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Address to the South Australian Liberal Women's Council, Adelaide

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BPBE Australian Department of Primary Industries & Energy Senator The Hon Judith Troeth Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries and Energy

Address to the South Australian Liberal Women's Council,

Adelaide, 17 April 1998

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It is a pleasure to be here speaking to you in my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industry and Energy.

The Government's goals for primary industry are to enable the industry:

• to take control of its future; • to provide the best policy framework and program support for the industry; • to encourage exports to flourish; and • to help realise investments which balance economic development and environmental outcomes in such a way

that jobs in rural and regional Australia grow and communities prosper.

In my portfolio, I have responsibility for:

• horticulture; • agricultural and veterinary chemicals; • the National Registration Authority; and • the National Residue Survey.

I Chair the Consultative Rural Finance Forum; have day-to-day management of primary industry research and development corporations and the operation of the primary industry Levies Management Unit.

I also deputise for Minister Anderson across the wide range of primary industry portfolio issues, including women in agriculture, and am responsible for taking primary industries legislation through the Senate.

Some of the main issues in the primary industry and energy portfolio at present are the Agriculture - Advancing Australia (AAA) package, reform of the meat industry and restructuring the Australian Wheat Board (AWB).

The Agriculture Advancing Australia package is a key element of the Coalition Government's overall strategy to build the competitiveness, sustainability and profitability of the primary industry sector and assist with the ongoing adjustment our farmers face.

The AAA package represents a major shift away from interest rate subsidies to greater financial self reliance and drought preparedness by farmers, underpinned by welfare safety net provisions. It also recognises the interdependence of rural industries and communities by focusing on the need to encourage social and economic development in rural areas.

The package, which was launched on 14 September 1997, is well into its implementation phase with the key objectives being:

• to help individual farm businesses profit from change; • to ensure the farm sector has access to adequate welfare safety net provisions; • to provide positive incentives for ongoing farm adjustment and to encourage social and economic development in rural areas.

This program builds on other initiatives the Howard Government has put in place that assist rural Australia, including the Natural Heritage Trust, the Regional Communications Initiative, Supermarket to Asia, extra spending on Quarantine and extra resources for regional health.

Re-structuring of the meat industry is another significant issue in the primary industry portfolio. It demonstrates that the Howard Government is committed to reforming sectors in the primary industry and energy portfolio.

After the election of the Coalition to Government in 1996, there were a lot of complaints about the structure of the meat industry and its lack of accountability as to the expenditure of industry raised funds. Minister Anderson took these complaints to Cabinet and came up with an agenda for reform of the meat industry. 08/10/1998

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After much research and deliberation by industry groups and the Government, an agreement has been reached between Federal Government and meat and livestock industry peak councils on the establishment of new meat industry structures. This agreement includes the establishment of three new industry-owned meat industry companies to replace the old statutory bodies. These will begin operation on July 1 this year.

The new companies are Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) and the Australian Livestock Exporter Corporation (Livecorp).

The wheat industry, like the meat industry, is undergoing reform to enable it to have more grower control and less intervention by Government. Planning is under-way for the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) to become a grower owned company by 1999. The Government has agreed to industry recommendations to restructure the AWB as a dual class share grower company.

Reform of the Australian Wheat Board will attract more investment from capital markets; it will allow growers to more readily realise the full market value of their Wheat Industry Fund Equity, and gives them more direct control of the company.

One of the Government's visions for the future of the primary industry and energy sector is for it to be more self controlled and self regulated. The reform of the meat and wheat industry demonstrates this objective.

At the same time, the AAA package, enables the Government to act in a support and mediator role when it is required and provides an environment that encourages farmers to be self reliant and make the best long term decisions regarding their future in the industry.

Being the first woman to hold the position Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industry and Energy and from a rural background, I am very enthusiastic about being involved in rural women's issues.

I am sure you appreciate the contribution women make to running the farm, the home, doing voluntary community work and possibly holding a 'real job'.

A recent research project by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) called Missed Opportunities - Harnessing the Potential o f Women in Agriculture, which, may I suggest be renamed 'Untapped Resources' rather than 'Missed Opportunities', is particularly significant as it is the first attempt to give an economic value to the contribution of women in the agricultural sector.

The studies other objective was to investigate the barriers to women's greater participation in the sector and the factors which enhance women's participation as leaders and decision makers in the sector.

Significantly women represent 32 per cent of paid agricultural workers; define themselves as farmers or farm managers; contribute 80 per cent of farm income; have skills and priorities which are both identical and complementary to the skills brought to the sector by men.

Yet among paid staff management and board of management positions, in the agricultural sector, less than 20 per cent are women. I here you saying that this is not dissimilar to other public arenas we in politics are familiar with.

However the Howard Government recognises the role of women in primary industry and this is demonstrated in initiatives like:

• a rural women's scholarship enabling women to participate in rural leadership programs; • a roundtable of leading rural women to contribute to the development of a Business Plan for Agriculture in Australia; • the support of a Rural Women's Unit in the Department of Primary Industry and Energy; • progress towards establishing a National Action Plan for Women in Agriculture and Resource Management;


• the Farm Business Improvement Program - through the AAA package - that will help develop farm business and financial planning capabilities, which include a specific component for women.

The Government has also announced that it will be providing a $20,000 grant to encourage women to participate in the Second International Women in Agriculture Conference in Washington from 28 June to 2 July 1998.

To further enhance its support of women in primary industry the Government has launched an Executive Search Pilot Program to promote women and increase their representation on Commonwealth boards and agencies.

The executive search firm Profile Ray and Bemdston is conducting a nation-wide identification and selection process to find suitably qualified women with high level skills in a variety of fields and specialist areas. Primary industry is one of the specialised fields that has been chosen.

It is a great honour for me to be here today speaking to you in my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industry and Energy because not only am I a Liberal, but I am a Liberal woman explaining to you the Government's objectives for the development of primary industry in Australia.

I think this in itself demonstrates that the Howard Government recognises and respects the opinions of women in the workforce and especially women in primary industry. Thank you. 08/10/1998