In his first industry address since being sworn in as Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce has vowed to use his position in the Coalition leadership group and his access to Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to progress the rural sector under the new Federal Government.
Speaking at the AgForce State Conference in Townsville on Thursday, Mr Joyce outlined his vision for the rural sector to primary producers and other industry stakeholders from all corners of Queensland and interstate.
He identified restoring the broken live export trade relationship with Indonesia and finalisation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with trade partners including Korea, China and Japan as leading the list of critical tasks he will seek to undertake in his first months as Minister. He also indicated the Abbott Government would be more flexible in its approach to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses which have previously shutdown FTA negotiations with Korea.
“The new Government will not die in a ditch like the previous Government did on ISDS,” Minister Joyce told conference delegates.
“The Korean FTA is progressing, it is not dead, but it needs to be finalised.
“But we have to make sure it comes to a conclusion on terms that give a good return to producers.”
Minister Joyce also refuted claims he was anti-foreign investment.
“I am not anti-foreign investment however I do believe Australians have the right to question what is best for industry and the country.”
AgForce Queensland General President Ian Burnett said he was heartened by Mr Joyce’s commitment to place agriculture at the forefront of the national political debate through his position within the Government leadership group.
“Minister Joyce has been very clear about the fact he will use this position to ensure the Prime Minister, Treasurer and other senior ministers in key portfolios are well aware of importance of agriculture and the issues and policies that are important to progressing the sector.
“AgForce shares many of the visions for Queensland the Minister has expressed and we look forward to seeing how these policies will be delivered.”
Other speakers to have addressed conference over the last three days include Queensland Minister for Agriculture, John McVeigh, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps, Australian Agricultural Company Chief Operating Officer, Troy Setter, Westpac economist, Peter Pontikis, MLA Managing Director, Scott Hansen, and National Farmers’ Federation President, Duncan Fraser.
“This conference has attracted a wide variety of speakers and delegates and provided a great diversity of information as well as the opportunity for our members to engage directly with decision makers,” Mr Burnett said.