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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5090

Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (18:50): It is a great honour to speak tonight about this year's budget and the commitment that this government is making to build on the $4 billion agricultural competitiveness white paper that we put in place. Not only are we making sure that farmers get more money in their pockets but that small regional communities that support them are also benefitting, because the more money that goes into farmers' pockets the more they spend in these small regional communities, so I have a responsibility as the minister for agriculture to empower not only agriculture and make it more vibrant and more profitable but also those small regional communities.

What this year's budget does is focus us in on where we have contributed, not only through the competitive ag. white paper but also through our trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea and Peru, and now through the TPP-11, a $13.7 trillion marketplace that we are going to give our farmers access to. Those are real options that we are providing to our farmers. But to unpack those trade agreements we need to unpick the technical barriers that exist. We've got 15 agricultural counsellors around the world in embassies and high commissions, and we're going to up that by another six. We're going to give real grunt to these trade agreements; we're going to put boots on the ground. It means that we are giving our farmers more market access, commodity by commodity, working through them in a systematic way.

We're also making sure in this budget that we're keeping our clean, green image. That's our trading advantage. That's something we should be proud of. We're making continued investment in that, which builds on the $200 million that was put in place under the competitive ag. white paper for biosecurity. That's a significant investment, and we're going to double-up again this year and make another significant investment in biosecurity.

We're going to the gas roots as well. We're looking at pests and weeds, making sure that we eradicate those pests and weeds in partnership with farmers, so that they get greater productivity and profitability. The estimated cost of the pests and weeds that pervade the landscape of this nation is around $4 billion to $5 billion a year, so it's important we unlock that potential and ensure that we give our farmers the opportunity in partnership to eradicate these—also in terms of biosecurity risk of our exports. It is also important that we've looked at forestry. We're going to empower the forestry industry. There's a $20 million investment in the forestry industry to unlock the potential. We're currently seeing record prices in forestry products. We're going to look at investing strategically in new technologies that will mean we get better returns for our forestry industry. That's an important part that we're also looking at.

One of the things that have really struck me since becoming agriculture minister as I've got around the country and made sure that I have got to as many farms, to as many machinery sheds and packing sheds and listened to farmers is the labour constraints of them getting their food off the vine, off the tree, out of the paddock and on a boat overseas. Wherever I've gone the issues around that have been raised, so it's important we make investments that make sure we can map that, that we get the science behind the labour requirements we need and where and when. So we're making a strategic investment and ensuring that we can give that science and make sure that we can make the decisions predicated on ensuring that that product comes off the tree and onto the boat as quickly as we can. This is about empowering our agricultural sector, pulling the right levers to get greater productivity and greater profitability for our farmers, and making sure we understand the drivers to the farm gate and post the farm gate.

That's an important step that this budget moves towards, and I'm proud to say that we've done that in a systematic way. But we've also made investments in terms of agvet chemicals, ensuring that research and development and getting those products that aren't readily used or are used to a smaller extent are getting the attention they need, because that also builds the productivity that we need in this nation to keep the agricultural sector moving.

I've signed up to the NFS ambitious vision of a $100 billion industry by 2030. That's achievable, but it's going to take some work and it means government has to get out of the way. We have to empower the agricultural sector to do what they do best, which is grow the best food and fibre in the world. We have to allow them to do that, and this budget sets that foundation. It builds on the ag competitive white paper and the $4 billion investment we made. We're going to continue to invest to empower or agricultural sector and our regional communities to thrive to the next level.