WAFarmers demands clear direction from parties

Tony York, OPINIONThe West Australian
WAFarmers president Tony York.
Camera IconWAFarmers president Tony York. Credit: Rueben Hale.

OPINION: In this, the nation’s longest election campaign since the 1960s, the Commonwealth Government is at an interesting cross-road within the agricultural sector.

Significant gains were achieved in the delivery of the 2015-16 Federal Budget with the announcement of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, and the results of this are still being rolled out today.

While the Coalition Government continues to deliver on the promises made in the White Paper, at least until the votes are counted on 2 July, there is still more action needed to protect the nation’s agricultural industry and fully capitalise on agricultural and economic opportunities, and it is critical that we hold the parties accountable to the promises they may make on these opportunities.

Productivity, profitability and competition are, perhaps, the biggest agricultural issues in the 2016 Federal Election, and we implore the parties to provide clear direction as to how they plan to highlight and develop these key areas for the betterment of the nation’s agricultural sector.

Need proof that the government needs to get this right? Here are a few stats to get you thinking:

• The agricultural sector is ideally positioned to be an economic growth driver for the nation with the potential to generate $1.2 trillion between now and 2030.

• The gross value of Australian farm production in 2014-2015 was $54 billion, with total farm production projected to reach $60.3 billion in 2016-2017.

• Australian farmers export approximately 60 per cent of what they grow and produce.

• Four of the five top agricultural trade destinations in 2014-2015 were in Asia.

Given our substantial competitive advantage over rival primary producing nations and our potential for growth, the benefits reaped from the success of the agricultural sector will be felt across the whole Australian economy. Therefore, agriculture should be a policy and economic priority of the Australian Government and of the parties during this election campaign.

There is nothing more frustrating for voters than putting a party into power on the basis of their policy and election promises, only to have the party renege. To ensure that our members and the greater Western Australian agricultural community understands where the parties sit on the most important agricultural issues right now, we aim to arrange meetings with the major political parties to determine their current position on these issues and to see how their policy might change over the campaign period.

It is critical that the Federal Government not only considers but actions the WAFarmers Policy Priorities, and those of other state farming organisations and of the National Farmers Federation.

Only by addressing these pressing concerns and capitalising on the opportunities presented by the collective voice of agriculture can the nation’s agricultural sector be safeguarded and the best future for the economic development of Australia be secured.

The WAFarmers five key Policy Priorities are:

• Safeguarding the agricultural supply chain

Enacting policy to ensure competitiveness, sustainability and profitability.

• Investing in innovation, science, research and development

Maintaining the Australian agricultural sector’s position as an international leader by improving productivity and guaranteeing agricultural supply.

• Building a stronger workforce

Developing a better understanding of the opportunities in the sector to build a strong workforce and attract the best and brightest.

• Prioritising agriculture at the top

Marking agriculture a national economic and policy priority to capture the value of opportunities driven by growing demand for our premium food and fibre.

• Further developing the expansion of Australian trade

Capitalising on current and future opportunities to expand the reach and breadth of Australian trade markets.

Tony York is president of WAFarmers.

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