Ag faces sharp budget knife

We are likely to find agriculture fighting to retain basic services

TUESDAY'S budget would be a good platform for the federal government to commit itself to job creation in rural Australia and the long-term sustainability of regional communities.

Instead, we are likely to find agriculture fighting to retain basic services as the toe-cutters search for more savings.

Urban Australia will certainly not find the going easy after Treasurer Joe Hockey delivers his slash-and-burn budget.

But the impact of service withdrawal and funding in regional Australia has far greater impacts in terms of tyranny of distance.

Moves to cap the cost of the national disability insurance scheme and delay its implementation – promoted recently by the Commission of Audit – is a case in point.

When you consider that treatment, facilities, hospital access and specialist consultation are almost non-existent outside of metropolitan Australia, the consequences present as dire for sufferers in rural areas.

The latter predicament for people who choose to create wealth in the agricultural and pastoral zones is also mirrored in the areas of health, education, transport and fuel.

And it also should be noted that agriculture – supported by a range of large pastoral enterprises to small, mixed farms – on average falls into the category of low to middle income earners.

If the government decides to axe major research and development programs, and the Rural Financial Counselling Service Program, it would not only fly in the face of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ‘five key pillars of the economy’ mantra, but also put it on a dangerous collision course with its Coalition partners – a small rift that could develop into a very wide chasm.

And if the mining industry, which has enjoyed numerous benefits – including the Fuel Tax Credit Scheme rebate – is exempted from any cuts while agriculture finds itself a target, the ‘fairness’ test will be another hollow promise.

The black holes and massive deficits which the Abbott government keeps ranting about could be fixed by retaining the carbon and mining taxes, raising GST to apply to all goods and services across the board – as suggested by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett – and overhauling the tax system.

But that’s probably too easy – and politically on the nose.

StockJournal

Peter Brady

is the editor-in-chief of Stock Journal
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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