Saturday night delivered a result the polls didn’t predict: a Coalition win for reigning PM Scott Morrison and a farewell to Bill Shorten as Labor leader.
The Prime Minister and his second-in-charge, Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, didn’t waste any time in getting out to rural Australia. This week the pair visited flood ravaged north west Queensland, to follow up on the PM’s meeting with farmers earlier this year.
So, now that Scott Morrison is comfortably in the top job, what does a Liberal-National Government look like for agriculture?
Australian Farmers, revisited farmers’ top election priorities to see how the Coalition’s commitments stack up against agriculture’s goal to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.
Financial rewards for managing the environment
The Liberal-National Government pleased farmers with a commitment to establish a $30 million Biodiversity Stewardship Program and a $4 million Sustainability Certification initiative to financially reward and recognise farmers for their environmental efforts.
The National Farmers’ Federation says the commitments are potentially ‘game changers’ for agriculture and will be valuable tools in helping farmers with enhancing their drought preparedness.
“Farmers manage more than half of the landscape on behalf of all Australians,” National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar said.
“Government recognition of this work is long overdue and a key component of our 2030 Roadmap – the plan to see agriculture reach $100 billion by 2030.”
Mr Mahar also praised the Coalition’s plan to reduce ’green tape’ and help farmers find practical ways to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).
Securing and growing export markets
The Morrison–led Coalition has been clear in its intention to pursue an ambitious global trade agenda, promising to fast-track the ratification of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the Peru-Australia FTA and to prioritise trade deals with with the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“Australian farmers export 70 per cent of what they grow so a healthy and robust global trade agenda is a key ingredient for agriculture’s growth,” Mr Mahar said.
Strengthening the connection
The election also saw the Coalition pledge an investment of $220 million in a regional connectivity program, including the Mobile Black Spot Program, a digital technology hub and initiatives to improve digital literacy. Importantly, the Coalition has committed to eliminating black spots across one million square kilometres by 2025.
“This commitment is significant,” Mr Mahar said.
“If implemented, the investment has the potential to change the lives of countless rural, regional and remote communities.Tony Mahar, NFF CEO
‘The Australian Farm Institute predicts the application of digital technology could yield $20 billion for agriculture by 2050. However, the successful adoption of such technologies relies on adequate connectivity.
“For example, with good connectivity, a wool producer can collect data on every animal in his flock, an irrigation farmer can remotely monitor water on her property and farm-based children can access educational tools from home.
“These investments will see Australian agriculture become safer, more reactive and productive, and a fierce global competitor,” Mr Mahar said.
From the release of the Federal Budget and throughout the election campaign the word ‘taxes’ was heard more times that one dares to count. For farmers, the Coalition’s small business tax concessions were welcomed.
“Farmers now expect the Government to follow up on its commitment to deliver modest tax cuts and the implementation of the increase in the instant asset write-off provision from $25,000 to $30,000.
“The Government also committed to implement a 25 per cent tax rate for small or unincorporated businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million,” Mr Mahar said.
MORE WORK NEEDED
No Ag Visa?
The NFF has been disappointed by the Coalition’s failure to commit to a dedicated Agriculture Visa, to assist to solve farmers labour force challenges.
“For months the Coalition has skirted around the topic of an Ag Visa, despite the PM Morrison saying ‘it would happen’ at the NFF’s National Congress last October.
Mr Mahar said when the issue was raised at the Agriculture Leader’s debate in early May, the severe labour shortages, particularly in the horticulture industry, were acknowledged but a commitment to an Ag Visa was not made.
“At the event Minister Littleproud stated that the Prime Minister was ‘on a journey’ towards establishing an Ag Visa. What this means exactly remains to be seen.”
More information: Why agriculture needs a dedicated visa
The Coalition has pledged $1.9 million for a new Agricultural Workforce Strategy, promised to invest $58 million in 10 Industry Training Hubs and announced a new multi-million dollar plan to create jobs in the forestry and fishing industries.
“These are meaningful announcements and are welcomed.
“However, it does not change our firm belief that Australian agriculture, under a Morrison Government, will go from strength to strength once a commitment to an Ag Visa is delivered,” Mr Mahar said.
No Ag Strategy?
Mr Mahar said farmers remained disappointed at the Coalition’s failure to commit to developing a National Agriculture Strategy.
“Food and fibre production is the engine room of our economy and the crux of our regional communities.
“Agriculture, unlike many industries such as tourism and mining, doesn’t have a national plan. This is needs to change.”
Mr Mahar told Australian Farmers, the NFF will hold the new Government to account, from Day 1 of the 46th Parliament.
“As the peak body representing farmers and, more broadly, agriculture across Australia, the NFF will ensure the Coalition delivers on their commitment to farmers.
“We look forward to working with the Government to see exciting advancements for our sector come to fruition and on finding solutions to the many challenges and opportunities before us.”