Nation needs 'balanced foreign investment policy'

STAFF REPORTERThe West Australian

Australia needs a balanced foreign investment policy for agriculture, recognising the importance of international flows of capital for economic development, WA Farmers president Dale Park said this week.

Such a foreign investment policy also needed to recognise the ongoing viability of Australian farmers and the communities that supported them, Mr Park said in a column in WestBusiness.

He said it was also essential to establish new ways of embarking on business partnerships with foreign investors, where food security was recognised as a major concern.

"As the Federal election draws closer, there comes an opportunity to have an open and constructive dialogue on policy which benefits the future of agriculture in this country," Mr Park said. Among the barrage of doom and gloom we hear about the state of the industry, but it should be noted there are plenty of opportunities to re-establish the competitiveness and profitability of Australian agriculture - and the Federal Government is in a position to help achieve that goal.

"Through discussion and consultation, WAFarmers has established five key policy priorities we would like adopted into policy frameworks by the major and minor parties.

"To ensure the agricultural sector has a competitive advantage, any government must establish policy settings which make for a more competitive Australian dollar which maximises export income for the sector and internationally comparable interest rates for capital borrowing required for agricultural enterprises."

Mr Park also urged a government commitment to expand trade by facilitating new market access and working with industry to improve the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

"By refining the system, we can ensure positive animal welfare outcomes and reduce bureaucratic obligations and costs for exporters," he said.

Mr Park said the agricultural sustainability would best be supported by a strategic plan to establish Australia as the international leader in research, development and extension.

"Such a strategy would require increased expenditure supporting productivity increases to meet the anticipated rise in demand from Asia, alongside taxation frameworks encouraging private investment in research and development and facilitating further research into grain and weather-related biotechnology," he said.

In the lead-up to the election, WAFarmers will be taking these priorities to meetings with candidates with the goal of repositioning agriculture closer to the centre of political debate and policy determination, Mr Park added.

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