26 October 2022.
AgForce has welcomed the Labor Government’s confirmation of its commitment to biosecurity – but says more needs to be done to protect farmers.
As Foot and Mouth and Lumpy Skin Disease continue to threaten our shores, the Government’s first budget since its election victory has outlined spending of $134.1 million over four years, to ramp up the nation’s preparedness.
It will also fast-track $61.6 million from the Coalition Government’s March budget to improve domestic detection and response capabilities in Northern Australia and provide assistance to Indonesia to deal with its disease outbreaks – to be spent over the next two years instead of four as originally intended.
In addition, over the next three years $46.7 million has been allocated to speeding up the development of a national livestock traceability system - doubling the former Morrison Government’s allocation of federal funding for the project.
The number of detector dogs will swell by 20 with $11.7 million allocated over the next four years to expand their footprint at mail centres and airports Australia-wide.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin applauded the boost but said the Government had failed to deliver on its clear election promise to do more to establish a sustainable and secure funding stream for Australia’s biosecurity system.
“This significant investment in biosecurity is the result of a strong, detailed and multifaceted collaboration between AgForce, industry, and the Government,” he said.
“It’s a small price to pay, given the $80 billion impact an outbreak of FMD alone could have on our national industry, and we applaud the commitment.
“However, there are a host of diseases and pests lurking in the shadows, poised to attack our crops, pastures and livestock at any moment, and it’s frustrating that the Government is yet to deliver on its election promise to deliver long-term sustainable funding arrangement to keep this country safe.
“For years governments have weakened our vital biosecurity system through under-resourcing.
“The time has come for Labor to put its money where its mouth is and make the long-term commitment to biosecurity that it promised voters.
“We do, however, understand that this is a transitional budget from a new Government, and hope for further measures in the next, more traditional, May budget.”
Agriculture’s budget wins
Funding to support producers with sustainable farming projects including:
$302.1 million over 5 years from 2023 under a new phase of the Natural Heritage Trust to support the agricultural sector with sustainable farming and land management practices, build Australia’s climate and disaster resilience and contribute to emissions reductions and improved environmental outcomes.
$20.3 million over 4 years from 2022–23 to establish a Carbon Farming Outreach Program to empower Australian farmers and land managers to participate in carbon markets and integrate low emission technologies and practices.
Improving on the Government’s election commitment to deliver connectivity in the bush, with a total package of more than $757 million, and building on investments made into the National Broadband Network.
National Reconstruction Fund to boost food and agriculture
The budget confirms the establishment of the National Reconstruction Fund – promised at the election.
$500 million of the $15 billion fund (to be invested over 7 years) will go towards projects in the farm sector.
Despite coming to the federal election without a drought policy, the federal budget has made moves to address this with a commitment to spend $20.8 million over the next two years to support Australia’s readiness to respond to drought events.
Agriculture’s budget losses
PALM promise underdelivered
The budget reveals that Labor’s election commitment to cover worker travel costs under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme will instead be replaced with an underwriting scheme - rubbing salt into the wounds of the loss of the Ag Visa initiative.
The labour crisis is a major barrier to farm production in Australia, and without a real solution, production costs will continue to rise and consumers will be hit with even higher grocery prices.
The budget contains $4.6 billion in cuts to water infrastructure projects committed to under the previous Government.
Funded through the National Water Grid, the $5.4 billion Hells Gates Dam will no longer proceed, and planned projects (collectively funded for $899.5 million) including Queensland's Emu Swamp Dam and pipeline, and the Hughenden Irrigation District will be deferred.
A disappointing move as agriculture and rural communities in Queensland seek greater water security and growth opportunities.
The risk of a return to crippling water buybacks from irrigation communities in the Murray Darling Basin is also of concern.
For media comments contact:
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin 0488 002 092