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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2920


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:02): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Canavan. As a farmer, I, and many of my constituents, am interested to know how the coalition government is delivering for our agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector in the budget.

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:03): I thank Senator Williams for his question. I know his passion to see Australia's agricultural sector grow. We've already, as a government, delivered an agricultural white paper and record funding to the agricultural sector. That's helped underpin very strong growth in our agricultural production, employment and exports in the last few years.

This week's budget builds on those successes too. There's a very big win for agriculture this week in the budget, and I'd just like to highlight three measures in the budget in particular. We have invested $20 million into the National Forest Industries Plan—a plan to grow the forestry industry, the renewable forestry industry, that produces products right around the world and is taking advantage of the global increase in demand for timber products. We're also supporting $121.6 million in increased funding for biosecurity. So many of the agricultural exports from Australia rely on our image as a country to produce clean and green agricultural food and fibre products. This funding increase in the budget will take the overall funding for biosecurity in the government funding to $773 million, which is a 28 per cent increase since 2012-13, when we came to government—a big investment in maintaining our image. I would also like to specify that as part of that $120 million of funding we're giving $20 million to the Tasmanian government to assist with the management of the fruit fly outbreak in northern Tasmania. I know that many of our Tasmanian colleagues are particularly concerned about that outbreak in that state.

We're also investing a further $6.6 million to continue the fight against pests and weeds. I know how important our previous investments in fencing have been. Senator McKenzie and I visited some of those investments near Longreach. It's helping sheep come back on to that country, which produces a lot more income and a lot more employment for the people of western Queensland. With these investments we hope that the agricultural sector will continue to grow and thrive in our country.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:05): I thank the minister. How has the industry reacted to these very positive measures?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:05): I'm glad to report that many agricultural stakeholder groups have been very positive about the measures that we have announced in the budget, including the National Farmers' Federation. They gave a scorecard to the budget. The areas of the budget for agriculture and for regional Australia, may I add, both received an A from the NFF. The New South Wales Farmers Association president, Derek Schoen, said:

…investment in biosecurity, GPS and satellite imagery, agricultural freight, and the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write off are among the positive announcements for the Australian agricultural industry.

Those investments in GPS are very important for the agricultural sector. They'll take satellite positioning technology in Australia from one of the least accurate in the world to one of the best, which will particularly help those farming industries investing in precision agriculture.

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council were also commending of the budget, particularly the funding to increase our relationship with Indonesia to support our very important live cattle trade, which is especially important for northern Australia.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:06): With trade being such a key aspect of the agricultural sector, how is the coalition government helping farmers across the international markets?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:06): Along with the agricultural white paper I mentioned earlier, the government has signed many trade agreements in our region—very significant ones with China, Japan, Korea and the recently concluded TPP—all of which have helped expand agricultural access across our region and, therefore, potentially expand business opportunities for the agricultural sector.

We're building on that in this week's budget by providing a further $51.3 million to fund six additional agricultural councillors in our region and around the world. The councillors will be placed in the UK and, of course, many senators would know that we're seeking to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK but also in Europe, Latin America and key markets of Asia. We have further extended the five councillors that are already in Vietnam, Malaysia, the Middle East, China and Thailand. And all of these investments will help make sure that our agricultural sector take the opportunities that are ahead of them, help them compete against alternative sources of supply around the world and, ultimately, deliver more jobs and economic opportunity in our agricultural and regional areas of the country.

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be put on the Notice Paper.