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Labor outlines positive ideas for agriculture

5 April 2019

Australia's peak farm body has welcomed the Labor leader, Bill Shorten's speech to Parliament last night – noting a series of commitments aimed at agriculture and regional Australia.

National Farmers' Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said smart investments in regional infrastructure, education and connectivity were critical for the farm sector's growth.

"As an industry, we've outlined a clear target of reaching $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. We can only achieve that in partnership with Government.

"We're pleased to see the Australian Labor Party commit to initiatives like the Mobile Black Spot Program and better reliability for the NBN.

"Farmers are increasingly reliant on digital technology to maximise their productivity, but there are still areas crying out for improved connectivity."

The NFF also welcomed the funding boost for the TAFE system.

"The TAFE system is the skills backbone of many farming communities, and we know the skills and labour crisis is a serious handbrake on our industry's growth.

"Labor's commitment to invest in upgrading regional TAFEs and fund the upfront cost of 100,000 places will hopefully deliver a measurable impact on crippling shortages.

"Obviously though, this isn't a silver bullet to agriculture's labour woes. In the coming weeks we'll be hoping to see a clear commitment to the much-needed Agricultural Visa."

Ms Simson also commended the proposal to introduce a new tax break for businesses investing in their productivity.

"An additional 20% tax break for investments of over $20,000 in new equipment will be welcome news to farmers.

"It's unclear whether this would be coupled with any change to the existing instant asset write-off, but assuming it's additional it would be a very positive thing for farm business investment."

The NFF cautioned however that despite a number of positive commitments, what went unsaid last night is of equal interest to farmers.

"We heard remarks from Mr Shorten last night about agriculture – referencing drought, the Murray Darling, beef roads, and the dairy industry.

"We know that the ALP supports Australian agriculture and the growth potential it has particularly in rural and regional Australia.

"There are detailed policy areas where we need to get a clear understanding of the ALP's plans.

"On the Murray Darling specifically, we're concerned that cracks are beginning to show in the bipartisanship that has underpinned the Murray Darling Basin Plan. We continue to urge Labor to tread carefully on this sensitive issue.

"I'd encourage Labor to use the coming weeks before polling day to consult with industry on its plans for agriculture and regional Australia, and road test them with regional voters.

"We look forward to working with all sides of politics as we advocate for the best interests of farmers in this year's Federal Election," Ms Simson said.

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
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