Federal Budget: Biosecurity and trade wins, but telecommunications a key omission

The delivery of the 2018-19 Federal Budget has seen some significant wins for agriculture in biosecurity and trade, but some serious omissions in the telecommunications space.

WAFarmers President Tony York said a commitment of $121.6 million towards improving biosecurity systems to better manage risks and maintain Australia’s status as a clean, green country was welcomed.

“Australia has a clean, green image that is the envy of world, due to our stringent biosecurity measures and resultant lack of exotic pests and diseases,” he said.

“Investment in this space is absolutely crucial in not only maintaining this position, but also in protecting our produce, securing our trade opportunities and opening up market competition.

“We applaud the government for this significant investment into biosecurity, which is further bolstered by a $6.6 million boost to continue the fight against established pests and weeds.”

Agricultural export opportunities will be supported by a $51.3 million investment over four years, which will include the funding for an additional six Agricultural Counsellors in key markets, a move Mr York said would build on trade agreements such as TPP-11.

“Through this investment, the Federal Government has sought to address non-tariff barriers and other technical barriers to trade, all of which will help foster strong relationships with key markets.”

Mr York said farm businesses would benefit from an extension of to the $20,000 asset tax write-off, and rural families would get more dollars in their pockets with the planned elimination of a tax bracket and the overall flattening of the tax rate to 32 cents in the dollar.

“Despite these wins for industry, we are deeply disappointed by the lack of funding towards telecommunications and the digital space,” he said.

“The Federal Government has, in the past, recognised the urgent need for investment into rural, regional and remote areas for improved telecommunications services.

“In this day and age when connectivity is critical to the smooth operation of farming businesses – not forgetting its importance also for safety purposes – it is just not good enough that farmers are struggling to connect to reliable internet and phone services.”

Mr York said the Federal Budget was generally pleasing and that the overall commitment to a budget surplus in the forward estimates was welcomed, as was the plan to create more jobs and opportunities for agriculture.

“WAFarmers contributed to the NFF Pre-Budget Submission, which saw many of the contributions outlined by member organisations addressed either in part or in full,” he said.

“Although we are extremely disappointed by the lack of funding for telecommunications and drought risk management measures, we do acknowledge the Federal Government’s allocations in this Budget towards recognising the need to build on trade opportunities.

“We are still working through the finer details of the Budget so we will undoubtedly glean more information over the coming days about how the Federal Government intends to capitalise on agriculture’s position as a key contributor to the economy.”

Other Budget benefits for agriculture will include:

  • Delivery of the $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative, to upgrade key freight corridors in regional Australia;
  • Delivery of the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, to put more highly qualified doctors and nurses into the bush;
  • Provision of $200 million towards a third round of the Better Regions Fund, plus extension to a fourth round of the Stronger Communities Programme with an additional $22.5 million;
  • $10 million to the APVMA over three years to enact its digital transformation;
  • $4 million towards a farm workforce survey to assess labour shortfalls and assess the labour market in general.

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