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Agriculture - Advancing Australia

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AGRICULTURE -
ADVANCING AUSTRALIA

STATEMENT BY

THE HONOURABLE WARREN TRUSS MP,

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY

9 MAY 2000

© Commonwealth of Australia 2000

ISBN 0642 43484 0

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth available from AusInfo. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Legislative Services, AusInfo, GPO Box 1920, Canberra ACT 2601.

 

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Overview

Australia's rural sector is critical to our national prosperity. As well as earning around $24 billion in export income each year, the sector makes a vital contribution to national employment and economic growth. In rural and regional Australia, agriculture, fisheries and forest industries are the life-blood of communities. Agriculture alone employs between 30 to 50 per cent of the workforce in most parts of rural and regional Australia. Fishery and forestry industries are also major employers.

Our largest manufacturing sector - the processed food sector - is built on access to quality Australian produce. The sector has a turnover of $46.6 billion and employs about 170,000 people, many in regional and rural Australia.

Our rural industries are the catalysts for growth and innovation in regional Australia. For example:

All Australians can be justly proud of the enterprise and achievements of Australian farmers in what is an increasingly competitive world. International competition and other pressures will continue to challenge Australian farmers but will also present new opportunities for innovation, diversification and growth. To support Australian farmers in this environment, the Government has a strategy based on three key elements.

First, at the national level, the Government has restored Australia's economic fundamentals through sound economic management and making long overdue reforms in key areas such as the labour market and the taxation system.

The result is that our rural industries are benefiting from low interest rates, low inflation and a competitive exchange rate. Without such secure foundations, the Australian economy would have been badly affected by the recent Asian economic crisis.

The Government will continue to maintain this strong pro-growth environment.

Reform of our tax system, for example, will improve both the efficiency of the wider economy as well as the businesses of individual farmers. Farmers will see their input costs reduced by $1 billion a year through tax reform. Exports and basic foods will be GST-free. Diesel fuel grants and GST input tax credits will lower transport costs. The new pay-as-you-go system will simplify tax payments for people in small business, including farmers.

Second, the Government has been working closely with specific industries, such as dairy, meat, wheat, wool and timber industries, to give farmers and regional Australians far greater control over the future of their industries.

Following approaches from industry, the Government facilitated the dairy industry's $1.78 billion assistance package to help farmers adjust to State deregulation of the market. Wool growers will decide the future shape of their industry; they have already determined the level of their wool tax.

Third, the Government has assisted farmers to enhance their skills in such key areas as risk management, business planning and natural resource management. The modern farmer must be part producer, part market analyst and part natural resource manager.

In 1997, the Government introduced the Agriculture - Advancing Australia package to deliver a comprehensive set of programs to support the farming sector. The AAA package has helped farmers to improve their business and risk management skills and to become more self-reliant. At the same time, the package introduced an effective safety net for farmers in financial difficulties.

Over its first three years the Agriculture - Advancing Australia package has made a major contribution to Australian agriculture. In this Budget, the Government will commit a further $309.4 million over the next four years to maintain funding levels for the AAA package. Successful AAA programs will be improved. New programs will be introduced to focus on other key areas.

The new AAA package includes a range of initiatives to enhance farmer skills and training, encourage innovation, improve market access for our agricultural and food exports and enhance support to farm families in financial difficulty.

The Budget also provides $43.6 million over the next four years for a range of other initiatives, including improving our system to protect animal and plant health.

All these measures are in addition to specific industry assistance provided by the Government, including the generous support given for industry research and development. This year, for example, the Government will provide more than $170 million to match levies paid by industry to support research and development activities in the agricultural sector.

There is also the support delivered through the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust - the largest financial commitment made by any government to restoring and protecting our natural environment. In 2000-01 $400 million dollars will be provided for Natural Heritage Trust and related natural resource management initiatives. The Commonwealth is providing $11 million dollars to support the activities of the Murray Darling Basin Commission.

The Coalition Government is determined to provide Australian farmers with a pro-growth business environment and the right mix of government programs to ensure a prosperous and sustainable agricultural sector. With this support, and their own skills and resources, Australian farmers can look forward to the future with confidence.

