by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott launched his government’s new White Paper on agriculture today.
In doing so, the Prime Minster said farming has a strong future in Australia.
In a joint statement with the Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, Mr Abbott said:”The Commonwealth Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper is an investment in our farmers and our competitive strengths in agriculture.
“This is a vital part of our plan to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.
“A strong agriculture sector contributes to a strong economy—and that means more jobs, more exports, higher incomes and better services to the community.
“We’re determined to make the sector even more competitive and to deliver practical actions that will keep our farmers and farming families profitable and resilient,” Mr Abbott said.
“We are lowering tax, cutting red and green tape, building infrastructure, encouraging trade, developing northern Australia, and supporting business to innovate and create jobs,” he added.
The paper was immediately welcomed by the National Farmers’ Federation.
The Federation’s President, Brent Finlay said the paper looks to create a stronger business environment for farmers and generate better returns at the farm gate.
“This is an important day for Australian agriculture,” Mr Finlay said.
“After almost two years, and more than 700 submissions, we finally have a clear commitment from government to foster a stronger, more prosperous and vibrant agriculture sector.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Mukinbudin council district, in the North Eastern wheat belt of Western Australia, has the nation’s highest fertility rate.
The Bureau of Statistics said it achieved that distinction in 2013, with 7.7 births per woman, against a national rate of just 1.9.
This is just one of many fascinating facts about regional Australia, revealed in figures the Bureau published today.
It’s in the Bureau’s Data by Region, which draws on over 400 data items to provide in-depth information for over 2,700 regions across Australia.
So what else is there?
“Data is available for hundreds of indicators including estimated resident population, births, the number of aged pensioners, pre-school enrolments, business counts, bankruptcies, protected land areas and much more,” the Bureau’s Lisa Conolly said.
The publication also shows that Prospect has the highest population density in South Australia with 2,712.2 persons per square kilometre.
And it reveals that Kambah in the ACT has the highest number of campervans per thousand population in the nation’s capital.
That number, incidentally, is 31.
Want to know more?
Just go to www.http://www.abs.gov.au/databyregion
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott declared today that 99.9 per cent of Australia’s resource, energy and manufacturing exports would enter China duty free within four years.
The Prime Minister was welcoming a new free trade agreement that Australia has just signed with China, which he said is now by far Australia’s biggest customer.
Business and farm leaders enthusiastically welcomed the deal.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kate Carnell, said:” “This landmark trade deal opens up lots of exciting opportunities for Australian businesses.
“We encourage all businesses, large and small, to look carefully at the China market to consider the potential it offers them to expand.
“The deal also will benefit Australian consumers by giving them cheaper and easier access to goods and services produced in China.”
And the President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Brent Finlay, said Australia’s farm exports to China had doubled over five years to be worth more than $7 billion in 2013.
“Completing this agreement is an outstanding achievement that will build Australia’s important trading future with China and provide significantly improved international market access for Australian agricultural goods, underpinning agriculture as a key pillar of the economy,” Mr Finlay added.
However Mr Abbott earned a mild rebuke in Parliament from the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, when he proposed a round of applause for his Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, who had led Australian side, in talks on the then proposed agreement.
The Prime Minister then stood – and led the clapping, himself.
Ms Bishop smiled, but said she did not want this to be taken as a precedent.
However when she later welcomed Chinese negotiators, who were in the distinguished visitors gallery, MPs once again applauded.
Mr Abbott said Mr Robb had now negotiated “a trifecta” of free trade agreements, as similar deals had already been concluded with Japan and South Korea.
He said this would mean more trade and stronger economic growth for Australia, and better pay for Australian workers.
“And I trust that today our Chinese friends will enjoy the fine beef and the good wine that will soon be more readily enjoyed by their countrymen,” Mr Abbott said.
“As I said, this is a momentous day,” he added.
“We seize this opportunity of more trade and more investment with China.
“And we complete a trifecta of with trade with our major trading partners, not only China but also Japan and South Korea.”
Mr Abbott said these markets – together – account for more than 60 per cent of Australia’s export goods.
We again show that Australia is open for business and that we deliver more opportunities for Australian companies and the people they employ.
by Alan Thornhill
Just had a high energy snack that is, perhaps, a little low in nutritional value?
Well, you are not alone.
