WITH Australia voting to dump its almost decade-old government on the weekend, the agricultural industry is still trying to work out what lies ahead.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was this morning sworn-in with four senior frontbenchers, Penny Wong, Richard Marles, Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher, before jetting off to Tokyo for the Quad meeting with Japan, the United States and India.
While the four senior ministers have been named, speculation has been mounting over who will take the agriculture portfolio – with current agriculture spokeswoman Julie Collins being criticised for a lack of policies during the campaign. Many names have been put forward to replace her including former opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Either way, a final verdict on the agriculture portfolio will have to wait until the caucus meeting at the end of the month – with Mr Albanese telling media this morning the portfolios will be divided among the four sworn in ministers on an interim basis.
Lobby groups hoping for biosecurity push
With lumpy skin and foot and mouth disease right on Australia’s doorstep in Indonesia, lobby groups have been calling on the new government focus on biosecurity.
In a statement, the Red Meat Advisory Council said it was keen to see how the government was going to treat biosecurity. The organisation was also keen to see food labelling made a priority.
“RMAC congratulates Anthony Albanese and Labor on their election victory. We look forward to working with the Albanese Government to advance the interests of Australia’s 75,000 red meat and livestock businesses and 445,000 employees,” the statement said.
“We’ll be seeking to urgently partner with the new government to deliver on their commitments such as bolstering biosecurity capabilities, with Lumpy Skin Disease and Foot and Mouth Disease now on Australia’s doorstep and to deliver accurate and clear food labelling with Labor recognising Australian families are being deceived by misleading labels and descriptions used by manufactured plant-based protein companies.”
NSW Farmers have also highlighted biosecurity as a priority and CEO Pete Arkle said the organisation was keen to work through biosecurity issues.
“Throughout the campaign the farming community highlighted a number of concerns that need to be addressed, and we stand ready to work collaboratively for a stronger farming future,” Mr Arkle said.
“There are big concerns around sustainable biosecurity funding and preparedness, and we very much want to see the competition policy failures resolved in a prompt manner.”
How will carbon and ag meet?
The carbon industry looks like it will be a winner from the election, with at least nine “Teal” independent candidates taking inner city seats from the Liberals – all campaigning for stronger climate action. The Greens also picked up new seats and Prime Minister Albanese has vowed to “end the climate war”.
The Carbon Market Institute welcomed the new government and CEO John Connor said it could be a “watershed” election for the industry.
“It has been disappointing to see that effective carbon policy has often been overtaken by partisan politics and scare campaigns,” Mr Connor said.
“We look forward to having more robust discussions with both major parties about the policies that effectively driving emissions reductions and removals, and direct finance to where it’s most needed for mitigation, trust and integrity in this emerging market.”
But exactly how the carbon industry will work in with agriculture under the new government remains to be seen.
Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman Chis Bowen promised a review of carbon farming methods commonly used in Western Qld and NSW after concerns were raised about their integrity earlier this year.
Farmers for Climate Action CEO Fiona Davis said the agricultural industry was part of the solution to reducing emissions.
“We need deep emissions reductions this decade to protect Australian farmers from extreme weather events caused by climate change, and ensure we are able to continue to produce food for Australia and the world,” Ms Davis said.
“Australian farmers have shown that agriculture is ready and able to lead. With the right policy support, Australian agriculture can be carbon neutral well before 2050. But emissions reductions are needed across all sectors of the economy. Other sectors need to play their part and rapidly reduce emissions.
“If we act quickly, there are huge economic opportunities for farmers and regional Australians. Let’s not miss the opportunity to create secure, resilient jobs and livelihoods for farmers and regional Australians.”
Beef Central will be at the Carbon Farmers of Australia conference in Albury this week to discuss these issues further.
Processors hoping to address workforce shortages
Worker shortages are the main priority for the Australian Meat Industry Council and CEO Patrick Hutchinson said the entire industry was suffering from them.
“Our first priority is to work with government on the critical workforce shortage for our industry and address the need for a dedicated meat industry working visa,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“We believe the shortages will have an impact on two areas, one is on farmers, and one is on food security. Prior to the election, the ACTU also recognised this issue at the COSBOA Summit, stating ongoing workforce shortages will have an impact on feeding the nation and the world.
“According to industry forecasts, which show a big uptick in cattle and sheep production, the industry only has enough staff to manage the current livestock supply, which is at a historical low. Therefore, if the current workforce shortages are not addressed, we will not have the capacity to meet the rising throughput.”
Live export industry holding the line
Australia’s sheep and wool sector is holding its line on maintaining live sheep exports and improving access to foreign workers as the nation faces the prospect of a Labor Government.
In the face of ALP commitments to initially maintain the Northern Summer live sheep export prohibition and consult with industry on a phase-out, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council is still backing its recent performance as cause to maintain the trade.
ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton firstly offered congratulations to the incoming government and said the body always committed to working with whomever is in government.
“Our industry’s performance will stand on its own two feet, which we are very proud of.”
He said ALEC’s next steps are engaging with whomever is confirmed as the agriculture minister and working constructively with the government.
“First of all we do need to know who the new ag minister is and our position still stands that the phase-out is unnecessary.”
He said the factors involved included the recent performance of the industry in minimising mortalities and the practical reality of whether the Western Australian sheep industry can transition to full processing with the current workforce shortage in the red meat sector.
“Anyone that knows ag knows that that’s almost impossible anyway.
“Already the (national meat) processing sector is saying that it is 10,000 people short,” he said.
“There is work to be done, but we’ll be taking the view that our results stand.
“The industry has met all of its performance expectations and to maintain this (ALP) policy sets such a concerning policy for all of agriculture that I think it will prove very challenging to implement,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“We have a job to do to make sure we have a sustainable live export sector that includes both sheep and cattle exports.
“The reason we have the live export industry is that it actually works for us; we’ve got markets that demand livestock for food security and we’ve got the production systems that support it.”
“A Labor Government would also have to consider Australia’s trade relationship with the Middle Eastern countries sourcing sheep,” he said.
“That’s often the forgotten point; we’re actually quite an important geopolitically-important trade, not only for those trading countries’ food security, but a lot of other trading relationships are built off the back of livestock and that’s benefited all of agriculture, if not the broader trading relationships as well.”
- More election wrap up on Sheep Central here and Grain Central here
Australia’s Bio Security has to be No.1 priority for the new Government.
Floods, Fires & COVID will be minor compared to F&M etc diseases getting into our country.
Urgent need to be a lot better prepared for when (not if) the whole nation is put into quarantine.
Mal, Floods and fires are state issues while Health is mainly a state issue under the power of the Australian Constitution. Those wily old premiers back in1900 were not going to give a Federal body any more power than they had to.
Biosecurity is a Federal responsibility or more correctly a shared responsibility. Regards Robin.
It is of great concern that those purporting to represent farming interests seem to think that activity in Australia can change the planets climate, and weather events. The protection we need is from mis-guided political decisions that damage our ability to produce food.
Good on you John Spot on!!!