Monday, 30 March 2015
The NFF Members’ Council met in Canberra on Monday and Tuesday of last week as part of its regular consultation with representatives from each of the State Farming Organisations, Commodity Councils and Associate Members.
Issues high on the agenda included the review of farm sector representation, and moving toward a more unified structure. Foreign investment, infrastructure and trade were also key areas of debate.
A highlight of Members Council was an address by the Member for Hume, Mr Angus Taylor MP, who spoke to Members about the importance of having one voice to influence policy outcomes effectively. He also spoke about the changing tastes of Asia's growing middle class, and the need for Australian agriculture to capture the good fortune ahead.
Pictured below: NFF President Brent Finlay
Strengthening farm sector representation was front and centre at the Members' Council meeting. The process, Project Streamline & Strengthen, is a genuine move to more effective national advocacy for farmers.
NFF CEO Simon Talbot outlined a digital vision for the NFF, including a new online ecosystem to connect rural and regional Australia. Great support from within the NFF membership means that strong collaboration will underpin the creation and pilot of the platform later this year.
Work toward the unification of farm sector representation continues, with key developments anticipated by the next Members' Council in June. For more info on PSS, please visit the official website here.
'Foreign investment has and will continue to be beneficial for Australian agriculture,' said the NFF in its submission to the Strengthening Australia's Foreign Investment Framework - Options Paper.
Some of the key recommendations from the NFF in response to the Options Paper included our support (in principle) for a cost-sharing model whereby assessment costs are reasonably shared between foreign investors and Government.
Proposed fees in the Options Paper were too high and may act as a deterrent to attracting foreign capital into Australia. The NFF is advocating a streamlined approval process with appropriate charges and a business-friendly approach to foreign investment.
The NFF supports a national land and water ownership register that compiles data and identifies emerging trends in foreign ownership. The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) must be appropriately resourced to respond to non-compliance as part of the approval process. For more, see our submission here.
The NFF has joined industry groups from the fishing, forestry, tourism and resources sector to release a new publication, Powering Regional Australia: The Case For Fuel Tax Credits, to promote a balanced and informed debate on the Fuel Tax Credits Scheme (FTCS).
The groups are building a strong case to retain the FTCS in the lead up to the Federal Budget in May. In the report, it is emphasised that the fuel excise was introduced to contribute to the cost of building public roads. As such, it should not apply to diesel used by farmers off-road.
Our view is that removing or weakening the FTCS from these industries would undermine their competitiveness, hindering their ability to boost the Australian economy and create more jobs in regional areas. For more, see the joint media release here.
The NFF has made a submission to the Senate, declaring its support for Western Australian Senator Dr Chris Back's animal welfare bill, formally known as the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015.
The Private Senator's Bill has two parts. The first addresses the reporting of malicious cruelty to animals in a timely manner; and the second, illegal interference in lawful animal enterprises.
The Bill reflects the Australian farming community's 'no tolerance' approach to animal cruelty. For a copy of our submission, please see here.
Overseas workers play a small but important role in Australian agriculture. Last week, the Government released its response to the 457 visa integrity inquiry, supporting many of the NFF's recommendations and promising to deliver much-needed reform for the benefit of the agricultural sector.
The key proposals likely to benefit farmers include:
- More flexibility in the list of occupations eligible for 457 visas
Changes are expected by June 2016. For more, see our release here.
> NOMINATE A LANDCARE HERO!
Landcare, of which NFF was a founding partner, has more than 6,000 groups around Australia and a network of over 100,000 volunteers.
The awards are an opportunity to provide recognition of the ongoing efforts of farmers and communities that volunteer their time to manage our precious natural resources.
We encourage those participating in Landcare initiatives to put their nominations forward. Entries are open until 31 May 2015. To nominate, or for more information, please visit the official Landcare website here.
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