Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2129

Beef Industry

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:44): My question is to the very capable Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Will the minister please inform the Senate what the government is doing to support the beef industry in Australia and the benefits this brings to Northern Australia?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:44): I thank Senator O'Sullivan for his question, and recognise his great passion and determination to improve the lot of the 70,000 beef producers in this country. It is a passion that the government shares with Senator O'Sullivan. It is something that we are proud of: delivering in some part a better past few years for our beef sector than was there before we came to government.

Prices, of course, have more than doubled in these past few years. That is because of better weather and strong demand, but it is also because the government has been focused on opening up market access for our beef sector—signing new free trade agreements and actually opening live cattle markets, including nine around the world now that we can export our cattle to. That has underpinned strong growth in beef prices.

But we also must focus not just on the price that our producers can achieve but also on their costs, and make sure that we reduce their costs as much as we can as well as they compete in world markets. That is why we are investing in roads for our beef sector—a specific package that builds on the Menzies government beef roads package back in the 1960s and 1970s. I think that the good senator actually worked on some of those roads back in the 1970s. It has taken the full cycle now, if you like, and we are now investing in beef roads across the country.

A couple of weeks ago we announced $100 million of investment in beef roads through Northern Australia, including the $6 million or so for the Clermont Alpha Road; another $6 million for the Burke Developmental Road near Chillagoe, up in the cape, in Senator Macdonald's territory up there; $4 million or so for the Gregory Developmental Road, south of Charters Towers; $4 million out at Boulia for the Boulia Developmental Road—I know that Senator O'Sullivan gets out there a lot; and also funding in the Northern Territory for the Barkly Stock Route, with $10 million and $12½ million for the Great Northern Highway in northern Western Australia.

These are great investments that will help our beef sector, and may help this country make more money for all Australians.

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Sullivan, a supplementary question?

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:46): It is a most exciting time. Can the minister please explain how the government is ensuring that the funding will benefit the beef industry?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:46): Of course I would like to have more money to invest in beef roads, but these are tight budget times. We have put aside a significant investment here and, therefore, we have been seeking to maximise the benefit that that spending can have for our beef industry. We have done so by ensuring that this is very much a grassroots-driven system. We have had three roundtables across Northern Australia, including at Kununurra, in Darwin and in Rockhampton. More than 150 people attended to provide their input from the beef sector about what the important roads were for the government to invest in.

We have also invested in a very new, innovative and exciting CSIRO tool, the TraNSIT tool, which effectively now maps cattle movements right across the country over time and lets the CSIRO provide us with evidence about if we invest in a certain road or remove a certain bottleneck how much per head the industry will save. Those arrangements have ensured that we have good decisions with this money, and it is a great model for future investments in our road network.

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Sullivan, a final supplementary question?

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:47): Can the minister please outline what this upgrade will mean for Northern Australia?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:48): These investments will deliver a stronger beef sector, but they will also deliver safer roads and better animal welfare outcomes. If I could just focus on one of the investments near where I live, around Rockhampton: we will make an investment that will allow type 1 trucks to go through to the meatworks at Rockhampton. This means that trucks will no longer have to be decoupled at Gracemere, which will save the industry two hours, but, perhaps more importantly, it will be safer.

A couple of years ago, tragically, a young individual was killed cross-loading cattle at Gracemere; that will no longer have to happen, thanks to the investments that this government is making. That is why Ian Wild, the president of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland, says, 'It means our drivers will not have to cross-load cattle or decouple at Gracemere to get into the meatworks. They can go direct, which is an animal welfare thing, and this means they are on the vehicle for a shorter period of time in the yards and registered before anything else happens.'

These are great investments from a government which is getting on with the job of developing the north.