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Improving outlook for industry.

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Improving outlook for industry

Opening new trade opportunities, battling drought and fostering innovation are just some of the issues to be discussed at today's ABARE Regional Outlook Conference in Geraldton.

Federal Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Minister, and acting Agriculture Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said the need to improve profitability for farming families remained a key priority for the Australian Government.

Senator Macdonald said it was also important to bolster trade opportunities to ensure the long-term future of country Australia.

"The WTO trade negotiations represents our only chance in the short term to achieve fairer international trading conditions for our agricultural and food exports," Senator Macdonald said after officially opening the conference today (Wednesday September 3).

"In the lead up to the next meeting of the world's trade ministers later this month, we will continue to work for a better deal for our farmers."

Senator Macdonald said Geraldton was an ideal venue for the conference, with its diversity in fisheries and agriculture recognised across the country.

He said it was heartening for all primary producers, including those who have had good recent rainfalls, to witness what efforts the Australian Government was undertaking to help fellow producers battling drought.

"There is no doubt that, for many primary producers, this has been one of the toughest periods on record," Senator Macdonald said.

"The drought is an example of something that has really hurt a lot of farming families, and I believe the Australian Government recognises the need to lend a hand.

"We have fast-tracked means to ensure farmers awaiting a decision on their Exceptional Circumstance (EC) applications have been able to apply for interim income support and interest rate relief through prima facie arrangements."

Senator Macdonald said the industry's willingness to embrace innovation stood it in good stead to foster growth into the future.

AFFA03/178M 3 September 2003

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: Mr David Crisafulli (02) 4771 3066 or 0400 144 483