Labor scores best on NFF priorities

Kate PollardThe West Australian
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Labor has been rated ahead of the Liberal National Coalition and the Greens by the National Farmers Federation's 2013 election policy scorecard.

Released on Tuesday, the scorecard rates each political party's response to five election priorities, capacity to deliver and broader stance on agriculture issues.

NFF priorities are to grow Australian agriculture; invest in research, development and extension; increase competitiveness and profit; build a stronger workforce and balance agriculture and the environment.

Labor scored eight out of 25, with the Coalition 7.5 and the Greens seven, showing parties have responded positively to agricultural policy priorities in some areas while maintaining the status quo in others.

NFF president Duncan Fraser said the Federal election was less than three weeks away, but agriculture was not high on the priority list.

Several months ago, the lobby group contacted the major parties requesting a response to their priority list. Labor and the Greens have given a detailed written response but nothing was received in writing from the Coalition.

It's sparked strong criticism from Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon who said the Coalition had no plan to grow agricultural production and no plan to improve profitability or market access.

Labor's 17-page response to the NFF focuses on taking advantage of the "dining boom" through its national food plan blueprint to meet growing demand for Australian produce in Asia. "We are on the record as working to grow Australia's $30.5 billion food export market by 45 per cent by 2025," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Labor will also invest $1 billion over the next four years in Rural Research and Development Corporations to enhance innovation, productivity and profitability in the agricultural sector."

A staffer for opposition agriculture spokesman John Cobb said the party had spoken extensively to the NFF over Coalition policies.

He said its election priorities were likely to be announced next week.

It's already promised Australia would become the food bowl of Asia, to reduce red tape costs to small business, better manage water resources, support fishing and provide stability for live export.

The Greens' agricultural policies include better country of origin labelling, tracking foreign ownership, increasing research and development, lowering farm energy costs, and includes an $85 million plan to bypass Coles and Woolworths by helping farmers sell direct.

It's also supporting food and fibre to be including the national curriculum, CCTV installation in abattoirs' and a viable alternative to live animal exports.

The commitment by Labor and the Coalition to improve trade was welcomed by the NFF, along with Labor's food plan, the Coalition's commitment to cut red tape and the Greens' promise to lift support for R&D.

But there is plenty of room for improvement and agriculture needs to be on the national agenda, according to Mr Fraser.

"This scorecard is a guide to the respective parties' commitment to agriculture and rural and regional communities. We need a government that will deliver a strong and vibrant food and fibre industry," he said.

The promises *

Labor *

·Grow Australia's $30.5 billion food export market by 45 per cent by 2025, through $42 million National Food Plan.

·Complete free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan.

·Invest almost $1 billion over four years in Rural Research and Development and Extension Corporations.

·Deliver $420 million in low interest loans through the Farm Finance Package as well as additional rural financial counsellors.

Liberal/National Coalition *

·Expect to announce commitments next week.

·Become the food bowl of Asia.

·Reduce red tape to small business by $1 billion a year.

·Fast-track free trade agreements with China, Indonesia, Japan and India.

·Boost agricultural exports.

·Review marine protected areas.

·Provide stability of trade for live export.

The Greens *

·Increase public investment and support creation of ministerial council to oversee Australia's food policy.

·Include food and fibre in national curriculum.

·Lift research and development spending to 3 per cent of GDP.

·Lift Australia's renewable energy target to 90 per cent by 2030.

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