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Coalition committed to present rural R&D arrangements



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John Anderson, MR Deputy Leader, National Party of Australia Shadow Minister for Primary Industry Media

Canberra: Phone (06) 2 7 7 4074

Release Gunnedah: Phone (067) 4 2 3155 COALITION COMMITTED TO PRESENT RURAL R & D ARRANGEMENTS

The Federal Coalition's commitment to maintaining present funding arrangements for rural research and development has been reconfirmed by National Party Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, John Anderson.

Mr Anderson made the commitment as farm leaders, researchers and policy makers met in Canberra at the "Developing Partnerships" conference called by the National Farmers' Federation to establish the future direction of rural research.

Mr Anderson dismissed Industry Commission recommendations on rural research and development funding as totally inappropriate.

He said the 1C recommendations, if implemented, had the potential to significantly reduce the rural research effort in Australia, especially in the current difficult economic circumstances in the rural sector.

"Given that Australia does nothing better than agriculture and that demand for food and fibre appears likely to take off in the coming decades, it would be economic lunacy for Australia in any way to reduce its capacity to capture these opportunities," Mr Anderson said.

"A Coalition Government would maintain the present system of matching industry R & D funding on a dollar for dollar basis up to 0.5% of the gross value of production (GVP)."

The 1C has recommended that dollar for dollar funding be limited to 0.25% of GVP and then one dollar for every two dollars invested by industry thereafter with no cap on the level of Government contributions.

Mr Anderson said that while the 1C proposal seemed generous at first glance, it would result in a significant reduction in research funding when it was implemented and there was no guarantee this would recover.

'The IC's suggestion that the impact of the new arrangements could be minimised by gradually reducing the present dollar for dollar ceiling is just pie in the sky theory and takes no account of circumstances in the bush.

"Rural industries would have to increase their voluntary contributions to 0.75% of GVP just to regain the present level of Government support for R & D and farmers simply don't have that sort of money to invest.

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"If they did, they would be retiring the massive debts they’ve built up in the 1990s and investing in new plant and machinery to recapture some of the productivity gains they've lost to the drought and the recession."

Mr Anderson said significant public benefits flowed from Government funding of rural R & D because the work commissioned by the Research and Development Corporations was not strictly limited to farm production.

"Large sums of producer and Government money is invested in research into sustainable farming practices, the environment, human nutrition and food and fibre processing.

"We cannot afford to jeopardise this research by forcing the R & D Corporations to focus on the core needs of their immediate clients, farmers, which would be the inevitable result of changing funding arrangements.

"Australia is supposed to be the clever country. W e are supposed to be trying to position ourselves as the premier supplier of clean, sustainably produced food and fibre to the burgeoning markets of Asia.

"How can we possibly achieve this aim if we take the axe to research and development?" Mr Anderson asked.

31*August 1995 For details contact Stephen Oxley on (06) 277 4074