The Bureau of Statistics. which has been checking up on our eating habits, reports:” All Australians love treat foods no matter where they live.”
“In every State and Territory, Australians love their treat or discretionary food – food high in energy but low in nutritional value,” its report adds.
However the Bureau also said the results of its Australian Health Survey show different eating habits for each State and Territory.
The Bureau’s Louise Gates said the survey report tells us Australians obtain 35 per cent of their energy from discretionary foods.”
She said Tasmanians and Northern Territorians obtained the highest proportion of energy in this way – at 38 per cent -while Canberrans had the lowest score at 33 per cent.”
The survey also showed that people, in the Northern Territory, trying to quench their thirst, in hot weather, recorded the nation’s highest level of soft drink consumption, at 33 per cent.
Soft drink was least popular in Canberra where only 23 per cent of people reported drinking it
“Tasmanians were the most fond of confectionary with over a third – 37 per cent – consuming it,” the Burreau said.
Snack foods were most popular in New South Wales where 16 per cent of people ate them.
However Tasmanians also had the highest daily intake of vegetables, with 9 per cent meeting the recommended daily intake.
Only 5 per cent in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Canberra, could match that virtuous achievement.
“However, Tasmanians were least likely to meet the recommendations for fruit (48 per cent), while people from New South Wales and Canberra were the most likely (54 per cent),” the Bureau added.
“We also found 22 per cent of people in the Northern Territory ate fish making them the most likely state or territory to eat fish but least likely to eat fruit (53 per cent).” said Ms Gates
“Tasmanians on the other hand were least likely to eat fish (13 per cent), however they matched South Australians as the most likely to enjoy cheese (36 per cent compared to 32 per cent of all of Australians).
“Canberrans were most likely to enjoy a glass of wine (22 per cent) while in the Northern Territory, beer is the alcoholic drink of choice (21 per cent).
“Adults in Western Australia were most likely to have an alcoholic beverage (39 per cent) and Victorians and Tasmanians were least likely (30 per cent).”
by Alan Thornhill
Do you like – or need – to know where your food comes from?
If so, you might like to spend a few minutes advising the government on country of origin labelling.
The Industry and Science Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, would appreciate your help.
This follows an outbreak of Hepatitis A that was linked to imported berries.
In a joint statement today, the two ministers said their online survey would help the government design a new labelling system.
They said the government has already consulted growers, processors and retailers on the issue.
And it is now time for Australia’s shoppers to be heard.
“…we are now asking for consumer feedback from the shoppers who will be in the supermarket making use of the new labels,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“Consumers have told us loud and clear that they want more useful food labelling, and now we want to hear from them about which options they prefer,” he added.
So how do you take part?
Well, the country of origin food labelling community survey is available at www.industry.gov.au/cool and and hard copies can be requested by
calling 13 28 46.
by Alan Thornhill
Joe Hockey says economists’ talk of “dark clouds” and possible “recession” in Australia is just “dead wrong.”
The Treasurer was speaking on ABC radio, the day after the Bureau of Statistics reported that Australia’s economy grew by 0.9 per cent in the firs, three months of this year.
The Bureau also reported 2.3 per cent growth, in the 12 months to the end of March.
Mr Hockey said Australia has one of the strongest economies in the Western world.
The Opposition challenged that view, with the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, saying Australia’s economic growth now “is almost a percentage point below trend.”
“… it is below trend and has been below trend for some time now, Mr Bowen said.
But, speaking to other reporters, Mr Hockey urged caution in economic analysis.
He said:” Well, the most dangerous language you can use at the moment is to start talking about dark clouds on the horizon for the economy or recession.
” And there have been a number of commentators that have been using that sort of language and they’re totally foolish.
“In the last three months we had the fastest growing economy in the G7 and one of the fastest growing economies in the world.”
The Treasurer’s nearly 3 per cent in 2016.”
The OECD also said:” . gathering momentum in consumption, non-resource investment and exports (will) help the economy adjust and recover from the fall in commodity prices and unwinding resource-sector investment.”
It added that:” consumer price inflation has been dented by lower oil prices and will remain moderate due to economic slack.”
The OECD also said:” monetary policy firepower should be held in reserve given uncertainties about the outlook and the downside aspects of rate cuts on the booming housing and credit markets.
