Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Melissa Price on the Northern Australia Beef Forum

Local member Melissa Price delivered a speech about the Northern Australia Beef Forum in Parliament last night.

“The key message to come out of this forum was that Indonesia remains a very willing and valuable trading partner, and the opportunities for our agricultural sector—in particular, our cattle producers—are immense,” Ms Price said.

“This is despite the former Labor Government’s attempts not only to fracture Australia’s cattle industry but to significantly strain our relationship with Indonesia by banning live exports without first mounting its own investigation into claims of animal cruelty.

“It is a credit to the Australian cattle industry and to the Coalition Government that we have been able to rebuild these relationships.”

You can read the Hansard transcript here:

House of Representatives Hansard 18 March 2014

Melissa PRICE (Durack) (21:13): Building Australia’s bilateral ties and maximising the value of our exports with our closest neighbour, Indonesia, was the key focus of an agricultural forum held in Broome on 28 February.

This was the first time the Northern Beef Producer Forum had been held in Western Australia, so I was delighted that it could take place in my electorate of Durack, particularly with so many key representatives from the Australian and Indonesian governments and from industry.

These included my federal colleague the Minister for Agriculture and the relevant agricultural ministers from Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Of particular note, however, was the key guest speaker and attendees who were representing the Indonesian government at the forum.

During the course of the conference, we heard about the current beef situation in Indonesia, including Indonesia’s perspective of Australian investment and how we can seize on the many market opportunities that are available. This was particularly timely, given last year’s removal of Indonesia’s cattle import quota, with the level of imports now determined by price alone. The new set benchmark is 76,000 Rupiah per kilogram.

The Indonesian Government has previously expressed disappointment at the level of direct Australian investment in Indonesia, and in particular its cattle industry, with the country being our closest export market.

As those in the House would be aware, Indonesia is the largest economy in South-East Asia and is projected to be the world’s seventh largest economy by 2030. This is why Australia cannot afford to sit back and wait for these investment opportunities to pass us by. We need to seize on our market opportunities with Indonesia and focus on what Australia is good at to create a prosperous and sustainable economy and industry for our future generations.

The key message to come out of this forum was that Indonesia remains a very willing and valuable trading partner, and the opportunities for our agricultural sector—in particular, our cattle producers—are immense. This is despite the former Labor Government’s attempts not only to fracture Australia’s cattle industry but to significantly strain our relationship with Indonesia by banning live exports without first mounting its own investigation into claims of animal cruelty.

It is a credit to the Australian cattle industry and to the Coalition Government that we have been able to rebuild these relationships. I have previously shown my support for Australian cattle producers and their fight against anti-live-export campaigners who have resorted to threats and intimidation tactics to send their message. I believe it is important for all Australians to fight for those whose human welfare has been targeted—to fight for our farmers and to fight for Australia’s key export industries.

There are those on the other side of the Chamber who would be quick to criticise such a statement and say that if I support Australia’s live export industry then this must go hand in hand with not caring about the welfare of our animals. But I would like my message to once again be clear: nobody, including cattle producers or myself, wants to see cruelty to animals.

My vision for Australia is one where a balance between regulations to protect the welfare of animals are in place, without hindering our cattle industry’s ability to flourish and take advantage of market opportunities that countries such as Indonesia present. I believe the Abbott-led government is striking this balance and will continue to work with all parties involved to achieve this vision.

Although the Broome forum’s focus was on the cattle industry, it has acted as an outlet for Australian government and industry to start—or perhaps to continue—looking at ways to increase our exports to Indonesia by seizing on other investment opportunities.

Increasing Australia’s irrigated agriculture across the north, and in particular in my Electorate of Durack, is just one example of how we could take advantage of investment opportunities with our Asian neighbours.

I welcomed the release of CSIRO’s report Mosaic Irrigation for the Northern Australian Beef Industry, dated 6 March, which assessed the water and agricultural potential for the Northern Australian beef industry. This assessment found that there is sufficient groundwater to sustain almost twice the area of land currently irrigated in Northern Australia, which at optimum efficiency could boost beef production by up to six per cent, or $200 million per year.

Needless to say, the potential of Australia’s agriculture industry is immense, but this potential will be achieved only if we work now to capitalise on our market opportunities both domestically and internationally with our Asian neighbours.

- End -

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