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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5067

National Food Plan

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. I refer the minister to the National Food Plan green paper released on 17 July. Given the importance of ensuring that Australians have access to a secure and safe food supply, why do 18 out of the total of just 22 policy options recommend the establishment of further reviews, committees, forums, evaluations or strategies? Why doesn't the government have a policy to increase the productivity of Australians for food supply? Is the government simply out of ideas about how to support Australian farmers?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:50): I thank Senator Williams for that dorothy. The Australian government is actively working to deliver the nation's first ever National Food Plan—a commitment we made at the last election. Australia's first National Food Plan is an opportunity to get the right policies in place for a strong, resilient and collaborative food industry that responds to our needs now and into the future. Senator Williams is correct to identify that the green paper, which is about bringing forward those ideas, bringing forward the issues, is the right vehicle to do that. I congratulate him on identifying that process.

A growing world population and increasing numbers of middle-class consumers in Asia mean that there are significant opportunities for the Australian food industry in the future. The National Food Plan will ensure that the government's policy settings are right for Australia over the short term, the medium term and the long term. What the government announced over the break was the consultation vehicle, the green paper, which will lead to a white paper, which will provide the policy settings that will support industry.

On 17 July I released the National Food Plan green paper, which outlines how current policies address food issues as well as discusses any potential changes the government might consider to policies, programs and governance arrangements. The green paper includes a range of policy options and I would hope that the National Party will in fact provide some input into the green paper on some of those options. These options include issues that cover food security: whether the government should regularly report on our food security and supply chains, issues around market access and how we can assist Australian producers to enter overseas markets. (Time expired)

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:52): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. If the government is to be believed on its promise to increase Australia's food producing capacity, why won't it give consideration to the construction of dams that can help increase the security of farmers' water supplies? Why does a National Food Plan mention the word 'dams' precisely once and only with regard to aquaculture?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:52): I thank Senator Williams for his question. The policy options within the green paper, as I was saying, include supply chain relationship, research and development, how we boost Australia's agricultural productivity through rural R&D investment. It also includes—and Senator Williams may not have got to this within the green paper—infrastructure: what infrastructure power our industry needs to ensure that we have a sustainable industry into the future. So rather than settle on one specific policy outcome, as the National Party seemed to be stuck on, we need a coordinated infrastructure policy that deals not only with issues around water, land use, rail and transport, freight—all of those together—but also with how we can pursue those including issues around land use and the way we can ensure that Australia's land is used sustainably. (Time expired)

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:53): I have a further supplementary question, Mr President. Can the minister explain why the National Food Plan does not mention the live export industry given that it is worth $1 billion to Australia's economy and given the industry's difficulties in handling new tariffs and regulations that are being imposed by the Indonesian government? Is the government simply trying to hide from its gross mismanagement of this sector?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:54): I thank Senator Williams for his second supplementary question. Again, the policy options which are outlined in the green paper do include issues around supply chain relationships: how we foster stronger relationships for the benefit of suppliers, supermarkets and consumers; how we ensure that the product gets to market; how we ensure that we have market access; how we can assist producers—

Senator Williams: I rise on a point of order, Mr President, in relation to direct relevance. The second supplementary question is directly in relation to live exports—why weren't live exports mentioned in the plan?

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. I am listening to the minister's answer carefully. The minister has 36 seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you. Of course extensive stakeholder consultation is underway on the green paper so one would expect that under the headings of those policy options which included market access and issues around supply chain relationship, those who want to provide comment about how we improve and foster relations with overseas countries can be available to be included within the consultation for the green paper. It touches on foreign investment as well, and I am sure that Senator Williams has a lot to say about foreign investment, unlike his colleagues from the Liberal Party. (Time expired)