“Fiscal policy should continue to provide support if needed through the operation of automatic stabilisers. Structural reform should facilitate post-resource-boom adjustment, in particular, further shift towards indirect taxes.”
And it added: “the unwinding of resource-sector investment reflects large-scale projects reaching completion and easing-up of investment plans given commodity-price falls.
“Enhancing the climate for business investment in non-commodity sectors requires maintaining sound macroeconomic policies, further tax reform, cuts to red tape and competition-boosting measures.
“Plans to boost investment in public infrastructure are welcome, but project selection requires rigorous cost-benefit analysis,” the OECD added.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian farmers are still looking – anxiously – for an ambitious, fair, and comprehensive deal through the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Pacific rim nations were to have continued talks on the TPP this week in Guam.
However that plan struck delays due to the inability of the US to secure Fast Track legislation.
Chile and Japan refuse to finalise details without Fast Track approval.
This unprecedented move further puts the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a highly secretive 12-country agreement, under a cloud.
The US President Barrack Obama had surprised many observers by winning the approval of the US Senate for these negotiations to proceed.
Now Australia’s biggest farm organisation, the National Farmers’ Federation, has joined similar bodies from three other countries, in setting out what they want from the TPP, in a joint statement.
The key words in their statement are ” stable and open market access.”
The statement, also signed by major US, Canadian and New Zealand farm bodies says the farmers they represent “remain united in their call for a modern trade agreement that includes meaningful and comprehensive market access opportunities for agriculture and agri-food.”
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Australian National Farmers’ Federation, and the Federated Farmers of New Zealand, all put their names to the statement.
It said:” Together, they represent hundreds of thousands of farmers, producers, processors and exporters who, in turn, employ millions of workers across the TPP region.
“Our agricultural sectors and the jobs they provide depend on a thriving network of export markets,” Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance said.
“By creating stable and open market access, the TPP’s potential to stimulate economic growth is incredible.
” A comprehensive agreement would encourage regional supply chains with production and processing occuring where competitive advantages exist.
“However, without a plurilateral agreement, the TPP could actually reduce market access for agri-food exporters.
“It would be very negative if some TPP countries provide preferential market access to select countries and not others.”
“Despite the fact that agriculture is traditionally regarded as a sensitive subject in trade talks, negotiators must uphold a high level of ambition in order to realise the TPP’s broader objectives of opening up trade throughout one of the world’s key economic centres,” Mr Innes said.
The NFF President Mr Brent Finlay backed that argument.
He said. “Australian farmers are of the view that this agreement must deliver significant outcomes across the sector and thus across the economy.
“Agriculture has always been a strong supporter of trade and the benefits it brings across the broader community and the TPP must be seen in that light,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian farmers are to get a new tax break.
This was announced today in a joint statement by the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, the Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce and Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson.
They said that these farmers would be able to claim a tax deduction on all capital expenditure on water facilities, fodder storage assets and fencing incurred since the 2015 Budget was handed down on May 12.
“Famers can fully deduct the cost of water facilities and fencing in the year they are purchased and deduct the cost of fodder storage assets over three years” the three minsters said.
They added that those who qualify would also be able to claim the accelerated depreciation on business assets costing up to $20,000, available to other small businesses.
“Farms with turnover of less than $2 million qualify as a small business and are therefore also eligible to immediately write-off all asset purchases up to $20,000,” the three ministers said.
“Following broad consultation, stakeholders told us they wanted to get on with building fences, dams and fodder storage as soon as possible,” they added.
“Our decision to bring forward the start date of accelerated depreciation for all farmers, regardless of the size of their farm, allows them to prepare for drought and invest in the productivity of their farms immediately.
“The measure builds on our more than $333 million in targeted support for farmers and communities impacted by drought announced by the Prime Minister on 9, May in Longreach, Queensland, taking the Government’s total commitments to farmers in this year’s budget to more than $400 million,” the three ministers said.
“Supporting farmers in the hard times and boosting the competitiveness of the agriculture sector is not just good for the economy, it is also the right thing to do,” they added.
At what cost?
“Bringing forward these changes to begin from 1 July 2016 to 12 May 2015 is estimated to cost $72 million over the forward estimates,” the three ministers said.
And that’s not all.
“Further measures to support farmers who are preparing themselves for the damaging effects of drought will be announced in the forthcoming Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper,” they said.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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