What now for Ag White Paper?

We are keen to improve this White Paper and to turn it into a strategic document

THE Abbott government’s Agriculture White Paper has disappeared without a trace. People everywhere have been left with an empty feeling.

There was no big picture, no vision and no strategic plan. No objectives, no goals.

It’s no wonder agriculture industry leaders often say to me privately that we only secure real reform in the sector when Labor is in power.

It’s true. It’s true largely because unlike the Liberal and National coalition, we don’t dance to the tune of populism.

Let me remind you of some examples of those Labor reforms.

  • We undertook the hard economic reforms which removed the subsidies and protections in agriculture which were holding the sector back – no one would now advocate the return to those practices – today, our international competitiveness would otherwise be non-existent.
  • We reformed all our Statutory Marketing Authorities, increased their funding, and put them on a sustainable trajectory.
  • We established the research and development corporation model and established the Rural Industries RDC. Our R&D model is still considered world’s best.
  • We took the hard but necessary decisions in dairy - rendering the sector much better placed to capitalise on the opportunities in Asia today.
  • We established fisheries management plans for all Commonwealth and joint fisheries.
  • We created Farmsafe and established rural counselling services.
  • We created one national uniform system for the regulation of farm chemicals and created the new national regulator – the APVMA.
  • We established the Bureau of Rural Science.
  • We signed major agriculture cooperation agreements with China and the USSR.
  • We strongly backed the Cairns Group on freer agricultural trade.
  • We set up a Royal Commission into Grain handling, transport and storage.
  • We introduced Landcare.
  • More recently in government we:

  • Cleaned up after John Howard’s “wheat-for-weapons” debacle and further reformed the sector;
  • Provided farmers with the opportunity to participate in the carbon market to their great advantage;
  • Funded research into new technologies and practices for land managers;
  • Established Caring for Our Country;
  • Expanded the Rural Financial Counselling service;
  • Provided grants for farmers seeking to be more energy efficient;
  • Established the world best live animal export assurance system, ESCAS;
  • Established Reef Rescue - helping famers reduce their impact on our iconic Great Barrier Reef; and,
  • Produced the National Food Plan, the Asia Century White Paper and the Feeding the Future reports – beginning the process of readying us for the Asia “dining boom”.
  • While in regional policy we:

  • Appointed the first Regional Australia Minister;
  • Established Regional Development Australia and its local RDA’s;
  • Established the Regional Australia Institute;
  • Established Infrastructure Australia;
  • Created a new partnership with regional and rural councils;
  • Spent more money on regional roads than ever before and laid the path for initiatives like the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project; and,
  • Began to close the digital divide by building the National Broadband Network.
  • Despite all the talk of opportunities with a “dining boom”, Australia’s agriculture sector is losing global market share and productivity is in decline.

    We need high level strategic guidance that sets market based pricing laws, key goals and objectives so we know where we are headed and are certain of the government’s priorities.

    Furthermore, the Abbott government has no credible plan to deal with changing climatic condition and natural resource depletion. All the evidence suggests that innovation adoption is in decline. Our efforts on traceability – key to protecting our reputation as a provider of clean, green, safe and high quality product – is still stuck in the 20th Century.

    I said post the last election that I wanted to take agriculture out of the short electoral cycle and give it some long term planning. But when the government lacks strategic vision and shies away from tackling reform it is very hard to maintain that bipartisan approach.

    It is my job as the Shadow to hold the Abbott government to account, to criticise where criticism is justified, which unfortunately I have had to do in number of policy areas.

    But I am hopeful that tomorrow is another day and that it might bring something different. I have indicated in the past that if the government wants to work with the Opposition we have the runs on the board, and are keen to improve this White Paper and to turn it into a strategic document which is what the sector needs and was expecting.

