Vic opposition pledges soil research hub
A regional soils research centre would be set up in Victoria if the Liberal-Nationals win the November election.
Announcing the plan at a Victorian Farmers Federation symposium in Melbourne, state opposition leader Matthew Guy said VicSoil would safeguard and strengthen Victoria's agriculture sector.
"Our plan is a real solution to strengthen Victoria's vital agricultural sector," Mr Guy said on Friday.
Opposition agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh said the plan would allocate $100 million over 10 years to research productive and sustainable soil management, with links to the national Soil Cooperative Research Centre.
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"The greatest asset that farmers have is their soils. It is good business, it is good for the environment," he said.
Mr Walsh could not confirm the number of research jobs that would be created, but criticised the Andrews Labor government's record on soils research.
"Not that long ago, we actually used to have a department of agriculture in this state," Mr Walsh told farmers and delegates.
"We now have an office down the end of the corridor."
The Victorian Nationals leader lamented the declining influence of the farmers federation on livestock compensation funds and promised a reversal if a Liberal-Nationals government was elected.
Mr Walsh criticised state agriculture minister Gayle Tierney for sending a pre-recorded message to the event rather than attending in-person.
"That we are ... here shows that we actually respect what you do for Victoria, to feed Victoria, to clothe Victoria, to create the jobs that are out in regional Victoria," he said.
In her message, Ms Tierney said the organisation was a vital part of the government's vision for the Victorian economy.
"I look forward to continuing to work closely with the VFF and the industry to achieve this vision," Ms Tierney said.
It comes as Victoria's net debt position came in almost $2 billion lower than a previous estimate, as major parties paint different pictures of the state's fiscal outlook ahead of the election.
The 2021/22 Annual Financial Report was tabled in state parliament on Friday and showed net debt was $100b at the end of June, instead of the $101.9b figure published in the May budget.
"This improved result reflects lower than expected borrowings following the better than anticipated net cash flows from operating activities," it said.
State taxation revenue was $483m higher than May's revised estimate, driven by higher-than-expected land transfer duties and payroll tax stemming from a stronger-than-expected labour market.
"The jobs market is strong, businesses are confident and the state's financial results have improved from the forecasts that were updated just five months ago," Treasurer Tim Pallas said.
But Shadow Treasurer David Davis said there was nothing to celebrate given Victoria's net debt had risen from $72.7b in mid-2021.
"It is the highest debt in the state's history as a raw figure," he told reporters.
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