Wa­ter, in­no­va­tion and trade get the cash in fed­eral bud­get

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

THE 2016- 2017 fed­eral bud­get has in­cluded a num­ber of mea­sures for the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly re­lat­ing to wa­ter and drought, in­fra­struc­ture, in­no­va­tion and trade, how­ever the back­packer tax is still caus­ing headaches for those in the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor.

The $2 bil­lion to­ward con­ces­sional loans to es­tab­lish the Na­tional Wa­ter In­fra­struc­ture Loan Fa­cil­ity was wel­comed by the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

Loan re­cip­i­ents will make in­ter­est only pay­ments for the first five years and have a fur­ther 10 years to re­pay the prin­ci­pal and ad­di­tional in­ter­est.

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion (VFF) pres­i­dent Peter Tuo­hey praised the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to en­cour­ag­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture projects which will im­prove the wa­ter se­cu­rity and boost agri­cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties in Vic­to­ria as well as giv­ing “full credit” to de­liv­er­ing the much-needed in­fra­struc­ture projects.

“The VFF has cam­paigned for decades for freight rail up­grades as we are pleased to see this com­mit­ment locked into bud­get pa­pers,” he said.

“We wel­come the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to as- sist­ing state gov­ern­ments in com­menc­ing in­vest­ment in these projects.”

Free fi­nan­cial ad­vice will be avail­able to farm­ers in drought af­fected ar­eas thanks to the $7.1 mil­lion to fund ad­di­tional Ru­ral Fi­nan­cial Coun­sel­lors.

Up to $593.7 mil­lion in ad­di­tional eq­uity to the Aus­tralian Rail Track Cor­po­ra­tion for land ac­qui­si­tion and pre-con­struc­tion works has been pro­vided to the in­land rail pro­ject.

The Aus­tralian Grape and Wine Author­ity has been given $50 mil­lion to pro­mote wine tourism and Aus­tralian wine over­seas and a re­duc­tion in the Wine Equal­i­sa­tion Tax (WET) re­bate cap from $500,000 to $350,000 has also been a win for those in the wine in­dus­try.

A two-year pi­lot pro­gram to im­prove ac­cess for farm­ers to train­ing and in­for­ma­tion about co-op­er­a­tives col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and in­no­vate busi­ness mod­els has also been pro­vided.

An ex­tra $2 mil­lion an­nu­ally from changes to agri­cul­tural levies has been given in­clud­ing a manda­tory levy of 50 cents per tonne on all hay and straw prepared for ex­port (re­plac­ing a vol­un­tary levy), an in­crease in the Emer­gency Plant Test Re­sponse Levy for growth of pri­vate plan­ta­tion logs and in in­crease in the citrus levy by $1.50 per tonne.

How­ever, there is wide­spread dis­ap­point­ment over the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to ad­dress the de­struc­tive back­packer tax and no ad­di­tional fund­ing to rid ru­ral ar­eas of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sues.

“We have cam­paigned for more fund­ing to go to­wards the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Mo­bile Black Spot Pro­gram, but we have been left frus­trated by their fail­ure to ac­knowl­edge the needs of ru­ral con­stituents,” Mr Tuo­hey said.

“The feed­back we re­ceived clearly showed peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas face grossly in­ad­e­quate mo­bile and broad­band ac­cess com­pared to their metropoli­tan coun­ter­parts.”

The gov­ern­ment’s plan to tax work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers as non-res­i­dents at 32.5 per cent also drew crit­i­cism be­cause of the im­por­tance to the Aus­tralian econ­omy.

“Each year we see around 40,000 back­pack­ers come to Aus­tralia, many of whom work on our farms, and while they’re here they con­trib­ute about $3.5 bil­lion to the Aus­tralian econ­omy,” Mr Tuo­hey said.

“We can’t af­ford to lose that labour or that rev­enue and we need a re­al­is­tic so­lu­tion to tackle the prob­lem.”

He added that both is­sues will be hot top­ics for the up­com­ing Fed­eral elec­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cat­tle Coun­cil of Aus­tralia (CCA), the value that beef pro­duc­ers bring to the econ­omy has not been recog­nised with the beef in­dus­try miss­ing out in terms of in­fra­struc­ture, how­ever beef busi­nesses will ben­e­fit from the 2.5 per cent re­duc­tion in the tax rate for small busi­nesses.

CCA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Jed Matz said that jobs and growth “did not ap­pear to be as rel­e­vant” in the ru­ral in­dus­tries.

“The bud­get seems to have lit­tle in it for agri­cul­ture but even less fo­cus di­rectly on the beef in­dus­try,” he said.

“This is dis­ap­point­ing as in­vest­ing in the beef in­dus­try is vi­tal to build­ing the agri­cul­tural boom to keep Aus­tralia’s econ­omy mov­ing for­ward as the min­ing in­dus­try falls away.”

While Mr Matz said the ad­di­tional fund­ing of $15.9 mil­lion to de­velop an ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics ca­pa­bil­ity aimed at bet­ter tar­get­ing the gov­ern­ment’s biose­cu­rity ef­forts has been wel­comed, he said there was fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion needed on what the in­vest­ment re­ally means due to the lack of de­tail pro­vided.

He added that beef had missed out on the in­fra­struc­ture front with pro­duc­ers cry­ing out for greater con­nec­tiv­ity.

“We are dis­ap­pointed to see no ad­di­tional al­lo­ca­tions to mo­bile black spot pro­grammes.

“Fur­ther, while im­proved mar­ket ac­cess has been de­liv­ered in re­cent years, there is still much work to be done, es­pe­cially on tech­ni­cal trade bar­ri­ers.

“Aus­tralian beef pro­duc­ers are turn­ing more and more to ex­port mar­kets to re­main vi­able and ac­cess is vi­tal.

“It is un­for­tu­nate the gov­ern­ment has failed to recog­nise the value be­hind these ini­tia­tives in this year’s bud­get,” Mr Matz said.

IN­CREASED LEVIES: An ex­tra $2 mil­lion from changes to agri­cul­tural levies has been al­lo­cated in the bud­get in­clud­ing a manda­tory levy of 50 cents per tonne on all hay and straw prepared for ex­port.

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