Opposition slams budget

The West Australian
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Opposition agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon has labeled the Federal Budget as "disappointing" for agriculture.

Mr Fitzgibbon said it sets out no vision to build sustainable and competitive agriculture industries.

"The Budget reduces Landcare funding, exacerbating the effects of the Government's determination to ignore the greatest challenge facing agriculture - natural resource sustainability," he said.

"It hinders Australia's realisation of the opportunities of emerging markets by cutting the development of an Australian Brand for Food Program.

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"And it includes a 4 per cent reduction in Departmental staffing which will hardly improve either policy development or service delivery, together with the abolition of the National Water Commission."

However, Mr Fitzgibbon did acknowledge the Government's $100 million investment in research and development.

"But, while increased funding for research is welcome, this Budget also cuts important research underway by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations which fosters sustainable, productive and profitable rural industries," he said.

"The Budget hits the purchasing power of farming families and rural communities. The reduction in purchasing power will be more acute for rural families and pensioners in rural communities who face the combination of payment reductions and higher increased costs.

"Tony Abbott's fuel taxes will hit harder because rural people tend to drive greater distances and fuel costs are embedded in the goods they buy.

"And the GP tax will hurt rural communities, which already struggle to secure bulk-billing services.

"The only profit in this Budget is for the Government and it comes at the expense of farming communities."

But Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce defended the budget as delivering future protection for farmers.

"Farmers and other rural industries had been protected from the extent of the cuts in other portfolios," he said.

"We have kept our election promises including delivering $100 million in research and development as well as delivering on drought assistance.

"There are some areas of disappointment, but overall we have been able to keep the diesel fuel rebate and retain Australia's ethanol industry."

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