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    FarmOnline
    Joel Fitzgibbon

    Joel Fitzgibbon

    is Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry & Rural Affairs and the MP for Hunter
    Date: Newest first | Oldest first

    READER COMMENTS

    angry australian
    24/08/2015 6:53:16 AM

    What concerns me Joel, is I think you honestly believe the claptrap that is written here. As I went through your list of "achievements" I could scarcely find a way where the farmer ACTUALLY benefited from your alleged reforms.Where are our increased profits? The public service unions, over paid over schooled but uneducated researchers,big retailers all have had a wonderful party mostly paid for by farmers not the taxpayer! Did I read 85% of grapegrowers are going broke,why is that? Your R&D model mat be considered worlds best but what's the point if it bankrupts the alleged beneficiaries?
    angry australian
    24/08/2015 8:59:24 AM

    Let's talk fisheries management plans. In 1992 there were about 122 trawl boats in the South East Trawl Fishery, all employing an av of 3 men directly, all profitable and the economies of small towns from Greenwell Pt to Beachport was booming . The estimate was that the gross value of that fishery, then, was a $100m. Today I believe there are only 42 boats and todays GVP is about $30m.So the SEF is down $70m in 23 years,that's great management! Towns like Bermagui,Eden,Portland and Beachport are an economic wasteland. We now have more bureaucrats managing fisheries than licence holders!
    angry australian
    24/08/2015 10:37:59 AM

    So Joel now that I've castigated you for successfully turning productive jobs in 1992 into,arguably, a drain on the economy in 2015 let's look further at AFMA management of fisheries.It's been estimated that some 10k jobs have been lost from fishing and related industries since 1992. The Howard Govt WASTED some $240 m unsuccessfully patching up YOUR mess.No new vessels have been built in several fisheries since the early 1990's. And how must the operators of the Geelong Star feel about the Small Pelagic Mgment Plan,used as a political football by all sides while they pay an est $200 k pa?
    Mark2
    24/08/2015 7:41:48 PM

    You also signed off on the wholesale transfer of the grains industry to foreign ownership. Tenants in our own country that's where we're headed under either of the two major parties . By the way Joel, I don't know anyone that thinks your so called reform of statutory authorities has helped improve anything. Why don't you just go away
    angry australian
    25/08/2015 9:14:35 AM

    The real trouble with politicians and bureaucrats is they aren't really smart enough to ask the correct questions to write a White Paper. Why aren't our primary industries booming? This nation once rode on the farmers back, now most farmers are struggling,why is that? Why doesn't the White Paper address the issues that count? If we can grow oranges as cheap as Brazil,tomatoes as cheap as Italy,sheep cheaper than NZ,cattle and dairy we always have excess supply over domestic demand.Why can we fly fresh fish in from NZ cheaper than our own fleet can produce it? These are the issues that matter
    angry australian
    25/08/2015 1:52:45 PM

    Been to a butcher shop lately Joel? Did you talk to the apprentice kid? Bet you didn't! While you and your fellow politicians have been sucking up to the over schooled,and creating empires in Nth Sydney squandering about $2b pa in industry and taxpayer funds our primary producers are facing a downturn that will be caused by a skills crisis. Who is training butchers and slaughtermen? Butchers I talk to all say that governments have made it too hard to train an apprentice.Similarly in the fish game, no trained filleters, skippers or crew, we're exporting fish to return to Australia to sell.
    Cattle Advocate
    25/08/2015 7:02:53 PM

    The damage caused by the 2011 LE ban could cost Aus taxpayers $1B it devastated peoples' lives in our TE. Down south it was referred to the 'pause' is that being insesitive, if our TE could choose would it be life in 2012 or 2015? When BLE stopped LE in the 70s from SA, a state Labor minister proposed the bans be lifted if LE agreed to a 2 locally processed to 1 sent LE ratio farmers said no. While in WA, LE was sent legally under a Lib Gov. Now QLD beef farmers generously give over 95pc of their cattle to processing should they be concerned about their rights if LE reaches 1 LE to 2 processed?
    Out of the shadowShadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon aims to put ag policy under the microscope. Based in the NSW Hunter Valley, Joel also has a unique perspective on the tensions between primary production and mining development.

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