Ludwig's main man slips quietly into WA

30 Apr, 2012 02:00 AM
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Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Federal Member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Federal Member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom.

SID Sidebottom slipped quietly into WA last week without the media fanfare usually accorded Federal politicians.

His claim to fame is as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and key adviser to Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig.

Mr Sidebottom said he had a strong interest in horticulture and forestry, which were key issues in his electorate.

"I am one of those rural and regional members interested in agriculture," Mr Sidebottom said.

"And as a result, that has been recognised by the Prime Minister by my appointment as Parliamentary Secretary.

"My role is to support the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and I have particular responsibility for forestry, dairy and agriculture skills and training."

He believes agriculture has a fantastic opportunity to grow in the future and needs to build on its workforce to ensure the industry continues to develop.

"There is a confidence in the industry but challenges remain," he said.

"One of the most crucial things for us to do is help facilitate agriculture's future with things like a workforce and access capital so that the industry and industry parts can continue to grow.

"Not just through foreign investment but also the availability of capital in Australia."

He said he also understood the issues facing WA dairy farmers, particularly with the $1 a litre milk campaign, and was interested to hear the processors' views on the issue.

"They (dairy farmers) have issues with the supermarkets, although I note in WA the independent supermarkets have got a lot more share of the local market compared to the rest of the country," he said.

"They have also got issues with foreign ownership of land in WA and with a carbon tax being introduced."

Mr Sidebottom said he believed foreign investment was important for Australian agriculture but admitted Australia needed to be careful about the messages it sent out to possible foreign investors.

"There are people who want to co-invest in WA for food security reasons," he said.

"I think that it is very important and the message we send is that we are open for business, but it is a business that we are able to moderate."

When asked about the Foreign Investment Review Board's (FIRB) $231 million threshold and whether it should be raised, he backed the current threshold.

"We need to be careful that we don't exaggerate the consequences of this (foreign investment)," he said.

"I mean 90 plus per cent of land is Australian-owned and if you read some headlines you would swear it was 20pc.

"I think we have got to be very careful about exaggerating the consequences of foreign investment.

"Like anybody else I am mindful we need to be able to moderate this and review it but we believe the balance is about right at the moment.

"People differ on that, but I think it is very important that we don't look for issues and problems that aren't really caused by foreign ownership.

"We have always had foreign investment in Australia."

He said another issue facing farmers in the future was the changing structure and nature of farming, particularly in dairy.

"We see movement towards greater economies of scale, greater size and consolidation," he said.

"And this is working its way through, as it does in any market place and that is having affects as well."

Mr Sidebottom was unable to meet with WA's Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman during his trip, but Farm Weekly understands he met with Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) director general Rob Delane.

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