PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has delivered an assuring message about Australian agriculture as an innovative and science-driven industry which would continue growing in economic stature, under a re-elected Coalition government.
During his leaders’ address at the National Press Club in Canberra today ahead of Saturday’s federal election, Mr Turnbull made a series of genuine references to farming and the sector’s pivotal role in delivering fiscal growth opportunities.
In his final major pitch to voters on the campaign trail, he said Australians expected strong and decisive economic leadership and leaders with the experience needed to manage risks sensibly and shrewdly, “frame a plan of action and get it done”.
“That is vital to confidence and confidence is the key to economic security,” he said.
“I believe Australians share my excitement at the great opportunities ahead.
“From the farmers, winegrowers and orchardists of Tasmania now selling their clean, green produce into major world markets.
“Like Josef Chromy, a local winemaker in the Tamar Valley who, thanks to our export trade deals, is now able to access new customers across Asia, Europe and North American markets.
“Or Grove Juice in Brisbane which, thanks to our Japan Free Trade Agreement, is now able to produce an additional 70 thousand bottles of fresh Australian orange juice.”
Mr Turnbull said free trade agreements signed by the Coalition in this term of office - particularly the China Australia Free Trade agreement - were enhancing export and business growth opportunities.
“It’s one of the reasons farmers are getting better prices - it is one of the reasons tourism operators are getting more visitors,” he said.
“The wine industry in South Australia is enjoying a renaissance of a kind it hasn't had in a very long time because of those big open markets, because of those free trade deals.
“You see what we know is that the elements in our economic plan, every single one of them, will deliver stronger growth, more opportunities and therefore more employment.
“They will result in more investment.”
Mr Turnbull said innovation was an important element of every single industry sector, including Australian agriculture.
“You know, there is nothing more traditional or longstanding than the industry of agriculture and can I tell you, Australian farmers are at the cutting-edge of innovation,” he said.
“They really are
“We visited an orchardist who used computer-controlled drones to keep the flying foxes away from his fruit and send them off elsewhere.
“He has reduced his losses, I believe, from more than 30pc to around 5pc.
“Sensors, remote-controlled sensors, all of these things are transforming agriculture.”
Mr Turnbull said his vision was to set Australia up for decades to come, as a high wage, first world economy of the twenty-first century with a generous social welfare safety net, which also included farming.
“I want to see our farmers and our service industries flourishing like never before, with millions of new customers in the markets of Asia to our north, where half of the world’s middle class will soon reside,” he said.
“As leading economists have confirmed, if elected, Labor’s fiscal profligacy and ill-discipline could put our AAA credit rating at risk.”
Mr Turnbull said his Coalition “team” had presented a clear economic plan to secure Australia's future, at this election, which would drive investment, jobs and growth.
He said the government was also investing in advanced manufacturing and opening up “thousands more” export opportunities for farmers, tourism and service industries in the “giant markets of Asia”.
The PM said tax incentives for tens of thousands of small family enterprises to grow, innovate, invest and employ more Australians, were also being provided.
“Australia has done well to record 3.1 per cent growth in the year to March, better than any of the G7 economies and well above the OECD average,” he said.
“But that in itself reminds us that we are in a low-growth global economy and we need to have a weather eye out for significant headwinds.
“Given that uncertainty, my strong sense is that what Australians are looking for most from this election, is a step-up in political culture - strong, decisive, resolute leadership, yet with a focus on what unites rather than divides.
“That is the leadership my team and I offer to the Australian people.”
One of the Coalition’s core election promises from Opposition leading into the 2013 federal election was to prioritise agriculture as one of the nation’s five core economic pillars.
That plan led to the release of the first-ever Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which delivered policy initiatives like the Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit and appointment of an Agricultural Commissioner, at the ACCC, to address specific market competition issues.
Other policy measures included: new funding for drought support programs, research and development, improved biosecurity and trade market access and building dams and improved taxation arrangements, including for the Farm Management Deposits.
Mr Turnbull said the past eight weeks on the election campaign trial - where’s he’s visited numerous rural electorates - had re-enforced his view that Australians, “now more than ever” were focused on economic realities “confronting” the nation.
He said Australians wanted the government they elected to get on with the job of ensuring a strong economy that can “set us up for the future; in uncertain times globally”.
“They are looking for a greater sense of common purpose,” he said.
“I believe they want our parliament to offload the ideology, to end the juvenile theatrics and the gotcha moments, to drop the personality politics.
“They want our focus to be on the issues that matter to them, an end to division for division’s sake.
“Australians are entitled to expect that of their parliament.”
With Nationals leader and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce under pressure from independent MP Tony Windsor in New England, who held the balance of power in the previous parliament, the Prime Minister also repeated his call for government stability.
“A vote for Nick Xenophon or any independent candidate in this election is potentially a vote for the chaos of a hung parliament,” he said.
“It is potentially a vote that will result in a minority government and all of the uncertainty that attends it.
“When it comes to the minor parties - be they Lambie, Xenophon, Lazarus or Hanson - Australians need to consider very carefully the impact on practical policy outcomes and the workability of the Parliament.
“I say to Australians again; if you don’t know the leader of a minor party, or if that is all you know - the identity of the minor party’s leader, but you don’t know their candidates - and you don’t really know their policies, then don’t vote for them.
“Australians won’t want to end up next week with a result they didn’t see coming.
“We have the plan and that is why the critical choice on Saturday is to vote for a Liberal or National candidate because that is the only way to ensure that your vote counts towards a stable Coalition majority government and the delivery of our economic plan.”