Nationals prepared to fight for Gippsland farmers
Nobody understands the importance of agriculture to our state and country like the Nationals.
With strong Nationals representation throughout Gippsland local members are passionate about ensuring the views, wants and needs of country people are heard in parliament.
Federal Member for Gippsland and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester said the Nationals as part of the Federal Coalition Government had been able to deliver for Gippsland farmers.
“Our Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, retains the portfolio, signifying its importance on a national scale,” he said.
“At the top of our achievements sit the recently concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, Korea and the Trans- Pacific Partnerships Countries. The four FTAs will reduce barriers to trade and investment for Australia’s agricultural sector.”
Gippsland’s dairy sector is the highest value agribusiness industry and one of Australia's leading dairy regions, producing around 30 per cent of Victoria's milk and 20 per cent of Australia's dairy production.
“The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will underpin the future of our local dairy industry, which has been competing with New Zealand at a significant disadvantage,” Mr Chester said.
“The China-Australia FTA paves the way for Australian milk products to secure a foothold in the world’s largest and fastest growing dairy market.”
Mr Chester said export earnings from farm commodities reached an estimated $ 43.6 billion in 2014–15. He said the price of young cattle, lamb and wool had all increased significantly since 2013.
Recently the government opened Expressions of Interest for its new $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.
“I have hosted the Minister for Agriculture in Gippsland several times and he is well aware of the importance of the Macalister Irrigation District, which will be bidding for funding under this new program,” Mr Chester said.
“On a broader scale, our Government recognises that agriculture is an economic pillar and we have provided more than $685 million in assistance and support for Australian farmers experiencing drought.”
Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, said access to water was critical for Gippsland’s agricultural sector.
“Next to people and land, water is the most important commodity in our state,” Ms Bath said.
“In terms of the dairy industry in my electorate of Eastern Victoria Region, we are having what could be called a green drought where the land in some cases looks good but there is no water content left in the ground and no major grass regrowth coming through for milk production.
“Many farmers are struggling with stock and domestic supplies as dam reserves diminish. It is quite a serious situation.”
Ms Bath said it was vital the Andrews Government supported the Macalister Irrigation District ( MID) upgrade without any conditions to ensure water security.
The former LiberalNational Coalition Government and the irrigators themselves developed phase 1A of the MID 2030 project with the Coalition delivering $16 million for its completion. Phase 1B requires $60 million over five years, with the Federal Government being asked for $20 million, irrigators another $20 million and the State $20 million for this phase.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said this project just needs to keep rolling along.
“The next phase of the MID 2030 will enable increased water efficiency and therefore increased production and it is important that the Labor Government supports this as soon as possible.
“I’m also working with the government and farmers on longer term solutions to water shortages in places such as Yanakie which have been very dry. There’s been a lot of stress placed on farmers this year, but most dairy farmers have been well-prepared, while high beef prices have buffered that industry from the worst of the season.
“We’ll continue to fight to ensure our agricultural industries are well-placed for a strong future,” Mr O’Brien said.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said he was lobbying for a number of regional projects ahead of the May Budget.
“One of the key projects I am hoping are funded is the next stage of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) upgrade,” he said.
“It’s imperative the current government funds the MID upgrade, regardless of the Port of Melbourne lease sale,” Mr Bull said.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said Farm World was a fantastic opportunity for the National MPs to meet with Gippslanders and hear first-hand matters that are most important to them.
“Now more than ever regional Victorians need people who understand country issues to stand up and fight for a better deal on their behalf,’’ Mr Northe said.
“The agriculture industry is one of Gippsland’s biggest employers and it’s important that we continue to protect and grow jobs in our region.”
Mr Northe said employment opportunities in the Latrobe Valley had been negatively impacted by Labor’s decision to axe the $15 million Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund which supported more than 40 local projects, created 1100 jobs and leveraged close to $100 million.
“This was a fund that while in government the Coalition implemented to support country businesses and workers and we will continue to hold this Government accountable to ensure our local industry receives its fair share of Government support,” he said.
Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, encouraged Farm World patrons to visit the Nationals stand.
“The Nationals will always champion Victoria’s food and fibre industries – they are the backbone of our economy and at the heart of our communities,” he said.
“Come down to the Nationals’ stand at Farm World and have a chat to our team, we’d love to hear about your farm business and the issues that matter to you.”