AUSTRALIA’S peak sheep and wool producer bodies list biosecurity, workforce shortages, animal welfare and trade as priorities for talks with the new Albanese Government and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt.
Peak grower body WoolProducers Australia said it is keen to learn more about the Australian Labor Party’s election campaign pledge to bolster biosecurity arrangements, especially the establishment of long-term, sustainable funding arrangements to strengthening Australia’s biosecurity system.
The previous Coalition Government promised $20.1 million over three years to strengthen on-farm biosecurity by supporting the adoption of livestock traceability reforms, but it is not known if this was confirmed funding or if it will be matched by the Albanese Government in subsequent budgets. During the recent election campaign, the ALP pledged to improve biosecurity capabilities, including the adoption of livestock traceability reforms.
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Biosecurity is WoolProducers’ top priority
WoolProducers president Ed Storey said the establishment of a sustainable biosecurity funding mechanism was a primary election priority of the body.
“With the changing risk profile of Australia in terms of increasing threats from emergency animal diseases, it is more important than ever to ensure that we as a nation are protected from EAD incursions.”
WoolProducers said it aimed to work with the ALP and educate the party about the raft of animal welfare practices Australian wool growers undertake to ensure the health, welfare and productivity of their animals.
“WoolProducers expressed concern in the lead up to the election regarding the ALPs policies regarding animal welfare, which seemed to be heavily influenced by animal rights activists,” Mr Storey said.
“WoolProducers will ensure that the government understands the great lengths that wool growers go to in looking after their animals, as outlined in our Trust in Australian Wool campaign.”
With more than 90 percent of Australian wool exported, WoolProducers said it is imperative that positive trade relations are maintained and expanded on.
“WoolProducers looks forward to this government capitalising on existing free trade agreements signed with key trade partners, including India, Indonesia and the UK,” Mr Storey said.
WoolProducers said other ALP policies it is looking to influence now that the Cabinet has been announced include agricultural workforce shortages, investing in regional roads and rail, better connectivity for the bush, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and manufacturing.
WoolProducers congratulated Senator Murray Watt, and other key portfolio appointments it was looking to work with to ensure growers’ interests were considered, included Senator Don Farrell as Minister for Trade, Tanya Plibersek as Minister for Water and the Environment and Madeline King as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.
Traceability for biosecurity is top issue with Sheep Producers Australia
Sheep Producers Australia chief executive officer Bonnie Skinner said progressing discussions with Mr Watt on the ALP’s election commitment to support national traceability reform for the livestock sector is the top priority for SPA.
“Since 2018 SPA has been working with SAFEMEAT and its members on the development of reform recommendations to the National Livestock Identification System.
“Without state and federal government support, industry will be unable to invest in a nationally harmonised traceability system,” she said.
“The cost to transition from mob-based to individual identification, and the associated system changes required to support that transition, is the most significant step in evolving into a more robust system.
“SPA is committed to progressing discussions for the implementation and funding of a national EID system for the sheep industry in conjunction with broader NLIS reform measures,” Ms Skinner said.
“This includes investment into the database, sustainable and equitable cost-sharing arrangements and the establishment of a national governance body that has the ability to hold all stakeholders accountable.
“Of all the factors that contribute to our profitability and success as an industry, maintaining our biosecurity and systems like the NLIS are critical and within our control,” she said.
“In addition to national traceability reform the priorities for SPA are to work with our new government on addressing the critical workforce shortage for our industry, with a focus on shearers and the meat processing sector, strengthening market access, and their current position on the live export of sheep and what this means for producers. ”
Greens to seek swift live export phase-out and end to mulesing
Despite putting questions to Mr Watt today, Sheep Central has not been to able ascertain the Albanese Government’s next actions on its stated policy to phase out live sheep export, albeit with industry consultation.
However, Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi said she welcomed Labor’s commitment to a phase-out of live sheep export and would be pushing the new government to agree to a clear and swift timeline to end live export, and a proper transition plan for workers.
“The Greens want an end to the live export of sheep and cattle, which cannot be made safe for animals.
“We took this platform to the election and I look forward to discussions with the newly-appointed Agriculture Minister,” she said.
“We also want to see the recent relaxation of the Northern Summer live sheep export ban reversed.
“Our animal welfare policies include legislating new national animal cruelty laws, ending live export and racing, and establishing an Independent Office of Animal Welfare,” Senator Faruqi said.
“We will be speaking with Labor about all aspects of our platform to advance animal welfare.
“Mulesing is a painful procedure which must be phased out through the effective and humane prevention and treatment of flystrike,” she said.
“We will continue to advocate for this in the coming term of parliament.”
NFF lists climate change, workforce storages and biosecurity
National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson welcomed the appointment of Senator Watt and Tanya Plibersek to the Albanese ministry.
“Now more than ever agriculture needs strong leadership as our farmers tackle the challenges of climate change, workforce shortages, supply chain disruptions and biosecurity threats from overseas,” Ms Simson said.
She said Ms Plibersek’s environment and water ministry is critical to the farm sector and the NFF looked forward to progressing vital issues such as EPBC Act reform and Murray Darling Basin management.
Ms Simson said trade and market access would always be critical to agriculture and expanding opportunities for farmers in international markets by working collaboratively with the newly appointed Trade and Investment Minister, Senator Don Farrell was a priority.
She said at the top the NFF’s list is working with Minister for Immigration Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Andrew Giles to address the chronic labour shortages crippling the farming sector.
She also welcomed Chris Bowen continuing his work as shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy in a ministerial capacity.
“Farmers and the wider community have made it clear they are concerned about climate change.”
She also noted that four ministries explicitly referencing regions indicated this is a key area for the new government and the NFF looked forward to progressing its regionalisation election platform with the newly-minted ministers.
“Michelle Rowland takes on the important portfolio of telecommunications to implement the positive commitments Labor made to improve mobile phone and internet service in the bush.
“We will continue the already strong relationship with Minister Watt and other Albanese Government ministers who are key to progressing these priorities so agriculture can reach its goal to be a $100 billion industry by 2030,” Ms Simson said.
“It is also very important to us to engage with the Opposition and crossbench on these issues vital to farmers and the bush.”
Alarm bells are ringing – AgForce
AgForce general president Georgie Somerset said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to strengthen the country’s biosecurity system has never been more important with the looming threat of lumpy skin disease and Foot and Mouth Disease.
“However, alarm bells are also ringing.
“Early in the campaign, Labor put the brakes on a solution to farmers’ crippling workforce shortages by all but scrapping the industry-led Ag Visa,” she said.
The ALP rejected the former Coalition Government’s NFF-backed ag visa plan, while honouring an agreement with Vietnam, and committed to expanding the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme’s Seasonal Worker Program to create a robust and sustainable four-year visa, with portability, strong oversight mechanisms, and protections and rights for workers.
“Then it (the ALP) revealed its intention to end live sheep exports – a bitterly disappointing decision, particularly given industry’s significantly improved animal welfare standards and recent growth,” Ms Somerset said
“It’s concerning to see them bowing to pressure from radical extremists to the detriment of our farming families, and if this is the way Albanese deals with bullies, then we could be in for a rough ride.
Sadly, the world has too many anti-agriculture activists hell bent on demonising our industry, and giving in to their demands will only encourage them to shout louder,” she said.
“Time will tell whether or not our journey with Labor will be harmonious or fraught with difficulties.
But one thing is for sure: standing up for Australia’s rural communities will require a backbone,” Ms Somerset said.
“It’s the very least our farmers deserve.”