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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5847

Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Population) (12:21 PM) —I prefer to refer to it as ‘agriforestry’ although I know the sector calls itself ‘agroforestry’. I do think there are benefits in having the same minister responsible for both agriculture and forestry. Very often the agriculture and forestry sectors have regarded themselves as being in opposition. They seek approval for the same parcels of land. Sometimes that sense of opposition has been pretty accurate. That has often been how things have transpired.

The work that the member for Corangamite has taken me out to see in his electorate is deeply impressive. There is some success with cropping but particularly in grazing. Strategically based high-value timber actually helps with shading. In the examples I have seen in Corangamite you end up with a timber resource being planted on the land and stock numbers can be increased as a result—you are on a smaller parcel of land, your soil is healthier, the shade is more appropriate, you have windbreaks and you also have an asset for the farmer. There are some areas where it will work more effectively than others—where there are mills or ports there is always a market for the timber. This means it is not something that works on every single farm.

But it is something which I think has suffered from the fact that agriculture and forestry, while within the same department, have usually been dealt with by separate ministers. To that end, we have started to align some opportunities where previously that had not happened. The new business plan for Caring for Our Country quite specifically allows the agriculture-forestry mix to receive funding. Similarly, we have someone directly involved with agriforestry on the National Landcare Council to make sure they are feeding into the landcare agenda. There will be parts of Australia where this is not a deal. There will be parts of Australia where the old conflict continues. But there will be parts of Australia, such as Corangamite, where this is a very real opportunity for farmers to effectively give up part of their land for its traditional purposes to plant a new asset. They may well get a benefit of soil carbon from that. Additionally, there are benefits through the growth of the resource itself when it is time for the timber to be harvested. Finally, in the examples I have seen, it has resulted in the land remaining for agriculture having an increase in both its productivity and the total production of that area. You often get talk of win-win outcomes in government. Agriculture and forestry working together is clearly one of those.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Debate (on motion by Mr Melham) adjourned.