The rural sector has reacted positively to prime minister-elect Tony Abbott's new ministry and the appointment of Barnaby Joyce to the agriculture portfolio.
National Farmers Federation president Duncan Fraser said the peak farm body looked forward to continuing its strong and constructive relationship with the Coalition in Government.
“Reprioritising Australian agriculture in the national agenda has been, and will continue to be, the focus for the NFF – and this will continue to underpin all our work with the new Government, be it on policies affecting farmer productivity, profitability and access to markets, or the agricultural workforce and the natural resources on which our farmers rely," Mr Fraser said.
“Agriculture’s importance to Australia’s society, economy and environment is evidenced by the fact that it crosses so many Ministerial portfolios, including Foreign Affairs (Julie Bishop); Trade and Investment (Andrew Robb); Infrastructure and Regional Development (Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss); Environment (Greg Hunt); Treasury (Joe Hockey); Finance (Mathias Cormann); Employment (Eric Abetz); Education (Christopher Pyne); Communications (Malcolm Turnbull); Industry (Ian Macfarlane); Small Business (Bruce Billson); and Immigration and Border Protection (Scott Morrison).
“We welcome all Ministers, Assistant Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to their portfolios, and look forward to working closely with them in securing strong policy outcomes for Australian farmers."
Mr Fraser said the NFF's immediate priority was ensuring the Government’s promised commitments to agriculture – including the pledge to cut red and green tape, invest $100 million in agricultural research, development and extension, and reinstate native title funding – were enacted quickly, so that farmers can reap the benefits.
Cattle Council of Australia president Andrew Ogilvie also welcomed the new members of the Abbott Ministry.
“I have noted with interest ‘The Coalition’s Policy for a Competitive Agriculture Sector’ and I firmly believe there are common goals that we can achieve by working together.”
He said Cattle Council was particularly supporitve of moves to establish agriculture as one of the five pillars of the economy; a commitment to improve market access including the conclusion of a number of existing FTA negotiations; additional funding for agricultural research and development; and reducing red tape on farm.
“Of course, the success of these policies will depend on the detail. I will be meeting with these Ministers as soon as possible seeking Cattle Council’s close involvement.”
Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association chief executive Luke Bowen said the organisaiton was looking forward to engaging with Mr Joyce as soon as possible to talk through northern Australian issues and the important relationships between Australia and its nearest neighbor Indonesia.
The NTCA is particularly keen to discuss the issue of foreign investment with Mr Joyce after the incoming agriculture minister last week publicly opposed moves by Indonesia to buy cattle breeding country in northern Australia.
Mr Bowen said it was important that Indonesia’s stated intentions of buying one million hectares of country were kept in perspective, with that area equating to just “two average-sized breeding properties across the northern zone”.
Foreign investment had ebbed and flowed in the north for than 120 years and it had been positive for the northern cattle industry.
“We welcome (Indonesia’s investment intentions) because it is acknowledgement by Indonesia of the competitive advantage northern Australia has in breeding cattle and the competitive advantage Indonesia has for finishing and fattening cattle," Mr Bowen said.
“It is positive because it acknowledges the synergy between the north and Indonesia, and investment coming from both directions.
“We have Australian companies with investment and joint ventures in Indonesia currently such as Elders and Consolidated Pastoral Company, and this is simply a bit of cross linkage the other way.
“We have to be very mindful of the existing relationships we have formed over the last 20 or 30 years, they are very strong economic and cultural relationships that have been established.
"Iit is very important we respect those relationships in our engagement and that we look in an open minded way at opportunities that can assure the continuation of the live export trade out of northern Aust for the mututal benefit of both countries.”
NSW Farmers said Barnaby Joyce's appointment to the agriculture portfoilio would ensure 'a strong and dynamic voice' for the industry in government.
NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said Mr Joyce had a great affinity with agriculture, rural and regional communities and his appointment was welcomed by many farmers across the state and the nation.
“We are also pleased Senator Colbeck has been appointed parliamentary secretary ensuring continuity in the agriculture portfolio,” she said.
Warren Truss’ appointment to the infrastructure and regional development portfolio was also a good sign for agriculture because it enabled him to drive much needed infrastructure projects in regional Australia which were crucial for the future of the industry.
“We will be working through National Farmers Federation to ensure that agriculture and rural and regional Australia become a central pillar not an afterthought when it comes to the national agenda,” she said.
“It is important agriculture’s productivity, profitability and access to markets is a priority and we look forward to working with NFF and the new Abbott Government on these issues.”
Ms Simson also paid tribute to NSW MP John Cobb who was the Shadow Minister for Agriculture while the Coalition was in opposition.
“We had a great working relationship with John and thank him for all his hard work and commitment to our industry over recent years,” she said.
Animal Health Alliance chief executive officer Duncan Bremner said Mr Joyce was a well-known champion of rural and regional Australia, with a passion for and thorough understanding of agriculture.
He said the Alliance firmly supported the Coalition’s commitment to cut unnecessary red tape in the agricultural sector, and provide funding of $8 million to fast-track the registration of minor use chemicals.
“Farmers rely on safe and effective products to protect animal health and welfare, and this includes minor use chemicals.
“Australia needs a regulatory environment that encourages innovation and attracts investment in research and development. This is critical to supporting the long term sustainability of the livestock sector.
“The commitment of an additional $100 million for the Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) has also been well received.”
Mr Bremner said newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, had a strong track record in the agriculture sector and would stand the new Government in good stead address priority areas for the sector.
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