FEDERAL Treasurer Scott Morrison has highlighted the value of agricultural growth in the recently released figures on national economic performance along with embattled cabinet minister Barnaby Joyce.
Responding to a question from senior Nationals MP Mark Coulton today in parliament question time, Mr Morrison said the national accounts, put out yesterday, showed that agricultural growth in production over the last year was up 22.6 per cent.
He said the value of agricultural exports was also up 18.6pc.
“In today’s trade balance figures the value of rural exports was up, 24pc higher than last year,” he said.
“On this side of the House, we know we need to continue to invest in rural and regional Australia to drive that growth across the rural and regional towns, right around the country.”
Mr Morrison said he was with Mr Coulton – the member for Parkes – a fortnight ago in North Bourke where, as part of the $200 million Building Better Regions Fund program, a $10m investment has been made in a small animal abattoir.
He said the abattoir had leveraged $60m in investment in what was “the biggest investment in Bourke in two decades or a generation”.
“That type of investment will drive 200 jobs in North Bourke from March of next year,” he said.
“That is real investment going into real rural and regional Australia, as is the entire Building Better Regions Fund program right across rural Australia.
“But it’s not just that, because the accelerated appreciation we have put in place for fencing, dams, tanks, silos and all of these important investments for rural equipment right across agricultural Australia is driving that growth.
“As are the small and medium-sized tax cuts for businesses, which the Labor Party would reverse if the Leader of the Opposition ever got the chance to slither into the Lodge.
“He would reverse those tax cuts and punish agricultural producers and small businesses all around the country.
“There is no alternative economic plan for rural and regional Australia from the Labor Party.”
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce also spoke about the new national account figures in response to another Dorothy Dixer from NSW Nationals MP Kevin Hogan.
M Joyce said the most recent figures showed that the fastest growing sector, the sector that contributed most to GDP growth, was agriculture.
“Agriculture has been, under this government, one of the great success stories,” he said.
“In the time of our government we have increased the gross output of agriculture by around 30pc.
“This has been by reason of effective policy – policies such as Farm Management Deposits up to $800,000; the 100pc write-off for water reticulation; the 100pc write-off for fencing; the write-off over three years for grain storage; the WET (Wine Equalisation Tax) rebates; the beef roads; the biosecurity legislation; the country-of-origin-labelling legislation; the sugar code; the Regional Investment Corporation; decentralisation; the building of dog fences; and the inland rail.
“All of this goes to show a government that believes in agriculture.”
Mr Joyce said “We don’t know whether the Labor opposition have a policy on agriculture – they don’t believe in agriculture”.
“They have no reason to stand behind one of the pillars of our economy,” he said.
“They’ve shown no interest in agriculture.
“In fact, generally the shadow minister for agriculture never even asks a question unless it’s on anything but agriculture.”
But Mr Joyce also faced continued pressure from the Opposition questioning the legitimacy of any decisions made while he remains in cabinet while the High Court assess his eligibility for parliament, due to his dual NZ citizenship issue.
“Every single day the Prime Minister has to make important decisions on issues critical to the future of our nation,” Senior Labor MP Mark Dreyfus said.
“Does the Prime Minister honestly consider there is no issue with leaving the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the country when there are doubts over his qualifications to even be a member of this parliament?
“And why will the Prime Minister not answer whether the government has sought advice about the legality under section 64 of the Deputy Prime Minister’s decisions?”
Malcolm Turnbull said, in accordance with longstanding practice, the Deputy Prime Minister would be Acting Prime Minister while he was overseas, in Samoa tomorrow.
“But also in accordance with longstanding practice, as the honourable member knows, as Prime Minister I will continue to make all of those decisions that he referred to whether I am overseas or, indeed, at home,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said the government was also “absolutely satisfied that all ministers are exercising their authority within their departments in accordance with their responsibilities”.
In a statement, Mr Joyce said the agriculture sector grew the fastest of all 19 industries in 2016-17 – up a “formidable” 23pc – particularly driven by the grains and livestock industries, but with other agricultural industries also performing strongly.
“Australian agriculture contributed 0.5 percentage points of the nation’s total 1.9pc growth over the course of the year, an outstanding contribution given the size of the sector compared to total national GDP.
“The Coalition Government has a real vision for Australia’s agriculture sector and from day one we have delivered practical policies and genuine investment to turn the show around and transform agriculture in this nation.
“I hate to think what the state of agriculture and the support for our farmers would be under Labor, I don’t even think they have an agriculture policy – have nothing to say on the subject.”
Mr Joyce said agriculture contributed over $50 billion in exports in 2016-17, just under 14pc of total goods and services exports – up from $41b five years ago.
“While grains and livestock products each contributed around $10b each to this export performance, other agricultural industries are also billion dollar performers,” he said.
“For example, in 2016-17 our pulses exports to the world were worth over $3b, wine exports $2.4b, nuts exports $822m and citrus over $330m.
“Australia has seen great growth in produce to markets such as India
“India is going nuts for Australia’s nuts with value of almond exports up over 50pc for the first half of 2017.
“Chickpea exports to India increased by almost 90pc in 2016-17 to a record value of $1.1b.”
Mr Joyce said strong growth had seen China overtake the US as the nation’s most valuable market for wine, for the first time ever, totalling $596m in 2016/17 – a 43pc increase on the previous year.
“The Coalition Government has delivered strong agriculture policies including opening up market access for Australian producers to some of the nation’s most important export markets, including free trade deals with China, Japan and Korea,” he said.
“Through the Coalition’s $4b Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper we have been working to create a better business environment for farmers and to build the infrastructure needed to support continued growth – through a whole raft of policies, which our agriculture sector is responding to with enthusiasm.
“These policies and investments have provided a solid foundation for growth, and it is great to see how effectively Aussie farmers are capitalising on the opportunities on offer to increase production and exports.”
ABARES has estimated the gross value of farm production to have reached a record $62.8b in 2016-17.Discover More