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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Page: 4673

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister please update the Senate on the state of Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors; what are the forecasts for the future of these important Australian industries; and how is Australia positioned to take advantage of future global opportunities?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:41): I thank Senator Moore for her continued interest in agriculture, unlike the doormats of the Liberal Party, the Nats. The Australian agricultural sector consistently punches above its weight. There are strong opportunities, new growth areas and a firm foundation to boost our markets. Australia's agriculture is a strong player in our strong economy. Only last week, this was again proven true when the ABARES June quarter 2012 report was released. It showed that Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors continued to provide world-class product to global markets. Agricultural export earnings are forecast to be around $34.4 billion through 2012-13. Further, while there has been a softening in some commodity prices, there is continued demand in the Asian region, and Australia's high-quality product locks in our ability to compete on the world stage.

The report also had positive news for our forestry and fishery sectors. Export earnings from forest products are forecast to increase to $2.4 billion, while export earnings from fishery products are forecast to also rise, to around $1.3 billion, in 2012-13. These numbers speak to the government's strong economic management, which is delivering for Australian families and Australian farmers. The strength of the Australian agricultural sector is more than just export numbers. For the first time in more than 30 years, it is forecast that there will be positive average farm business profits in all states for broadacre farms. This comes after a decade of devastating and debilitating conditions. Australia has moved out of drought and into areas where there are opportunities now across agriculture— (Time expired)

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:43): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate some of the future opportunities for our agricultural sector and what the government is doing to support these opportunities?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:44): I thank Senator Moore for her supplementary question. The biggest opportunities for farmers and land managers are the unparalleled prospects for the Carbon Farming Initiative provided by this Gillard government. The Carbon Farming Initiative is win-win. It provides opportunities to reduce emissions and gain additional incomes for farmers. There is a real demand. The doormats should hear the demand out there for the CFI and for the on-ground work. The Gillard government, after establishing this program, is supporting it through a $1.7 billion land sector package. I refer to the Australian Financial Review, where Mr Nick Thomas, a partner of a leading law firm, said the current level of interest in the CFI is very high. I have seen firsthand the interest in the Carbon Farming Initiative right across Australia. Most recently, I announced $70 million in grants for research and on-the-ground study, while meeting—(Time expired)

Senator MOORE ( Queensland ) ( 14:45 ): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate any alternative policies for Australian agriculture?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:45): When it comes to Australian agriculture, the Liberals and National Party—or, should I say, the doormats to the Liberal Party, the Nats—are only too eager to create a dark cloud of negativity across the agricultural landscape. Every day the Liberals and Nationals peddle their fear. They try to create uncertainty and take away confidence in the agriculture industries. The Liberals and Nationals only want to fearmonger across agriculture. With the Solar Flagship program or the $2.2 billion Caring for our Country program, they peddled the lie that they were not going to exist. Similarly, they attempted to oppose the funding for critical support for Queensland and Queensland farmers rebuilding from Cyclone Yasi and last year's floods. The Liberals and National Party do not seem to be happy unless they are predicting doom and gloom. They love talking down the agricultural sector; they like putting a wet blanket—

Senator Colbeck: On a point of order, Mr President: coming from a government that did not even issue an agriculture policy at the last election, it is a bit rich for this minister to criticise the opposition when we did have a comprehensive agriculture policy. I am not sure that the minister is being relevant to the question.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. That is more a point of debate, which can take place at the end of question time.