Budget Measures

Agriculture - Advancing Australia

The Agriculture - Advancing Australia (AAA) package was announced by the Government in September 1997. The package reflected both the Government's confidence in the capacity of our farmers to master change and recognition that government has a role in supporting farmers to make the most of changing market conditions.

The scope and scale of the AAA package was unprecedented.

The AAA package was designed to boost the competitiveness, sustainability and profitability of the rural sector, focusing on four key objectives to:

While many of the AAA programs will continue during the 2000-01 financial year, the benefits delivered by these programs are already obvious:

The changes announced in this year's Budget inject another $309.4 million into agriculture over the next four financial years. The enhanced AAA 2000 package includes funding for a range of initiatives:

Program Elements of the Agriculture - Advancing Australia Package

Skilling Farmers for the Future

The FarmBis and Property Management Planning (PMP) programs will be amalgamated and extended to continue the advances made in business and land management training. FarmBis and PMP have been very successful in encouraging farmers to update their business and natural resource management skills.

Farm Innovation

The Government will introduce a new, two-year pilot program to promote on-farm innovation and industry diversification. The program will support and encourage farmers and farmer groups to adopt new, innovative production techniques and to explore the potential for diversification into new farming activities.

Farm Growth through Export Growth

Funding will be provided to extend Australia's ongoing agriculture and food trade liberalisation efforts through multilateral, regional and bilateral negotiations, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. Progress to date has created significant opportunities for trade growth (for example, the $69 million live cattle trade to Indonesia) but substantial regulatory and other technical barriers remain. The Budget funding will allow a more intensive effort in key Asia Pacific markets, such as China and Indonesia. Other key markets in the region will also be targeted, with Thailand an early priority.

Farm Help

The successful Farm Family Restart Scheme will be enhanced and extended to provide extra welfare support to farm families in financial difficulty. The new program will continue to deliver welfare support for farm families, with a number of possible improvements being considered.

Retirement Assistance for Farmers

The Retirement Assistance for Farmers Scheme was introduced to enable low income and pension-aged farmers to transfer their farms to a younger generation and gain immediate access to the Age Pension.

Farm Management Deposits

The successful Farm Management Deposit (FMD) Scheme, which was introduced in the current AAA package, will be continued under the new AAA package.

Other Agriculture Measures

Building a National Approach to Animal and Plant Health

In order to enhance Australia's enviable reputation as a supplier of high quality, clean and green agricultural produce, the Government will improve current animal and plant health infrastructure. It will strengthen surveillance, disease prevention and awareness and improve Australia's emergency response capacity.

New Technologies

New technologies, such as biotechnology, offer great promise to reduce farm costs and improve the natural environment. At the same time, some consumers have concerns about the use of such technologies which may require that the origin of produce is identified before it can be sold in certain markets.

Quarantine

The Government has already committed $76 million over the period 1 July 1997 to 30 June 2001 to reinvigorate and strengthen Australian quarantine. This Budget includes an additional $8.5 million for quarantine border and risk analysis work in 2001-02 to ensure that recent gains are consolidated and extended.

Extra staff, detector dog teams and x-ray units at Australia's airports, international mail centres, wharves and container terminals are all paying dividends. In 1998-99, seizures of prohibited goods and materials at the border were running at an annual rate of about 227,000. In the nine months to March 2000 improved techniques had increased seizures to 442,000. Surveys show that public awareness of Australia's quarantine laws is increasing.

The additional $8.5 million also guarantees that the resources for the necessary level of scientific rigour on import risk assessments will continue to be available.

Of the import risk assessments completed between 1993 and 2000, 73 per cent were to allow Australian industry to obtain overseas products or genetic material. In the majority of other cases, the imports did not compete directly with Australian production due to seasonal differences or other factors.

East Timor

$1.9 million a year has been allocated to maintain quarantine integrity in northern Australia under the vastly increased traffic to and from East Timor.

Extra quarantine inspectors are based in Darwin and East Timor to clear military and aid agency vehicles and equipment prior to return to Australia and to monitor pest and disease risks.

Olympic Games

An extra $1.55 million in 2000-01 has been allocated for the Sydney 2000 Games to help the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service deal with:

Other

The Budget provides support to farmers experiencing particular difficulties in the Western division of New South Wales and North-Eastern Region of South Australia.

* The way that the GST affects Budget estimates, accounting statements and appropriations is described in Budget Paper No 4.

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